On March 15 in BMCC’s Theater II at 199 Chambers Street, President Antonio Pérez delivered his annual State of the College address.
“Every morning when I arrive to my office, I ask myself how we can do things better than we did the day before,” he said, and went on to acknowledge the college’s accomplishments of the past year, and ambitious plans for moving forward.
BMCC, a recognized leader
“More than ever,” said President Pérez, “BMCC is recognized as a leader in urban-serving education, nationally. We attract enthusiastic and motivated students from all five boroughs and 155 countries.”
He thanked “our extraordinary faculty, staff and students,” whose “energy, passion, time and talents” contributed to the BMCC’s ranking, by the U.S. Department of Education, and Community College Week, as being “number one among all community colleges in the nation for awarding associate degrees in business; number four in awarding degrees to underrepresented students in general; and number four in awarding degrees to African Americans.”
A strategic approach to excellence
Many individuals and groups at BMCC have been responsible for creating an academic culture of excellence in teaching and learning.
Pérez outlined the college’s priorities, which have been guided by the Ad Hoc Committee on Strategic Planning, and supported with “a wide variety of programs, activities, infrastructural changes and support systems.”
The BMCC Strategic Plan, Pérez explained, “was a multi-year design effort,” and is aligned to strategic priorities addressed by four Strategic Steering Committees, focusing on these areas: 1) Excellence in teaching, research and learning; 2) student success and retention; 3) organizational effectiveness and accountability, and 4) global engagement and economic development.
A vision grounded in scholarship
“Our first strategic priority,” said Pérez, “is that BMCC faculty are grounded in their disciplines, are excellent educators, and implement curricula that embody 21st-century skills.”
To support that priority, a Strategic Steering Committee is dedicated to supporting faculty success. “We have added 10 full-time faculty,” Pérez said. “We now have over 425 full-time faculty members teaching at BMCC, most of them with a doctorate or terminal degree in their field. We also depend upon a large and qualified pool of adjunct faculty.”
He also noted that the college provides incentives for professional growth, through research activities and securing grant funding to support scholarship.
“It has been a banner year for BMCC faculty and students,” Pérez said, “many of whom achieved special honors and academic awards and prizes.” A new BMCC publication highlighting over 25 superlative students and their faculty mentors, Marks of Excellence, was created jointly by the offices of academic affairs and public affairs, to celebrate these accomplishments.
Links to careers and bachelor degree programs
“BMCC has the largest associate degree nursing program in the CUNY system,” Pérez said, “with a pass rate that exceeds both the national and New York averages.”
He also described an exciting new allied health program funded with $21 million in state and city capital funds. “NYU and CUNY, with BMCC as the lead institution, are partnering to open one of the largest urban health care simulation training centers in the United States,” Pérez said.
To reinforce CUNY's mission of creating an integrated university, BMCC “has implemented two very popular joint degree programs with John Jay College,” Pérez said, “one is Criminal Justice, housed in our business management department, and one is Science for Forensics, housed in our science department.”
In addition, he said, the college is implementing an A.S. in Biotechnology program, that articulates with the B.S. in Biotechnology at York College. In the proposal stage are other exciting associate programs in Science and Mathematics for Secondary Education, Communication Studies, Forensic Accounting, and Geospatial Science.
“All higher education institutions have been challenged to increase instructional quality, particularly now that accreditation agencies are holding colleges accountable for direct evidence of student learning,” Pérez told the audience.
Accountability means a heightened focus on assessment, and in response to that challenge, BMCC submitted a monitoring report on assessment of student learning last year.
Other efforts include links on the BMCC Web site to assessment tips and video clips from a workshop by Virginia Anderson, author of Effective Grading. Faculty is revising their syllabi to include expected student learning outcomes, and the college is holding Academic Assessment Day activities.
Moving forward with e-learning and technology
“Our students each year are very different,” said Pérez, commenting on their fast-changing relationship to technology. “We need to embrace them ‘where they are’, at every level, in and out of the classroom, and with particular attention to the needs of developmental students.”
That change is possible, he says, “with the help of our new E-Learning Director and a $2.9 million Title V Grant for the improvement of our E-Learning program,” as well as by implementing “the comprehensive suggestions of the E-Learning Task Force. We are seeing measurable successes for students and faculty.”
BMCC has the largest percentage of online and hybrid courses among the CUNY colleges, Pérez said, and “BMCC faculty are CUNY leaders in the research on technological and gaming approaches to the delivery of rigorous content.”
A commitment to retention
“Our one-year retention rate—the percentage of first-time freshmen who returned the following fall—jumped five percentage points in fall of 2010,” Pérez said. “Our strategic future vision is that within 10 years, BMCC will have the best retention and graduation rates among urban community colleges nationally.”
A Strategic Steering Committee dedicated to supporting student success is working to make that vision a reality.
In fall 2010, Pérez said, the college participated in the CUNY Start Program, under the leadership of Dean Sunil Gupta in the Center for Continuing Education and Workforce Development. Its results—136 students passed their CUNY placement exams, a rate of 75%, while the norm is 50%—were so successful, the college is expanding that program to become the CUNY Transitional Institute, beginning fall 2011.
Minimizing rising costs
“In times of fiscal uncertainty, Student Affairs has focused on minimizing the rising costs of education that our students face,” said Pérez. “This semester, BMCC dispersed nearly 13,000 Pell Grant purchase advances, representing a 58% increase over spring 2009…Out of nearly 5,000 colleges, BMCC ranks in the top 20 schools nationally for Pell Grant recipients and funds dispersed."
