Updates - From the Office of the NYIT President
Sep 02 2010
NYIT 2010 State-of-the-Institution Address: Promises Kept

Good morning. What an auspicious day.

Welcome to the 2010-2011 academic year at a New York Institute of Technology that is stronger and more vibrant than it has ever been. Welcome to the first convocation gathering of faculty and staff in the NYIT Auditorium on Broadway in Manhattan and, of course, the annual state-of-the institution address beamed to the NYIT community here and around the globe, starting eastward in Old Westbury and moving beyond, against a sun that never sets.

One university, one community.

At convocation, it is customary to take stock of where we are, what we have accomplished, and where we need to be, to see what others demand of us. For those of you who might have blinked, today is an opportunity to rewind but also to do a more daring thing, at least in our line of work: hit the fast forward.

If the 12 months since the last convocation seems like the blink of an eye - well, all I can say is, blink at your own peril. You'll miss a lot at NYIT. In the past year we opened new buildings, graduated students from new campuses, and got ready to launch a 21st-century core curriculum. These are some of the hard-wired, bricks-and-mortar, flesh-and-blood embodiments of our sweat, our visions, and our promises.

Moving from the drawing board of our aspirations and imaginations, we demanded more of ourselves and more of our students. We gave more. We got more.

Many of you did a lot of good, very good things to support the successful year we had at NYIT and were proud to serve our students and the institution we have built. Thank you. Thank you.

I am pleased to say hello and welcome to our many new members of the NYIT community. We are all fortunate to be part of a noble tradition and working for noble causes at an increasingly great institution of higher learning. The underlying theme of every one of my convocation addresses is change, evolution, excellence, innovation, transformation, and meeting the needs of our students in the 21st century. Today will be no different.

The speed of change in our physical plant and technology is easy enough to see and chart.

Yet another change is afoot, and this one cannot be plotted on an X-Y chart or power point slides. Across the United States, the paladins of higher education are asking questions that go to the heart of how we think of ourselves. Remember the stinging words of the Spellings Commission? It reported that higher education is, "increasingly risk-averse, at times self-satisfied...It is an enterprise that has yet to address the fundamental issues of how academic programs and institutions must be transformed to serve the changing educational needs of a knowledge economy."

To some, the ivory tower is in grave danger of becoming an ivory silo of dwindling relevance. That may be true of last-century colleges and universities. To me, higher education is one of the world's longest-running shows that needs to be refreshed for today's audience.

At NYIT, we are attempting to do just that, and we can expect some cuts and scrapes along the way. It is hard work. So far, so good, though. But we know we have a long way to go before this university embodies our 2030 vision. And it is good to keep those six goals in mind as we consider NYIT 2011.

By 2030, NYIT will be known:

  • For career-oriented undergraduate programs, and unique and distinctive graduate and professional programs
  • For thriving graduate centers featuring interdisciplinary research, degree programs, and "best-in-class" work in a small number of highly targeted niches
  • As a global and partially virtual university with NYIT in New York as its quality hub
  • The model of a student-centered university for the 21st century
  • A leader in teaching with technology
  • And as a well-funded institution, with dependable revenue from a variety of sources.

We continue to keep score on our progress, which overall has been good. Remember, too, that as one university, we must remain true to our mission whose first tenet is to provide career-oriented professional education. America, the College Board reminded us earlier this year, has an aging and highly educated workforce that is preparing to retire. Not me or you, of course! Yet among citizens age 25 to 34 in developed countries, the United States ranks 12th -- 12th -- in post-secondary attainment, a fact President Obama took note of a few weeks ago.

And among new emerging economies, six are achieving increases in the rate of completion of college at twice the rate as the U.S. The nation that democraticized higher education after World War 2 with the G.I. bill is not only lagging, it has perhaps lost a bit of its way and luster. Hmmm.

This need not be so. The hyper-evolution of that democratization process has brought us to the gates of a new epoch in higher education.

Today, our students come to us as digital natives, citizens of a land with no information sovereigns, much less borders. Our task is to help them achieve global competency on a professional level, to better navigate political borders and cultures. The workplace we are preparing our students for is global; to compete and succeed, graduates must be of the world, having had the opportunities to interact with and immerse themselves in other cultures. Ignorance of the world is not an excuse for failure in today's 21st-century global economy. So, our knowledge base must have a global footprint.

