Updates - From the Office of the NYIT President
Aug 30 2012
NYIT 2012 State-of-the-Institution Address

President Edward Guiliano, Ph.D., delivered his 13th address at NYIT's annual convocation on Aug. 30. He discussed NYIT's role as "an idea incubator … where academia, commerce, innovation, and culture mingle, and cross-fertilize to engage meaningfully in research, development, and other activities that contribute to the understanding and betterment of the world."

President Guiliano welcomes faculty and staff to the new academic year at NYIT Convocation: Engaging Students and Incubating Ideas for 2030 and Beyond.

President Edward Guiliano delivered his 13th address at NYIT's annual convocation

Good morning.

Nearly a half-century ago, New York Institute of Technology acquired the Old Westbury campus. Alexander Schure was the president, and though none of us go back quite that far at NYIT, some of us remember the state-of-the-institution addresses Alex Schure delivered in the 1970s and 80s, which fixed the format and tradition we follow today: one hour, one speech, some announcements, notably about tenures and promotions, and a box lunch. Okay, the lunches have gotten better. His speeches were extraordinary: inspiring, visionary, and frustrating at the same time. He made many predictions about NYIT’s bright and technologically rich future. A few came true. I remember him entering from the back door, coming on this very stage, and addressing the NYIT community for at least 40 minutes, maybe more. He’d finish…I don’t recall a smile at the end; then he would walk out the door.

He had an extraordinary vocabulary and could deliver a first-rate speech for the era. I remember being assured and inspired about NYIT’s future, and being amazed by how he could deliver such a coherent, focused, and developed speech without notes.

Earlier this century, Anne Cooley, Ellen DeMille, and I cleaned out decades of Schure family files. It seems they kept copies of copies. And guess what we found? Typed draft after draft with hand corrections of one or two of Alexander Schure’s Convocation addresses. So today, the secret is revealed: He obviously worked very hard on his speeches to the point of memorizing them.

One of the tricks of being president is appearing relaxed and confident and making things look easy. I can tell you first hand, it is not an easy mission. Consider this: I was called to show up yesterday for jury duty. Not amusing. I could be a fugitive from justice this very moment…but I’m not.

This is my 13th opportunity and honor to deliver the state-of-the-institution address. And I count 13 as a lucky number. Holding Convocation, this traditional launch of our academic year, is a cornerstone of our NYIT culture. Like all good communities, ours is built on shared purpose, common values, discourse, and the exchange of ideas.

Our academic community has a vital purpose—that is, of course, to provide qualified students access to knowledge and opportunity, to educate them and to help them prepare for meaningful careers. And where there are NYIT faculty, students, and staff, there are idea incubators—places where academia, commerce, innovation, and culture mingle and cross-fertilize to engage meaningfully in research, development, and other activities that contribute to the understanding and betterment of the world. All of us—professors, administrators, and staff—support and serve this mission.

We represent many disciplines and service areas, but we all must be committed to building a superior university dedicated to producing active and skilled participants in the global knowledge economy. The work, the sacrifices, the honors we share together. Ours is a noble calling and service.

How are we doing in terms of executing our grand vision for NYIT’s future? We have succeeded, in large measure, in creating a dynamic educational environment filled with rigorous learning that challenges the intellect, builds skills, and prepares students for successful professional and personal lives. We have students and staff from varied backgrounds who endeavor, within and outside these walls, to pursue, create, and demand quality and relevance. We seek out and adopt forward-thinking teaching pedagogies and curriculum content. And most of us embrace the new view of information sharing and connectedness.

We have much to be proud of, especially in the past year. For instance:

  • We had a robust 50% increase in the number of faculty members who were authors, presenters, designers, exhibitors, grant recipients, or award-winners. NYIT faculty contributed 200 research papers, book chapters, or studies. Congratulations.

  • Federal, state, and nonprofit foundations awarded us numerous grants for research and development projects – most recently a $500,000 grant to help the Department of Nursing deliver an advanced curriculum of geriatric care, and train others with a “classroom to go” technology model. So as all of us age—some of us before your very eyes—we can take comfort in knowing that NYIT is training professionals who are going to give us the best care. Overall, the number of new grant and contract awards was up an impressive 58% and the total in millions of dollars granted was up 19%.