In 2009-2010, Pérez went on to explain, “19,649 students received over $95.5 million in assistance from at least one federal, state or municipal financial aid program.”
In addition, the BMCC Foundation, Inc. continues to provide scholarships for hundreds of students a year, and the Office of Student Affairs assisted over 500 students in 2010 through interest-free, emergency loans. A total of 1,200 students received free services through the Single Stop program, including legal and financial counseling, and over 1,180 students so far this year, have received free tax filing services.
To ensure the best learning environment for all students, Student Affairs has begun to create and implement resources to assist faculty and staff in response to their concerns regarding campus comportment.
Counseling center staff has been trained in new software, Pérez said, “and a ¿behavior assessment and response team, or ‘BART’, has been launched to address student-related concerns through several venues, including an online reporting system.”
Additionally, the BMCC Enrollment Management Team, he explained, has created formulas to predict trends used to plan recruitment, admissions, orientation, registration and retention activities, and strives to meet CUNY-defined enrollment standards, ensuring the optimal faculty/staff-to-student ratio.
Being effective means being accountable
Pérez explained to the audience that BMCC has been charged by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education to periodically report on steps it has taken "to update our facilities and technology master plans, strengthen our general education assessment and make continued progress in the assessment of student learning outcomes—including evidence that the assessment results are used for improvement.”
This process, he said, will involve faculty, staff and students, be led by a Strategic Steering Committee on supporting institutional success, and the include a periodic review process co-chaired by Professors Gay Brookes and Kay Conway.
Better service through an array of self-serve options
A new CUNY-wide database system, the CUNYfirst Peoplesoft Application System, “is being rolled out in phases across the entire university,” Pérez said, adding that this system "will be able to offer every member of our community better self-service options in admissions, registration, class scheduling, financial and human resource management," he said.
“We have already incorporated the financial and human service models and BMCC is now part of the Wave 2 implementation of the biggest module of all—the new student information database,” Pérez said.
“Scheduled implementation of the student system will ‘go live’ in November 2011, just in time for spring 2012 registration.”
Fiterman reopens, making new space
As is well known, on September 11, 2001, BMCC’s Fiterman Hall became the nation’s only community college facility ever destroyed in a terrorist attack. With that single, catastrophic act, BMCC lost more than a third of its instructional space.
The rebuilding has taken time, but soon, Pérez told the audience, “On March 23, the installation of the last steel girder of the building will occur.”
Other efforts to open up space are underway, as well. “We need more space to learn, think and work together,” Pérez said. “We are implementing the CUNY Records Management Program, which involves retaining records only as long as the CUNY records retention schedule requires, and then safely disposing of them.”
Reduce, conserve, recycle
“We must conserve our resources and be responsible custodians of the planet,” Pérez said. “The campus Sustainability Committee is working on a 10-year sustainability plan for BMCC, aligned to the CUNY Master Plan. More than two years ago, CUNY made a commitment to a 19% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and thanks in part to BMCC, they are well on the way to this goal.”
Other sustainability efforts, he said, are underway through the Administration Division, and include projects to reduce energy use, conserve water, reduce waste, and to make purchases of recycled and recyclable materials.
“For example,” he said, “in the last year, we replaced non-recyclable materials used in the cafeteria with more environmentally friendly products. We installed energy-efficient lighting over the pool…Projects coming up include the HVAC upgrade and the installation of the largest solar roof in New York City.”
The college is also, Pérez said, “beginning discussions for a Center for Urban Ecology, a research facility on the Hudson River across the street from Pier 26."
Global economy starts at home
A Strategic Steering Committee dedicated to global engagement and economic development focuses on the fourth and last strategic priority for the college.
“Since BMCC began,” Pérez said, “we have been clear that our mission is to serve the residents of New York City, especially during hard times.”
That mission translates to academic and certificate programs leading to thriving new career tracks for the City’s displaced workers.
“We are developing a letter of intent for a certificate program in accounting that will be offered by our accounting department, Pérez said. “In addition, thanks to a recent Department of Labor grant for $2.9 million, BMCC will be able to prepare displaced workers for entry into those job categories that have been identified as occupations with the greatest projected growth in New York City through 2016.”
These include the BMCC Health Care Lattice Program, a joint project of the Manhattan Employment Opportunity Center (MEOC) and the BMCC Center for Continuing Education and Workforce Development.
BMCC’s Allied Health Science department was also awarded, Pérez said, $150,000 under Columbia University’s Hitech Curriculum Development Initiative. This program, funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will support development of a new Health Information Technology (HIT) curriculum under the guidance of Professor Lynda Carlson.
An open invitation to be part of the infrastructure
“You are the engine that drives the college toward our future,” Pérez said in closing, and announced a series of meetings in Richard Harris Terrace welcoming the BMCC community to be part of the college’s new infrastructure for improvement and innovation.
“Monday, March 21, the Supporting Faculty Success Steering Committee will convene for two hours at 11 a.m.,” Pérez said. “That same day, at 3 p.m., the Support Student Success Steering Committee will convene. On Monday, March 28, the Supporting Global Studies Committee will meet at 11 a.m., and the Supporting Institution Success Steering Committee will convene at 3 p.m.”
Finally, President Pérez told staff, faculty and other members of the BMCC community, "as you focus on the dreams of our students, don’t lose site of your own...Thank you for taking to reflect, with me, about the future of this great institution.”
Please click here, for a text version, and here for a video of the President's complete remarks.