Fall 2014 Open Line

From Jennifer J. Raab, Hunter College President

Each semester, President Raab issues an "Open Line" to all students, staff and faculty at Hunter College. See the Open Line Archive.

Welcome to a New Year

Now that another great year at Hunter is underway, I want to bring you up to date on some of the significant happenings on our campus, as well as the important developments of this past summer.

We began this academic year with a new CUNY Chancellor, James B. Milliken, who was the widely respected President of the University of Nebraska. He visited the campus to meet with groups of faculty, staff and students and attended several Roosevelt House events. It is safe to say that he has gained a great sense of CUNY's largest and most ambitious campus. We look forward to a close and productive relationship.

The visits gave the Chancellor an opportunity to see first-hand the redesign and expansion of the Hunter campus that is now underway, including one of our signature projects, the modernization of the main library.  That project continues moving forward, now that the highly successful 3rd floor renovations are complete.  The next phase-the installation of state-of-the-art compact shelving on the B-2 level to hold the books being moved from the 6th and 7th floors-is almost complete. This, in turn, will clear the way for the major changes and additions we have planned for the 6th and 7th floors: The 6th floor will include our first Education library, new classrooms and the Hunter-Macaulay Honors College Center. The 7th floor will house the Silverstein Student Success Center with redesigned learning centers where students can get tutoring in math, science and writing, and a new pre-professional career center for students pursuing law, business and health.

Another great Hunter breakthrough will come this January when a group of our scientists move into their state-of-the-art laboratories on the full floor we've purchased in Weill Cornell Medical College's recently opened Belfer Research Building on E. 69th Street. This will be a transformative moment for the College, since students and faculty will be moving out of a building that opened in 1939 into a 21st century research facility where they will work alongside their Weill Cornell colleagues and collaborators. Through a competitive application process, 12 scientists have been selected thus far to move to Belfer. They cross the disciplines of biology, chemistry, physics, and medical laboratory sciences. Consistent with the themes of the Belfer Building, they are experts in cancer biology, bio-informatics and computational genomics, bio-imaging and nanotechnology, and infectious diseases. You can get more information on the Belfer Building and the scientists who'll be moving there at www.hunter.cuny.edu/belfer.

There's equally exciting news about the spectacular new science research and health professions building that we're developing in partnership with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.  As you'll see if you go by the site on E. 74th Street and the FDR, the land has been cleared in anticipation of construction. A lawsuit to stop the project was dismissed this summer, and so with the physical and legal obstacles now removed, we are working with the Chancellor's Office to plan a groundbreaking ceremony.

This means our School of Nursing is on track to get the great new home it deserves. The news couldn't come at a better time, since we just welcomed the first cohort of freshman to our new Nursing Honors Program. The goal is to create an elite core of nursing leaders by recruiting top high school students who will be fast-tracked into our graduate nursing programs. The School of Nursing also greeted its new William Randolph Hearst Professor in Gerontology Nursing this semester. She is Dr. Elizabeth Capezuti, who comes to us from NYU where she was on the School of Nursing faculty and held the Rowe Professorship in Successful Aging. We are pleased to welcome her.

We are now in the design phase for yet another major Hunter project: creating a new home for our highly regarded Theatre Department.  It will be called Baker Hall in honor of Patty Baker '82 and her husband Jay, whose $10 million gift makes possible the acquisition and conversion of the Kennedy Child Study Center on E. 67th Street just around the corner, literally, from the main campus.

Taken together, these significant additions to the campus-the cutting-edge laboratories in Weill Cornell's Belfer Building, our new science and health building on 74th Street and the new home for the Theatre Department-mean that many faculty members, staff and programs will move out of the North Building as their new homes become available. This opens an opportunity for us to think about the future of the North Building and the space that will be freed up there, a conversation that will involve all parts of the Hunter community.  We look forward to working with the Senate Master Plan Committee and to retaining a professional space planner to help guide these conversations.

Buying the Kennedy Child Study Center building has the added benefit of strengthening Hunter's ties with the Center which will carry on its work with children with disabilities in its new home on 120th Street in East Harlem, just one block north of Hunter's Silberman Building that houses our Schools of Social Work and Urban Public Health.  Working collaboratively with this new partner, we'll move ahead on our goal of improving conditions in one of the most challenged communities in the nation.

Our commitment is to address East Harlem's health, education and economic problems by working directly with residents, neighborhood organizations and public agencies. We call this comprehensive program All in East Harlem to signify the extent and intensity of our dedication to the community. Under the inspired leadership of Jackie Mondros, the Dean of our Silberman School of Social Work, we have enlisted a full range of Hunter schools and departments in the effort including Social Work, Urban Public Health, Education, Urban Planning, Art, Geography and Nursing, as well as placing undergraduates as interns in local organizations. All in East Harlem was formally launched in June when we hosted a major weekend conference bringing together hundreds of community stakeholders, community-based organizations, local agencies and residents to discuss their top priorities and how Hunter can best support the community. At the top of the list were education, health and housing needs and arts and culture. We're grateful to all of you and our partners in East Harlem, who are participating in this effort. If you would like to be a part of All in East Harlem, please contact Christian Ramsay at crams@hunter.cuny.edu.

