Collage of New York Tech President Hank Foley, Suzanne Musho, Provost Junius Gonzales


Convocation Celebrates New Academic Year, Presidential Excellence Award Winners

September 14, 2020

More than 600 faculty and staff tuned in to the annual faculty-staff convocation, held virtually on September 3, to learn about plans for the 2020-2021 academic year and to celebrate the winners of the 2020 Presidential Excellence Awards and this year’s faculty promotions and tenures.

The event received a record high approval rating by the audience. “Fan favorites” included the interactive Q&A, noting the transparency and breadth of information offered by the administration, and the always-popular presidential awards presentation. Attendee feedback also included appreciation for the ease of attending an online forum and the connections made with university leaders in the “up-close and personal” virtual setting.

In his remarks, President Hank Foley, Ph.D., likened events in 2020 to a storm that “may blow us off course temporarily, but because we have a plan for where we’re heading—a strategy, if you will. Then when the storm passes, we can adjust and get right back on course.”

While emphasizing the criticality enrollment and retention efforts in future strategic planning, President Foley noted, “We need to be laser-focused on our mission and our goals. And the student experience then is the lens through which we make those decisions in how we see ourselves…Our students are looking for outcomes, and the outcome that they've expected for 65 years is to start a career.”

In sharing efforts made to stabilize the institution’s financial outlook, he also provided insight on investments that will be made, including “faculty engagement, increasing your satisfaction as scholars and teachers; facilities, both for quality and comfort, but also for research. We need to provide even more financial aid to our students, in research and scholarship, because so many of you are able and willing to do this and do it well.”

In acknowledging the impact of COVID-19 on teaching and learning, Provost Junius Gonzales, M.D., M.B.A., referenced a survey of students in May that provided insights on what cite number of respondents students wanted in remote learning and feedback on their experiences during the spring semester. “We had overall tremendous positive feedback about our faculty…who did an exceptionally good job in making the switch to remote courses.”

Gonzales shared some highlights of the past year, including the renewal of the New York State HEOP grant, new leadership in student life and student engagement, and student success initiatives, including outstanding results for the Achieving Collegiate Excellence (ACE) program launched in 2019. He also told faculty and staff attendees about some new initiatives, including micro-internships, career services enhancements, a new student leadership development program, and activities to address food insecurity, financial literacy, wellness programs, and academic integrity in remote instruction.

Gonzales reminded the audience of the “three-legged stool” model he spoke about at last year’s convocation: enhancing growth mindset, providing students with a sense of belonging, and values affirmation to support equity and performance for minorities and others. “When simply stated: students first. It’s why we're all here,” he concluded.

Chief Architect and Vice President for Capital Planning and Facilities Management Suzanne Musho offered the third and final presentation, providing details about the collaborative, intensive planning required to reopen campuses after the COVID-19 pandemic and of “new ways to provide this high-caliber education in this new world circumstance.”

Taking attendees through the campus reopening plans, including a four-point LEAD plan, Musho also shared details regarding facilities upgrades, new outdoor spaces, technology and classroom enhancements, health and safety measures including cleaning, disinfecting, and, testing protocols, daily health screenings, and many other enhancements community members will enjoy when returning to campus.

“As we were developing all of these new kinds of requirements for COVID and making sure everyone’s comfortable coming back and meeting all the needs of that, we also wanted to make sure you came back to a beautiful place,” she explained “We’ve come up with some different ways of activating the campus. So, people really get to take advantage of the outdoors.”

Presidential Excellence Awards:

Provost Gonzales emceed the presentation of the annual presidential awards, honoring faculty and staff for their exemplary work in the 2019-2020 academic year. During pre-recorded remarks, each of the awardees expressed appreciation for of New York Tech and their colleagues…and their motivation and drive to support student success. Dr. Gonzales also expressed his appreciation to the seven-person nominating and selection committee. This year’s Presidential Excellence Awards and awardees included:

  • Excellence in Teaching, Full-time Faculty: Maria Pino, Ph.D., assistant professor and clinical specialist at NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine, for her efforts in incorporating innovative case-based learning and flipped classroom techniques in her teaching methods as well as in leading NYITCOM’s Student Advisement and Mentoring Program.
  • Excellence in Teaching, Part-Time Faculty: Michael Nizich, Ph.D., ETIC director and adjunct assistant professor at NYIT College of Engineering ad Computing Sciences, for his work involving students in “real-life” applications of learning which has helped them attain scholarships and positions in the “real world.” As director of the ETIC, he has created a number of programs including hackathons and challenges, entrepreneurship activities, and a new interdisciplinary robot, ERRSELA.
  • Innovator Award: Kristen Smith, Ed.D., registrar in the Office of Enrollment, who conceived and oversaw the Achieving Collegiate Excellence (ACE) program at New York Tech, supported by 141 faculty and staff. With a 91 percent completion rate, it proved to be a successful method in assisting students in retaining scholarships and, with continued support, reaching graduation. Her efforts to expand Final Stretch, an outreach for students to complete all coursework within a six-year timeframe, were also lauded.
  • Student Engagement in Research, Scholarship, or Creative Activities: Wenjia Li, Ph.D., assistant professor of computer science at the College of Engineering and Computing Sciences, for his inclusion and engagement of undergraduate students in research as well as his documented portfolio of achievements in publications, grants, and funding that has raised the visibility of New York Tech’s research and reputation. 
  • Team Award: Diversifying STEAM Leadership committee, which comprised members from the College of Arts and Sciences (Louie Aragon, Jim Martinez, Ph.D., Kate O’Hara, Ph.D., Kevin Park, M.F.A., College of Engineering and Computing Sciences (Nadia Aslam, Babak Beheshti, Ph.D., David Fanning, Thomas Leggio, Sarah McGough, Michael Nizich, Ph.D., Jane Polizzi, Chris Springston, Xun Yu, Ph.D.), College of Osteopathic Medicine (Diane Williams), International and Experiential Education (Amy Bravo, M.A., Leila Dastgheib-Beheshti, Vanessa Newman) and Technology-Based Learning Systems (Stan Silverman, M.S., Chris Williams). The committee obtained funding for their program; organized, developed, socially networked, and managed volunteers; and ran hands-on educational programs that engaged 3,000-plus community members including our students. The committee cultivated teacher mentoring in low-income local communities, introducing and promoting engineering and computer digital art and design fields. The Voya Foundation awarded the team $100,000 in 2019 to conduct research, develop middle school summer academies, expand STEM afterschool and STEP programs, and bring middle and high school students to the ETIC to design solutions to world problems. The committee was again awarded $100,000 in 2020 to run a STEAM-focused mentoring program for public high school teachers, a summer academy for middle schoolers, and more STEM after school programs.

Faculty Tenures and Promotions

In the lead-up to President Foley’s welcoming remarks during the 2020 faculty and staff convocation, a slide show of faculty who’ve received promotions and tenures was shared with viewers.

College of Arts and Sciences:

College of Engineering & Computing Sciences:

College of Osteopathic Medicine

School of Architecture and Design:

School of Health Professions:

School of Management:


  • Sehwan Cha, promotion to librarian III
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