  • Our accreditation renewals attest to the good work and results of all of those involved: Our College of Osteopathic Medicine Educational Consortium received a perfect score for reaccreditation. You will be hearing more excellent things about our medical school this year, including some names, signs and efforts to bring us closer together. Our School of Education was reaccredited through fall 2018. Occupational Therapy was reaccredited for the next seven years, and the M.B.A. program in Abu Dhabi received initial accreditation. We are the only American university in that region able to provide students with an accredited American degree at both bachelor and master’s levels. Also, our School of Management has been granted pre-candidacy status from AACSB.

  • In the past year we opened an entire new building in Manhattan, renovated offices, classrooms and laboratories across our campuses, and shortly we will open newly renovated and expanded student activities facilities in both Manhattan and Old Westbury.

  • As you know, based on a survey of our own faculty and staff and benchmarked across the nation, we were again in 2012 certified a “Great College to Work For.” This is for the third year in a row; and as Lewis Carroll’s Bellman in The Hunting of the Snark, reminds us: “What I tell you three times is true.” Only 103 colleges and universities across America earned this distinction; and we stand proudly alongside the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, Georgia Institute of Technology, and the University of Southern California, among others.

As I have said, we have much to be proud of, much that we have achieved together. Our workplace environment is excellent. Walk around this campus or the Manhattan Campus and neighborhood; everything works, is clean and maintained, and in many instances beautiful. We are sitting pretty, literally. And I give thanks for that.

Engagement: A Definition

Of course, we have a distance to travel. We must do a better job of targeting and recruiting prospective students; mobilizing our alumni; raising more non-tuition revenue; and enhancing NYIT’s reputation. Most important, however, is forging stronger ties with students through the teaching, advisement, and service processes. The desired outcome is elevating the level of engagement we have with our students. Engagement is key. To show our commitment, the 2013 Technology Awards will be changed to the President’s Engagement Awards.

Top-performing corporations and universities understand and research shows that employee engagement drives performance.

Last spring, for the third time in 10 years, we surveyed student satisfaction on our campuses. The Noel Levitz Student Satisfaction Inventory found that they are notably more satisfied than when we last polled them in 2009. We saw increases in:

  • Exceeding students’ expectations on their college experience;
  • Overall satisfaction with their NYIT experience; and
  • Gratifyingly, the number of our students who say they’d re-enroll at NYIT if they had to do it over.

To each and every one of you who contributed to the increased student satisfaction, to those of you who are actively engaging students, and to those we read about in the Weekly Updates—we thank you.

I also am proud to report that our freshmen averages are closing in on 90 and SAT scores reflect an upward trend that signifies achievement and strength. We need to challenge these students. Of course the spread is not equal across all programs and degrees, so some of us need to look at areas not attracting the best and brightest students nor graduating them.

We surely have much more we can do at the undergraduate, graduate, doctoral, and professional levels to enhance our students’ learning experience.

A year ago, for the second time, we administered the National Survey of Student Engagement, a nationally benchmarked survey designed to evaluate the extent to which undergraduate students are engaged—that is, the extent to which they report taking part in activities with proven records of success in helping students learn.

It is good to have the benchmarked data, so we know what we can do to make the education at NYIT richer and more productive. And because what gets measured gets done, we need to track our progress.

  • Too many of our graduating seniors told us they were leaving without having experienced a practicum, internship, fieldwork, or clinical assignment; we can improve that.
  • Too few worked on a research project with a faculty member, yet “applications oriented research” is part of our mission; and
  • Surprisingly, only about a third concluded their time here with a culminating senior experience like a capstone course, senior project or thesis, or comprehensive exam…or at least that is what they believe and reported. Wow.

Since the last survey, we have adopted a different core curriculum. Results report a significant increase in active and collaborative learning in the first year: asking more questions in class, making more class presentations, working more often with other students on projects during class, and working harder than they thought they could to meet an instructor’s standards or expectations.

Positive changes in the freshman classroom experience are important and welcome. I congratulate all of you who worked on developing the new, engaging, core foundation courses…our students are noticing.

But, obviously, core courses alone are not enough. We need to move more quickly to improve our students’ engagement every year and at every level they are with us.

