June, 2017: Eighth Annual Community Meeting | Naugatuck Valley Community College > About NVCC > NVCC Going Strong > President’s message > President’s remarks | Naugatuck Valley Community College
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June, 2017: Eighth Annual Community Meeting

 

Good Afternoon, dear friends and family of Naugatuck Valley Community College.  It is a joy to welcome you this afternoon to our 8th community meeting and to thank you for joining us for an update on the first year of our “Toward a Splendid College: Naugatuck Valley Community College Strategic Plan: 2016-2026”. This is a good opportunity for us to hear your comments about our common interests as we map out the work to be undertaken in the next academic year.  How wonderful it is to see so many of you, partners and supporters, a room filled with generosity and intelligence:   members of the NVCC Foundation, of the NVCC Regional Advisory Council, wonderful educators, fellow community leaders representing so many agencies and municipal government and NVCC management, faculty, staff and students.  It is good to have our community partners with us including the Danbury United Way, and to welcome colleagues and partners who are engaged in the college’s journey to provide excellence in education to our 22-town region and the state of Connecticut.  Emily Verdosci, President of our Student Government Association, it is wonderful to hear your story and to witness your first public presentation as a student leader.  It is also lovely to see Mr. and Mrs. Verdosci once again, as I had the pleasure of meeting them a few years ago when their older daughter Anna spoke at one of our Community Events.

I look forward to Dean Kostrzewa’s guiding the conversation around our proposed work together this coming year.  Your feedback, insights and recommendations when we break out in smaller groups is much welcome and very valuable for us.   This mid-day conversation is about you, your organizations and your aspirations for NVCC.  

Dean Kostrzewa will be helping us guide the facilitated roundtable discussions so that all voices are heard and your ideas become part of the fabric of a work plan, connected to our strategic priorities and responsive to your community needs. So happy to have Anna Pond with us today, helping with the facilitating process. Thank you all for your continued and generous support of our work.

It gives me pleasure to affirm that five strategic goals continue to guide our efforts and to support continuous improvement and enhancement of educational opportunities for our students.  These are: At NVCC, students achieve their goals; faculty and staff make a difference; programs meet and exceed academic and industry standards; we are an engine of change for the communities we serve; and we are an effective, performance-based institution.

This is my ninth year as the president of your community college, and I am proud to report that it has been a very productive and rewarding year.  Naugatuck Valley is practicing its mission.  We believe in opportunity, access, inclusiveness, academic excellence and community engagement.  We believe in our students and in our faculty and staff’s capacity to guide their way to a better future.  We believe in our communities and our partners.  We believe in you.  We believe in the awesome potential that our working together has to produce meaningful outcomes. It has and will continue to do so.

As academic year 2016-2017 ends, we reflect on a series of activities to close and commemorate 50 years in the history of our institution.  Our work, our commitment to mission and what the college represents for so many is tied to the most beautiful and fundamental democratic principles.  These principles led to the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and also to the founding of community colleges in Connecticut in the 1960’s.  We are proud to say that our work continues to honor and support that vision of a just and inclusive society.  It is in that spirit that I welcome you to our annual community meeting and dialogue between the campus and our partners and multiple stakeholders.  In your folders you will find our 2016-2017 community report as well as a report on activities in support of our goals for the first year of the 2016-2026 strategic plan.

A challenging year comes to an end with significant accomplishments for Naugatuck Valley Community College.   The College continued its commitment to fiscal responsibility. We finished fiscal year 2016 in the black and fiscal year 2017 is projected to yield a small budget surplus, despite a rescission by the Governor very late in the year.   Our NEASC-accredited Danbury Campus has had a successful move to larger facilities, and has grown in enrollment by 14% this spring semester as compared to last spring.   We celebrate the successful implementation of our fifth year of the GEAR UP program and the addition of three Upward Bound grants, bringing the opportunity to work closely with sixty students in each of three Waterbury high schools--Crosby, Kennedy and Wilby.  The grants total $752,500 annually for each of the five years of the grant.  The successes of the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Program are to be commended including job placement for all our graduates of the program this year and the 172 NIMS credentials, making us the top community college in Connecticut in preparing our students for this significant national credential. 

