Fall 2015 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 back!

george mitchell on stage at Hunter commencementI hope you had a wonderful summer, and that you’re settling in for another great year at Hunter. We finished the 2014-15 academic year with a rousing graduation ceremony highlighted by an inspirational commencement address from a great American statesman, George Mitchell, former Senate Majority Leader, architect of Northern Ireland's Good Friday Peace Accord, Presidential Envoy to the Middle East, and, I'm pleased to add, one of the central figures in Creative Writing Professor Colum McCann's marvelous novel Transatlantic. We were all made proud when Colum helped present Mitchell with the President's Medal.

Now, after a summer of transition, we begin a new academic year with some good news. The new U.S. News & World Report list of the nation's Best Colleges is just out, and Hunter moved up three positions into a tie for 47th position among the North's Regional Universities, and we're tied for 9th among the Top Public Regional Universities in the North. We're especially proud that U.S. News listed us among the Top 10 Schools in the nation for Ethnic Diversity and Least Debt - the loan burden our graduates carry.

And there's more exciting recognition of our school. Princeton Review just published a new book, Colleges That Create Futures: 50 Schools That Launch Careers By Going Beyond the Classroom, a newly created category of college rankings. Hunter is one of only three colleges in New York City and the only CUNY campus to be included. It is further proof that Hunter's extraordinary efforts to expand our students' education with innovative programs like the Chinese Flagship Center and the Muse Scholars - combined with the incredible time and energy the faculty and staff invest in teaching, mentoring and career counseling - has won us national stature.

Changes on the Hunter Team

We start the new term by extending our best wishes to some pillars of the Hunter community who have moved on to exciting new posts, even as we warmly welcome the new arrivals who are stepping into their very large shoes.

Among the movers, no one gives us greater pride - or leaves a bigger hole in our lives - than Provost Vita Rabinowitz, who is the new Executive Vice Chancellor and University Provost of CUNY. Her appointment by Chancellor James B. Milliken is a testament to her exceptional record of achievement at Hunter. While all of us will miss Vita, who has been my great friend and partner, we celebrate CUNY's good fortune in gaining a dynamic new University Provost, and we feel fortunate that this step allows her to stay very much engaged in Hunter's upward progress.

We are fortunate that Dr. Lon Kaufman has agreed to serve as our Acting Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. Many of you had the opportunity to meet Lon when he was a finalist in our Dean of Arts and Sciences search. The feedback from faculty, students and administrators was universally supportive, recognizing his intellectual depth and remarkable record of administrative accomplishments.

Lon was at the University of Illinois-Chicago for more than 30 years, serving in a variety of positions including Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Provost, as well as Vice Provost for Planning and Programs, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Affairs and Dean of the Honors College.  His many achievements at UIC include implementing a popular general education program; improving enrollment, retention and graduation rate; and introducing innovative programs to support faculty development and streamline tracks to tenure and promotion.

There are significant similarities between Hunter and UIC - both are large urban public colleges with major professional schools and diverse student bodies. Given Lon's long experience there as an academic administrator who worked with a broad spectrum of faculty members, he is a perfect fit for us. I've been pleased to arrange a series of small luncheons where he has met with faculty members to hear first-hand about their interests and concerns, and I hope that in time you all will get to meet him. (Please click here for his full CV)

Besides Vita, we're also bidding reluctant farewells to two of our outstanding deans, David Steiner of the School of Education and Jacqueline Mondros of the Silberman School of Social Work.

David has joined the Johns Hopkins School of Education as a full professor and the first Executive Director of its new Institute for Education Policy.  He will be greatly missed, since he was an exceptional leader who took one of the greatest schools of education in the nation to new heights of innovation and academic excellence. The good news is that his partnership with us continues. Our two schools are collaborating on a new Hopkins-Hunter Forum on Education Policy to bring nationally recognized educators and world-class scholars to Roosevelt House for policy discussions, and David will help organize and moderate these events. The first Hopkins-Hunter discussion focusing on gifted education will be held on October 29.

Jackie Mondros has accepted the position of Dean of the School of Social Welfare Health at the SUNY Stony Brook School of Medicine. During her nine years with us, Jackie worked tirelessly on behalf of students, faculty and staff. Her innovative initiatives strengthened Silberman's already impressive national reputation for outstanding academic and community accomplishments. And her leadership in helping to get All in East Harlem up and running made an invaluable contribution to our pioneering, college-wide program that is already having a positive impact on one of the most challenged communities in the nation. We all wish her the best in this exciting new position.