The challenge of 21st-century education is to globalize our knowledge, our thinking, our arguments, and our experience. We must place as high a value on breadth as we do on the traditional depth and rigor of our disciplines. What we see now as local institutional "turf" must be surrendered, transformed into a global public commons for the intellect and the spirit. Today, we need to embrace flexibility that includes cross-disciplinary learning. In June, a panel of distinguished educators met in Washington to talk about the future of the American university. As reported in The Chronicle of Higher Education:

"The so-called meta university will be built on rapidly advancing information technology and such applications as Open Course Ware, digital libraries, and social networks that facilitate peer learning. While this 'new form of collective intelligence' will change how universities operate, it does not threaten their existence, said the former president of the University of Michigan."

From NYIT, we are pleased to offer this bit of intelligence to our colleagues. Collective intelligence not only will not threaten the existence of the university, at NYIT it has enhanced our presence, informed our mission, and made us better. The global competency of our students that NYIT holds as a prime value comes not from a specific course or department. This collective intelligence is the cornerstone of the new 21st-century global university that we at NYIT are building. Our model of collective global campuses that span the world is redefining higher education ...That is to collect intelligence, to gather the smarts, the know-how, the wisdom of the world.

Literally, common sense.

As we build a global university, with a broadband pulse that can be felt anywhere, anytime, we cannot forget the importance of actual place. We're not just a bunch of electrons in caps and gowns, streaming through cyberspace. The multitudes of people who pass us here at 61st and Broadway are getting the message that NYIT sends to students and scholars. They're getting that same message around the world at Adliya in Bahrain, on Zahran Street in suburban Amman, Wenyan Road in Nanjing, West Georgia Street in downtown Vancouver, the Al-Muror Road in Abu Dhabi. And, of course, on Northern Boulevard in Old Westbury.

Being global does not only mean permanent sites around the globe, it means the Center for Global Health sending faculty and second-year medical students, along with engineering students, to Ghana … It means the School of Architecture and Design sending students and faculty to Chile last winter to work with architecture students at the University of Chile or this summer going to Egypt, Italy, or the Netherlands to study. It also means NYIT co-hosting a world-class conference on Going Green last April in Nanjing, China or a dozen Chinese professors coming to New York this September for a week to experience NYIT, American education and to build bridges and bonds for future collaboration. It means 138 students from NYIT-Nanjing studying in New York this year and seven of our students from New York studying in Nanjing. It means online and DL classes that include multiple campuses. The list of proof points on what it means to be a global, not local, university is all around us, in our classrooms, in our programs, in our weekly updates...Take notice.

Yes, what we have done is important. However, the way we do what we have done, must always be open to change to achieve bigger, broader outcome objectives.

Everyone at our institution contributes to this 'new' paradigm on a daily basis. Each of us makes our 21st-century global vision real by realizing that our contributions, whether in admissions, the College of Arts & Sciences, or facilities to name a few, adds to the quality and success of our graduates on the world stage. Our students must be made aware of the value and opportunity that we can and will deliver.

This is all our responsibility, as members of an increasingly global community.

We're out there, inviting the world to join us.

Let's see how some of our deans show that we are one university, and a global university at that.

The record of this institution and our faculty in recent years is stellar. We have embraced the challenges of NYIT 2030: our endowment is up, our enrollment is up, the scores of our entering students are up, and budgets are up, too. Still, we have more work to do.

NYIT continues to rely heavily on tuition revenue -- for about 88% of total revenue. We have had some success with several non-tuition revenue initiatives, ranging from NYIT de Seversky Center and the NYIT Auditorium on Broadway to the medical clinics in Old Westbury and Central Islip to a silent-phased capital campaign that is continuing and succeeding. But we need much more, and all of us, myself included, are in a position to seek out and pursue non-tuition revenue opportunities. And competing for grants and fundraising not only benefits NYIT financially but also demonstrates the power of the NYIT brand in the community and among our academic peers.

That being said, fiscal year 2011 will be a good year for NYIT. Enrollment in New York is solid, buttressed in some schools and programs by others; upside potential is realistic; we realized substantial interest savings from last year's extraordinary bond refinancing at a time when many institutions were unable to enter the financial markets, and all of us kept expenses under control. In light of continuing recessionary concerns here and abroad, we have put together a cautiously optimistic operating budget for this year while investing in NYIT's future, its global vision, and our New York quality hub, including adding 10,000 square feet in the upcoming year to the Student Activities Center in Old Westbury and acquiring 42,000 square feet of additional space around the corner on 61st Street.