Our School of Education had an especially good summer. When the National Council on Teacher Quality released its 2014 rankings, the School's programs in the three categories that were measured-elementary, secondary and special education-were the highest ranked in New York State, and five graduate and undergraduate programs received a national ranking, making Hunter one of only four universities in the nation to demonstrate such comprehensive excellence. The School of Education will get further recognition on October 19 when the American Association of State Colleges & Universities presents it with the 2014 Christa McAuliffe Excellence in Teacher Education Award.  And the School of Education has acquired its first endowed professorship, thanks to a $1.1 million gift from Hunter Foundation Trustee Carole Olshan '72 and her husband Mort. The Olshan Professor of Clinical Practice will be a prominent scholar who will play a central role in using research to develop best practices in teaching.

Private contributions to Hunter like the Olshans' have increased dramatically, in large part because of our growing reputation as one of the nation's top public colleges. We have raised a quarter of a billion dollars in donations during the past 13 years, and used these funds to launch and grow many new programs.  We were pleased that Susan '65 and Roger Hertog have renewed their support for the MFA in Creative Writing Program with a $500,000 challenge grant. Their generosity helped us develop a program that is now ranked the most competitive in New York City and one of the most highly regarded in the country.

We are so proud of the extraordinary success of the program's graduates.  In the last six months alone three have seen their first books hailed in major publications. Redeployment by Phil Klay '11 was featured on the front page of The New York Times Sunday Book Review with a rave review from Michiko Kakutani. Maria Venegas '08 also had a great review of her memoir Bulletproof Vest in the Times Sunday Book Review. And The Invention of Exile by Vanessa Manko '09 was praised in The Boston Globe and other major outlets.

And when the National Book Foundation asked Creative Writing Professor Colum McCann to appear at a September 30 ceremony to announce the names of its 2014 "5 Under 35" authors-five young writers with promising futures-two of the authors whose names Colum read out were graduates of our program: Phil Klay, who was honored for Redeployment, and Alex Gilvarry, whose first novel From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant has been widely praised. (Let me add my gratitude to everyone who wrote when Colum was seriously injured after coming to the aid of a woman in a street dispute. I'm pleased to report that he is fully recovered!)

Congratulations are also due to the co-director of the Creative Writing MFA Program, Tom Sleigh, who has won Poetry Magazine's 2014 Editors Prize for Feature Article for his essay "To Be Incarnational."

The line-up for this semester's Distinguished Writers Series is-once again-truly outstanding. Salman Rushdie led off in early September followed by Wallace Shawn and Deborah Eisenberg, and in the coming weeks we'll welcome Roxanna Robinson, Kim Addonizio and Peter Godwin. For full details, go to http://survey.constantcontact.com/survey/a07e9qa1q2ghz4c42xh/start.

Hunter also hosted another headline artist, the superstar Sting, on October 5 as we inaugurated a partnership with Bravo's "Inside the Actors Studio" television show.  We were pleased that a number of students and faculty were able to attend.  We also have a limited number of tickets available for an interview with Neil Patrick Harris at the Kaye on October 15 at 7pm.  If you are interested, go to this link: http://survey.constantcontact.com/survey/a07e9xxd2ivi0xwhnd2/start.

gego gerd leufert dialog gallery wall

Our splendid new MFA in the Arts Building in Tribeca has kicked off the academic year with a show of works by Hunter alumni. It was curated by current Hunter students and included pieces by alum Jules de Balincourt, whose work has been featured at the Museum of Modern Art.  Another Hunter alum worked with students to curate Gego & Gerd Leufert: In Dialog, an exhibition at the Leubsdorf Gallery of works by two artists who had a profound influence on the arts in Venezuela.  For a full listing of Hunter art galleries with their locations and schedules, go to http://www.hunter.cuny.edu/art/galleries.

Roosevelt House greeted its new Interim Director this summer, Jack Rosenthal. Jack had a distinguished career as a reporter, editor and executive at The New York Times, where among his many honors he won a Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. It is a pleasure to welcome him.

Roosevelt House continues to win praise and attract national attention, including guest-star appearances in three episodes of Ken Burns' outstanding documentary on the Roosevelts (http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/the-roosevelts/). Roosevelt House was also the subject of an excellent feature story by the Associated Press (http://bigstory.ap.org/article/nycs-roosevelt-house-history-and-education) and of one of my Huffington Post blogs (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jennifer-j-raab/roosevelt-house-saving-th_b_5830786.html).

