March 1, 2000
Update Archives





Gloria DeSole Retires; Her Work Continues
By Greta Petry

    When Gloria DeSole first started working at the University at Albany in 1976, she had a recurring dream.
“I would pull up to the parking lot, get out of my car, and then try to move the academic podium (the classroom buildings that surround the Fountain) with my shoulder,” she said.
    Metaphorically, DeSole was trying to learn how to make change happen. The concrete podium is still here, but the past 24 years have wrought significant changes in how the campus has expanded opportunities for women, people of color, and those with disabilities.
    Say “Gloria DeSole” on the UAlbany campus and most everyone knows whom you are talking about. Her name is synonymous with the affirmative action office - it brings to mind the immediate recognition that, whether you are a student, a faculty member or a staff person, there is a procedure to follow if you think you have been discriminated against or sexually harassed. 
    “It's a sign of institutional health that people know where to go for help,” DeSole said, giving full credit to Beverly Ellis, associate director, and Diane Cardone, secretary. DeSole is quick to maintain she is no “Lone Ranger,” and that it is teamwork that makes the office work.
    Technically, DeSole retired in August. However, she is in the office almost every day through April, while a major national search continues for her successor, who is expected to be in place sometime this summer. 
    “I have the greatest respect for and have been delighted to work for President Karen Hitchcock. I've worked for three presidents, each of whom listened to what I had to say,” DeSole said.
    President Hitchcock said, “Gloria DeSole’s commitment to the principles of equity and justice have set the tone for an intellectual atmosphere and a University community in which differences are celebrated. She has successfully promoted an educational environment at the University at Albany in which people of all backgrounds are treated with dignity and respect, and given a fair chance at achieving their dreams. Her dedication to the University has been truly exceptional. We are most appreciative of Dr. DeSole’s long and distinguished career at the University, and she will be greatly missed.”
    The work of DeSole's office will continue to be just as important after she leaves. “This University is deeply committed to the legal and moral dimensions of affirmative action,” said DeSole.
    “My job has been to ensure the University complies with federal, state and SUNY regulations, and to bring about an orderly transition to a workforce that is more representative of the state's diverse population,” she said. She is also charged with implementing an affirmative action plan for the state, as well as the University at Albany Research Foundation.
    “A faculty and staff of one gender and one race will just not do the job for a research institution in the decades ahead,” DeSole said.
    DeSole's long list of accomplishments would fill an issue of the Update. Suffice it to say that she has been senior adviser to the President for Affirmative Action and Employment Planning and Director of Affirmative Action since 1982; has chaired the Initiatives For Women Steering Committee; the President's Task Force on Women's Safety; and was an executive board member of The Coalition for a Just Community. Her latest award is the Distinguished Alumni Award 2000, which will be given later this year.
    Part of DeSole's job includes making sure that once students, faculty and staff of protected classes arrive on campus, the atmosphere supports their retention and success.
    “These new faculty and staff have made us stronger, richer, and better prepared to do the work of the institution,” she said. Obviously, part of welcoming and educating a diverse student body means having a diverse faculty and staff.
    There has been documented progress in creating a more level playing field at the University. In 1976, 6.9 percent of full-time tenure-track faculty members were people of color. In fall 1999, that number had risen to 13.7 percent. In 1976, 14.8 percent were female; in 1999 women made up 30.8 percent of the faculty. The progress was even greater for women and people of color entering as assistant professor: 18.1 percent were people of color; 43.4 percent were women.
    “There is always a bulge in the recent hires because that's where you can make the difference,” DeSole said. This progress was achieved in spite of the fact that the number of full-time tenure-track faculty dropped from more than 700 in 1976 to 562 due to budget cuts. In the last two years, this trend has turned about with the addition of 90 new faculty.
    Walk into DeSole's office in AD 301 and one sees a framed print of Sojourner Truth's famous speech to the Women's Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio, that was chronicled in the Anti-Slavery Bugle in 1851. Known more familiarly as “Ain't I a Woman?” the speech is one in which the charismatic Truth powerfully dismantled arguments against women's rights. 
    Sojourner Truth and Eleanor Roosevelt are among DeSole’s heros. But it was at home as the child of a Jewish father and Christian mother where DeSole learned her sense of justice. “A Jewish-Christian marriage was relatively unusual at the time. I learned first-hand about the difficulty, foolishness, and waste of some of the barriers we put up that divide us,” she said.
    Did DeSole decide as a little girl that she wanted to be an affirmative action officer? No. She started out studying to be an English professor. DeSole earned bachelor's (graduating magna cum laude in 1959) and Ph.D. degrees from UAlbany, and earned a master's degree from Columbia University. Her Ph.D. was in English, and she taught at Skidmore College from 1969 to 1976. She joined the University in June 1976 as associate director of the Affirmative Action Office, moving up to her present post in 1982.
    Challenges remain. “There continue to be unconscious attitudes regarding people of color and people with disabilities that undercut their opportunities to join the work force and may disadvantage them when they do get hired. It's a waste not to seize talented candidates of all protected groups,” she said.
    After such an active career, what will DeSole do now?
“Stop all activity and from a point of stillness see who I am and what I want to do,” she muses, even as she ties up the morning's loose ends so that she can dash off to catch a plane to Boston to speak at a conference. “I have two successful daughters, and want to spend more time with my five grandchildren (four boys and one girl).”