And while we make these investments, America's Northeast is in the midst of a projected 10 to 15 year decline in high school students. NYIT has responded by increasing its efforts outside of the Tristate area, and this fall we will realize a 14% increase in enrolled students from areas such as Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia as well as an increase in the number of students from Turkey, South Korea, China, and Europe among others. Overall, applications to NYIT this year were up four and a half percent over last.

I am also pleased to report that:

  • We saw a rise of nearly 70 points in our MBA program GMAT scores.
  • Students enrolling in our architecture program earned an average of 30 points higher on their SATs and had GPAs a full two points higher than the class last year.
  • Our physician assistant program received 1,700 applications for 52 available seats, more than 33 applications per seat, marking a 30% increase this year.
  • Similarly, our physical therapy program saw an uptick in applications of 35 percent.
  • In 2009, our college of osteopathic medicine received 15 applications for every seat. This year, that number surged to 20.

Needless to say, NYIT's incoming classes have the highest academic credentials we've seen. This year, NYIT will educate students from 106 nations, a record high for us…but not surprising considering who and where we are and the evolving demographics of higher education.

Over the past decade, there has been a 57% increase in the number of students worldwide studying outside their country, totaling approximately three million. Again, a number that is estimated to more than double and nearly triple by 2025.

In our opening budget, we have included additional funds for new recruitment initiatives in select regions of the U.S. and abroad as well as new funds for promoting some of our newest academic initiatives. These are investments that in two or three years from now we expect will help secure our financial and academic future.

The milestones and events we celebrate at an opening convocation are points of pride within our institutional culture, as was a special honor that NYIT received in July: being named a great college to work for by The Chronicle of Higher Education. Besides being able to say we are a great college, there is intrinsic value in being a great place to work.

It is clear that positive workplaces sustain outstanding performance, leading to organizational success. The most successful enterprises reach a level of trust among employees and management that certainly enhances an institution's reputation in the community at large.

Throughout the past decade, the recruitment of top talent has been a characteristic of NYIT. We again moved up in class a year or so ago, and now the real game for excellence and prominence will be played out over the upcoming decade.

To win that game, we need to recruit still more talent and to reorganize and staff our institution for the university we will be. Without adding support and talent, we cannot become all that we can -- and all we seek to be, and achieve all our 2030 goals. So, at a time when many institutions are still cutting back staff and are financially pressed, I am pleased to report that hiring will be a major theme and activity in the new academic year as we secure the right people with the right skills, in the right jobs, at the right time.

Permit me to add that this comes at a time when all returning NYIT employees are coming off a string of compounded robust salary increases, including this week. Not bad. And as Senator Schumer would say at one of our graduations: "God bless."

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships --and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--
and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."

Let's take a look … quiz-style.

Alex, I'll take global higher education for $800.

NYIT 2030 calls for us to be a student-centered university, to be keenly aware of our students' learning, their satisfaction with their time in the classroom, their advisors, the guidance they receive and ultimately, how meaningfully their studies are integrated into their lives after graduation.

We must be relentlessly demanding of ourselves, never forgetting that education is not about teaching. It is about learning. When we assess ourselves, that is what we must measure.

That is why I was pleased to read in NYIT's Senate Assessment Committee's "Annual Report on Student Learning Outcomes" that 100% of academic programs submitted both reports on their assessment activities for last year and plans for the coming year. And those reports contained bullet points describing specific actions that were taken to improve learning. That's being "student centered."

Looking ahead to the coming year, baseline assessment of undergraduate writing skills will be going on across the entire university. This data (which will be presented to the faculty at Assessment Day in January) should help us target interventions to improve student outcomes on a skill that is of prime importance to employers. That's being "student centered."

The Noel-Levitz Student Satisfaction survey pointed to areas that some of our students say need improvement. These include schedules that allow them to get the classes they need to advance, the courses they need for their majors, and the general excellence in classroom teaching that makes college worthwhile. Being student centered means responding to these student concerns.

