Campus Update

September 13, 2021

Dear Colleagues:

As we enter the fourth week of the fall semester, I wanted to provide updates on several issues that are of great relevance to the University community. We are still in the midst of the pandemic, which continues to present challenges, especially for unvaccinated individuals. If you have not yet done so, please get vaccinated.

UAlbany is extremely fortunate to have excellent staff dedicated to managing COVID-19. Throughout the pandemic, we have used our resources, skills, and learned experiences to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on our campus community. Please know that this focus on the health and well-being of our campus community continues, with an emphasis on vaccinations, wearing masks, cleaning protocols, airflow in our buildings, hygiene stations, and weekly testing and daily health screenings, especially for unvaccinated individuals.

As we discuss the impacts of COVID-19, it is critically important that we focus on the science and the data available to us. I am pleased to report that 88% of our students are fully vaccinated and 9% are partially vaccinated; 90% of our employees are fully vaccinated. These numbers speak to the commitment of our community members to their health and that of others. On a weekly basis, our state-of-the-art RNA Institute conducts an average of 1,500 tests. Our current positivity rate is below one percent at 0.40%.

UAlbany has also set aside 87 isolation and quarantine beds of which 14 percent are currently occupied, and we have 76 students who are in quarantine or isolation off campus. It is important to know that the majority of the students under quarantine are not positive for COVID-19, but are waiting for confirmatory test results, and we have been seeing less than a 10% positivity rate from this population. For additional data, please visit the UAlbany COVID-19 dashboard and the SUNY-COVID-19 Case Tracker. As the data show, we have thus far successfully managed the impact of the virus on our campus.

Despite our success, we remain vigilant and proactive in terms of the health of our campus community. UAlbany is committed to meeting or exceeding federal, state, and local public health guidance to deliver safe and in-person education to our students. Moving forward, we plan to institute surveillance testing sampling of vaccinated individuals to monitor the virus in our campus population. UAlbany was also recently designated as a Health Promoting University, an excellent international initiative that embeds health and well-being into all of our activities.

It is also important to highlight that throughout the pandemic, our campus administration has been in constant and ongoing communication with the University Senate, labor management groups, and the University community regarding our progress, challenges, and opportunities. We will continue to welcome open, candid, and engaging conversations focused on what is actually transpiring on campus.

Meanwhile, we did very well with the enrollment of our entering first-year cohort, resulting in our largest and most diverse incoming class. Although the numbers are relatively small, we also were successful in enrolling out-of-state students. Unfortunately, we did not meet our budget targets for transfer, graduate or international enrollments. A number of factors contributed to fewer enrollments in these areas than projected, but we will continue to work to address these challenges, which have important budgetary implications. Further, we have much more work to do in retaining our students as they transition to their junior and senior years. Working in close coordination with our schools, colleges, and academic departments, we need to grow graduate enrollment and improve second-to-third and third-to-fourth year undergraduate retention rates.

I encourage all of our faculty and staff to review the enrollment and retention reports available on the Institutional Research web page and discuss with your chairs, deans, and vice presidents how we can further grow enrollment and improve student retention. That said, thanks to our reconstituted advising model and the ongoing work of our excellent advisors and Student Affairs staff, we are doing quite well with our first-year retention rates. Also, we saw a very favorable increase in the number of students living in our residence halls. We have worked extremely hard and will continue to focus on these critical issues.

I want to thank all of the academic and administrative leaders across campus, especially Human Resources, for facilitating and expediting the salary increases for our faculty and staff. I am also appreciative of the hard work that has gone into the rollout of, and training for, the new SUNY Telecommuting Policy. Please know there are guidelines and a review process, which we have previously shared with you. This policy will provide some telecommuting flexibility to University employees who meet specific requirements while enhancing the quality and efficiency of the University’s operations.

We recently had two retreats with our senior leadership—including the deans—where we discussed the future of our institution, especially as it relates to our Strategic Plan and our Signature Strengths framework. We believe there are excellent opportunities in the research and extramural funding space for UAlbany to continue to grow and expand its contributions and impact in a diversity of fields, especially given new funding opportunities through the federal Endless Frontier Act that is currently before Congress.

I’m very pleased to report that UAlbany was selected as a 2021 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award winner. Also, we recently received a $1 million NSF adaptation grant to focus on gender equity among STEM faculty, with an emphasis on creating a campus culture that supports women’s success. Further, the SUNY PRODiG (Promoting Recruitment, Opportunity, Diversity, Inclusion and Growth) grant supported the hiring of six new faculty members, two from underrepresented populations and four women in STEM. These initiatives speak to our strong commitment and progress as it relates to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

As has been the case for the past four years, we will be initiating our Listening and Learning Tours (LLTs) across campus. We will also continue our Extended President’s Council meetings, the first of which will take place on Thursday, September 30 at 10:00 AM; more information will follow. As always, these are important opportunities for us to connect, provide updates on a variety of issues, and discuss challenges and opportunities as we move forward as the Great Dane family. We hope to see you at these meetings!

Finally, as I have reiterated throughout my tenure at UAlbany, we need to work together—collectively and collaboratively—to address the issues, challenges, and opportunities before us as an institution of higher education. While there will always be disagreements, it is important that we have conversations about the issues that are impacting us and how we can enhance and strengthen our institution and better serve our faculty, staff, and students. Dissemination of information and decisions must be based on facts and data, and always with a goal to increase the well-being of our campus community. We can only accomplish this through mutual respect, transparency, and compassion.

I wish you all the best as we work together to create an engaging, productive, and healthy fall semester.


Signature of Havidan Rodriguez

Havidán Rodríguez