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spacer spacer President Giles-Gee's Welcoming Address
August 22, 2005

The View to the Future: Moving Keene State College Forward

Good morning. I am so pleased to extend a welcome to you at this convocation marking the beginning of our academic year and the beginning of my relationship with you. I hope that those of you who have academic appointments had a good and productive summer, and I hope that those of you who have been on campus this summer found the time you needed for rest and relaxation.

This morning's program will differ slightly from those in the past. I will begin with my own address, which will be followed by the introductions of new faculty, administrators, professional staff and operating staff and a brief overview of the year ahead by each of the vice presidents.

My remarks are intended to begin a dialogue with you about the needs and priorities of this fine institution. Together, we will chart a course for the future of Keene State College. I invite you back to this room this afternoon to discuss the issues which will be raised. I will moderate a panel discussion with the vice presidents responding to your questions and comments. The vice presidents and I will be available to speak with you more informally and to hear your thoughts. This is the first step in what I envision will be a year-long process of defining and focusing on those issues which are most important to move Keene State College forward.

One of the first things I did upon receiving my appointment as president was to begin to read Jim Smart's book Striving - the history of Keene State from its founding as Keene Normal School through the year 1984, when the College celebrated its 75th anniversary. When you think of where Keene State is today as it approaches its centennial celebration, its modest beginning in 1909 is quite instructive. With a legislative mandate, six faculty members - three with doctorates in hand, and 27 female students who wished to be teachers, this institution established the teacher education programs that have been a hallmark of its excellence for nearly a century. For its time, those first faculty members were exceptionally well-prepared, setting the standard for the faculty that remains today.

Keene State College makes its way into the future upon this strong foundation of teaching excellence and a solid curriculum in the arts and sciences. At a college such as ours, everyone contributes to teaching excellence, because, as Bart Giamatti, former president of Yale University, put it: "A liberal education is at the heart of civil society, and at the heart of a liberal education is the act of teaching." All faculty and staff at Keene State contribute to teaching excellence because everything we do contributes to the education we provide.

I now have the wonderful opportunity to name for you a member of the faculty who is being recognized for teaching excellence. As a community of teachers, it is difficult to single out one individual. The Keene State College Alumni Association has taken on this difficult task for 34 years with its Distinguished Teacher Award, recognizing faculty for excellence in classroom teaching, advising, rapport with students outside the classroom, and encouragement of independent thinking. The selection committee is made up of the three most recent recipients, student leaders, and alumni. Nominations for this award come from across the campus as well as from alumni.

With the agreement of the Alumni Association, I am pleased to announce that the recipient of the 2005 Distinguished Teaching Award is Dr. Gregory Knouff. Dr. Knouff, will you stand and be recognized?

The words used to describe Dr. Knouff in nominating letters from colleagues and students included: passion, commitment, integrity, purpose, respect, hard, fair, supportive, interesting, amazing, and scholar. For those of you who don't know Dr. Knouff, he is chair of the history department and is the department's specialist in early North American history, teaching courses such as Colonial North America, the American Revolution, Gender in Early America, Atlantic History, American Military History, and Native American History. He is the author of the book The Soldiers' Revolution: Pennsylvanians in Arms and the Forging of Early American Identity.

Dr. Knouff's award will be formally presented at the Fall Honors Convocation in October. Congratulations, Dr. Knouff.

In the coming months and semesters, Keene State College faces what may be the most ambitious academic agenda in the College's history. We have before us two significant curricular initiatives - one to revise the general education program and the other to develop a 4-credit curricular structure. We will be integrating the assessment of learning outcomes into the curriculum planning and implementation process. We will continue the planning for the Media Arts Center and working to maximize the program impact of the new Science Center. We will be furthering our efforts to engage students through service learning and other modes of experiential learning.