How do we do that? Our students want and need more than lectures. Research has shown repeatedly that certain practices improve motivation and learning: again, internships and clinical experiences, practicum, international opportunities, and hands-on learning inside and outside of the classroom. Timely feedback, virtual and in-person office hours, collaboration with teachers and peers, updated curricula, and rich give-and-take. This is what is required to educate, inspire, and retain our students today. This is what we must give them. Some faculty take advantage of the resources we’ve made available to continually elevate their teaching practices and the learning experiences for our students.

A dominant trend today is the practice of “flipping the classroom,” leaving the lecture at home and focusing class time on forms of active learning, including group projects. A recent Inside Higher Ed survey found that the majority of the professorate is excited, not fearful, about spending time coaching students rather than lecturing them and about various technology-driven trends in higher education. That’s good. Yet, two-thirds of our faculty members are not exploiting the online resources we have brought to NYIT, such as Blackboard and Google Apps. Chairs and deans: please push our faculty. Faculty: push yourselves. Please. The teaching and learning process in higher education today has been turned upside down—we’ve moved from an instructional paradigm to a learning paradigm.

Online learning has been in the headlines as elite universities offer their digital resources for free. If you are an NYIT student, and your professor hands you a dry course syllabus and delivers predictable lectures, wouldn’t you prefer to take a free online course from Stanford or MIT that includes videos, game simulations and interactive exercises? Isn’t that an alternative path to mastering the course objectives?

Please don’t object to the question. It is not mine; it is what our students ask themselves.

“Disruptive Innovation”

Georgetown’s Randy Bass borrows from Clayton Christensen’s term “disruptive innovation” to propose the notion of “disruptive moments” in teaching today. He argues that some new educational practices are disrupting the way we’ve always done business—and it’s a good thing. Disruptive innovations are products or services that first take root in a simple application at the very bottom of a market, and then move up until they completely displace more established competitors. In education, practices that are moving from the margins to the center also provide the disruptive moments that help enhance the quality and relevance of the student experience.

Right now the formal curriculum as we once knew it is being pressured on two sides, notes Bass. “On the one side is a growing body of data about the power of experiential learning in the co-curriculum; and on the other side is the world of informal learning and the participatory culture of the Internet.” For us, these are game changers.

We agreed in our 2030 vision that we need to refocus our traditional curricula and courses toward more cross-disciplinary, cross-cultural efforts, and that we must passionately pursue new approaches to the challenges we put in front of our students.

The University as an Idea Incubator

Some very bright minds contend that the university as we now know it is an anachronism –dreamed up in an era when information, knowledge—even literacy itself—were relatively hard to come by. They say universities were founded on the idea that knowledge was scarce—residing in books and the minds of great thinkers—and that the purpose of an educational institution was to connect students to those resources.

Today, scarcity of information is no longer an issue. In just 19 years since it was developed, about a third of the world uses the Internet. This is the fastest acceptance of new technology the world has ever experienced, much of it thanks to handheld devices, where leapfrogging technologies have put connectivity and knowledge into the hands of people who may not even have access to life’s basics. It is a sobering thought that some people have easier access to Pandora than to clean drinking water. 

But if education can be largely gathered from the Internet or via collaborative information sharing, what is the role of the university? Why will students need us at all?  Please don’t lose any sleep over losing your job. NYIT and universities will be here for our lifetimes and many beyond. But they will continue to evolve. The Ivy League was once just a football conference.

CUNY’s Jeff Jarvis reminds us that our current educational system, start to end, is built for an industrial era, in a world where there is one right answer: “We spew it from a lectern; we expect it to be spewed back in a test. That kind of education does not produce the innovators who would invent Google.”

Ah, if only our friend Siri could send a reminder that it is time for self-examination. Each faculty and staff member has the power and ability to change, to become even more engaging. Each of us has the ability to make a difference in the lives of our students.

Reputation Realities

Beyond focusing on engagement, we need to enhance and protect our reputation. I have spoken previously about our messaging, how it has to be focused and strategic, and that we all need to sing from the same sheet music. Moreover, we need to remember NYIT first in conveying our messaging and protecting our reputation. We all know how an errant message or YouTube video can bounce around the world and undo decades of brand building. We cannot let that happen. Our good and improving reputation is vital to our future, bringing us strong students and employees, as well as honors and jobs for our graduates.

