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SUNY Oneonta Institutional Planning

Posts: 26
Darren Chase 2022-03-11T10:02:42-05:00

3/1 Dialogue Session Notes, Governance

Ninth Dialogue notes: March 1, 2022, 1 PM ET, MS Teams

47 people present

Brief description of these dialogues

Four questions:

  1. What are three challenges that will be facing the challenges?
  2. What are three opportunities at the college’s disposal?
  3. What are the existing documents or initiatives that can helps us address challenges?
  4. Who are the stakeholders that should be around the table?

First question: Challenges

  • National trends that are working against us. Comprehensive college in a regional location is difficult; economics and demographics of the region are working against us.
  • Concerns over grade inflation; are we a serious college? Questions of rigor. We don’t have an honors program.
  • International reach is a problem. No discussions of Ukraine, for example.
  • Too much concern on assessment and retention.
  • Student activities were vibrant before COVID; not as active as once were. Atrophy of student activity and faculty presence.
  • SUNY Oneonta Gen Ed program needs to be specific; what do we stand for? We need cognate area, certificates, or at least a common experience.
  • Need to look at department structures, administration, reporting lines; too many departments make it difficult to collaborate with interdisciplinary work; too many of us stick to our own dept programs and budgets; we don’t create interconnections.
  • Summer: we waste our resources on our campus; this is best time to be in Oneonta
  • Divisions on campus (faculty/staff/students) need to be bridged
  • Economic vibrancy of our downtown; families are only keen to send students here if there are opportunities for them to engage in spaces that feel safe; how do we serve to help, not only maintain, but to flourish the downtown?
  • Transportation issues and the challenges of getting around; more buses to get to and from downtown
  • Branding conerns with Stoneonta
  • Dedicated money structures to help people be able to live here
  • Our college is being eaten from the CC, tech schools, and the grad schools
  • A lot of information/marketing lacking on the internet (websites, social media, etc.)
  • A lot of paperwork to be able to get students to connect with and collaborate with local organizations; time, energy, willingness is difficult when there are onerous processes in the way
  • We need to think through all of the unintended consequences of decisions made (re: paperwork, etc.)
  • A fundamental shift in how people evaluate their college experiences over the last 5-10 years, largely because of social media; our currents students are making the choice to come here, but unlike prior generations, they are still seeing what other colleges are doing; we can feed the feeds, or we can let the wild west go
  • Housing: 15 years ago, leadership of the city wanted to decanter the student populations from the center of the city; Hillside Commons was a result. That went awry when we increased our student admissions by 300-400 students. We are now in a period of recentering and revitalizing the city centers, except in upstate NY; we need to continue to work with city partners.
  • Recruitment, engagement, and development - we don’t look at the real issues (not just the decline of upstate students, but taking advantage of increased populations downstate). But once we recruit students - how are we going to engage students once they are here? We are discounting the impact of student engagement on our retention over the last few years. How can we re-engage our students? Clubs are diminishing significantly; level of development is not significant enough for them to stay here; student demonstrate their pride in the fun; stop directing our energy at the Stoneonta image and redirect toward creating programming, experiential learning; post-pandemic challenge is real.
  • If students are not going home and talking about their academics, we have a problem.
  • Particular challenge of comprehensive is that we are broad; we need to embrace the 365º experience
  • We’re becoming an all-female campus; how do we get male students to find college attractive again rather than CC/tech schools?
  • Trying to diversify the teaching faculty; we need to address this in our non-teaching faculty as well
  • Our students are different than they used to be: different because of social media generation, but also students from city centers have different interests when going to the dining hall, entertainment, study abroad -- would love to see the resurrection of the Ghana experience
  • Higher Ed is a system set up for a future that doesn’t exist; how can we adapt more strategically for the future? Being a student-ready college means meeting students where they are (without dropping rigor, maintain requirements for residency, etc.)
  • Unshackle from the past and the bureaucracy
  • Reorganization of schools and merging: so much thoughtfulness to make the schools, and then there was quick merging; there was a lot of alumni behind the previous structures (e.g., School of Business), and it’s a missed opportunity to keep our students engaged; having a school structure and then keeping at that
  • Employee morale - not sure here; its statewide as well; the push for a culture of customer service is a problem when we aren’t kind to each other
  • A change in our momentum in the last 5 years; we discussed more things than we decided; started to slide into the comforts of our reputation, then we lost our connections. We’ve become desperate now. We need decisive action to rebuild our momentum; the opportunity is great right now because the void is huge. We need to take our chances that we might get it wrong

Second question: Opportunities

  • Low residency, high intensity opportunities for summer programs and teaching on-campus
  • A lot of the community here has grown up here; professional staff are local and we made it through the pandemic because of our local staff
  • Embrace “Stoneonta”; engage with the hemp industry, etc.
  • Reinstitute the Economic Development Initiative
  • We have all the component pieces to drive the change downtown; to be a facilitator of that change
  • Our specialty is to be inclusive (using governor’s language); follow up: we are a regional comprehensive, we need to focus on distinction (not specialization) -- inclusion, sustainability, and high-impact practices are our distinction
  • Celebrate the accomplishments of our entire community (65k living alumni, 6k students, thousands of colleagues) -- we need to celebrate all of our successes; not saying to abandon what marketing we are doing, but we need to expand that to celebrate. It helps to improve our morale, brand, reputation -- connecting with alumni to help show pathways to success
  • Resources available because of generous alum donors, Creative Research and Activity, etc.
  • Collaboration is an opportunity (with mayor, business owners, downtown) and being here as a community; get locals involved, including thousands of local alums in the area; more things to get the community together; there’s a synergy there; need to be purposeful in highlighting it and expanding on it
  • Student Research and Creative Activity -- transitioning and evolving into experiential learning, including inviting local organizations, potential internships, etc. to participate in this process
  • Some community members may benefit from seeing the models that have been developed; spotlight these collaborations (already in the works); getting community partners to come to the events as an opportunity

Third question: Existing Documents

Fourth question: Stakeholders

  • President - to steer the ship away from the negative trends in the country
  • Alumni - create advisory boards for our curriculum (a missing piece in our assessment; how does the learning effect students down the road? We don’t do a good enough job in some depts to bring students back; we should have at least one member per dept.)
  • Students
  • Faculty
  • Local high schools - very few students are coming to SUNY Oneonta; it’s an opportunity to get faculty engaged; it needs to be a collaborative effort


  • Great work in admissions!
  • Review all programs and articulation agreements with colleges and CCs; create a pipeline from K-12, CC, to SUNY Oneonta
  • Do we need something catastrophic (e.g., Potsdam closing depts) before we do anything? We need to be proactive.
  • All of the people on our campus could be positive contagions. We need to be reminded of this - diffusion of positivity and to highlight and champion the work being done; not to create achievement for the sake of recognition, but about the real work that is being done
  • Grade data has been used to work on academic programs to update and align them with other campus’s offerings; not to say there can’t be a lot more, but there have been concerted efforts
  • We need to consider “experience” as all of their experiences, and not to silo in academic, curricular, extra-curricular; it’s a 365º experience
  • We have the human resources and the cultural capital here to address these challenges; we are coming at this not at moment of desperation, but as an opportunity
  • Would love to see a shift of our students’ thinking away from being “consumers” of education to “citizens” who are actively engaged in the making of their educational experience



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