At the same time, we will be preparing for a review of the College by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education or NCATE. The upcoming NCATE review will require us all to demonstrate that we stand behind a teacher education program that involves the entire campus community. The accreditation process will challenge us to work together as a community and to understand our shared responsibility for preparing teachers. It will also reinforce our work to define a new general education program, which assures that our students are liberally educated, including a firm grounding the arts and sciences.

The energy and excitement around this complex agenda is strong - it is this energy and excitement that captured my interest and imagination last spring when I responded affirmatively to my appointment as your president.

I look forward to supporting Dr. Leversee, the deans, chairs, and faculty in the first step of the transition to a new General Education program, the implementation of a topical first-year seminar, with pilot sections to be offered one year from now. This first step signals an important change. By the time of our centennial celebration, which is 4 years away, the core academic programs of this institution will look different and will speak clearly to our commitment to academic excellence. My goal is to help you stay focused on this mission of excellence, to facilitate the administrative support that you will need to be successful, and to help you see beyond the details, which I know may be overwhelming at times. I promise to give you my best effort, and I challenge you to continue to return that commitment.

One way that I will support all of these academic efforts is through a national search for a strong academic leader for Keene State College. There is a great deal of consensus across the campus about this important priority. Faculty, administrators, professional staff, operating staff, and especially our students have told me how important this position is to the academic success of Keene State. I couldn't agree more! It is essential that we recruit an educational leader who can facilitate current efforts and define new opportunities that come before us.

We have begun the preparations for this important work. To date, we have:

  1. Developed a draft ad and circulated it widely for feedback.
  2. dentified a search firm, Witt Keifer, a firm that worked with Keene State before and demonstrated tremendous skill in guiding us through an effective search process.
  3. Designated a budget for the search committee and staff to support this effort, and
  4. Begun to identify members of the search committee representing appropriate constituencies.

My goal is to advertise by early October and for the search committee to begin interviewing candidates before the winter break. I expect to be able to name the new academic leader by April 2006.

Some of you have asked me to consider the title "provost" for this position, a title that better reflects the high stature of the campus academic leader within the organization of the College. I have discussed this possibility with the Chancellor, who will take a proposal for this change to the executive committee of the Board of Trustees. At this point, I do not know how much time the approval of this title change will take or whether the decision can be made before we advertise for a new academic leader. Regardless of title, the Board is supportive of having a chief academic officer who can lead our charge to academic excellence.

I have left the door open for the current interim vice president, Dr. Gordon Leversee, to apply if he chooses, although he has been clear that his willingness to serve as interim vice president was for one year and that this is the campus understanding and expectation. Since every candidate's credentials will be reviewed by the search committee, every qualified candidate should have an opportunity to bring his or her credentials forward for review. In addition to supporting the work of the search committee and the search consultant, I will personally work to attract qualified candidates to the pool through my own contacts and professional memberships. I encourage you to do the same by nominating individuals whose characteristics appear to match those we desire in an academic leader. Let us build the pool deliberately, taking note of our diversity goals as well.

The search committee will represent the College community, but with the greater proportion of members coming from the faculty. And as the chief academic officer is the leader of the faculty, this arrangement is as it should be.

I will now share with you three broad issues that will shape my presidency in the coming months:

  • The first is to understand Keene State College - who we are, who we serve, what our core values are, what we do well, and what we need to improve.
  • The second is to create a vision for the future and, with you, a plan to take us there.
  • And the third is to clarify how we will work together.

As a new member of this community, I know that I have much to learn about the College. Many of you know that I have set a personal goal of meeting with each member of the campus community. I cannot know this campus without knowing its people, and I have begun to invite you to my office one at a time for introductory conversations. This goal will take me the full year and maybe into the next to achieve, but I know that it is well worth my time. Each conversation tells me more about what you hold dear and what you are most proud of in your work at Keene State College.

