Friday, September 4, 2015

An Open Letter to New and Continuing CW Students

For me, the only day rivaling the excitement of Commencement is New Student Orientation. They are bookends indicating a new beginning and going forward into the relative unknown.

This is an open letter to our new and continuing students. When I was a kid, a friend of my Dad's, Howard, decided to expand my reading and appreciation of poetry.  He gave me a book called Reflections On A Gift Of Watermelon Pickle...and Other Modern Verse. I was in third grade. We just happened to have to memorize poems that year in school, and I still remember one I recited in front of my classmates, from the watermelon pickle book, called Hold Fast To Dreams.

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly
Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow
    ---Langston Hughes

The point, beyond holding onto your dreams, is that I learned that poem at the age of 8 as an assignment in school.  I still remember it.

The things that you learn become yours forever. Your knowledge becomes your property, and can shape your destiny.  Holy fast to your dreams.

The the rest of the story?  I did keep writing and learning.  I still love a good turn of phrase and a wonderful poem or short story or book.  I read everything and am still learning.  When I recently came across the book from Howard, I remembered the poem without opening to the page.  Just looking at the worn, bent cover was enough.

I could have done the assignment of memorization with a little less vigor, but I decided to really enjoy the chance to do something new.  I was very fearful of getting up in front of my fellow students, so I also felt that memorizing the poem with give me something to cling to in my fear and help me feel better and more prepared.  It did.  I still do this today.  I prepare and it helps me feel better.  The side benefit is I remember more, important things stay with me.  I guess it is called learning!

If you can embrace your learning, the benefits are myriad!

About Langston Hughes:  from wikipedia:  James Mercer Langston Hughes (February 1, 1902 – May 22, 1967) was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist from Joplin, Missouri.

He was one of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form called jazz poetry. Hughes is best known as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance.
In his memory, his residence at 20 East 127th Street in Harlem has been given landmark status by the New York City Preservation Commission, and East 127th Street has been renamed “Langston Hughes Place.”  In addition to leaving us a large body of poetic work, Hughes wrote eleven plays and countless works of prose, including the well-known “Simple” books: Simple Speaks His Mind, (Simon & Schuster, 1950); Simple Stakes a Claim,(Rinehart, 1957); Simple Takes a Wife, (Simon & Schuster, 1953); and Simple’s Uncle Sam (Hill and Wang, 1965). He edited the anthologies The Poetry of the Negro and The Book of Negro Folklore, wrote an acclaimed autobiography,The Big Sea (Knopf, 1940), and cowrote the play Mule Bone (HarperCollins, 1991) with Zora Neale Hurston.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Look what came in today's mail!

I am of course delighted to receive a letter from President Barak Obama on the 100th Anniversary of The College of Westchester.  To quote from the August 5 letter that I received on behalf of CW today;  (begin quote)

The White House

I am pleased to join in celebrating your school's 100th anniversary.

America's schools serve as gateways to opportunity and engines for our nation's progress.  Inspiring students to be the best version of themselves and equipping them with the tools to thrive, our halls of learning can instill in our next generation the fundamental belief that with hard work nothing is beyond reach.

Since your school's founding, faculty and staff have prepared students to meet the challenges of their time.  And by cultivating passion for learning, schools like yours help ensure the doors of opportunity continue to open wide for all who are willing to dream big.

I hope your community takes pride in the ways your school has touched lives.  As you celebrate in this special milestone, I wish you all the best for the years ahead.

Barak Obama

(end quote)

I am stunned and pleased that we have received this, as a stellar proprietary college.  There is an  an effort by The US Department of Education to get rid of bad actors in our sector. I am glad that we have been recognized for the good work which we have, in fact, been doing, for 100 years, since 1915.  Thank you, Mr. President, for recognizing us today.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Backwards on High Heels

Val Chmerkovskiy and Rumer Willis won the 2015 Dancing With The Stars contest here in the US.  Dancing has always intrigued and entertained people.  Many years ago, one of the first duos to capture the hearts of people all over the world were Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire.  One of Ginger Rogers' most famous quotes was; "I do everything Fred does, but backwards on high heels".  That became an iconic statement for women everywhere, and now, for anytime an individual or group meets the same or better standards as another, but with an inherent or imposed deficit.
Interestingly, to me, I find that being involved with a proprietary college is like dancing backwards on high heels.  The regulations that we are complying with are imposed only on this one sector of colleges, the proprietary, or "for-profit" colleges.  There are many fine for-profit colleges.  CW is one of those colleges.  We are entering our second hundred years of existence, this year, 2015.
As The College of Westchester celebrates our centennial serving many wonderful students and looking back at thousands of successful graduates, we find that the standards imposed upon us are different than the ones on all other colleges, such as private not-for-profit colleges, state and community colleges.
Here is a taste of one of the measures imposed on proprietary colleges.  It is worth the 4.40 minutes to educate yourself:

I truly believe that there are fine colleges throughout the four sectors of higher education.  While agree with the US Department of Education's (ED's) goals for the GE rule from the outset, I believe that the regulation as is does not achieve the goals it has set to accomplish. 
What would work?  How about the continued monitoring of student loan default rates across all 4 sectors of higher education?  Maybe giving proprietary college graduates more than 18-30 months to become successful and monetarily rewarded in their work would be more realistic.  I believe that bad schools should go away.  Good schools should be allowed to continue to exist, regardless of their tax designation.
What do you think?  Right now, for us at CW, it is backwards on high heels. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The other face of proprietary education - comments from a private for-profit college president

I have been with The College of Westchester since 1982.  I have been the President of CW since November 2014, and have always loved working at the college and helping the thousands of students who start classes with us and graduate and go on to bright futures.

