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President's Remarks

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Friday, January 9, 2015

Welcome and Introductions

Daisy Cocco De Filippis, President

Good morning and welcome to Naugatuck Valley Community College, our home and yours. I am grateful the weather did not deter you from coming this morning. Whatever conditions outdoors, please know that for us you’ve brought the sun and that because of you, this is a beautiful and warm day!

That’s why it’s always good to have family around, and we are family. The family has gathered again to highlight our progress since last year and to suggest ways to address our mutual commitments for the future. Our State legislative delegation will lead the way during this session of the General Assembly and our municipal leaders will carry the word about our commitment and enrich our work by suggesting initiatives to address our common interests.  Representative Jeff Berger’s remarks this morning will speak to the caliber of support we’ve become accustomed to receiving from our delegation and our community leaders. Their work on behalf of Naugatuck Valley Community College will be supported by information from students, faculty and staff, with valued advocacy from community leaders from the NVCC Foundation, the Regional Advisory Council, and our partners in the public school districts, the municipalities, and the business community.  Today we partner with the leadership of the United Way of Greater Waterbury to launch a new initiative in support of understanding the challenges of ALICE citizens and of providing educational vehicles to assist in transforming their lives.  I look forward to United Way Board Chairwoman Sandra Senich and NVCC Foundation Board Chair Dan Sherr’s presentations.  We are expecting Senator Blumenthal to join us later on in the program. We are ever so grateful for everyone’s support and contribution!  

It has been a great year.  As I told our faculty and staff at the end of the fall semester, they have worked with resilience and generosity of spirit to keep our promises for access and excellence. Our enrollment growth of the past few years continues to sustain us at an average rate of over 7,000 credit students each semester.  Our degree and certificate completion rates have more than doubled in the past five years: from 561 awards in 2008 to 1,353 awards in May of 2014.  Applications for graduation are currently coming in and we anticipate another year of granting more than 1,000 awards.  We’ve encouraged students to register earlier…we’ve adjusted our course offerings and schedules …we’ve advised them more effectively…and we are anticipating that a powerful number of students will cross the stage at graduation in May. 

What a beautiful semester and what a powerful year it has been!  Here are just a few items, certainly not all, that should be noted:

  • Community support was evident throughout the fall semester as so many of you attended multiple meetings to lend your voices to our strategic goals and to celebrate in a “truly splendid fashion” the initiation of a three-year celebration of 50-year anniversaries for NVCC, Mattatuck Community College and Waterbury State Technical College;
  • Campus visits by Drs. Martha Kanter, Tom Angelo and Judith Summerfield this past semester have produced a number of significant follow up activities, designed to enhance the teaching and learning experience on campus;
  • The budget (expenditures vs. revenue) finished well in the black for the 2013-14 fiscal year.  NVCC actually increased our fund balance after all deductions were made for accruals, compensated absences, and allowance for doubtful accounts;
  • NVCC students, faculty and staff, along with elected officials and key community leaders, walked in support of construction of a sidewalk on Chase Parkway to improve safety conditions for our students and our campus neighbors.  The project is moving forward with funding made available both from the Mayor’s Office and NVCC’s capital funds allocation, with construction expected this year, along with a new bus shelter on Chase Parkway;
  • Our Danbury Campus expansion is being supported by accreditation from NEASC, continued growth in enrollment and significant progress in the process of moving to larger quarters in Downtown Danbury following the CT Board of Regents’ vote at its December 19, 2014 meeting to approve a lease for larger quarters.  Provost Troup will provide you with more details on this initiative in a few minutes;
  • Our successful participation in a state-TAA grant submission will bring $1.7 million over three years to support expansion of our advanced manufacturing opportunities to students and incumbent workers both in Waterbury and Danbury.  The College will work closely with the State Technical High School system on programs at Kaynor Tech and Abbott Tech;
  • We have been selected to participate in the Connecticut Early College Opportunity (CT-ECO) program.  A kick-off meeting was held in early December for all parties (Danbury Public Schools, Naugatuck Valley Community College, NewOak Capital LLC., and Pitney Bowes) to meet and plan next steps.  Danbury ECO or DECO held its first steering committee meeting this past Wednesday, January 7.  Recruitment and scope and sequence are beginning to be considered.  This is an exciting new opportunity for our students in Financial Management and IT;