I will also learn about the campus in other ways. The College has engaged consultants to assist us in understanding external perceptions of the College's identity and distinctiveness, as well as that of our current students, faculty and staff. This "identity" or "branding" study will help us understand how our constituents - prospective students, in particular - perceive the College and how to use that information to improve the way we communicate who we are and who we are becoming. The better we understand and communicate a core institutional identity, the more successful we will be in attracting good students, good faculty, and members of the administration and staff.

I have much to learn, but there are some truths about which I am already confident.

  • For example, I know that this is an institution with strong academic programs and faculty working together to weave their courses and departments into challenging, up-to-date, and coherent offerings. The principles for general education which the faculty adopted last spring, and the decision to move to a predominately four-credit curriculum, demonstrate this commitment. Now is the time to really think about each of our graduates and the abilities and characteristics that we help them develop. How will our programs - in and out of the classroom - develop them into "citizen scholars" - a phrase coined by a great president, Patricia Cormier, of Longwood University.

  • I am already aware of another truth, that Keene State has received special recognition of institutional excellence that I am so very proud to announce to you. The College has been named the 2005 Institution of the Year by the Eastern College Athletic Conference. This recognition has validated the institutional values inherent in the strategic decision that the College made 10 years ago to move to NCAA Division III. The resulting success of so many of our athletic teams and the academic success of so many of our student athletes are the hallmarks of a successful Division III program, and these are the qualities recognized by this award. Keene State has joined the ranks of Williams College, Princeton University, Middlebury College, Georgetown, and Harvard with this recognition. The ECAC is the nation's largest athletic and the only multi-divisional conference, which includes 324 Division I, II, and III colleges and universities from Maine to North Carolina. This is a tremendous honor. To reach this level has taken a great deal of work by a remarkable group of coaches and hundreds of student-athletes, not to mention the many behind-the-scenes participants who give so much to the athletic program. Congratulations to Dr. Kowpak, Athletic Director John Ratliff, the coaches, the student-athletes, and all others associated with this tremendous achievement.

  • On the enrollment side, I know that
    • the quality of applicants to Keene State College has improved,
    • the proportion of admitted students who enroll at Keene State College (also known as our admissions yield) has increased, and
    • the academic credentials of the entering class have increased.
    • The improved academic quality of the in-coming class reflects changes in the College's admissions standards that were implemented two years ago. What is especially remarkable is that our admissions yield increased by four percent.
    This tells us that we are attracting the kinds of students we want to come to Keene State and who are most likely to enroll.

  • Another truth I am aware of is that this is a community that holds core values deeply - that it seeks to sustain an environment where individuals are respected, and where service to others is expected. This culture of respect is so important in a learning environment. It will be addressed in a workshop being held tomorrow afternoon for faculty.

  • I know that the College values a strong relationship with the City of Keene and its beautiful physical campus. I will continue to nurture that relationship as president and look to you to continue to do the same.

  • And finally, I know that this is a campus that values diversity and global perspectives, and that it seeks to increase the diversity of our student body, faculty and staff, and to create an academic environment that prepares our students, as stated in our mission statement, "for success in a complex, interdependent world." I share this value for three broad reasons:
    • First, diversity is our reality. We are a pluralistic nation in a complex and interdependent world.
    • Second, our students need the tools to be good citizens in this environment, and their employers will increasingly expect from them a broad cultural awareness.
    • Third, understanding diversity makes us a stronger and more vibrant academic community and deepens the educational experience of all our students.

I look forward to working with you to further expand the ways we fulfill our commitment to diversity. I urge you to watch for details about the upcoming symposium on globalization, which will provide many opportunities to explore the kinds of diversity issues that our mission states our students should understand. The globalization symposium will be held on campus November 3rd, 4th, and 5th and will bring speakers from all over the world to campus. It will also provide a forum for interdisciplinary, cross-campus discussion of complex and challenging issues. Let us support the work of our colleagues who are organizing this event and help involve our students.

The second broad issue is to create a vision for the future and a plan to take us there. It is not enough for us to know ourselves. To build and sustain excellent programs, we must aspire to be better, set ambitious goals, and develop a plan to achieve these goals.

