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Fall 2022 Convocation

Left to right: Provost Joanne Russell, CUNY Executive Vice Chancellor & University Provost Wendy F. Hensel, President Claudia Schrader

Left to right: Provost Joanne Russell, CUNY Executive Vice Chancellor & University Provost Wendy F. Hensel, President Claudia Schrader

Fall 2022 Convocation

KCC Fall 2022 Convocation Features New CUNY EVC & University Provost Wendy Hensel

CUNY Executive Vice Chancellor & University Provost Wendy F. Hensel was the featured speaker at Kingsborough Community College’s Fall 2022 Convocation on September 22. The hybrid event opened with President Claudia Schrader, who began her fifth year at Kingsborough by celebrating the return to in-person work and classes. “I’m grateful for the lines and noise at the cafeteria, because I remember walking these halls in April 2020 when there was no one around and the only thing I could hear was the echo from my sneakers,” she shared. Her acknowledgement of the work done throughout the pandemic by staff from buildings and grounds, custodial, facilities planning, and public safety was greeted with applause.

She noted how the pandemic changed our understanding of rampant inequities, social injustices, unequal access to health care, housing and food, unemployment, and underemployment. “We knew – but now we really understand.” This new awareness drove CUNY and the Kingsborough community to develop new programs to better serve our students, adding programs in micro-credentialing and upskilling, credit for prior learning, as well as internship, apprenticeships and employment opportunities.

Schrader boasted that Kingsborough had the largest percentage increase of first-time students of all CUNY community colleges. We surpassed our target of 600 transfer students, enrolling 800 students.

She closed by reminding us that we need to focus our energy on our mission, which is to respond to the needs of our diverse community by offering high-quality, affordable, innovative, student-centered programs that prepare students for transfer and the workforce.

Commending Dr. Sharon Warren Cook and the staff of Student Affairs for conducting a successful orientation for incoming students in-person and virtually, Provost Joanne Russell reported that the number of virtual attendees exceeded our Zoom license. And, while 300 students had RSVP’d for the in-person event, 900 enthusiastic students attended.

She said that, as a result of COVID, the traditional higher education model will change, but we’re not sure exactly how. “We know the future will be different – not necessarily good or bad, but different.” Noting that Kingsborough has historically been at the forefront of many innovations, she is confident that we will continue to be a national leader as we move forward and discover the new model of higher education together.

Due to increased demand, Kingsborough will continue to offer online classes. Launched in 2019, the KCC FLEX program, which was created to offer adult students flexible learning pathways, graduated 127 students this past spring and another 37 in August. There are currently 566 FLEX students enrolled and another 97 in a KCC FLEX/ASAP hybrid.

Russell also gave examples of types of micro-credentials the College is offering. These credentials often give students a leg up during job searches. She noted that our new UX design concentration within the graphic design degree, started as a micro-credential program through Continuing Education. Some, like those being offered by tourism and hospitality through Continuing Education in customer service and facilities management, allow graduates of the program to bank credits and apply them towards a college degree. In some cases, they are embedded into the curriculum, as they are in our computer information systems degree and a new health sciences degree.

The College is also developing programs to meet the needs of various populations, including single parents. Questions added to the registration process allowed 261 students to self-identify as single parents, allowing us the opportunity to reach out to them. A grant from JP Morgan Chase has allowed us to hire a part-time navigator to help single parents connect to the services they need and create an emergency fund for them.

Russell reported that the Office of Collaborative Programs received two grants to help build the pipeline of high school students: one for $710k from the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development to expand the Work, Learn & Grow program to serve 4,200 students; the other a five-year grant for $2.5M to provide Liberty Partnerships programming for 360 at-risk high school students in Cypress Hills.

Sharing her impressions of the College thus far, CUNY Executive Vice Chancellor & University Provost Wendy F. Hensel said she was happy to learn what we’ve done in terms of scheduling, advising, and learning communities. “Those are all best practices, and to see you are not only talking the talk but walking the walk is a really exciting thing for me as someone who cares deeply about how we approach our students, and using data-driven techniques to advance our mission.”

She offered insights into CUNY’s strategic plan, still in draft form, which includes a commitment to helping students succeed once they’ve been accepted to CUNY and exploring – and proactively removing – unintentional barriers to student success we may have created.

Transfer is also a major component. “We have a moral imperative to ensure that our students, when they take high-quality classes at Kingsborough, get 100 percent credit when they move to a senior college.”

Facing the fact that there is a decline in the number of 18-year-olds entering college, and the value of colleges is being questioned, CUNY will look to become a destination of choice. “We’ll do that by creating exciting, dynamic student-centered education where there are certificates and degrees that fit every need in every format as needed.”

She acknowledged that online learning is no longer a “side” thing. “Students are voting with their feet. They want more online courses and they want the flexibility that a completely online course can give.” Going forward, the CUNY Online program, previously overseen by the School of Professional Studies, will be run by Central’s academic affairs office to meet students’ unique needs.

Hensel also noted that for CUNY to be a successful university, the needs and professional development of its staff and faculty have to be prioritized. “We need equitable workload distributions and salary, opportunities for advancement, and mentorship across the board.”

She warned that we could do everything right, but if the climate on campus is not welcoming of everybody, regardless of their backgrounds, we’re doomed to fail. “CUNY must never stray from our unwavering commitment to the diversity and community that’s at the heart of both this campus and this institution.”

She reminded us that we’re in this together. “We will not always agree but we are a team, and we should approach this as a team sport because that’s how we win. It begins with what you have, which is a visible commitment to diversity, leadership and mentorship at the top. It also means a willingness to having open and difficult conversations that make us uncomfortable.”

The EVC concluded by saying: “I stand shoulder-to-shoulder with your president and your provost, rooting for your continued success and working every day to ensure that this place is where you want to be and where your students thrive.”

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