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Campus News

President Hall Emphasizes the Importance of the Student Experience

by Greta Petry (May 6, 2005)

President Kermit L. Hall

President Kermit L. Hall

President Kermit L. Hall called for "a little home cooking, some basic planning, and some recalibration," in his first spring address to the University at Albany faculty April 27 in the Campus Center Ballroom. "I offer this view while keeping in mind Mark Twain's observation that 'I am all for progress, but it is change that I can't stand,' " the president joked. Then he turned to serious issues.

"Of all the issues before the University, the student experience has the greatest urgency," he said. "If we can successfully manage the issues involving the student experience, then I believe that a climb in our reputation will be inevitable." He said the University is a place of many paradoxes, one of them being the existence of a Phi Beta Kappa chapter on the same campus that was named by The Princeton Review as the No. 1 party school.

Hall laid out his action plan for moving the University forward. "I invoke my office as a bully pulpit to urge us to act, not merely to discuss," he said, in a tough-talking speech that was lightened by humor and which ended in hope.

This plan includes: a change in the basic planning and budget processes; a commitment to improving the student experience, especially for undergraduates; a re-energized alumni and development program; renewed dedication to an urban mission "to the neighborhoods in which we teach and learn" and, to a revitalized program for government, media, and public relations.

He talked about consolidating the many plans around campus through a process called compact planning, and zeroing in on the issues that need to be addressed.

"Let's begin by dusting off the existing plans, taking them into the governance system, deciding what makes the most sense, and then using compact planning and a revised budget process to give discipline and, most importantly, action, to them. In short, we have to find the courage to make choices," Hall said, adding he expects a new provost to be selected by the end of the current academic year. The new provost will be charged with overseeing the compact planning process.

Hall said reports generated over the last eight years suggest a wide range of items on which action is necessary.

They include:

  • living-learning centers
  • support for nationally competitive scholarships
  • an identity for the University
  • greater involvement by alumni in recruiting and placing students
  • service learning and voluntarism
  • undergraduate research
  • course access
  • legacy admission of students to the major
  • more effective orientation for transfer students
  • better use of the Web
  • more attention to the lives of international students
  • renewed attention to safe housing off campus
  • a better system of allocating housing slots

Hall said he envisions naming an action group that will be charged with improving the student experience.

Among other institutional changes, Hall said there will be a vice president for Governmental, Public, and Media Relations, a new position. This takes the function of lobbying government out of the Office of the Vice President for Out-reach, where it originated. It moves the Office of Media and Marketing out of the Advancement division, joining it with government relations. Hall said a search for a permanent vice president for development is underway, and he proposed opening a development office in New York City to establish a University presence there.

In addition, Hall said he is renaming the Office for Outreach, which will now be known as the Office of Diversity and Community/School Relations, and charging it accordingly.

He said, "I view the issues of diversity, community building, and school outreach as reciprocal, reinforcing, and central to what we are as an institution."

Hall said the University needs to "foster a better working relationship with the city, to help every way we can with the Midtown redevelopment project, and to provide a safer community for our students living there."

On the subject of the Inaugural Scholarship Fund that Hall established, he announced that $241,000 had been raised from 500 contributors. He announced that four donor organizations have pledged $10,000 or more. Greg Coady of Chartwells; Hil Estock of Barnes & Noble College Bookstore; Edwina Kaliku, senior class president; and Jeff Luks of the Alumni Association presented pledges.

Hall announced that Bruce L. Miroff, professor of political science, and Professor of Africana Studies Leonard A. Slade Jr. have been named this year's Collins Fellows. He also announced that Kajal Lahiri of the Department of Economics has been named Distinguished Professor.

Next, Hall recognized the 23 winners of the 2005 Excellence Awards. Then he introduced four outstanding students: Dara Stofenberg, a graduating senior and Presidential Scholar with a 4.0 GPA; Min Xie, a criminal justice doctoral student who is receiving the Eliot Lumbard Award for Academic Excellence; Yuliana Antonia De Los Santos, a graduating senior and EOP student who is a biology major with a minor in mathematics, chemistry, and physics; and Goldwater Scholar Edgardo Sosa, a junior and a double major in biochemistry-molecular biology and anthropology.

"Our task is simple but bracing: to re-energize and reinvigorate this powerful place of learning and to recalibrate the social compact by which we exist and according to which we will all be remembered."

Hall's complete speech is available at: http://www.albany.edu/president/speeches/2005_spring/2005_spring_speech.html.