A New Leadership Team

The Hunter community is delighted to congratulate a group of talented leaders who have moved into some of the College's most important positions.

harold holzer director roosevelt house

Harold Holzer is the first Jonathan F. Fanton Director of Roosevelt House, and he is ideally suited to lead what is now one of the nation's preeminent public policy centers.  He is an outstanding scholar who has written, co-authored or edited 50 books about Lincoln and the Civil War period and contributed chapters and introductions to more than 60 other books. His many awards include the 2008 National Humanities Medal and the Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize for his most recent book, Lincoln and the Power of the Press . Amazingly, Harold has achieved all this while pursuing a career that includes journalism (editor of the Manhattan Tribune ); politics (press secretary for Hunter's own Bella Abzug); public servant (the Urban Development Corp. under Gov. Mario Cuomo); broadcasting (Communications Director for WNET-TV), and the arts (Senior Vice President for Public Affairs at the Metropolitan Museum). Here are links to a Washington Post article about how Hillary Clinton influenced his decision to accept our offer and an interview with The New York Times . (Image Credit: Andrew Sullivan for The New York Times)

He arrives at an especially propitious time, since a new, extraordinarily generous gift from the family of Eva Kastan Grove '58 in her honor will support an array of new initiatives at Roosevelt House. (See the section on fundraising for more details.)

Harold was chosen after a national search by a committee representing each of our five schools. I want to thank all the committee members, especially the chair, Vita Rabinowitz, for their hard work in assessing a truly extraordinary list of candidates.  He succeeds Jack Rosenthal, the former New York Times Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and editor, who did an outstanding job as Roosevelt House's Interim Director for the last year. We all owe Jack our thanks and best wishes.

It's a pleasure to say that one of our own, Andrew J. Polsky, has assumed the post of Newman Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences. Andy's more than 30 years at Hunter has given him a deep understanding of the culture and mission of our College, making him the perfect choice to lead its largest School. He has served as the Acting Dean since 2013 while remaining an active scholar in Political Science. Andy played a central role in Hunter's Strategic Planning Process. He has been a strong advocate for the faculty, creating innovative programs and supporting existing initiatives while assisting our expansion into new academic and research spaces like those at the Weill Cornell Belfer Research Building.

We're fortunate that two seasoned and talented faculty members, Jenny Tuten and Mary Cavanaugh, have stepped forward to serve as Acting Deans of the Schools of Education and Social Work.

Jenny Tuten could not be better prepared to lead our Education School. She has served for five years as chair of the School's largest department, Curriculum and Teaching, administering multiple teacher-education programs and mentoring faculty in teaching and scholarship. She has also served on several college-wide committees, giving her a comprehensive understanding of both the School of Education and Hunter College.

Mary M. Cavanaugh is especially qualified to guide the Silberman School of Social Work. She's already demonstrated her strong leadership skills as Associate Dean of Academic and Faculty Affairs. She has spearheaded numerous initiatives including major changes in the MSW program, a newly designed BSW program for undergraduates, and an MSW/MPH dual degree program with the School of Public Health.

The Hunter community is pleased to welcome three new hires - Marshall George, Elizabeth (Betsy) Cooper and Suzanne Farrin who add greatly to our strengths in teacher education, dance and music.

Marshall George's arrival marks a major turning point, for he is the first named professor in our School of Education's history. As the Olshan Professor of Clinical Practice (thanks to an extremely generous gift from Carole Olshan '72 and her family), Marshall will focus on enriching the clinical experience for teacher training. This will involve enhancing existing Hunter partnerships with schools in New York City, as well as developing new relationships with schools throughout the city.

Betsy Cooper, the new director of our Dance Program, joins us from the University of Washington where she helped develop the dance program into one of the nation's best and was then promoted to Divisional Dean overseeing all the university's arts program. We're fortunate to have someone of Betsy's caliber to work with our dance faculty in transforming an already outstanding program into the first free-standing Department of Dance in CUNY.

We were equally fortunate to recruit an outstanding new leader for the Music Department, Suzanne Farrin, who comes to us from SUNY's Purchase College where she was Director of the Conservatory of Music, the Chair of Composition and a tenured professor. If you are a fan of WQXR radio, there's a good chance you've heard her discussing music, since she has been the host for the past four years of Off the Grid .  It's a pleasure to welcome her to Hunter.