Student Affairs is launching initiatives that include new living and learning communities in our residence halls, the development of a leadership program called STEP and a student scholar program. Our first family weekend will be held at both New York campuses. And we will be expanding the Offices of Alumni Affairs and Career Services to embrace all our campuses this year.

The French, who take their summer "recess" a lot more seriously than Americans, call this back-to-school and back-to-work time of year the rentrée, literally the re-entry as if they were vacationing on a distant planet and were re-entering earth's atmosphere. We are re-entering an academic year, and the challenge for all of us, especially long-time professors like me, is not to loop the loop, but to refresh our teaching and refresh our daily and weekly activities. We need to avoid "the same as, same as," and put ourselves on a diet of freshness and innovation and timely relevance. And we know how hard it is for Americans to diet. We need to commit to a new year with renewed fire in our bellies.

This may seem like just another annual convocation, but it is different. Look around you, the technology, setting, and facilities are different and better, the delivery as a result is a little different, our students surely are different, various undergraduate and graduate curricula are different, the competitive educational landscape is different, and I could go on. Shouldn't your approach this year be a little different? I am asking you to consciously commit to re-upping your approach, techniques, and dedication to the mission of NYIT. I am making that commitment. It is a commitment to not becoming or being tired.

Whatever the universities of 2030 and the teaching practices will be, they will be infused with a great deal more technology. And that suggests your and my teaching techniques and community services will evolve. Today we encourage and champion collaboration as a learning experience, skill, and outcome in our classes. Remember when we used to call that cheating?

And while one of the purposes of our gathering here today is to hit the rewind button to examine our successes, I urge you not to do so in the coming year by showing reruns of classes taught last year. There are people who might say, "I don't need to change my teaching. It already works." Well…not quite right. And this is not what the students and outcomes assessments are saying. Have we forgotten our audience? Our students have different skills, experiences, and expectations when they walk into our classrooms than their precursors. And so do employers. And, yes, I know the excuse that "it is too much time and hard work to change my course content or teaching method."

A common analogy that I and others often make is to a medical doctor. Imagine a surgeon or any physician for that matter who still uses only the techniques they learned in medical school and residency because they were too busy to learn new ones. We'd call them poor physicians…would you go to them? I certainly wouldn't.

The Millennials

It would not be a convocation of this sort here or at any university without mention of the New Millennials, who came of age after 2000, are digital from birth, or at least from their earliest years, the Gen-Y'ers, and the now Generation LOL. They are entirely fluent in, and demanding of, information technology. Today, 51% of college students spend more than 15 hours a week on the Internet. They have fused their identities and social lives to that technology. And, by the way, in case you haven't noticed … they have more tattoos and piercings than older adults. And they are citizens of Facebook, which if it were a nation (and perhaps it is in a way), based on population, would be the third largest in the world and much bigger than the United States.

They are more racially and ethnically diverse than the generations who preceded them. They, the most educated, least employed, deeply civic-minded generation in decades, will be looking for schools where curriculum is relevant to their hopes and interests. At the NYIT we are building, they will ultimately find a university without physical boundaries or information firewalls -- open source, if you will -- where they will encounter opportunities not in their immediate line of sight. Students will earn their degrees on a global platform versus a campus-specific one.

In a draft report last March on transforming American education, the U.S. Department of Education suggested our teaching methods need revisiting in light of the societal and technological changes all around us: "The challenge for our educational system is to leverage the learning sciences and modern technology to create engaging, relevant, and personalized learning experiences for all learners that mirror students' daily lives and the reality of their futures."

I am not suggesting that all faculty need to be wired to the umpteenth power to be successful or that technology is an end in itself. Way back in my inaugural address, I advised, "Technology is not about bits and bytes. It is about celebrating and empowering the human mind and human heart." That, of course, is why we are here at New York Institute of Technology.

In a few minutes we will award the Presidential Technology Awards… celebrating those colleagues whose innovations honor us and serve our students well. As you know, NYIT has a culture of inventive, innovative minds.

To help with that, our Center for Teaching and Learning is providing robust training in online course development, including Blackboard certification, and is facilitating faculty-learning communities. For all of us, mastering new tools not only will make us more effective educators; they will expand the landscape of the possible, unfencing our minds.

