Fall Faculty Address: Strengthening Enrollment, Undergraduate Education, and Supporting Faculty
(November 22, 2005)
President Kermit L. Hall gave an update on recent developments at the Fall Faculty Address Oct. 6 in the Campus Center Ballroom, and then welcomed Provost Susan Herbst.
In his address, Hall noted that an increase in campus enrollment has allowed the University to hire more full-time faculty members in order to improve the undergraduate experience. Campus enrollment is now 17,017. The freshman class of 2,561 students is larger than last year's.
"We received an additional $2.5 million in state funding for this academic year, and we have a plan to achieve financial stability through a number of steps," Hall said. That plan includes: a goal to eliminate a $5.5 million residual structural deficit over the next four years; fund 100 new faculty lines over the next five years; and create a pool of funds for selective investment.
"We anticipate: increasing enrollment by 1,200 headcount over the next five years; launching a campaign to increase private support for the University; and actively making the case for governmental support," Hall said.
The president also reported that external funding awarded to faculty is up from $234 to $281 million.
Then he introduced Herbst, the University's new provost and vice president for Academic Affairs.
Herbst outline four priorities for Academic Affairs: undergraduate education; expansion, support, and diversity of the faculty; graduate education; and partnership in the academic community.
She said the University at Albany is "already a great research institution. When I told scholarly colleagues around the country, across disciplines, that I was moving here – and I know a lot of elitists – they were impressed and in nearly all cases, named faculty here whom they respect tremendously."
Regarding undergraduate education: "It's the most important thing we do … the impacts we have on the lives of our students … are very real, constant and lasting."
"I believe our goal should be to turn our students into intellectuals … I do believe we should teach our students that the world of ideas matters, that it is fun and important to think, and that argument is essential to citizenship," Herbst said.
She noted that in Academic Affairs, "we have a renewed focus on the first-year experience, on retention, on advising, and all the other vital initiatives that make undergraduates stay put and stay focused." She added, "I believe that if we work more intensely with freshmen and sophomores – through advising, programming, and creating an intellectual environment for them – we will see even more demanding and impressive juniors and seniors."
Herbst said building a university honors college is a must. "Honors colleges attract top freshmen and serve the most ambitious students." In addition, "we want our students to have the sort of multi-year preparation that will enable them to compete for Rhodes, Marshall, Truman, and other scholarships. It is our responsibility to help students become competitive for these grants, and it must start early in their college careers."
She thanked the College of Arts & Sciences faculty and the Senate group working on honors.
Herbst continued, "We do not have issues with faculty quality, far from it; I am impressed on a daily basis with the accomplishments of this faculty. Our problem is that we don't have enough faculty, not nearly enough, and our faculty have not been supported to the level they deserve."
Herbst said it is the administration's job to build the infrastructure faculty need to do their jobs well. "Put another way: We need money! … I am not particularly interested in moving resources from one starved unit to another, although some of this may be justified and it is something deans – more than any provost – must do every day." She said, "The reason President Hall pushes us on compact planning is that he is anxious to start a major capital campaign, get on the road, and tell donors and legislators, with confidence, what our shared University priorities are. The compact planning effort feels like a rush and it is one: But we simply cannot raise significant money until we complete the process."
On diversity, Herbst said, "I'd like diversity to be a real priority for us. … we will fail as a University if we do not increase the number of minority scholars as best we can and in as many fields as we can."
On graduate education: " … I ask you to start asking hard questions about your program and how you train your students."
She concluded, "We academics tend to be independent agents and we are rewarded
for being focused on ourselves and on our sub-disciplines. But we sink or swim
together at a university, and so must find ways to advocate for our interests,
and simultaneously, realize the need for compromise and focus on the collective
interest. I am not saying it's easy. But it is the only way we will
become a gem in the SUNY system and in the world of higher education far