And let us extend a warm welcome to each of the 43 new faculty members who have joined us this semester. They come from across the academic spectrum, and each brings impressive credentials and experience to our College. I'm confident that what is already one of the most admired faculties in the nation will grow even stronger thanks to their presence.

Modernizing & Expanding the Campus

Hunter is going through a historic period of renovation, modernization and expansion. One of the most important of these projects is the remodeling of the Cooperman Library. The second phase, including the installation of state-of-the-art compact shelving on the B-2 level, was completed last fall. That allowed us to move most of the volumes from the 6th and 7th floors to B-2 so we could move ahead with the third phase, the renovation of 6 and 7. That work is now underway and should be finished for the 2016-17 school year.

The changes we have planned are truly exciting. In addition to the reading and study space, on the 6th floor, the School of Education will have the first-class library it has long deserved, including smart classrooms, a technology help-and-loan center and a lab for analyzing student-teaching videos, a field in which our School of Education is a national pioneer. The 7th floor will be home to the new Silverstein Student Success Center, which will bring together in one place Hunter's three student-tutoring facilities: the Dolciani Mathematics Center, the Rockowitz Writing Center and the new Skirball Science Center. The 7th floor will also house a lecture hall and a new pre-professional center for students pursuing careers in law, business, medicine and health.

We're working hard to minimize the dislocations caused by the library modernization, including finding replacement spaces for areas that are temporarily closed. I deeply appreciate your understanding and patience.  The result when it reopens in early 2017 will be a magnificent 21st century library with cutting-edge technology and spaces that are specifically designed to improve student study and learning.

Another exciting project is also moving forward - the conversion of the Kennedy Child Study Center on E. 67th St. into a grand new home for the Theatre Department to be known as Baker Hall. We'll take possession of the building next month and work with the faculty, staff, and our Theater Advisory Board to plan its renovation.  Meanwhile, the Kennedy Center has moved its outstanding pre-school program into a new home in East Harlem right around the corner from our Silberman Social Work Building, which allows us to strengthen the partnership we've already forged.

hunter research teamHunter researchers specializing in bioinformatics, biomedical imaging, cancer biology and infectious diseases are fully settled in at the Weill Cornell Belfer Research Building on E. 69th St. where we’ve purchased an entire floor.  This is such a great breakthrough for Hunter that it is already being hailed as our “move into the scientific revolution of tomorrow.” That’s a quote from an editorial about “Hunter’s bold leap” that ran in the Daily News on April 18.

If you don’t know this already, please be aware that Belfer has state-of-the-art conference halls, meeting rooms and outdoor spaces that you can reserve for events. You may visit our website or contact Acting Associate Provost Mark Hauber at mhauber@hunter.cuny.edu to book the large or small conference rooms (which are free of charge for Hunter faculty) or to reserve one of the building’s other spaces (which may involve a fee).

I also want to encourage faculty members to contact Mark Hauber to arrange a tour of our Belfer floor so you and your students can see first-hand the exciting research being conducted there and look for ways to connect your work to it.

Hunter construction site

There’s more exciting news on the horizon for the Hunter community – the spectacular new science and health professions building that is being built in partnership with Memorial Sloan Kettering. If you pass by the site on 74th St. and the East River, you’ll see that construction work is already well underway. Our two institutions will share the foundation that is currently under construction; above ground, the project will divide into separate buildings for each institution. Our building will house our nationally recognized Schools of Nursing and Physical Therapy, and six full floors of cutting-edge labs for Hunter researchers in biology, chemistry, and physics – a transformative advance for our College.

We will keep you updated on our progress.

The Master Plan: First Steps

In addition to the many building projects that we have completed or have in development, we continue to think about new ways to meet future needs. Specifically, we are at the beginning of a year-long master planning process to solicit, evaluate and prioritize suggestions for improving the 68th Street campus, consistent with our resources and our strategic vision of a research-oriented, student-centered university.

We launched this initiative last spring when the Senate Master Planning Committee, chaired by Urban Planning Professor Laxmi Ramasubramanian, was asked to seek aspirational concepts for improving our facilities and making the best use of our spaces from a broad range of Hunter stakeholders. This advice will help the Committee develop a set of guiding principles.

To help advance the process, we’ve engaged the planning firm Synthetivity to work with the Senate Master Planning Committee. They’ve already taken the first step by asking more than 300 students this question: “What advice would you give to improve the campus for the next generation of students?” Stay tuned for future announcements, since the Senate Committee will host a series of events including focus groups, ideas sessions and an online survey. You can also submit comments to hcspace@hunter.cuny.edu.

