"We have secured our footing; it is time to extend our reach with a renewed vision."
By Robert A. Scott, President, Adelphi University
Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that … everyone … may readeth it.1
We have secured our footing; it is time to extend our reach with a renewed vision. But where should we look? With whom should we engage? In which direction—or directions—should we lean and grasp? What is our vision for this extension, and how best should we ensure our foundation before reaching ahead again, before securing our footing again, in a logical, iterative process? For the past year, the Board of Trustees has been guiding a process for updating the University’s vision of itself and its future—our future.
On campus, we have reviewed and updated the principles for decision-making, first enumerated in fall 2000, with the full faculty and the Campus Planning Committee; we formulated a draft vision statement; we performed environmental scans of both the internal, or campus environment, and the external, or community environment, and discussed the results and updated our assumptions on several occasions with the Campus Planning Committee; and we surveyed the faculty and asked you to tell us about five strengths of the University and five areas in need of improvement. The response was terrific. We used this information, and other materials, to conduct an analysis—over several meetings with the Campus Planning Committee—of the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (a SWOT analysis), and tabulated a set of concerns and factors for consideration. We then asked each member of the Campus Planning Committee to cite three areas for action, and put them in priority according to frequency of response.
We reviewed this process and the results to date at the April 28th meeting of the faculty, with the Alumni Association board, and with the Board of Trustees. The Campus Planning Committee will review these materials and process again next week with Ted Fiske, former New York Times education reporter and editor-author of The Fiske Guide to Colleges. We have asked him to comment on our vision, mission, draft goals, and potential strategies relative to the hundreds of institutions he critiques.
Next, we will prepare a set of goals and strategies, with timelines for action, and discuss them throughout the campus as well. This process of “updating the vision” has reminded us not only of how most university mission statements sound alike, but also about the many strengths of Adelphi and the numerous opportunities available to us. Our job now is to secure and build on our strengths and make sure that the opportunities we pursue are strategic and add distinction to what is already strong.
What do we mean by “updating the vision?” What is our current vision, and how will it be “updated?” What do we mean by “vision?”
When I think of “vision,” I think of three dimensions:First, vision as something remembered from the past;Second, vision as something seen today or, maybe, yesterday; and Third, vision as something contemplated, something in the future.
I will now explore these three dimensions of “vision.” We have exceeded the projections of our 2000–2001 plan; what do we project for the future, with what assumptions? We say we are an “engaged” university. What does this mean? What is the future of this “engaged” university? What is the “vision” remembered from the past?
What is Remembered
Bright the vision that delighted
Once the sight of Judah’s seer;
Sweet the countless tongues united
To entrance the prophet’s ear2
“Bright the vision.” The past is never remembered exactly, yet a vision of the past can be recalled with precision. We attempt to retain a vision of the past by evoking it in our “Did you Know” columns, in programs such as today’s, and by celebrating certain anniversaries.
In May, we celebrated the 60th anniversary of the School of Nursing. This fall, we will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Honors College. Next May, we will commemorate the 60th anniversary of Alumnae, Harvey, and Post Halls, all inaugurated by Eleanor Roosevelt. Adelphi was an “engaged” college in those days and earlier ones, too, with faculty engaged in preparing students for national—indeed, international—roles, and President Levermore involved in the formulation of what became the United Nations.
Adelphi started in 1863 as an Academy in Brooklyn, with an extraordinary administration, faculty, and board of leading progressives who were advocating gender, racial, and socioeconomic equality for access and success. All the visual symbols we use today were instituted at the Academy and its collegiate division—whether “Life without letters is death,” “The Truth Shall Make Us Free,” the nickname “Panthers,” or the footprint of the giant cat.
And there is more. The college that outgrew its space in Brooklyn, and could not raise the funds for a new building there, moved to Garden City, where it was wanted, where it has grown, and where its future will be spawned. Garden City is home, no matter where else we offer programs, courses, conferences, workshops, or services.