We’re still celebrating the state’s establishment of evening bus service to the campus and the City of Waterbury. This is access at its best.  If we review evening bus service usage by the City of Waterbury at- large in the past three years, we note over 400,000 rides.  Now that’s community action! Bus service has made a difference to our students and to our community. It’s been transformative. We’re proud to have been a part of that successful effort. We offer our thanks to the caring students who voted to pay and continue to pay a fee to support the service.  Our legislative and community leaders used their advocacy to help make it happen. Given the centrality of transportation in this year’s State of the State Address by Governor Malloy, we can safely say that we were ahead of the curb on this.  As we consider the growth of our Danbury Campus, the concept of improved transportation, infrastructure and/or otherwise, this is music to our ears.  That’s why you’re all so important to us as we move forward together to transform lives and entire communities.

Elected officials and legislative leaders, we seek your assistance to ensure that the funds needed for the renovation of our Founders Hall into a Center for Health Sciences will be included in the Bond Commission’s Agenda for its January 30, 2015 meeting.  Provost Troup will be providing you with more specific details in his presentation this morning.

These and many other efforts are reflected in the commitments contained in our 2013-2016 Strategic Plan. It is truly dynamic and continues the work undertaken in our 2010-2013 plan which guided us for three years and kept us focused on achieving so many of our objectives…objectives that continue to deserve our collective attention and support, even in these challenging budgetary times.  Our strategic objectives are perfectly aligned with the strategic goals for the system adopted by the Ct. Board of Regents.  These goals guide and support Transform 2020, the plan being refined as we speak to build a world-class system of higher education in Connecticut (please see hand-outs on the progress being made in the drafting of the document).  Created through input from students, faculty, staff, business and community leaders, the State Departments of Labor, Economic and Community Development, Education, and other stakeholders, Transform 2020 is a blueprint for moving our four state universities, twelve community colleges, and Charter Oak State College forward.  Dr. Gregory W. Gray the President of the Board is leading the planning, which will support our missions of access, excellence and affordability.  Highlights of the draft of the plan include but are not limited to:

  • A Veterans Initiative designed to strengthen our support of the growing number of returning veterans;
  • The creation of new early college initiatives to better prepare high school students for the rigors of higher education and provide opportunities to acquire college credit while still in high school;
  • The engagement in system building.  New approaches will help us improve the student experience and allow us to streamline our operations.  By instituting a common academic calendar, common registration, and improved use of technology in enrollment and degree planning, we make the system more accessible and easier to navigate.

We ask that as discussions get underway that you feel free to call me to ask any questions you might have and that you engage in advocacy for the work we do, work that is so vital to the health of our communities, Connecticut and the nation.  We appreciate more than I can tell you the fact that community colleges were spared from the recent rescissions.   Yet there is so much more that needs to happen to ensure that equity, access and excellence are supported.  It is time to re-dress the funding inequities and support our students, the future workforce of our beautiful state.  We need your help to ensure that funding for the community colleges is more equitable.  I urge you to examine the chart in your folder which demonstrates how State support of this and other community colleges has decreased over the past twelve years.  It is good to know that our State and Municipal leaders strongly support our efforts. We’re confident we’ve made the case for NVCC’s impact on the lives of our students and of our entire 22-town service region, all of whom are beneficiaries of the outcomes produced by our academic and workforce development programs. Our partnership and your continued support for our students make educational and economic sense for the health and growth of our State.

With your help, we will serve our respective constituencies. That’s why we’re here. I’m glad to work with you throughout the year to achieve our mutual goals. Together we will make a difference.  I’d like to close by reading a brief excerpt from Pablo Neruda’s Nobel Laureate Speech, words many of you have heard me speak many times before:

All paths lead to the same goal; to convey to others what we are…but in this dance or in this song, there are fulfilled the most ancient rites of our conscience in the awareness of being human and of believing in a common destiny.

And so, with your help and with the support of so many who are part of this community of kindred spirits, believers in the potential of the human race, who share the conviction that our students, our sacred trust, when given that opportunity, will learn and thrive and succeed, we will continue to strive together to provide that opportunity and never to yield in the face of adversity.  The journey Toward a Splendid College continues. Thank you. Mil gracias y bendiciones.

I’d like to ask Wally Kostrzewa, our Dean of Community Engagement, to facilitate the program, our discussion and the identification of our shared agenda.

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