Even as we develop this broad new, forward-looking plan, we continue moving ahead with essential projects to improve the Hunter campus, like refurbishing the Faculty Dining Room. Some of these projects do require everyone’s patience, especially the modernization of 18 escalators in the East and West Buildings. When that work is done, there will be safer, far more reliable escalators. Meanwhile, I’m grateful for your understanding and support during this time.

We are also pleased to address a longstanding problem: the difficulty people have in navigating the 68th Street campus. Unless you know the way already, finding a particular room or office can be a challenge.  We’re responding with a system known as Wayfinding. We’ve already installed one kiosk in the West Building’s lobby and in the East Building, and over the coming weeks, additional kiosks will be installed in the North Building and in the entrance area of the Kaye Playhouse. The Wayfinding kiosks help people navigate successfully from where they are located at that moment, and will also provide directory assistance and detailed information on upcoming Hunter events.

All the projects underway now and planned for the future will be moved forward by our new Assistant Vice President of Facilities, James Gleba. James is a proven veteran in the building field who was the Construction Director for CUNY’s Department of Design, Construction and Management where he was involved in all of the University’s managed capital projects. It’s a pleasure to welcome him aboard.

Student Success

We’ve made a major commitment over the last decade to increase student success, and we can all be proud that these efforts have significantly increased both graduation and retention rates. I want to thank everyone who has contributed to these vitally important goals especially to the Senate Committee on Student Success.

 I am also particularly grateful to the faculty and staff members of the Presidential Task Force on Advising, especially the co-chairs Richard Kaye and Shannon Salinas, for the outstanding work they’ve done over the past year. The Task Force recommended among other things that advising should be broadly defined, all the relevant programs should be better coordinated, and technology be better utilized to connect students and advisors. I have asked Dean of Students Eija Ayravainen, Associate Dean Shannon Salinas, Acting Provost Lon Kaufman and Acting Associate Provost Vanya Quinones-Jenab to draft a comprehensive plan to carry out the Task Force’s recommendations.

Working closely with both the Task Force and the Senate's Student Success Committee, we’ve also taken several other steps to improve student success. For example, our Take 15 initiative – which reminds students of their total credit goal and encourages them to stay on track for graduation – is making real progress. In 2009 just 26 percent of freshmen were taking 15 credits a semester. In 2014, it was 59 percent.   We’ve also been more proactive in orienting incoming freshmen and transfer students, using a Facebook-based Schools App to build community among students even before they arrive on campus.

Improving student success is a critical priority of our strategic plan.  I look forward to working with the two committees and the entire Hunter community this year to further this goal.

Drawing on the Power of the Arts

One of the major goals we at Hunter have set for ourselves is making the arts a central part of every student’s life, drawing on both the extraordinary quality of the arts at Hunter and the immense opportunities New York City offers.  Our latest initiative is a new Office of the Arts. Led by Dara Meyers-Kingsley, its mission is to expand Hunter students’ access to museums, galleries, theaters, concert halls and performing arts centers. Among the many services the Office provides is a place on its website (www.hunter.cuny.edu/arts) where students can find free or reduced-price admissions to events, as well as information about arts-focused internships at major institutions across the city.

Since its launch, a number of students have already taken advantage of the Office’s services, gaining summer internships at major institutions like the Guggenheim Museum and The Public Theater. The Office has also created a Hunter Arts app where students can find out what’s happening at arts institutions within a 20-block radius of the main Hunter campus. Look for updates at the Office of the Arts’ section of Hunter Gatherer .

This fall, Arts Across the Curriculum and Roosevelt House will work closely on a series of events exploring politics, policy and the arts which will include lectures, performances, seminars and three student competitions. We also hope that many of you will take advantage of the innovative new courses offered by the Arts Across the Curriculum, such as New York City through the Arts and Choreographing Genomics .

And Arts Across the Curriculum is bringing us something special this fall: an exclusive preview of a new show by Sarah Jones, the Tony and Obie Award-winning playwright and performer. The show, Sell/Buy/Date , focuses on the sex work industry. Keep an eye out for the date of the community performance.

In keeping with our expanding role in the vibrant New York art scene, the Hunter galleries are once again putting on exciting shows this fall.

The Experimental Television Center has just opened in the Studio Art Gallery at 205 Hudson Street, created by Hunter’s curator Sarah Watson and supported in part by Arts Across the Curriculum. For more than 40 years, the Experimental Television Center was one of the pre-eminent organizations for the creation and presentation of video art.  This show marks the first academic survey of its crucial yet under-recognized role in the evolution of this new art form.