Garden City is our base, and we are proud of it. Garden City provides security, transportation, services, welcoming families, and opportunities. When we think of what is remembered, the Garden City campus is near the top of the list—just behind Brooklyn, Levermore, and the visionaries who created Adelphi.
What is Seen
Oh! Many are the Poets that are sown
By Nature; … those … endowed with highest gifts;
The vision and the faculty divine;
Yet wanting accomplishment of verse.3
Yes, vision has many dimensions: What is remembered; what is seen; what is contemplated. But not all that is remembered, seen, or contemplated is grounded in reality. They may all be “wanting accomplishment in verse,” wanting in fulfillment. Therefore, we must think about the second dimension of vision, that is, “what is seen,” as in layers, including principles, people, and progress.
By principles, we mean the following: the University is a moral force because we prepare graduates for decision-making; the University is as much about character and citizenship as it is about careers and commerce; we are as concerned about commitment as about competence;4 we teach ethical principles and are expected to live by them, but many students, young professionals, and even older adults feel the pressure to cheat and lack a moral, or ethical, compass to guide them.5 This, then, represents an additional challenge for the University.
The University has three roles, as curator, creator, and critic. No other institution has this combination of roles, and it must fulfill each with integrity. We preserve the past for study, because history and imagination are at the core of all that we do; we create new knowledge by applying imagination to what is known; and we critique what is known, and imagine what might be.
In each role, principles abound, whether in admissions, athletics, assessment, or administration. We at Adelphi are so concerned about these lessons that we instituted the Honor Code to make our principles public; we initiated the Hagedorn Lecture on Corporate Social Responsibility, inaugurated yesterday by David Boies; and we are responding to Congressional and legislative mandates by preparing a campus-wide code of ethics—not because someone did something wrong, but because we want to put in writing what we believe.
Our principles are also made manifest in what we expect of students. The theme of our General Education course this year is “Self and Society,” which could be our theme every year. For this is the fundamental tension in making choices: self or society, mine or ours, individual interests or community concerns. On this campus, at least, we want the emphasis to be on community, the larger good that can be served by developing individual talents to their fullest.
People are more than talents, of course. That is why we emphasize principle. It is principled people who make a community or a college true to its past and its promise.
At Adelphi, people are key. We have added nearly 100 new faculty in recent years; three dozen this fall alone. The Provost and I meet with small groups of faculty to learn from them, to introduce them to each other, and to ensure that we know what legacy they wish to leave for future generations of faculty and students. With so many new faculty added to our ranks, we all have a special obligation to mentor them, to make them feel welcome, to help them understand the full range of their responsibilities, and to assist them in succeeding. And, we must do so in a way that indicates to the more senior faculty that we cherish them, too.
You will note that this new cohort of faculty is not only talented but also more diverse than others in recent years. We are grateful to the deans and faculty who led and served on search committees for being so diligent in their tasks.
But that is our way, isn’t it? Our deans and faculty have been visibly active in accreditation work, improving teaching, working alone and in teams on scholarship, tending to academic program reviews, helping admissions, advising and counseling students, using technology, implementing our new performance review system, observing the teaching of colleagues in serious and helpful ways, and even cheering on our student teams.
You have been extraordinary in your support of Adelphi priorities, and we are grateful. It is a privilege to be one of you—the faculty and staff of Adelphi. You are engaged in the life of the campus, just as we hoped you would be. You who are so active set the standard for others to follow.
We heard a lot in recent years about communications, about informing the campus community in new and expanded ways about activities and developments, and about telling the wider community about the talents, accomplishments, and events on campus. We listened, and created a new unit to coordinate media relations, community relations, and special events. We already have seen great results from this new approach.
What else do we see? Progress, of course. Enrollment is one sign of our progress. In February 2001, we submitted a three-year plan for enrollment, quality improvements, staffing, facilities, and financing. I am happy to report that we have exceeded our projections in every area. Enrollment has increased over 30%, with even better prepared students; new faculty represent nearly 40% of the total; all programs have been accredited or reaccredited, or are on target for accreditation; student retention has improved; we sold $16 million in bonds at an A- rating to renovate a residence hall and to build a new one, which was constructed on time and on budget; alumni giving has increased nearly 400%; and the “books” are balanced. We now have 1,120 students living on campus, when only a few years ago one-half of the residence halls were shuttered.