Recently, I have been disturbed with discussions about for-profit education and the need to serve shareholders.  Let me tell you a little bit about CW, and how we differ from publicly traded for-profit educational institutions. 

We are small, privately held, and do not answer to shareholders. We answer to our board of trustees.  We are regionally accredited by Middle States Commission on Higher Education, the same commission that oversees higher educational excellence for all of our sister schools in the states of Washington, DC, Delaware, Florida, US Virgin Islands, New Jersey, New York, Maryland and Pennsylvania.  We also have a double layer of oversight through the New York State Education Department and the New York State Board of Regents, a gold standard for educational excellence.  All programs and our ability to continue to operate depend on New York approving our continued programs and educational excellence.  It is a rigorous process but we accept it as only excellent colleges survive in New York.  We are different than trade and technical schools in New York.  They exist through a different licensing process.

We offer associate and bachelors degrees.  We are not huge.  Typically, we have about 1000 students and graduate about 400, a 43% graduation rate based on our associate degree rate.  Most of our students are students of need, and we graduate students at about four times that of the local community college.  Read a bit about us on the National Center for Education Statistic website.

I hear so many varied ideas of what a "for-profit" college does, and who it serves, and what it "spends its money on". What makes us different from not-for-profit and public institutions is that we do not have an endowment.  We do not draw down on an endowment to meet our budget.  We do not have any direct federal or state funding.  Our college is sustained solely by tuition. 

Our students who are eligible for state and federal grants can choose to attend our college, if they meet standards of progress through maintaining their grades.  We also give most of our students our own grants through the college.  Many of our students are students of need.  When I say that students have need, there are students with profound financial need, and many others who need a leg up financially.  We financially support almost every single student through scholarships, through our small CW Charitable Foundation, and in many other non-financial ways.  This is how we "spend our money".

 At CW, you will find that 100% of our students declare a major before entering college.  If we do not have the program of study that a student wants, they choose another college.  There are no undeclared students at CW.  CW does not promise employment in field to any student, but we place the vast majority of students in jobs in their field of study within 0-12 months of graduation.  Many students get snatched up while they are still in college, during their internships.  Many CW grads continue their studies and many stay within the New York area.

Every single major is constructed with the assistance not only of expert faculty, and with direct input from experts within the industries, companies and organizations who will then employ our graduates.

CW Programs have changed over the years as the job market changes.  We have a traditional campus that most of our students attend, as well as a small, strong online division.

CW has a 100 year history of excellence.  We are 100 years old this year, 2015. 

As the president of this small but excellent institution, I believe I speak for our faculty and staff as I say we embrace the next 100 years of serving students.  It is that simple.  Let one of our graduates, who I personally met in his high school classroom when he was a high school sophomore, tell you a bit more.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A Fresh Point of View

Summer greetings!

I am grateful for the warm summer days and blue nights of this special time of summer.  Joan Didion says in Blue Nights, her wonderful, sad memoir (is that the right way to describe it?); "Blue nights are the opposite of the dying of the brightness, but they are also its warning". 

At the end of a long, hot July day of work yesterday, I walked outside to one of those blue nights.  Even in the middle of summer a deep blue sky somehow signals that the end of summer is coming.  So, I am doing my best to enjoy this beautiful season, and I hope you are as well.

Just last week, I was lucky enough to attend the 2015 Harvard Seminar for New Presidents, conducted by the Harvard Graduate School of Education.  College and university presidents must be in the first year of their tenure to be accepted into the program.  Coordinated and developed by the insightful and talented Dr. Judith Block McLaughlin, the intensive five and a half day training covered many topics including strategic planning, advancement, governance, as well as financial leadership, innovation and opportunity in the changing landscape of higher education. Speakers included Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust, former President of Tufts University Larry Bakow, Freeman Hrabowski, President of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), Paul LeBlanc, president of Southern New Hampshire University, and many others.  My head was reeling with the plethora of pertinent, enlightening and inspiring information. 

I attended with 55 other college and university presidents from many states, as well as from Australia, Kuwait, Canada and Norway.  Our institutions were as small as 300 students, as large as 16,000, liberal arts universities, business colleges, medical colleges, engineering schools, community colleges, private not-for-profit colleges, and  tribal, Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force, religiously affiliated and secular.  The youngest president was in their early 30's and the oldest in their 70's.  The largest campus takes 4 hours to fly over in a plane and the smallest just 1 building, and us, The College of Westchester.

My new colleagues will tell you that all I talked about was all of you; my colleagues, our students, our employers, our 100 year anniversary and the wonderful metropolitan White Plains area.

I came back from the Seminar renewed and excited to get back to CW, the greatest college!

Harvard New Presidents Class of 2015 (I am in the 3rd row, 4th from right)


Thursday, July 2, 2015

Happy Independence Day to you and yours!

I just wanted to take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy and enjoyable Independence Day.  Whether it is a quiet day for reflection or a big celebration, I am grateful to live in this beautiful country of the US of A.  I am grateful for our wonderful students and graduates and their families, our fabulous faculty and staff, and employers who appreciate and hire many of our graduates.
Most of all, I am appreciative that The College of Westchester has been a quality institution of higher education since 1915, 100 years, helping our students to become more independent and successful!
Here is a nice reflection from one of our recent grads, Rose Maldonado. 

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Congrats to our 99th Commencement, 100th Anniversary College of Westchester Graduates!

I just have to give a shout-out to our wonderful class of 2015 graduates. 

Give a quick watch here and congrats to all of our deserving new grads and to their families who have been with them, every step of the way!

Thanks and gratitude also to CW faculty and staff who provide our deserving grads with CW energy to succeed!

Many more successes and may you reach every goal you set, Class of 2015!