Update from President Kelly

Update from President Kelly

writeDear Friends,

I hope you enjoyed a restorative break. I write to update you on current events at the Graduate Center.

Most important, our financial circumstances remain stable. In accordance with Governor Cuomo’s commitment to five years of revenue certainty for CUNY and SUNY, next year’s state budget preserves CUNY’s base funding. This is extremely important news. CUNY is again free from the budget-cutting woes that afflict so many public universities. We are grateful both to Governor Cuomo and our representatives in Albany and to Chancellor Goldstein and his staff.

In this period of relative stasis, we are advancing the three primary goals articulated in the Graduate Center’s strategic plan.

The first of those involves enhancing student support. This year we awarded 83 dissertation-year fellowships at a total cost of 1.65 million dollars. Last year that number was 70; in 2009 it was 33.  In five years we’ve tripled our investment in these fellowships. We are also developing new programs to advance research prior to the dissertation phase, including archival work.

Further, the fiscal stability of the university has enabled the chancellery to increase, on an incremental basis, the value of our fellowships.  The 200 packages we’ve extended for 2013-14 year increase stipends and reduce teaching requirements. We are grateful to the Chancellor both for this enhancement and for his ongoing support of doctoral education. We are also attentive to the disparity in ECF teaching responsibilities that will arise during the 2014-15 academic year.

These advances are important steps in a long march forward. In 2001, the Graduate Center provided 14 million dollars in student support; next fall that number will be 51 million.

We’ve also made significant progress on the second of the strategic plan’s objectives. Jennifer Furlong, our new Director of Career Planning and Professional Development CareerPlan@gc.cuny.edu, has had a major impact in the brief time she has been with us. She has launched a broad range of initiatives that include career counseling, job and fellowship postings, and a series of innovative workshops and panels. I’m excited about Dr. Furlong’s work and look forward to its evolution.

The third of the strategic plan’s goals calls for the enrichment of the Graduate Center’s research culture. Here too, there is significant progress to report. The Advanced Research Collaborative, launched with a major gift from the Mellon Foundation, brings together in trans-disciplinary seminars, doctoral students, GC and college-based faculty, visiting scholars, and post-docs. Seminar subjects are broadly cast and include such topics as inequality, globalization, immigration, science studies, and religion in the contemporary world. In the coming academic year, ARC will launch a Distinguished Fellows Program that will bring 15 accomplished scholars to the Graduate Center, 8 from within CUNY and 7 from other universities. ARC will also support student research in a new praxis seminar, which will bring groups of Level II students into discussion with our distinguished visitors.

There is news on other fronts as well. Permissions are now in place to begin the build-out of the ninth floor and the construction of a roof-top pavilion. When that project is completed, we will have another attractive sky-lit assembly area and a show-stopping space under the presiding presence of the Empire State Building. Funding for this project has been provided by the City Council and by the Manhattan Borough President’s Office. We are very grateful for that support. Thanks as well to the BP’s Office for underwriting our new digital signs, an initiative that has made the extraordinary wealth of activity at the Graduate Center visible to us all.

I note as well the opening of a new staff lounge on the eighth floor (Rm. 8404), and thank all those responsible for bringing that project to completion.

We’ve begun this spring a three-year process designed to manage more attentively the size of our incoming doctoral cohorts. Our focus is on both student support and placement opportunities.  Adjustments will be very modest. During the next three years we will reduce our incoming class by a total of 61 students across 24 programs. When those reductions are realized, the Graduate Center will remain one of the top ten U.S. universities in the number of degrees awarded in the Humanities and Social Sciences.

Our efforts to insure the diversity of our student body continue. We’ve increased the value of the Magnet Fellowships we will award going forward, and this year we expanded investment in the Dean Harrison program. I’m pleased to report that during this academic year every eligible student who applied for a Harrison grant received support.

Our residence facility continues to enjoy success. From its opening day, it has been fully subscribed; a lengthy waiting list is in place. To accommodate that demand we hope to build a second facility. Discussions center on an attractive property in Long Island City. We are not at the point of agreement —  I’ve learned that such deals are always fluid — but we remain optimistic.

Our development efforts continue to bear fruit. This semester we passed the 100 million dollar mark. Funding for public higher education remains fragile, and the cultivation of non-tax levy revenue streams grows ever more important.  I am grateful to the many friends of the Graduate Center who support our work.

I’m delighted to report that at our commencement ceremonies at Lincoln Center on May 23, we will present honorary degrees to the theatrical magus, Robert Wilson, and the influential New York artist,  Lawrence Weiner. Distinguished Professor David Nasaw will deliver the commencement address. I hope to see many of you there.

All of this is the tip of the iceberg. I feel very fortunate, indeed, to be a member of this remarkable community.

Warm regards,

Bill