What else is “seen”? We received the largest one-time gift from a living individual and named the Business School building, Hagedorn Hall. We created a new Writing Center, which is partnering with the Learning Center. We extended the AAUP contract for two additional years and have more than doubled the available release time for scholarship. We listened to area school superintendents and asked the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Education to work together in creating new programs to prepare teachers in math and science. The results are outstanding, in terms of student enrollment, faculty grants, and relations with area schools.
Other progress is even more visible. After 75 years, and many leaks and outages, we are replacing the underground pipes for heat, water, and electricity. We are adding a proper elevator in the front of the Harley Center, eleven new pianos from Steinway for music, and a new Physics Lab. We are keeping up with technology, and added seven additional multi-media or “smart” classrooms. Last year, we renovated and re-equipped the Health Studies and Cardiovascular Labs, added new lounges, and kept deferred maintenance to a minimum.
The grounds are beautiful, and we added instructional labels to trees, shrubs and flowers. We are preparing a brochure so that our arboretum-like campus can be walked like one.
What is seen? Progress, we think, with sound principles and wonderful people.
What is Contemplated
If this is who we are and where we are, where are we going? How do we think about our goals? If the third dimension of “vision” is, “What is contemplated?,” what might the future hold? What is our vision of the future?
For I dipped into the future,
As far as human eye could see,
Saw the vision of the world,
And all the wonder that would be; …6
The Campus Planning Committee and the full faculty have reviewed a draft statement of vision. After we formulate our goals and strategies, we will re-visit this draft and, no doubt, improve it. For now, though, it states,
Adelphi University will be the premier private university in the region for students and faculty who value excellence in undergraduate and graduate teaching and learning, research, scholarship, creative activity, and service to one’s community. The University will achieve this status by being even better known for the competence of its graduates, its interdisciplinary program orientation, its welcoming of the community onto the campus, and its impact on the broader society through educational, economic, intellectual, and cultural initiatives.
In other words, the University will be engaged in society.
When thinking about how to express a set of goals for the future in a succinct and memorable manner, I thought again about this word “engaged.” We use it often to suggest faculty-student relations, institutional relations with society, and our welcoming of the broader community onto campus. It has been interesting, by the way, to see how this term has become used by higher education institutions across the country. But we were among the first to use it, and are known by it in our region. For these reasons, I thought the term “engaged” could become a useful devise for remembering our goals.
Think with me, please:
“E” is for Ethical considerations.
“N” is for Notable faculty and academic programs.
“G” if for Genuine student achievement.
“A” is for Attractive facilities.
“G” is for Grade “A” financials.
“E” is for Efficient and Effective organization and staffing.
“D” is for Dedication to excellence and engagement.
Adelphi is the Engaged University.
In formulating goals, strategies, and a resource plan, ethical considerations should be our guide, our compass. The university is the one institution in society that, because of its mission, is more than fact alone, like a library or museum; more than belief alone, like a house of worship; and more than emotion alone, like a club. It is the place in society dedicated to the search for truth, the transformation of meaning, the examination of intended and unintended consequences, and the concern for equity, equality, fairness, and justice. This is the province of ethics. The role of the University is to create ethical professionals, in a “culture of conscience.”7
It is in this spirit that we promote our Honor Code, hold workshops on plagiarism, and seek to develop a campus-wide code of ethics to help guide us in contracts, purchasing, athletics, a future capital campaign, and all else that we do.
Notable Faculty and Academic Programs
The faculty is the heart of any university, and Adelphi is no exception. In setting goals to fulfill our vision, we must seek additional support for faculty professional development, named professorships and endowed chairs (some even named by donors for current faculty) and release time for scholarship and other creative activity.