In this age of information technology, reputations are increasingly global, certainly national and regional…and hard to build and maintain. We work at it. For instance, did you know we are saturating Columbus Circle and Times Square with the “We’re Out There. Join Us.” campaign? It will continue through December on the CBS Super Screen in Times Square, at the crossroads of the world, generating 2.8 billion views.

A few months ago, we also hit the New York market, advertising during the semi-final and season finale of American Idol…I hear J-Lo liked the ads…they targeted the 18-34 age group of prospective undergraduate, graduate, and professional-degree students.

In the “new normal” of multi-channel communications and instantaneous digital reach, everyone is ready to sell or provide free advice. I get plenty of it. Some of you probably have suggestions you’d like to give me right now. 

Here are a few words from an email pitch I received this month:

“university administrators face more disruptive events in a week than their predecessors did in a century … there’s intense competition for students and funds …institutions seek new revenue streams … technology’s impact is vast: New media. New methods. New modalities. blended learning, “gamification” or “consumerization,” … higher education is anything but status quo … accountability, reporting and scrutiny are up—all in a penny-pinching environment of doing more with less.”

Alas, all true, and another good illustration for not reading email before breakfast or before going to bed.

The Economic Realities in Higher Education

As always, I want to spend a few minutes discussing the economic realities in higher education and beyond, and NYIT’s place in this world. You know that things are pretty ugly economically outside our campuses.

A recent Wall Street Journal article aptly expresses: “The finances of many of the national institutions of higher education are starting to wobble.” Expenses are climbing for instructional costs, but even more for property, plant and equipment; interest expenses, and long-term debt. Higher education is not immune to the real-world challenges of the European debt crisis, high unemployment, the slow growth of GDP, and the lack of access to capital. All while government and outside support are declining.

Most are beyond our control, like Mother Nature, for example, who wreaked havoc on the Old Westbury campus with massive summer storms necessitating costly repairs; therefore, we must focus on what is within our reach. So, here we are wishing to—needing to—increase our debt capacity to at long last build residence halls in Old Westbury and acquire more property in Manhattan in order to insure our institution’s growth, sustainability, and 2030 vision.

On June 2, 2000, after being elected president by the NYIT Board of Trustees, I was invited to say a few words. It was a powerful moment in my life. I felt a shock-like sense of responsibility. I felt then and feel now the weight of protecting the institution—NYIT-first—its alumni, its students, and you, its faculty and staff. And right now is one of the periods when I need to be especially wise in directing our finances.

In recent years, NYIT has stood out by continuing to grant significant annual raises, providing top benefits, not laying off employees, and investing in facilities. I am very proud of that; it took a decade to arrive at this point. I expect over the next decade, if we play our cards right, we will be equally proud of our financial performance, salaries, and benefits.

Our investment-grade bond rating has held steady since 2010, and overall, our financial health remains fine, but, it’s not where we’d like it. The year that ends tomorrow was not as good as prior years, and our enrollment has fallen short in New York. Challenges in the world of admissions and enrollment are significant. We know that the pool of prospective students in the New York metropolitan area is shrinking. The fact is high school graduates in New York City and Nassau and Suffolk counties are down now and will be down 14 percent by 2018. To sustain our operations, we must find ways to attract students outside the area. How? Residence halls on the Old Westbury campus are one way.

It’s always been part of our operational and 2030 plan, but building residential properties on the Old Westbury campus now is not only a prudent investment—it’s a necessity, albeit an expensive one. Add to that the costs of medical and retirement benefits—double-digit increases for the past few years—and our bottom line takes additional hits. While large surpluses from our global programs paid for a lot of upgrades some years ago, that world has changed—wow, what’s happened in the Middle East alone in the past 18 months is remarkable. We are adapting, and all the while we have protected and enhanced our New York operations.

We simply can’t increase tuition enough to improve our balance statement—families can no longer afford and sustain this ever-increasing bill, federal sources can’t make up the difference, and loans are more expensive. 

