The President's Letter October 2011

Presidents Letter banner

Dear Salem State alumni,

It is with great pleasure that I write today to update you on all that is happening at your alma mater. On September 19, in the Mainstage Theatre, Provost Esterberg, Executive Vice President Cahill and I delivered our annual addresses to the campus community on the state of the university. I’d like to recap for you—as a valued member of our community—some of the key events of last year, convey to you our vision for the future and outline some of this year’s initiatives in this communication.

Our accomplishments this year were numerous, and have brought the university to the forefront in several important arenas, among them the academic strength of our students and the research being conducted by our faculty. Our campus continues to expand, our academic programs are positioned to answer the current and future work force needs of the Commonwealth and the country and our commitment to community is vibrant and growing.

Among the highlights of our just concluded 2010-2011 academic year, I’m proudest of the following:
·       Our acquisition of university status
·       The graduation of our first class of Salem State University alumni
·       The opening of Marsh Hall and Dining Commons; its successful first year as both residence hall and meeting facility confirms the need for further, similar facilities on our growing campus
·       The commencement of the old library’s demolition and the beginning of construction for a new state-of-the-art, energy conscious, 124,000-square-foot library and learning commons, scheduled to open in 2013
·       The completion of our yearlong NEASC (New England Association of Schools and Colleges) review for re-accreditation, the results of which will be available later this fall
·       The establishment of our civic engagement hall of fame, and the induction of a student, a faculty member and a member of the staff as the first honorees

A look to the future.

Let me start by sharing Salem State’s plans for the future. The university is at an important crossroads, and what we accomplish over the next five years will affect the future of the institution for years to come. We have the opportunity to make Salem State University the very best version of itself it can be, in the process creating a model university for the 21st century.

To achieve this goal, however, we cannot simply be current with teaching, technology and partnerships, important as they all are—we need to be ahead of the curve, creating and innovating. We must have our own bold vision and aspirations to continue to provide our students a strong foundation in liberal learning; one that prepares them for their futures as productive, engaged adults.

Our students are this country’s future visionaries, thought leaders, creators, and business leaders. Their education and their ability to think creatively, solve problems collaboratively and be engaged citizens is of utmost importance to the North Shore, to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and to the world. Having a liberal arts educational foundation has never been more important and the opportunity to explore new territories created at the intersection of traditional disciplines allows us to grow programs that prepare students for the jobs of the future and the needs of our society. These are challenges that Salem State University is uniquely positioned to meet.

Salem State is a regional leader in providing support to and developing partnerships with our nonprofit and for-profit business communities. We do this through the Enterprise Center, the Small Business Development Center and the internships and practicums in which our students participate through their academic departments and the university’s career services. Leaders of regional businesses and nonprofit organizations have shared positive reviews with me in roundtable discussions of the work we are doing. They also stress, however, that we must to be more aggressive in our efforts. 

For the coming year and beyond we have therefore committed:
·       to excel in providing our students a foundation in liberal learning while providing them with career readiness
·       to aggressively pursue innovative teaching enhanced by technology      
·       to engage our business community in the work of the university and support their efforts. We will also focus on work force development and economic development. With this real world experience, our students are prepared to become strong citizens for the future
·       to promote interdisciplinary engagement, and encourage in our students a multidimensional approach to analysis and comprehension across the academic spectrum
·       to expand the diversity of our community with a strong focus on faculty and administrators, and to have these groups mirror the rich diversity we find in our undergraduate student body
·       to continue to support our community through civic engagement and community service

A look back at the past year.

Our students

Once again, we have welcomed an exceptional class of freshmen and transfer students along with our returning upperclassmen. Through their leadership, scholarship and service to others, they exemplify the values of Salem State.
·       It is interesting to note that 79 percent of the undergraduate students joining us this fall identified Salem State as their first choice, while 94 percent named Salem State as one of their top three schools. They want to be at Salem State, and they are coming to us with great expectations.
·       They are also coming to us better prepared. The SAT scores of entering students have increased almost 50 points in the past five years, and we expect even higher scores this year.
·       Salem State currently has the highest percentage of students of color of all the Commonwealth’s state universities.
·       At 37 percent, Salem State has the highest percentage of PELL Grant-eligible or low-income, students of all the state universities.

Among the many exceptional students on campus this year are the following:
·       In May, Angel Donahue-Rodriguez was chosen to represent the Commonwealth’s students as the student voting member and state university representative of the Massachusetts Board of Education. His selection was confirmed by Governor Deval Patrick on August 9. Angel, who is a senior criminal justice major, brings with him his experience as the student trustee on Salem State’s board of trustees, a position he continues to hold.
·       Salem residents McKayla Figueroa and Mya Shutzer have begun their studies at the Bertolon School of Business as this year’s Jack Welch Scholars.
·       Theatre student Ozan Haksever won the directing fellowship award at this year’s Kennedy Center American College theatre Region I festival.
·       CampusMovieFest winners Kevin Murphy Walunas and Jesse O. Henderson represented Salem State at Campusmoviefest’s International Grand Finale, the world’s largest student film festival, on June 23-26. Their film, No More Fallen Heroes, was nominated for national recognition. The film was also nominated for AT&T’s international competition, ReThink Possible.
·       In ceremonies at the Massachusetts State House in May, graduating biology major Mark Wheeler was honored as one of 29 outstanding 2011 graduates of Massachusetts community colleges, state universities and the University of Massachusetts.