And of course Roosevelt House continues to draw audiences for its wonderful line-up of programs. This past summer included an examination of the mayoralty of John V. Lindsay, a discussion of the case for marriage equality and a symposium on the future of New York City's charter schools, as well as conversations about such landmark figures as Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Richard Nixon and Clare Booth Luce. The upcoming schedule is just as stimulating, including appearances in October by former Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and The New York Times op-ed columnist Charles Blow, who will be interviewed by our journalism Professor Karen Hunter.  And on October 27 there will be a screening at the Kaye Playhouse of Fed Up, Katie Couric's documentary about obesity in America, followed by a conversation between Katie and Roosevelt House's own Dr. Thomas Farley, the Joan H. Tisch Distinguished Fellow in Public Health. To RSVP and for a full rundown of upcoming Roosevelt House programs, go to http://www.roosevelthouse.hunter.cuny.edu/programs/.

Over the summer we screened the emotional film "Underwater Dreams" about students who were brought into the U.S. without documentation as children.  We used the occasion to announce our partnership in a new national program to provide these "Dreamers" with scholarships. Launched by TheDream.US, the program provides Dreamers with aid to help them enroll and stay in school until they graduate.  I urge everyone who is a Dreamer to go this web site-http://www.thedream.us/-to get information on how to apply for one of these invaluable scholarships. And do it as soon as possible, since the October 26 deadline is approaching. I also want to urge every student and faculty member who knows a Dreamer to make sure he or she is aware of this program.

And while we're delivering urgent messages, here's a reminder about our Take 15 campaign to get students to take 15 credits every semester (or 30 credits a year) so they'll be on track to graduate in four years. Stretching out a college education increases both costs and the risk of not completing your degree.  Remember: full-time, in-state students can take up to 17.5 credits at the same cost as taking 12 credits.  Students who need aid in attending full-time should go to http://www.hunter.cuny.edu/onestop/finances/financial-aid/scholarships.

Getting to the graduation ceremony is always a big event for students, of course. But it's going to be hard to top our 209th commencement when we had nine valedictorians, all with 4.0 GPAs. Not even the great minds in our accounting program could calculate a way to break this amazing tie. Even more impressive was the fact that four of the nine were immigrants who came to the U.S. at an early age, further proof of how Hunter's high-quality, affordable education can open doors of opportunity for aspiring young people.

We were proud to highlight the success of so many of our students with special awards and honors. Hunter has always had an exceptional record of producing Fulbright recipients, and this year was no exception with five winners. In addition, three members of the Chinese Flagship Program, our selective immersion program for undergraduates studying Chinese language and culture, won highly competitive Fulbright-Hays scholarship awards to study in China.

Our alumni continue making their marks in the world, too, especially here in the City where we are a major source of public- and private-sector talent. Nothing says that more impressively than the fact that Mayor Bill De Blasio has named Hunter alums to four of the City's top posts:  Tom Finkelpearl, MA '83, Commissioner of Cultural Affairs; Mitchell Silver, MUP '93, Parks Commissioner; Donna Corrado, Hunter-CUNY Graduate Center DSW '13, Commissioner for the Aging, and Cynthia López, BA '89, Commissioner of the Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment.

Our already outstanding faculty is gaining new depth this semester through the addition of 33 new full-time members. They will strengthen our College academically across the board, including specialists in Classics, Nursing, Philosophy, Political Science, Social Work, Special Education and Urban Public Health. We are delighted to welcome them all.

Please remember that we're committed to supporting faculty members in every way we can, including the Presidential Travel Award Program, which helps fund participation in conferences and research-related travel. Applications are due November 3.  For more information, call the Provost's Office, 212-772-4150, or go to http://www.hunter.cuny.edu/provost/teaching-research/presidential-initiatives.

We are equally dedicated to fostering contacts between the faculty and their students not only in the classroom, but outside it where the mentoring that is such an extraordinarily important part of the Hunter educational experience takes place. To help support this essential effort we've created the Presidential Student Engagement Initiatives which fund a wide range of student-faculty interactions, from engaging in research projects, to making field trips, to attending film screenings, and much more.  For details on how you can make these special funds part of your teaching experience, call the Provost's Office or go to http://www.hunter.cuny.edu/student-engagement/.

One of the venues for outside-the-classroom initiatives and collaboration between Hunter faculty, staff and students is the LGBT Policy Center. The Center, which is a part of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute, fosters social science research, public policy and creative dialogue that addresses issues affecting LGBT individuals, and it supports LGBT education and training opportunities for students. We're delighted to welcome the Center's new Interim Director, Dr. Elizabethe Payne, who comes to us from Syracuse University and who will continue building on the great foundation of former co-directors Jeff Parsons and Markus Bidell. For more information, go to http://www.hunter.cuny.edu/the-lgbt-center/.

In closing, I encourage you to stay engaged with the Hunter community throughout the year. Please check your Hunter emails, your MyHunter page, Hunter's many Twitter feeds (including @Hunter_College and @HunterPresident) and  Instagram accounts (@HunterCollege and @HunterPresident), Hunter's Facebook and Flickr pages, our interactive online events calendar, the campus video screens, and the Hunter website to keep informed of College news and the wide array of events happening on campus.

And don't hesitate to contact me (president@hunter.cuny.edu) with any questions or ideas you may have. We wish you all the best for a productive year.

Jennifer J. Raab