As a planner, I was excited when I read of Speak Out, where you came together to identify planning priorities. I was elated to read in newsletters of the work you undertook to fulfill objectives within the Plan.

This campus, led by Dr. Jay Kahn, Vice President for Finance and Planning, and the members of the facilities and grounds crew, has done a remarkable job in planning for the future of the physical campus. As I toured the new Zorn Dining Commons, which will serve almost 1,000 students at one time, I began to think how this new facility, when compared to the former one, is more encompassing and supportive of our student and faculty community. Now we must complete a plan that brings in our vision for the whole institution - its people and its programs.

One aspect of this planning, which is in its infancy, is the effort to create a Human Resources Master Plan, a concept put forward by representatives of the faculty unions and staff councils one year ago. They spoke of the impact "of budgetary constraints on campus morale and the effectiveness of some departments." From my point of view, such a master plan involves the planning for all types of positions within the College, including those for faculty, administration, and professional and operating staff.

Specifically, the representatives of the faculty unions and staff councils recommended the development of short-term, medium and long-range goals that would address:

  • Staffing
  • Training
  • Communication
  • Human Resources policies and procedures
  • Restructuring, and
  • Uses of complementary staff

I believe that such a planning process will strengthen this College. If we are to work together as faculty, staff, administration, and students to pursue our goals of excellence, then we must build community, support one another, and come to consensus about what is most important to Keene State College. I learned that Dr. Y set this work in motion this May, when he established a task force to review best practices in human resource planning. The task force is considering:

  1. The scope of a Human Resources Master Plan - What are the necessary elements of an effective HR master plan?
  2. The principles and assumptions that would underlie such a plan, and
  3. The process to be used in developing a Human Resources Master Plan (Document dated May 12, 2005).
I expect a preliminary set of recommendations from this task force in December. I look forward to supporting this important work and to incorporating what we learn into a comprehensive institutional plan, which will also include strong and focused college-wide academic planning, information resource planning, planning about student enrollment, student services, and other priorities yet to be identified.

Another major reason to undertake planning is to support resource development and to match the resources that we have to the priorities that we identify. As we consider the resources necessary to move forward, I'd like to acknowledge those resources that support us and our students. The State has appropriated funds that allowed the Trustees to hold tuition increases to below seven percent. And the State has continued to reinvest in physical improvements on University System campuses by funding the second phase of KEEP New Hampshire, the Knowledge Economy Education Plan. Keene State College will receive funds to support the planning of a new media arts center and the upgrading of 40-year-old boilers in the heating plant. Dr. Kahn will provide more information about this program and its impact on our future this afternoon.

The College is very fortunate to be supported by loyal donors and sponsors who believe in us and what we offer. Faculty and staff have been diligent in developing grant proposals and in attaining grants. Through contracts and workshops, Continuing Education has developed new revenue streams. In addition, we must continue to contain costs, seek efficiencies and reallocate funds. We will need to review how we develop and distribute our resources so as to fund new initiatives and priorities. And, often, this is done by linking planning and budgeting.

The overarching reason for developing an institution-wide plan is so that we - the Keene State College community - can come to a shared understanding of the priorities of Keene State College. Last week, I led the members of my Cabinet in an exercise to identify what each believed to be the College's most important priorities. I have asked each of the vice presidents to have similar conversations in his or her division and to share what they learn with me. They will be initiating these discussions in the coming weeks. I hope you will participate openly and honestly. By the end of this year, I would like to have identified the priorities which will serve as the basis for a strategic plan.

I will look to you to help me know how best to go forward with a planning initiative. I am considering creating a campus planning committee to help pull all the pieces together. I seek to create a planning process that is inclusive, that engages the campus in meaningful dialogues, that identifies new opportunities for the campus, and that will serve as a guide for the College as it moves into the future. I welcome your ideas.