The changes in our virtual campus are tangible: every day, we become more fluent in digital tongues. This summer, we've invested in more DL and teleconferencing facilities at all campuses, and retrofitted a dozen more smart classrooms. We're infusing technology in every facilities project we undertake, including a new working architecture accreditation space that will mirror an architect's office, and an engineering student project lounge in Old Westbury.

To support such efforts and augment the current academic computing area, the Office of Information Technology and Infrastructure created a Department of Media Services. It will provide training and support to faculty in the use of software, new technology, video conferencing and assist in the integration of video into the class experience.

Also, to support our facilities and services, IT has created a single point of service -- a one-stop shopping address, if you will -- known as Service Central. Just call extension 1400 or e-mail servicecentral@nyit.edu if you need any help, from changing a light bulb or getting an office chair to fixing a computer, to assisting with a phone issue or getting the right software working in your classroom.

Given the dissatisfaction of some of our students with the flexibility of NYIT's class schedules, we must respond, concentrate on, and perfect the process. More 100 percent-online courses are part of the solution, and we piloted some new courses this past year. And in support of our online campus and online efforts, this year we'll be recruiting talent to manage instructional design, another person to handle course development, and a third person to address assessment in all facets. It is time we grow up to the increasing online tasks at hand and necessary support.

The New Core

A report by the Association of American College and Universities concludes that employers in the 21st century are seeking graduates with not just the skills related to their field, but also a broad range of knowledge as well as intellectual and practical skills. They also want employees instilled with a strong sense of personal and social responsibility.

Thus, colleges and universities are, in effect, being asked to create the jobs of tomorrow while training a generation of students to fill them, all the while ensuring they are graduating good global citizens.

Almost 10 years ago, NYIT set out to adapt to a new educational model and even more elementary, to define what "being educated" means today. We have revised our core curriculum, guided by a new kind of literacy for the 21st century that teaches our students to use technology as a means to a successful end. Knowledge moves too fast and is too vast, so we stress to our students that they are not mastering a "language," but a methodology.

In an effort to make our students more competitive, we have focused our undergraduate programs on seven foundations that can be used in all professions: skills in communications, literacy, critical and analytical thinking, an interdisciplinary mindset, ethical and civic engagement, a global perspective, and knowledge of the nature and process of the arts and sciences.

As they stake their place in the world, the new Millennials will, I believe, find a seamless fit at NYIT, after our decade-long investment in technology and trans-national expansion.

Telling Our Story

The words and videos I have shared this morning demonstrate we have a very good story to tell - chapters and chapters of concrete accomplishment and credible opportunities. We all need to tell the same story, brand ambassadors bearing the following message: An NYIT education is an invaluable tool for personal and professional success in the 21st-century marketplace.

A state-of-the-institution address is a snapshot in time, and I've been saying the NYIT picture is good. So, before I conclude, let's revisit some recent NYIT highlights in pictures.

At NYIT we continue using media as well as the medium of the web to spread our message, including our current Web site that provides information tailored to specific users and encourages student involvement through social media.

Our advertising and marketing campaign, in major magazines, follows the old dictum to Show, Don't Tell. So you see our efforts and our students. They are, in the end, the best, truest stories we can tell the world.

And the new NYIT ad campaign I am about to share reminds the world at large and reinforces our institutional pride: "We're out there. Join us."

NYIT students are bringing green energy to the 67-year-old aircraft carrier Intrepid.

NYIT students helped bring lifesaving medical care to the people of Oworobong.

NYIT students are on the floor of the Bahrain Stock Exchange.

So, here we are in September 2010, and I like to think that it is our custom at NYIT that we really do keep our promises, and maybe the most important one is to tell ourselves the truth. By rigorous self-assessment, we will know who we are, and who we can be for the world.

"This above all," Polonius in one of Shakespeare's most-quoted passages advises Laertes in Hamlet,

"To thine ownself be true,
And it must follow,
as the night the day
Thou canst not then be false to any man."

You can start by looking around you, but you would have to travel, in your mind's eye, across the world to take in the full panorama of the promises kept by NYIT.

We have been true to our own selves.

To conclude by coming full circle: We are state-of-the-art buildings. We are global locations. We are a borderless school. We are emerging curricula. We are the faculty who teach and invent and inspire. We are the students who walk our campuses and are lit up by the possibilities of a world that not only makes promises…but keeps them.

Thank you.