And there are lots of somewhat hidden costs. Every college and university must have a student information system, for example, and for the past 14 years ours has been Datatel…but it is fading into the sunset … no longer upgraded and supported nor serving our needs. So starting this fall we will begin the multi-year transition to PeopleSoft as our SIS. It is a big job and has an enormous price tag: $4 million. But we have no choice.

Also, we did not create the health care crisis in America, and we are not going to solve it with the tuition dollars of our students and their families. We don’t know what the best health and benefits plans will look like in a decade—presumably they will be ours at NYIT—but we know that a greater burden will be put on individuals to contribute to and supplement government’s social security and medical plans.

In any industry, there are three primary paths to competitive advantage: price, structural advantage, and differentiation. The strongest organizations focus on investing in areas with the greatest returns—where they can most differentiate and derive their identity.

  • We must continually review our operational model to achieve efficiencies and identify growth opportunities.
  • We must evolve our practices in the classroom…engaging students in best-practice pedagogies, technology, and lifelong learning.

Then, we can identify and communicate how NYIT differentiates itself and in turn, what our unique value propositions are.

As we have been engaged in a once-in-five-years labor negotiation, now is the appropriate moment and opportunity to address this so we all prosper long term. The upcoming academic year will not be one of our best financially, and over the next eighteen months we need to reset and prioritize our financial model leading up to 2030.

We are striking an important balance—being prudent with our resources and remaining visionary in our outlook. Together we will have to change how we do a few things to be increasingly competitive and to sustain our healthy employment. To build this great institution that will thrive in 2030 and beyond, we must all commit to what in the short-term is a shared investment but, in the long-term, an annuity. 

After all, it is only 18 years to the NYIT of 2030.

Crossing Borders – Global Community

We’ve talked about having a more universal focus by then. And yes, it is vital for our future that we reach out to students across global borders. Looking to other regions of the world is not some utopian vision of global citizenry. It is a practical extension of what our students already demand. And being a model 21st-century global university is an opportunity to differentiate ourselves in the face of the Academy’s dramatic evolution.

Ruth Simmons, president of my alma mater, Brown University, just retired. In a recent alumni magazine interview, one thing she said she emphasized during her presidency was the importance of what she called internationalization.

She said she was sorry she did not move at a faster pace. When asked what success at what we call global education would look like, she cited more institutional partnerships, more resources for students to have international internships and experiences, and taking advantage of opportunities to have outposts in different parts of the world. Starting to sound familiar? We are well down this road. She continues, “Compared to our peers, Brown is much more domestic. I think what this causes over time is a sense that we are a small place that is not keeping up with the direction of our knowledge and the direction of this global reality.”

We at NYIT have differentiated ourselves by getting out in front of global education. We are going to keep at it. While we may take some missteps—relatively little ones I trust, if any—we value them as a scientist values a hypothesis that does not work out. Our efforts in trying new, carefully considered possibilities leave us far better off than had we tried nothing at all. At NYIT, by being entrepreneurial and forward-thinking, we have learned more than most of our peers over the past decade, and we will bring that accumulated knowledge and experience to each new domestic and international opportunity. This is an NYIT strength.

What is extra special about NYIT is that we have students from about 50 states and 100 nations studying with us this fall. Think about the classmates our students will encounter and form friendships with. Think about the alumni network we have around the world. And when our students and graduates explore business opportunities in the 21st century, they have a classmate or fellow alumnus nearby.

Crossing Boundaries – Interdisciplinary Centers at Tomorrow’s University

Geographic borders are not the only ones students will have to cross. NYIT’s colleges and schools must continue to expand opportunities for collaborative enterprise, where disciplines work together to build a foundation for education, idea incubation, and problem solving.

We recognized this in developing and endorsing our 2030 plan, with a goal for NYIT to become: “Known for its thriving interdisciplinary centers in a small number of highly targeted niches.”

Following the publication of the plan in 2006, three new interdisciplinary centers were formed. To date, our success has been mixed. There are tolerable reasons for this, of course. But, in this new academic year we will refocus on this major institutional goal and clear up some confusion.

An academic center can exist inside or outside an individual school. Inside a school, the centers are supported largely by external funding or small amounts from the budget of an academic school. Faculty members get approval to organize these centers from their academic deans.