In addition, we must continue to strengthen our course offerings and programs. Surely, our goals will include new programs at the bachelor’s, master’s, certificate, and doctoral levels, including, perhaps, applied physics, gerontology, audiology, mental health counseling, health care administration, nutrition, public health, criminal justice, English, emergency management, environmental science, child and family studies, and more. We have distinctive dual-degree options on campus, such as STEP (linking a bachelor’s degree in a liberal arts and sciences discipline with a master’s degree in education), and with partners, such as engineering with Columbia.
We should seek to develop additional dual-degree options, as they have proven to be attractive and satisfying to highly motivated students.
These students deserve more opportunities to participate with faculty on research teams and to present results at national association meetings. By continuing to strengthen general education as well as research methods courses, we can help our students make sense of what they read and hear, and to discern fact from faith and fear—to distinguish the empirical from epiphany and emotion.
By emphasizing notable faculty and programs, we will continue to strengthen the depth, breadth, and quality of our instruction, scholarship, creative endeavors, and service to society, and our ability to attract talented students.
Genuine Student Achievement
If the faculty is the heart of a university, students are our reason for being, and they become the alumni who sustain us. They challenge our imaginations, and keep us fresh.
Our third goal, then, must be to raise sufficient funds to keep Adelphi affordable for all students, no matter what their family circumstances. We now allocate about $16 million each year for institutional financial aid. The more we can replace with endowment income, the more we will have for other needs. Our goal must be for increased funds for undergraduate and graduate student support.
Genuine student achievement requires genuine satisfaction out of class as well as within. By genuine, I mean real, not “puffed up,” results. Improved student satisfaction will lead to improved retention and graduation rates, important goals for Adelphi.
We can do more than we presently do to identify high potential students—both bachelor’s and master’s—and recommend them for honors and fellowships. Surely, we have more students worthy of Luce, Marshall, and other prestigious awards.
At this point, someone is bound to ask, “How many students do we want? The number of new freshmen has more than doubled in five years, and total enrollment has increased by about 40% in that time. Is there no end in sight?”
The answer is “yes.” We are reaching the limits on our home campus, although we could use certain hours of the day and certain days of the week more efficiently. However, we have no room to create additional student housing, until we can reclaim the land used by the Waldorf School, or are able to turn Alumnae and Harvey Halls back into residence halls, as they once were.
Our projections call for only modest increases of enrollment in Garden City, with most growth to be gained in our centers in Hauppauge in Suffolk County and Manhattan. Projections for enrollment and facilities will be spelled out in the goals and strategies we develop this fall, and presented to the faculty in draft form in October and December.
Enrollment and facilities: Garden City, Hauppauge, Manhattan, Poughkeepsie. These are our sites. We also offer programs in NYC schools under contract with the Board of Education. We have been in Garden City since 1929, Suffolk County since 1955, and Manhattan and Poughkeepsie since at least the mid-1970’s. For many decades, we have been serving students of all ages and their communities in these various locations. And now we have the leadership to develop these centers as they should be.
But Garden City is home. It is here where we offer the largest array of degree programs, enroll the greatest number and diversity of students, host the most undergraduates, and maintain the most facilities. I mentioned our attention to deferred maintenance, our investments in technology, and our desire for arboretum status. We know we need more classrooms and faculty offices, and additional residence hall space. All are on our facilities master plan schedule.
We have conceptual designs for the renovation of Woodruff Hall, the 1929 gymnasium built for an enrollment of 450 girls; the expansion of Olmsted to include new space for dance and music, and expanded space for theater; a new facility for sculpture, ceramics, and physical plant needs; and a new sports center to include proper spaces for intercollegiate competition, fitness, and celebratory events. The tentative costs of $75 million would be paid for by new gifts and other financing. We are already receiving pledges, although the projects are still several years in the future, and Board of Trustees and Village approvals are needed.
Grade “A” Financials
The topic of “financing” leads naturally to that of financials. By this we mean a balanced budget, not always the case at Adelphi; an A-level bond rating, in order to save on interest costs; optimal revenues and minimal costs, including alternative funding for student nancial aid—endowment income instead of discounting; and annual alumni participation in unrestricted giving at the 20% level. Williams is at 65%; Hofstra is a 12%; we are approaching 8%, so 20% is a stretch. But what’s a vision for, if not to challenge those who “readeth it.”