Changes Enhance Advisement Services Center
By Lisa James Goldsberry

     Numerous changes have taken place over the past several months in the University’s Advisement Services Center (ASC/US). The most significant change happened in June 1999 when the center staff was made primarily professional. There are two new associate directors, one new assistant director and eight new professional advisers. Four graduate assistants also provide advising, down from 12. In addition, Sheila Mahan, assistant vice president for Academic Affairs, has taken responsibility for leadership of the office.
    “Three years ago, we took a new and fresh look at recruitment and enrollment. The Presidential Scholars Program, the Educational Opportunities Program, and Project Renaissance were all programs with opportunities for one-on-one interactions that worked,” Mahan said. “Since all freshmen are advised here, we saw the Advisement Services Center as an area where we had the potential to improve our freshmen-to-sophomore year retention. The key was Provost Judy Genshaft’s leadership in enhancing important student services.”
    Students are advised at the center until they choose a major and are then assigned to a department adviser. ASC/US currently advises approximately 5,000 students.
    The center is now even more devoted to the advisement of undergraduates and can offer students a level of continuity that was not possible in the past when most of the advising was provided by graduate students. “The continuity of advisors is key to helping students plan their course work effectively,” said Sue Faerman, dean of Undergraduate Studies. “Since ASC/US advisers see their students two or three times a semester, they have a chance to develop a stronger relationship and so can better help students explore the many options available to them.”
    Another aspect which has improved advisement is the implementation of the DARS system by the Registrar’s Office. With the new system, the center’s advisers can provide students with a variety of services. By simply typing in the student’s name and ID number, the program can calculate what and how many courses are needed to graduate, and even speculate what would be needed if the student changes majors.
“    This is especially helpful because we can give the student a printout of the audit they can take with them to think about,” said John Downey, one of the center’s new associate directors. “It has also allowed us to switch from a technical model to more of a development model.” He added that the DARS audit allows advisers to spend more time focusing on everything going on with a student instead of spending all their time calculating course requirements.
    Downey said the system has been especially helpful in advising transfer students. Perhaps the best aspect is that, by using the University’s mainframe, any adviser can access the DARS system.
    “One of our goals is to make the student more responsible for his or her academic future,” Downey said. “Hopefully, by the time they are ready to choose a major, they know what to expect and are better prepared.”
    Several new initiatives are the result of a small assessment done by a consultant from Noel Levitz. However, a few of the new changes students can expect to see at the center have come about through Dawn Kakumba. She is seen as a veteran in the center, having served as the pre-law adviser for 14 years. “We have a new initiative where advisers now send handwritten congratulatory cards to students when they achieve a GPA of 3.0 or better. Dawn has been doing similar things for her students for years,” Downey said.
    Kakumba, who is very modest about her role in any changes, says she was apprehensive at first. “Although the structure is different, I am still able to do what I enjoy -- having one-on-one contact with the students,” she said. “It's great to feel that you have positive input into their lives and can help in so many ways.”
    Philippe Abraham, the center’s assistant director who started working in ASC/US in 1989, agrees. “Both the changes made and the feedback I have received from students have been very positive,” he said.
    Students are also aware of the improvements. “There are more resources, tutoring and academic support now,” said Douglas Sifert, a sophomore. “Getting the computer printouts each semester is really helpful because it lets me know exactly what courses I need and I know I am not missing anything.”
    In addition, the center has recently created student email Listservs where students receive reminders about important deadlines and programs and learn about course schedules and changes. “We have made it more convenient for students to use our Listservs by arranging for them to receive mail and information from us even when they are using America Online or other Internet service providers,” said Sue Phillips, who along with Downey serves as an associate director of the center. 
    The center is also better equipped to serve as an advisement resource for the rest of the campus. With the aid of technology to make advising easier, the center now has more time to give advisers extra training to help them perform even better. They have organized several professional development programs on topics such as “The New General Education Requirements,” and “Advising Students Toward Academic Success,” which are open to all campus advisers.
    Mahan said that the center also conducted focus groups and received interesting feedback from the students. Although the findings are still preliminary, they could spell even more changes for the center.

