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SUNY Oneonta Institutional Planning

Posts: 26
Darren Chase 2022-03-02T10:18:37-05:00

2/2 Dialogue Session Notes, President's Office

Feb. 2, 2022 Dialogue Session Notes:

  • Introduction:
    • Background of strategic planning recent history. New administration looking for information to guide actions for the next 18-24 months.
  • Challenges:
    • Reason many faculty and staff come to work here is because of past success. The active shooter threat and COVID outbreak hurt the college internally and externally. How do we recover?
    • There are many young faculty who have not dealt with enrollment challenges. Even faculty who started here 10 years ago haven’t really had to deal with it until now.
    • Shrinking enrollment because of population decline, pandemic, and reputational challenges.
    • Demographics don’t lie and reputational hits have now put us on par with other colleges that have been dealing with enrollment issues for years.
    • 1,000 student drop in a year isn’t normal. Other SUNY comprehensives were jealous of us and now we are behind.
    • We’re not good at telling our story – internally or externally – what we have done in the past.
    • Marketing alone won’t get us through this.
    • We were hit with a triple-whammy – reputation issues, demographic issues, COVID – can we analyze impacts of these?
    • We haven’t been as thoughtful about our place in the SUNY system. Many students transfer to University centers as soon as they reach a 3.0 (3.5+ persist & graduate from us).  Let’s think dynamically about ourselves and how to combat these.
      • Not really specific to any major -but more common in STEM fields.
      • Sometimes it is even a lateral transfer.
      • Sometimes it is for a program we don’t offer.
      • Students with 3.5+ are celebrated more, offered more opportunities, than those with 3.0.
    • We’ve known for a while that there is a problem between sophomore and junior year.
    • What are the U. Centers and R1s doing that draws our students away?
    • University centers are perceived to have a stronger academic reputation – we used to deny students that UAlbany accepted.
    • The system is prioritizing university centers – comprehensives are suffering from university center growth and tech sector offering 4-year degrees.
    • We can see a change in the types of majors being declared – health sciences is growing. We get asked a lot about nursing. Binghamton now has pharmacy which is popular. Albany has a cyber/homeland security program that is popular. Often these come with new buildings or a “center of……”  These are very marketable – do we have anything similar?
    • There is an exhaustion factor in faculty doing advisement and mentoring.
    • There has been a decline in ways we engage students. – advising is a good example.  Where can we do better for our students? We have done a lot of important administrative things recently to help keep us on track – get back to students.
    • We were really good/working really hard to engage students in person in the classroom – that is why the pandemic hit us so hard.
    • Students reported transferring out of Oneonta because of the pandemic and no social experiences
    • Narrative is that we have been successful in enrolling and retaining students because of our social experience – student opinion surveys back this up, but alumni all report engagement with faculty as the most meaningful thing.
      • Is this a matter of age and perception on what is important and how that changes as we get older?
      • Are the alumni we are hearing from the most engaged alumni?
      • Qualitative vs. quantitative data
    • We do have to understand the data, but we’ve never really figured it out. Students have always said they’ve enjoyed it here, but always reported low impact from faculty.
    • What do students really mean in the student opinion survey?
    • It is harder to find the “middle of the class” to teach to – gap between high achievers and low is growing.
    • Wabash report – low rigor, faculty who aren’t engaged, but students love it here.  but happy students don’t automatically mean we are all doing a good job.
    • Frontline faculty and staff morale is struggling.
    • During the past year with instability and changing leadership it was hard to be engaged and positive.
    • How students think about knowledge today is more information management than trying to gain a legacy – we need to be conscious of the society that our students are learning in. Technology is different than even 10 years ago. Values are different  - students today look at knowledge in a different way than the majority of faculty.
    • Need to understand where students are and relate our work to the new landscape.
    • Morale has declined the last 5 years – hopefully stability in leadership will help but we can’t be afraid to mention morale issues.
    • We must understand faculty success to have student success & vice versa.
    • We are a student-serving institution, we can’t silo the different constituencies of the campus and expect to solve problems.
    • Students need faculty – they need our time.
    • Faculty need time from leadership – there are lots of junior faculty that need the engagement with senior admins.
    • We rank last in academic spaces among SUNY comprehensives.

  • Opportunities:
    • We don’t give ourselves the credit we deserve. There is a lot of great collaboration and work being done. We need to believe in ourselves and share accomplishments internally and externally.
    • This is a delightful place to work compared to others. Our job is to make a difference and help people’s lives. The students we have are in a position to accept that help.
    • We are a strong campus that can come back from reputational challenges.
    • Oneonta has bucked the trend other colleges have been dealing with for the past 15 years.
    • There are other institutions that have had more reputation problems and seemed more desperate that we are now. We can approach this situation from a stance of confidence and not a panic reaction. Capitalize & build.
    • How  can we be aspirational to retain students – instead of reactive to retain.
    • We were in this same spot in 1999 and worked hard to get ahead of an enrollment drop.
    • We knew this population decline was coming and became more selective. Our retention rate was 62% in 1999 and we got it as high as 88%!  Ours is still above the national average
    • Are we right-sizing? Some classes were starting to feel crowded. Faculty weren’t aware of the enrollment growth goals before and it’s starting to feel better.
    • What can we learn from the work we’ve done since 1999? Is there work out there we can continue to utilize?
    • We need to reflect on what we have done together. Sometimes it can feel aimless, but we have done a lot, especially over the past 5 years to help refresh curriculums, new tracks, more experiential learning, improved degree completion and increased our value proposition/ROI.
    • Let’s set standards and provide support for students to mee those standards  to retain them and give them reasons to want to stay – not do things in an act of desperation that may work, but aren’t sustainable or the best practices.
    • What is our story from the past 10-15 years? Let’s tell it!
    • We are cocooned and our geographic location helps students feel safe – a separate and defined physical space helps with this. 
    • Could Bugbee be marketed as a “center” for education majors to develop skills? Create a program for this?
    • How can we make students with 2.0-3.0 feel valued, like they have potential, etc. like we do for 3.5+ students?
    • Psychology has an abundance of students. Lots of them are transfers from other majors, often perceived as “harder” majors like health sciences and see themselves as failures.
      • How can we support them?
      • Link them to faculty better – beyond just advisor. 
    • Can we have “advisement days” to help faculty meet with advisees
    • We moved away from the plan for every single student to have an experiential learning experience – should we revisit this?
    • There are lots of things we do well – let’s capitalize and talk about them.
    • The social experience is just as important as the academic one – we can’t just tolerate co-curriculars, but need to promote them. Social engagement is a key retention factor.
    • Happy faculty make happy students .
    • Help get faculty excited about doing things with the students. Stable leadership will help, investing in junior faculty, re-create feeling of trust –
    • Silo reduction can come from spending time with each other
    • Administrators can build trust by spending time with front-line faculty and staff.
    • Capitalize on out of state students?
    • We will be fully accredited in 2 years for art programs



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