Finally, I will spend time determining how we will work together

Our mission statement tells us that Keene State College "promotes and sustains strong relationships among students, faculty, and staff." It asks all members of the campus community to conduct themselves with dignity and treat others with respect. Everything we do as an academic community rests on this principle, yet it is not always easy to achieve.

Changes have been made to strengthen the Discrimination and Discriminatory Harassment Policy and plans have been put in motion to review the student code of conduct and the procedures by which it is enforced.

Julie Dickson, executive assistant, and Kim Harkness, the interim director of Human Resources, are conducting sexual harassment trainings and will continue to do so throughout the year. In addition, the appointment of an interim vice president for academic affairs assures that there is a timely pipeline to the President about allegations of discrimination without casting guilt on those who are charged and who may be found to be innocent.

Julie Dickson has prepared a report on harassment incidents to be published in this week's Campus News. In general, these data suggest not only that such incidents are being reported but that they are decreasing.

Our policy on discrimination and discriminatory harassment states that all students, staff, and faculty have the right to work and learn in an environment free of discrimination, including sexual harassment. Harassment of any kind has no place in an academic community. Harassment issues often bring to the fore the challenges of communication in a politically charged environment, especially when we protect the right of individuals to express unpopular, controversial, and even repugnant positions.

  • Can speech be harassment? Of course it can, but where is the line that divides speech that is an expression of a controversial position from speech that creates a hostile environment for those with other views?
  • How do we as a campus uphold principles of academic freedom and freedom of speech and at the same time maintain a culture of respect and civility?
  • How do we balance our rights as citizens and maintain the authority necessary to conduct and control our classrooms?

Tomorrow at 1:30, there will be a workshop for faculty to assist in establishing the boundaries of the civil classroom. There will also be discussions with students about their rights and responsibilities in a society such as ours. Clearly, a campus-wide review and discussion of the principles of academic freedom and freedom of speech will help us focus our ideals. As the Congress has required that we establish a Constitution day to discuss aspects of the Constitution, I hope that this will be one of the aspects that we will discuss and come to closure about. In the end, isn't it our expectation that our students develop their own judgments about issues after gathering information about ideas that may be polarizing?

Truly, this College, with the words engraved on its portals "enter to learn, go forth to serve," can use all facets within its walls to educate our students to become citizens who contribute to the good of humanity. As I read Mountains beyond Mountains, I am caught up in the big idea-how much one person can accomplish!

Earlier this month, I received a letter from the Rev. Timothy Yeadon, informing me about a special Keene State College student named Will Ahlers. Will is now in Kenya, Africa, on a humanitarian trip under the auspices of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and its humanitarian office, Lutheran World Relief. He is helping repair a dwelling and volunteering at local health clinics and orphanages as part of an effort to understand poverty and the devastation of the AIDS pandemic in East Africa.

What kind of students will we graduate? Will each be challenged to serve others? Imagine the impact of this College if we re-establish the virtues in learning and service to humanity. Truly, what would be a greater gift that the College could give to the world than citizens who serve her well? What if all our students are like Will - doing well and doing good? In the words of the Rev. Yeadon, "may there be many more like Will."

In closing, I am truly grateful to be here. I thought about trying to recognize everyone who made my beginning so wonderful, but I would be here all day, and I have learned not to stand between good people and a barbecue. Everyone with whom I have talked and every office I have visited has made me feel welcome, and I thank you. And my daughter Lauren has experienced this same sense of community too.

Through my one-on-one conversations with you, I have already learned that I was right about this College community. You value the good spirit here and teamwork. I am excited by the depth and breadth of experience and learning that you have earned beyond the requirements of your jobs. I am thrilled by the initiatives you have undertaken on behalf of our students, our community, and the College. After a little more than a month, I am proud to now be one of this great community.

Come back this afternoon and share your questions and ideas with me and the vice presidents. Let us begin the dialogue of how we will move together in pursuit of excellence.


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