Dr. Samuel K.C. Chang Visits Next Week
By Vinny Reda

    A University graduate who has gone on to become one of the Republic of China’s leading educational figures will return to Albany next week to extend formal agreements between UAlbany and Taiwan's Chung-Yuan Christian University, of which he is president. Dr. Samuel K.C. Chang will also deliver an address to the wider community and speak at a breakfast meeting of Capital Region business leaders.
    Dr. Chang will sign formal agreements with President Karen R. Hitchcock that focus on two areas - a degree-granting articulation agreement between the institutions and the establishment of a study abroad program in the Republic of China. The initial agreements were signed when President Hitchcock and Provost Judy Genshaft went to Taiwan last May as guests of the Ministry of Education. 
    Dr. Chang holds two advanced degrees from UAlbany: a 1972 M.B.A. and a 1977 Ph.D. in atmospheric sciences. During his student days in Albany, Dr. Chang served as a systems analyst with the New York State Assembly’s Office of Management and Budget. 
    President of Chung-Yuan Christian University since 1991, Dr. Chang formerly served as dean of its business college. He has held important advisory positions with the Republic of China’s Ministry of Education, and in addition has presided over the Association of Private Colleges and Universities in that country. 
    In 1997 Chung-Yuan Christian University was ranked as the top private university in the Republic of China based on the quality of instruction and research; effectiveness of its administration and financial management; its excellence of extension education; and its effectiveness of overall strategic planning, implementation, and control. In 1998, it was ranked highest in external grant funding among Taiwan’s private institutions of higher education.
    On Tuesday, March 7, Dr. Chang will visit the UAlbany's Center for Environmental Sciences and Technology Management and then, from 3 to 4:30 p.m., meet with Taiwanese students. On Wednesday, in the Performing Arts Center’s Futterer Lounge, from 3:30 to 6 p.m., he will deliver a public address, participate in the official signing ceremony and then a reception. On Thursday, March 9, at 8 a.m., Chang will give a talk on “Bridging High-Tech Industry and the Global Academic Community,” at the Community Forum Breakfast at the Fort Orange Club. He departs on Friday.
    “Dr. Samuel K.C. Chang is a noted leader of higher education in Taiwan,” said Carlos Santiago of the Department of Economics, and associate provost for academic affairs. “With the University at Albany’s increased presence in the international community, the greater numbers of foreign students on our campus, and the expansion of study abroad programs for our students, Chung-Yuan Christian University is a natural partner for us. 
    “This type of international partnership we have with CYCU is becoming increasingly common for institutions of higher education in the United States. The world is a smaller, more interconnected place then in the past, and there is much to teach, and learn from, our international partners.”

From the left, Distinguished Teaching Professor Stephen C. Brown of the Department of Biology talks with Bernard  Braun, who has been invited to be a Presidential Scholar, and his sister Meryl. There was a special luncheon on campus last week for invited Presidential Scholars and their parents.

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