When 26,000 students from over 160 countries come together with star faculty in a New York City academic setting, class discussions will prove more interesting and the points of view more diverse. This was one component of a celebratory introduction offered by BMCC President Antonio Pérez during his March 17 State of the College address in Theatre 2 at the main campus.
An almost full house of BMCC staff, faculty and students listened as the president detailed many of the past year’s accomplishments as well as a listing of challenges the school faces, and detailed plans to address them.
A changing labor force
Since BMCC first began, the school’s mission has been to serve the residents of New York City. “We are aware that many of our neighbors are still searching for the job that guarantees a secure foothold in our economic future,” said President Pérez, adding that those jobs must compete globally with up-to-date skills.
Pérez also highlighted success stories and milestones from the previous year.
For example, BMCC is currently ranked fourth in the nation among two-year institutions that award associate degrees in all disciplines to minority students, according to Community College Week’s annual rankings.
BMCC also ranks third in the nation among all other two-year colleges in awarding associate degrees in business as well as computer information science.
Extended offering of degree programs
“We have over 30 associate degree programs at BMCC, a number that grows every year,” said President Pérez.
In fact, the school is in the process of adding associate degree programs in Modern Languages, Art Foundations in Studio Art History, Sociology, History and Gerontology.
The president also told the audience that BMCC is at a critical juncture in its 50-year history. He said the school is working across several spectrums to develop new, innovative tools that further prepare students for what’s become an increasingly global economy. To that end, Pérez said the school’s first strategic priority is Excellence in Teaching, Research and Learning.
Already, BMCC has secured 26 articulation agreements with four-year schools to ensure the transfer of credits from an associate degree program to a baccalaureate program. Of those agreements, 14 are with fellow CUNY schools, he said. Another dozen are with private senior institutions.
Student success and retention
To support BMCC’s second strategic priority, Student Success and Retention, the school is pursuing several more key initiatives.
Among them are a full honors program, developed by a college-wide faculty committee led by co-chairs Dean Erwin Wong and Professor Jason Schneiderman to complement the BMCC honors contract option that is currently available.
“Our faculty are world-class scholars and teachers,” said Pérez. Expanded internship opportunities and a CETLS strategic plan aimed at bringing faculty together across disciplines to enhance the scholarship of teaching, research and creative activity are also underway or in development he said.
“One such example is the Open/Alternative Textbook initiative, a partnership between the library and CETLS,” said Pérez. The initiative will help replace a number of costly textbooks with free open education resources.
BMCC is also implementing a Teaching Academy as well as plans to improve student outcomes in developmental courses, the president said.
Further, through programs such as the Freshman Learning Academy, or FLA and Quantway, the school continues to lead fellow community colleges as well as CUNY in student proficiency and achievement.
In addition, he pointed out that BMCC’s CUNY Start program, under the auspices of the Center for Continuing Education and Workforce Development, has served over 1,900 students since 2009, more than any other CUNY community college campus.
Supporting Dreamers/Supporting Dreamer Students
The president said that BMCC is committed to the success of all its students, regardless of citizenship status.
He pointed out that undocumented students, often referred to as “Dreamers,” are not eligible for federal, state or city financial aid to help pay for a college education.
“We are happy to lead the way within CUNY to partner with an international scholarship program called TheDream.US to help our undocumented students," he said.
Raising funds for scholarship
The BMCC Foundation and the school's Office of College Development continue to build relationships with philanthropists who want to make a difference at BMCC through the foundation’s scholarship program, the president noted.
The BMCC Foundation’s annual fundraising gala is set for May 14, 2015 at the new Cipriani at 25 Broadway, in Lower Manhattan.
Effective organization and accountability
The third strategic priority outlined by President Pérez is Organizational Effectiveness and Accountability, including accreditation.
He used the speech as an occasion to announce that on March 5, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education accepted the BMCC Monitoring Report with the school’s next evaluation visit scheduled for 2017-2018.
Speaking to the school’s organizational effectiveness, the president pointed to BMCC's technology infrastructure, which he called the vanguard for the CUNY system.
“We will develop and implement a comprehensive IT plan that aligns technology efforts with BMCC’s strategic priorities to better support the academic and administrative goals of the college,” said Pérez.
Global economy, global development
BMCC’s final strategic priority, the president said, is Global Engagement and Economic Development. As part of that effort, he stressed that in a global 21st century economy and environment, students must be prepared to interact with cultures different from their own.
One outgrowth of the strategic planning process, the school’s Committee on Globalization, has been looking at exemplary programs in higher education in an effort to promote global citizenship among its students, he said.
Pérez also said that BMCC had been awarded a two-year, $100,000 National Endowment for the Humanties, or NEH, grant to help begin globalizing its undergraduate curriculum.
The NEH project, conducted in partnership with New York University, represents a major undertaking on the part of the college to strengthen and enrich humanities education.
He said the partnership would also serve as a model for other urban institutions seeking to implement similar reforms in humanities offerings.
BMCC also continues to make inroads on its ambitious efforts for a more sustainable campus, the president said.
“We are more than halfway through the 10-year BMCC Plan for Sustainability, which includes ambitious goals for energy conservation; curriculum and education; procurement; waste management and recycling,” said Pérez.
He said once an initial roofing project at the school’s main campus is complete. Soon, BMCC will begin installing an array of 300+ Kw solar panels. When the solar project is complete, it will the largest solar installation on the entire island of Manhattan. The solar project will greatly reduce the school’s carbon footprint.
The mosaic of a city and school
Drawing to a close, the president pointed out some telling statistics about students born in a post 9/11 world, also known as Generation Z.
He said studies show that growing up in a time of uncertainty and changing norms has led to a mature, self-directed and resourceful generation.
With a nod to the international mosaic that is New York City and BMCC, the president was clear;
“It is our obligation to ensure that the skills, knowledge and competencies that our students build through their experiences at BMCC, prepare them for personal and economic success as well as full and responsible participation in the 21st century global community,” said Pérez.
To read President Antonio Pérez’s 2015 State of the College address in its entirety please click here.