New York Tech President Hank Foley at a podium


Faculty and Staff Convocation Focuses on Student Experience, Annual Excellence Awards

September 15, 2021

Pictured: President Hank Foley addresses the New York Tech community at the annual faculty and staff convocation.

While the after-effects of Hurricane Ida delayed New York Tech’s annual faculty and staff convocation—including presentations of the annual Presidential Excellence Awards—by a week, it didn’t dampen the optimism conveyed by the five presenters.

President Hank Foley, Ph.D., opened the virtual event on the afternoon of September 10, sharing the theme that he called on all faculty and staff to embrace and support in the coming year: the student experience.

Acknowledging that the past academic year was challenging, President Foley thanked attendees for their resilience and commitment to the university’s mission. “If we remain flexible and strong, we’ll make it through this year quite nicely,” he said, pointing to a growing research enterprise and the university’s students as core institutional strengths.

In his state-of-the-institution address, President Foley provided updates on finances and enrollment, reviewing revenues, expenditures, and cuts that were necessary to counter the expected drops in enrollment from years past. He acknowledged some bright spots in the increases in domestic undergraduate and transfer enrollment pictures, thanks to the efforts of the Offices of Enrollment Management and Strategic Communications and External Affairs.

President Foley also shared news of water intrusion brought on by the storm that impacted nearly every building on the Long Island and New York City campuses, many of which were already in need of maintenance and substantial upgrades.

He closed his remarks by circling back to the focus on the student experience and the significant efforts that have been made to provide academic, campus, financial, and other resources to New York Tech students, as well as to ensure an equitable and inclusive campus environment.

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Junius Gonzales, M.D., M.B.A., provided a synopsis of ways members of the Office of Academic Affairs were prioritizing “students first,” ranging from the Achieving College Excellence (ACE) program to a new peer guides effort and a financial literacy program available to students as well as faculty and staff. “We need to develop an ecosystem for student success with complex and interdependent parts,” he noted, “an ecosystem calling for excellence in everything we do for students.”

Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Jerry Balentine, D.O., shared ways in which the College of Osteopathic Medicine and School of Health Professions provide access to opportunities to students to fill the need for medical professionals locally and globally. New bridge programs at the master’s level have proved successful in both Long Island and Arkansas, “bringing students who could not traditionally get into medical school into medical school.” Balentine also mentioned programs such as the new Master’s in Public Health to enhance their degrees or are unable to fulfill the rigorous medical degree programs. He also provided several examples of students’ participation in service-learning, including the Delta Population Health Institute’s vaccination efforts in Arkansas. “What a great experience for them to give back to their community,” he said and thanked the efforts put forth by the students and faculty. Balentine also emphasized the critical need for student participation in research and gave the example of work being done by physical therapy students at a local VA hospital. “How exciting…how it influences their careers and perhaps helps them get better jobs,” noted Balentine.

Chief Architect and Vice President of Real Estate Development and Capital Planning Suzanne Musho provided attendees with updates on the university’s LEAD operational plan in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as a three-year sustainable action plan for New York Tech. “We know we need to work on our resiliency,” noted Musho, pointing to planned efforts for sustainable and alternative energy, water stewardship, a bike share program, a sustainability town hall, and more. She also shared sneak peeks of some new and improved spaces on both the Long Island and New York City campus for students to study, relax, meet, and engage—many of which were guided by members of the Campus Experience Committee in order to enhance students’ needs for space to enhance their time on campus.

Chief Medical Officer and Vice President for Equity and Inclusion Brian Harper, M.D., M.P.H., wore both his “hats,” by first offering updates on COVID-19, the university’s mask and vaccine mandates, and mental health services. “The key takeaway is that asymptomatics can transmit the disease,” said Harper, who provided key data on the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines in preventing hospitalization and death and information about the university’s health screening policy. He then shared information from the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force. The latter group successfully administered an EVERFI training module to all faculty and staff over the summer and will unveil its campus climate survey for faculty, staff, and students this October.

Prior to a brief Q&A covering presentations by the administration, the annual Presidential Excellence Awards were presented to the following faculty and staff by Provost Gonzales:

  • Excellence in Teaching by Part-time Faculty: Larry Jaffee, M.A., Adjunct Professor of Communication Arts, College of Arts and Sciences.
  • Excellence in Teaching by Full-time Faculty: Sophia Domokos, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Physics, College of Arts and Sciences.
  • Student Engagement in Research, Scholarship or Creative Activities: Bryan Gibb, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Biological and Chemical Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Diversity and Inclusive Excellence: Brent Owens, Ed.D., Director of Regional Recruitment and Pipeline Programs, NYITCOM-Jonesboro
  • Innovator Award: Ehsan Kamel, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Energy Management, College of Engineering and Computing Sciences
  • Team Award: Center for Teaching & Learning (Associate Provost Francine Glazer, Ph.D., Online Program and Design Manager Beatrice Figueroa, Executive Assistant Jaqueline Jacobi, Senior Media Support Specialist Linda Matthews, and Instructional Designer Noreen O’Brien)