Culture, communication and tactics

During these past two weeks, I have had the opportunity to present and discuss our continuing efforts here at William Paterson concerning student success issues–making sure our students are learning what they say they are learning, and are progressing toward degree completion in a timely fashion.

As noted, these are continuing efforts, and I would imagine there are some here on campus who may be getting a little tired of this emphasis. Well–sorry–this will continue to be an emphasis. To be sure, this is not the only story here at WP, but the efforts and activities we engage in concerning student success are so central to our mission as educators–student success is what we must be about.

So how are our efforts going? We have some good news (continued climb in 4-year graduation rates; a decrease in the number of credits in excess of 120 students have completed by graduation; increase in the number of credits students attempt and earn at the end of their first year, and significant increase for 4th year), and we have some not so good news (6-year graduation rate took a dip, as did our first-to-second year retention rate, continuing a pattern of no real improvement in either of these areas).

As part of these presentations and discussions, the members of the Student Success Team have reported on the initiatives in which we are engaging and on those we are planning.

So to the title of this missive: We have tactics–specific actions and activities, specific people and groups, specific plans. Good–those are needed, and without tactics, we do little to move forward.

But tactics alone are not enough, and tactics will never succeed when they are not clearly communicated and when they run counter to a strong and established culture.

The point: As we continue with our student success efforts, one of the most important activities we must reinforce is communication about the importance of timely graduation. There will always be special cases and special situation, but our overall message has to be that the norm is to finish in four, and our job at WP is to provide the assistance and to eliminate the unnecessary hurdles (some hurdles are necessary–and good for you!) to a timely graduation.

Communication can shift culture and make tactics more effective.



Enough with the doom and gloom

There are all sorts of issues and controversies and even dangers these days in public higher education–sometimes we forget about all the good that we do and all the good things that happen on a college campus–and that happen at William Paterson.

This last week was a good reminder of why a college campus is a great place to be.

We had a fantastic Homecoming week! The weather was just about ideal all week, and especially over the weekend. There were so many great activities and events that it simply was not possible to be at all or even see all of them.

The campus was decorated for school spirit–you can still see some of the very creative work done in the door decorating contest–head over to the Library before they clean up the door.

The Homecoming events this past weekend were fantastic (OK–yes, it would have been nice had the football team pulled out the win, but you still can’t complain about sitting in the sun on a Saturday afternoon in brand new stadium seating). The tailgate celebration and carnival were excellent–probably close to 800 people in attendance, having a great time (and having fun in a semi-orderly fashion as well!) out in the sun in Lot 5. The skies were clear so Jason Kendall was able to show off the planets and stars Saturday night. There were two excellent shows at Shea from University Performing Arts (where else but here at William Paterson can you have a nationally-renowned performer such as Ann Hampton Calloway give a great show–and have NY legend Christine Ebersole just happen to be in the audience and just happen to jump on stage for a number). The Art Gallery initiated a new activity Sunday afternoon, Dare to Pair, a mash-up event featuring alums (one a power-lifter and the other a sketch comedian). And at the Library on Sunday afternoon, Vince Parrillo presented his latest documentary for a good-sized public audience.

This is what happens at William Paterson all the time. So sometimes when we get all caught up in our troubles and struggles, it is good to note the positive that we do.

Guns and Campuses

You know, I wasn’t going to write about this.

I’m quite sure the world doesn’t need more words that do nothing to stop the killings. But I spent some time this weekend reading the detailed report on the latest mass murders, and I spent a little more time reading about the usual reactions.

And that’s probably what made me think I need to at least write something.

Hearing and reading some of the the leading contenders for the 2016 Presidential race make statements about how this latest horrific incident in Oregon is just one of those things that is going to happen–like it is a natural and inevitable event–was too much. (Statements such as this one).

Reading that this massacre took place in a public speaking class, the type of class I have taught so many times I can’t really keep track anymore–that made me pause.

Seeing the pictures and reading the stories of the people killed–people just starting out in life, people trying to restart their lives, and people trying to bring structure and order to their lives–I had to write.

In this writing space, I’ve tried to keep the focus clearly on educational issues, and, also, tried to avoid saying much that will polarize any audience that reads this. But what just happened in Oregon, and what has happened far too many times to far too many people, is too much to ignore.

Guns have no place on a college or university campus.

I’m not all that happy that we have armed police on campus, but you know what–they are trained and monitored and if the time comes that it is determined that they cannot physically or psychologically use that gun, that responsibility is taken away.

But we don’t do that for ordinary citizens.

If you want, we can argue the 2nd Amendment and what it means. I know what the most recent SC decision said, so I know the current law of the land. I don’t agree with this interpretation of the 2nd amendment, and I don’t believe it will stand–but for now it is the law of the land.

But still–guns have no place on a college or university campus.

So we can mourn and we can wring our hands and then we can wait for the next massacre–or as educators and the educated, we can keep trying to do something to make it a little more difficult for the next person to amass all the killing tools they need.

I do hope that as a start, we can, maybe, at least agree that guns have no place on a college or university campus.

I can hope.