Our faculty
Salem State is truly blessed to have a remarkable faculty: remarkably talented, remarkably committed to student success and remarkably involved in both our own community and the community beyond our doors. I’d like to mention just a few of them here:   
·       Two members of the Salem State community were recently awarded Fulbright fellowships for the spring 2012 semester, bringing to 11 the number of Salem State faculty who have been awarded the prestigious honor since 2001-2002.
·       Professor Thomas Hallanan, of theatre and speech communication, will spend the six months of his fellowship in Amman, Jordan, as part of the department of hearing and speech sciences at the University of Jordan, and will teach a variety of undergraduate and graduate courses in audiology.
·       Reference and instruction librarian Zachary Newell will travel to Alexandria, Egypt, where he will conduct seminars and presentations on new technologies for organizing and retrieving information and deliver lectures that explore a variety of themes in American art at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina.

Other faculty receiving recognition this past year include:
·       Magnolia Contreras, a member of our adjunct faculty in the School of Social Work, who was one of 10 Latina women honored for outstanding achievement and excellence in her field and her work as an agent of change in her community at La Alianza Hispana’s third annual Women of Courage Awards ceremony, held July 7, 2011, in Boston.
·       Criminal justice professor Eric Metchik, who was named an academic fellow in the Defending Democracy, Defeating Terrorism program of the Washington, DC-based think tank, Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. The fellowship took Eric to Israel, where he was part of a select group of academics focusing on homeland security and terrorism.
·       Assistant Professor Darlene Crone-Todd, who was appointed editor of Behavior Analyst Today.
·       Professor Mary Melilli, of art + design, who was named artist-in-residence at Villa Flora in Bali, during her fall semester sabbatical leave.
·       Assistant Professor Brad Hubeny, of geological sciences, who received a four-year National Science Foundation grant to reconstruct climate variability over the last two millennia using Icelandic lake sediments.
·       Greg Carroll, chairperson of interdisciplinary studies, and Associate Professor Rocky Shwedel, education, led a group of seven Salem State students to Liberia in April, which resulted in a memorandum of agreement between Salem State University and the United Methodist University of Liberia.

Faculty also continue to be quoted by media across the country and around the world as authorities in their fields, bringing Salem State University before an increasingly large audience. Associate professor Kenneth Okeny of the history department, and a native of Khartoum, Sudan, was interviewed by the BBC in February, on the eve of the Sudanese referendum to divide the country, in a broadcast that was heard internationally.

Our campus.

University becomes tobacco free
In a survey conducted of students, staff, faculty, and administrators last year, the vast majority supported the creation of a tobacco-free environment for the campus. The survey also revealed that 25 percent of the respondents have respiratory health conditions. Seventy-six percent said they are exposed to secondhand smoke at least once a month and over 27 percent indicated they are exposed several times a day on campus. Fifty-nine percent of all respondents indicated their experience on campus was negatively impacted by secondhand smoke. An information campaign to educate our community about the deleterious effects of smoking, secondhand smoke and the use of other tobacco products began last year.

On September 1, 2011, all five campuses at Salem State became tobacco free, joining as many as 260 other college and university campuses across the country than ban smoking and smoking products within their buildings and on their properties. In the year leading up to its September implementation, Salem State offered those within the campus community who smoke a number of programs to help them stop. These were offered through counseling and health services and through an employee assistance program available through human resources and equal opportunity. In addition to counseling, university health services professionals are also able to prescribe tobacco cessation products and medicinal aids to our students.

Salem State Series welcomed author John Irving

On Tuesday, September 13, the university welcomed world-renowned author (The World According to Garp, A Prayer for Owen Meany) John Irving to campus as the final speaker in this year’s Salem University Series, where he was welcomed by an enthusiastic crowd. Plans are already underway for the 2012 Series, which will represent its 30th year of bringing notable newsmakers to North Shore audiences.

Community open house

On Saturday, October 1, we welcomed members of the Salem community and their families to campus for a day of exploration. Between 1 and 4 pm, visitors had an opportunity to take campus tours, visit the Winfisky Gallery, listen to presentations on Salem’s history and on how digital teach-nology is changing the way teachers teach and students learn, watch athletic contests, and learn how to play gaelic football from Noel Healy, a faculty member from Ireland, among numerous other activities. During tours of the library and at the community fair, participants also learned more about the campus resources available to them as Salem residents and what is scheduled to happen on campus this year.

An Invitation

On Thursday evening, November 3, at 6 pm, our Bertolon School of Business will host an evening with entrepreneur and philanthropist Henry Bertolon ’74 as part of its annual Agganis Forum series. Mr. Bertolon’s public presentation will take place at 6 pm in the university’s recital hall on Central Campus. There is no charge for the event, but seating is limited and reservations are required. Simply call 978.542.7594 or email by October 28 to reserve your place.

We are having great successes in so many different ways at Salem State University. I invite you—as proud alumni of this vigorous and growing learning community—to join me on this amazing journey as we prepare Salem State to be a model university for the 21st century.

Best regards,

Patricia Maguire Meservey