Efficient and Effective Organization and Staffing
The fourth area in which to set goals, after ethical considerations, notable faculty and academic programs, genuine as opposed to superficial student achievement, attractive facilities, and grade “A” financials, is efficient and effective organization and staffing. In order to make every dollar of operating and capital expenditures work to the fullest, we must make sure that our ratio of administrators to students is low and that classroom utilization is high. We monitor our expenses, and put as much as possible into faculty and facilities for instruction. The investments in recent years are a testament to these values. We will continue to hold these priorities in order to achieve excellence and distinction.
This takes leadership. In addition to faculty searches, we are actively searching for a Nursing School dean, and are beginning the search to find a new dean of Social Work.
Dedicated to Excellence and Engagement
Our dedication to excellence is well known, and Social Work provides a good example. This past spring, the Council on Social Work Education reviewed our bachelor’s and master’s programs in Social Work, and 1) recommended re-accreditation for the full eight years; 2) offered no recommendations for improvement; and 3) asked that we make our self-study materials available to all other social work programs in North America.
In nursing, the Collegiate Council on Nursing Education and the NY State Education Department Office of Professional Programs renewed approvals for our bachelor’s and master’s programs, and were very specific in the areas requiring attention. We know what to do.
Also, we are organized and preparing for the Middle States’ Periodic Review Report due in June, while the Schools of Business and Education are preparing for major accreditation steps three years hence.
Our periodic academic program review procedures are working well, and our continuing review of faculty is off to a solid start. Our handbooks and orientation programs for full-time and adjunct faculty set forth our values and expectations for all to see. Excellence is clearly not just a goal, but also a matter of culture. It is becoming second nature to us.
Likewise, we are a community engaged in society. To us, the John D. Rockefeller admonition overlooking the Rockefeller Center rings true:
I believe that every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity, an obligation; every possession, a duty.8
If that is not a call for balancing one’s self interest with the interests of society, for each of us to become engaged with others, what is? We will set goals for student internships, voluntarism, and other field placements for students to be engaged in the community in meaningful ways.
Where there is no vision, the people perish.9
We are formulating our vision for ten years out. We will build upon our strengths and strive for distinctiveness and distinction. Our core commitments are captured by the word “engaged,” and include ethics and excellence, faculty and students, facilities and financials, efficiency and effectiveness. For each of these, we will formulate specific goals, strategies, and plans for resource allocation. Ten years seems like a long time, but it is, truly, not far off. Think back ten years and how far we have come. Think how far we have come since presenting our three-year projections to the board in February 2001.
Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that … everyone … may readeth it.10
That is our goal. To write our vision for all to see where we are going. We have secured our footing, and are ready to reach.
2003–2004 State of the University Address
1 Habakkuk, chapter 2, verse 2.
2 William Murray, Lord Manseld. “Bright the vision that delighted.” 1837 hymn.
3 William Wordsworth. “The Excursion.” 1814, Book I, line 77.
4 Boyer, Ernest. College: The Undergraduate Experience in America. New York: HarperCollins, 1987, p.283.
5 Rimer, Sara. “Finding that Today’s Students Are Bright, Eager, and Willing to Cheat.” The New York Times, July 2, 2003, p.8.
6 Alfred, Lord Tennyson. “Lockseley Hall, 1842, line 119.
7 Scott, Robert A. “The University as a Moral Force,” On the Horizon, Volume 11, No.2, 2003, p.32; Kahn, Jeffrey P. and Anna Mastroianni. “Doing Research Well by Doing It Right.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, February 15, 2002, p. B24.
8 John D. Rockefeller, Jr. “Ten Principles Speech,” U.S.O., New York City, July 8, 1941.
9 Book of Proverbs, chapter 29, verse 18.
10 Habakkuk, chapter 2, verse 2.
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