The Facilities Department had an active year with the renovation of Founders Hall, opening one semester ahead of schedule.  This state-of-the-art facility is home to our very successful allied health and nursing programs, ranked top in the state and in the top 5% nationwide.  Isn’t it beautiful!  We do hope some of you, if you have not had a tour already, can stay at the end of this meeting for a guided tour.  We are delighted to report that the community has risen in support of NVCC and our students, and that our Capital Campaign in support of furniture and equipment for our Center for Health Sciences, led by the energetic and enthusiastic Dr. Peter Jacoby, Chairman of Emergency Services at St. Mary’s Hospital has met and exceeded its projected goal.  Official ribbon cutting has been scheduled for Friday, October 13 at 1:30 p.m., to be followed by a reception to honor the donors and tours of the named facilities.  If you had intended to donate and have not done so already, there is still time!  I am sure that you have also noticed the beautiful new parking lot, landscaping, street lights, and sidewalks, thanks to the successful completion of the Campus-wide Improvement Project.  Other significant achievements include but are not limited to the following:

  • NVCC became the first community college in CT to award more than 1,000 associate degrees and certificates in 2012, and that achievement was sustained for the sixth year in a row in 2017.  At commencement on May 25, the College conferred a projected number of 1,138 awards, to students from 87 municipalities across Connecticut and 4 states in total. 29 students graduated summa cum laude, 54 students magna cum laude and 225 students cum laude. The final numbers will be confirmed in August 2017.  Please note in your folder a list of institutions where students have transferred, and where many have received significant scholarship support;
  • It is especially noteworthy that despite our  budget challenges, the College awarded approximately $10.6 million in financial aid to students for the 2016-2017 academic year;
  • This past year, the College hosted its third Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence.  Felipe Karam, a music scholar from Brazil, taught courses at NVCC and worked with the Bravo, Waterbury! Program, the Waterbury Symphony Orchestra’s youth-focused community music and personal growth program;
  • Evening bus service for the campus and the City of Waterbury advocated by NVCC with the support of many community partners and initiated in October of 2011, has reported a tremendous growth in city-wide bus rides since that date.  Students using the U-Pass and Waterbury residents have utilized evening bus service to take over 1,175,000 rides.  As a result of the success of the Waterbury UPASS initiative, the Student Government Association (SGA) voted to offer UPASS benefits to students at the Danbury campus and to support a public bus between the Waterbury and Danbury campuses, and students have been using these services in large numbers.

I encourage you to read our 2016-2017 Community Report and all of the other material included in your folders.  We are managing well at a time of great uncertainty.  We continue to manage change while navigating toward True North. Our past successes together have charted the course to ensure we apply our professional best to support student goals and to continue to be engines of change in our communities.  This meeting is about hearing from you. Tell us how your own navigation toward True North is going. We have intersecting missions and common challenges. Growing needs and decreasing budgets, for example, are just two of our shared challenges.  You’ll be asked to name your specific challenges and we’ll discuss how our Strategic Plan can address them. Tell us what we can do together and what we can do perhaps differently to ensure that this very successful institution can continue its path. We are willing partners in our shared futures.

As we close this academic year and envision the next one, I review with satisfaction the journey we have taken these past two semesters:  Danbury moved to new facilities and it is thriving with opportunity and care.  The Founders Hall renovation project concluded six months ahead of schedule, allowing us to complete the move and begin offering classes this spring semester. 

The arts continue to flourish at NVCC as we hosted our third Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence, four Confluencias and the inaugural celebration of the International Center for the Arts. Community service continues to thrive in many ways, most importantly, as NVCC students, faculty and staff supported the St. Vincent de Paul Soup Kitchen every Sunday for the ninth year in a row.  We experienced the joy of the month of May with its multiple celebrations of achievement, culminating in our splendid commencement ceremonies, celebrating once again the granting of more than a thousand awards.  Our programs continue to meet and beat industry and academic standards, our students are engaged in the classroom and on campus in educational, intellectual and cultural experiences that reflect civic and civil engagement in a diverse world where we are making a difference in significant ways.  Most recently, I was moved, not really surprised, by the news that NVCC’s student newspaper, The Tamarack, received seven awards in the collegiate division at the 2017 Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists’ Excellence in Journalism Awards ceremony.  The community has risen to own us and to support us as evidenced by the generosity of the gifts received in support of our Capital Campaign and multiple student scholarships and jobs on campus opportunities. 

I could go on but you see we have every reason to be optimistic and to move forward although the journey confronting us is not for the faint of heart.  We will move forward and manage change with your ideas and your support because going back is not an option. We must continue navigating toward True North.

I close my remarks this morning by reading a poem about our joining hands to become stronger as we come together with open hearts and open minds, to work for the common good and the betterment of our students and the communities we serve:

 

CAN ANY BEAUTY MATCH THIS?  By Hafiz, 14th century Persian poet, adapted by Daniel Ladinsky

When the sun within speaks, when love

Reaches out its hand and places it upon

Another,

any power the stars and planets might

have upon us,

any fears you can muster can become so

rightfully insignificant.

What one heart can do for another heart,

is there any beauty in the world that can

match this?

Brotherhood, sisterhood, humanity becomes

the joy and the emancipation.

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