“Centers” outside academic schools fall into two categories: The first are those providing service to the institution: Although these entities share the name “center,” they are administrative units such as the Center for Teaching and Learning. They are supported by the university and encouraged but not counted on to generate external funding.

The second type of external center, in the spirit of NYIT 2030, is formed to create synergies from institutional multi-disciplinary strengths and establish NYIT’s reputation in new areas. We will focus on these centers in the coming year; some characteristics include:

  • Topics of concern cross traditional disciplinary boundaries;
  • Faculty participation comes from three or more academic schools;
  • Reporting relationship may be to a vice president or the president;
  • They are created through an institution-wide selection process;
  • They may become separate budget entities and receive start-up investment from the university; they are required to become financially sustainable within five years.
  • They may create and award degrees and/or certificates;

In the coming weeks, we will circulate more information, such as the selection process and policies and procedures.

Students of 2030 - Screeners

In the year 2030, we will welcome the freshmen of the class of 2034. Yes, it’s a little daunting to realize that some of those students are being born as I speak. The babies born today will be turning 18 in the year 2030.

Back in my 2000 convocation address I pledged to do whatever I could to help deliver on NYIT’s goals, even play golf again. Well, it still has not come to that…but it has come to the point of being talked into appearing as an avatar twice.

If today’s students are already different from us, imagine the changes coming over the next two decades. I call the new breed of students being born today “Screeners.” More than any generation before them, they will spend much of their time in front of – a screen: watching, learning, playing, making friends, communicating, purchasing, designing, working. We see indications of that already, but today, they still use books, paper, and pencils in the classroom. If you have kids, you know what I mean—you walk into your middle schooler’s room, and there she is, playing Angry Birds and Fruit Ninjas, listening to music, doing an online math assignment, texting with one friend, Skyping with another, using the calculator, reading a history chapter, and watching a movie on Netflix—and she’s doing them all at once! And probably gets A’s, right? According to neuroscientists, these up-and-coming screeners will have an uncanny ability to multitask. They’ll make decisions fast, and they’ll connect the digital dots in creative ways to form new paradigms in learning, living, and working.

For educators, this means creating open, responsible, digital environments—the idea incubators.

In a knowledge-based economy, education is our greatest natural resource. As information sharing becomes more pervasive and the world shrinks, NYIT and other centers of higher learning will have a role no one else can fill—not government, not K-12 education, not industry, not think-tanks, not even life experience. We will become the unique idea incubators, the fertile crescents of creativity, where these competencies come together so students can learn how to leverage new technologies, and develop new solutions, approaches, and visions. We are striving to build a fully engaged community.

What a good university should be is an idea incubator, the zone of exploration where we promote new ideas, accept failure, reward creativity, breed innovation, and foster interdependent learning.

The mission we have before us is indeed possible—collectively and collaboratively we can attain our 2030 vision. And, as I emphasized earlier, we each have an individual role to play. You have your mission: Raise your level of engagement with students. Colleagues, at a student-centered university, there is no such thing as being interrupted by a student.

I would like to close with an announcement. You are all probably thinking about how big your salary increase will be for the upcoming academic year. That's not the announcement. Usually I have the pleasure of sharing that news now. This time, sharing that news will be delayed a short while. We have a bright future, and what I will share will be both positive and responsible. So, save me a smile.

Here’s today’s announcement. For years, I have carried around in my head a checklist of things we should have that exist at leading institutions of higher learning (perhaps you have, too). Checking off these items is a means of marking the progress and maturity of NYIT as a quality institution. One characteristic of all great American universities is endowed professorships. The reputation of an institution is built upon factors including the quality of the faculty and the quality of the educational experience.

I announce today what I expect will be the first of many endowed professorships. It is funded with a $1M restricted gift paid in full this month. The Chair is being called the Presidential Endowed Professorship. It is restricted to untenured faculty members who teach and/or research language and meaning with scientific rigor in such academic disciplines as English, computer science, psychology, mathematics, physics, or biology. One year from today, I look forward to introducing our first endowed chair recipient.

As we begin this new academic year, I am confident that if we embrace collaboration and actively engage, we are more than ready to meet challenges, some of which I highlighted today, and continue to help prepare our students, our graduates, and our society for a brilliant future.

Thank you.