August 16, 2006
Selective Investment Award Outcomes:
Art Museum: A Small Investment for Large Return >>
Philosophy Department: Maximizing a Strength >>
Forensics: Gaining From State's Commitment >>
Finance & Business: Bringing Customer Service On-Line >>
Forensic Accounting: Building Interdisciplinary Clout >>
Student Success: Planning Brings Focus >>
The University Art Museum has greatly enhanced its profile since its inaugural exhibition in 1967, becoming a leading exhibition facility in the region and a critical part of the intellectual infrastructure accessible to UAlbany students. Yet major upgrades and facelifts have been harder to come by.
"It is time to address the restoration and renovations required to make the University's Museum a venue that fully accommodates the most recent developments in contemporary art and meets the accepted standards of the field," said Art Museum Director Janet Riker.
Three Selective Investment Awards will boost the Museum's ascent up the aesthetic ladder. "The initiatives were developed as part of the Compact Planning process by the entire Museum staff," said Riker. "They are critically important projects but very difficult to support with general operating income or through outside fundraising. They will enable us to accurately assess our overall facility needs, launch an endowment campaign and address a much-needed technical upgrade.
"While not huge infusions of cash, they represent substantial investments in the Museum's future. I'm thrilled now to be able to move forward on our goals, and confident that these resources will help us leverage additional support."
The faculty of the Department of Philosophy includes two SUNY Excellence in Teaching Award winners and one Excellence in Research Award winner, and, in the field of "Applied Ethics," is ranked among the top 35 Ph.D.-granting programs in the nation by the main international source of rankings, the Philosophical Gourmet.
The three award-winners, however, represent 33 percent of the entire department faculty, which has dropped from 15 in 1997 to a current level of nine. "The fact is that the Philosophical Gourmet's rankings are important in many ways, not least the recruitment of high-quality students, and faculty size is a factor in determining rankings," said philosophy department Chairman Jon Mandle.
"We have strengths in many areas, and it was not easy to decide to focus on only one, but we decided 'applied ethics' would be best for the Compact Planning process. When the two positions are filled in fall 2007, they will dramatically increase the profile of our program, so we could not be more excited by this outstanding opportunity. We are very hopeful that this will give us a solid foundation from which to build the entire department further."
The development of the Northeast Regional Forensics Institute (NERFI) at UAlbany has made the University the Northeast's leader in forensic programs on the undergraduate and master's levels, as well in training programs for forensic scientists already in the workplace — both critical needs for the state and the nation.
The UAlbany/NERFI forensic DNA academy, in fact, is the only program in the country that prepares forensic scientists using a 12-week intense academic program rather than the traditional 12-month in-house mentor program.
Yet, despite growing student interest and government research funding, these master's and training programs "are being delivered by an assortment of full-time biology and chemistry faculty and staff, part-time faculty and forensic consultants," said Albert Millis, chair of the Department of Biological Sciences.
That will now change with Selective Investment funding. "This investment in the forensics initiative enables the University to leverage commitments by the State of New York and the National Institute of Justice to improve forensic science and education," said John Welch, chair of the Department of Chemistry. "Our nationally recognized programs can now be expanded to serve a greater community and thereby further raise the visibility of the University on a regional and national stage."
The increasingly competitive business of higher education mandates that University offices provide constituents with superior customer service. Speed of information and application have become "musts" if universities are to satisfy the expectations and customer service needs of today's students and their families. Without them, recruitment and retention suffer.
That is why the Division of Finance & Business has been eager to implement an on-line system for payments and refunds. Its Selective Investment funding will make that system a reality.
"Today's students and their families expect to be able to make payments at any time of the day and from anywhere in the world," said Barbara Bodner, Director of Student Accounts.
"An on-line system will reduce the time required for account-balance resolution, and that will expedite release of holds on student records, give students and parents earlier access to amounts being refunded, and reduce the University's costs by eliminating much of the manual handling now required for processing, printing and mailing paper refund checks. And this will help Student Accounts personnel provide more customer-focused service for students and families."
On-line functionality eventually will be expanded to include the purchase of parking decals, tickets to on-campus events, application fees, and the recurring installment payment of student loan obligations.
Recent multi-billion dollar corporate scandals rocked the financial world, but charted fertile ground for the accounting profession. Congress's Sarbanes-Oxley Act places much of the reliance for future corporate integrity and scandal-prevention on the shoulders of the forensic accountant, and accounting, as a result, is enjoying growing college enrollments.
UAlbany's Department of Accounting and Law responded with a proposal for a groundbreaking interdisciplinary forensic accounting initiative that would incorporate the skills of the Department of Information Technology Management and the College of Computing and Information, as well as build on campus-wide initiatives at the state's Center for Information Forensics and Assurance and the Northeast Regional Forensics Institute. Through new courses in forensic analytics, digital forensics, fraud, corporate governance and the legal aspects of the new field, it would also strengthen ties with programs in criminal justice, public affairs and policy, and the sciences.
Selective Investment funding for two faculty lines and course development now makes the initiative a reality.
"These courses will strengthen our leadership in accounting in the Northeast and attract top-quality students," said Paul Leonard, dean of the School of Business. "The reaction we've had from professional accounting firms has been very positive."
Vice President for Student Success James A. Anderson is in the position of having seen Compact Planning work before.
"I had the fortunate experience of working with President Hall at North Carolina State University, and the implementation of compact planning there had a significant impact," he said. "It aligned the broad expectations of the university community with a realistic and attainable standard of excellence. People were more than willing to sacrifice for the common good."
Student Success was not among the recipients of Selective Investment funds this year, but Anderson knows this year's efforts have brought benefits. "Through sharing and analyzing information and data, we've been able to prioritize our needs and redirect current dollars toward our most effective programs," he said. "And, it has focused us on our goals of bringing greater integration of the residential and social experience into students' academic and intellectual life and fostering personal growth as part of the student experience."
He also understands that the funding process is ongoing. "While many of this division's initiatives have not yet been funded, we have developed the blueprints for those programs so that they are better poised to receive funding in the future. And in several cases we have found other sources of funding that have gotten valuable initiatives off the ground."