If You Leave Me Can I Come Too? opens in October in Hunter’s East Harlem Gallery, showcasing 15 internationally known contemporary artists, including Keith Haring. It’s an important show in the gallery in our Silberman School of Social Work Building, which is emerging as a major arts center not only for East Harlem, but the entire city.

And Boundless Realities: Paintings from the Cisneros Collection opens October 30 at the Leubsdorf Gallery. This exhibition of 19th and early 20th century Latin American landscapes was curated by Harper Montgomery, the Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Professor in Latin American Art. The past two years have seen Latin American art take center stage at Hunter, thanks to our acquisition of the Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros . The collection was part of an especially generous gift from Ms. De Cisneros that also included funding for Harper’s important new position and support for this unique show.

Fundraising Makes the Difference

Hunter has had some remarkable success in raising funds from our wonderful alumni, friends of the College and private sources, and these gifts are making an enormous difference in the life of our school. Thanks to our supporters’ generosity, we’ve been able to dedicate almost $4 million to scholarships this year – a record – making it possible for students who otherwise would have to struggle with jobs and loans to afford college, or wouldn’t be able to attend at all, get the first-rate Hunter education that will pave the way for rewarding lives and careers.

We can all be proud of the $9 million gift we received just this month from the family of Eva Kastan Grove ’58 to celebrate her 80th birthday and to help promote her lifelong interest in social justice and the rights of immigrants. The grant will establish a student engagement program in public policy and human rights at Roosevelt House as well as provide scholarships and internships. For full details, including Eva’s personal history as an immigrant, click onto this Wall Street Journal article.

lauder with nursing studentsThis year also saw Hunter receive one of the largest gifts ever given to a nursing school, $10 million from cosmetics executive Leonard Lauder. The gift will provide student scholarships, fund salaries and research grants to attract top-notch faculty, and help our School of Nursing purchase cutting-edge technology. The gift – which follows in the wake of Mr. Lauder’s many other contributions to Hunter in support of the arts and breast cancer research – was given in memory of his wife, Evelyn Lauder ’58. Here’s a photo of him with nursing students who are benefiting from his scholarship funds. And for more details on the gift, click onto this Wall Street Journal feature .

If you have any ideas for supporting our fundraising efforts – or any promising leads on donors – please reach out to Assistant Vice President of Institutional Advancement Sara Meyers at sm2216@hunter.cuny.edu. Sara has stepped forward to lead our Development Office, replacing Pat Moran who was recruited by NYU to be Executive Director of its Heyman Center for Philanthropy and Fundraising and would welcome your support.

Upcoming Events Worth Watching For

Roosevelt House has another strong schedule of events for the fall semester, including discussions with the authors of some books that seem to take their topics right out of today’s newspapers. Check the website for full details, but here are some of the highlights:

The RSVPs for the October 6 discussion with Melanne Verveer and Kim Azzarelli on their book Fast Forward: How Women can Achieve Power and Purpose have been so great that we’ve moved it to Kaye Playhouse.

On October 13, there’ll be another straight-from-the-headlines discussion with Steven Lee Myers about New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin.

Just as topical will be the October 27 discussion with Hunter’s own Professor Nancy Foner and co-author Richard Alba about Strangers No More: Immigration and the Challenges of Integration.

We expect a great turnout on November 5 to hear from Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik about The Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

And Tom Farley, the former city Health Commissioner who served with us as the 2014 Joan H. Tisch Distinguished Fellow in Public Health, will return on November 18 to talk about the book he authored while in residence at Roosevelt House, Saving Gotham .

We’re pleased that faculty members like Professor Foner are part of the fall schedule. Roosevelt House offers great opportunities for Hunter faculty to take part in book discussions and similar events as panelists or presenters. If you’re interested in exploring one of these possibilities, please reach out to Senior Director of Programs Fay Rosenfeld at fay.rosenfeld@hunter.cuny.edu .

The Distinguished Writers Series has, as always, an exciting line-up of guest speakers for this fall, including best-selling author Walter Mosley on December 8. Click here for the complete schedule.

In closing, let me encourage you to stay engaged with the Hunter community throughout the term. Please check your Hunter emails, your MyHunter page, Hunter’s many Twitter feeds (including @Hunter_College and @HunterPresident ), 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 please don’t hesitate to contact me ( president@hunter.cuny.edu ) with any questions you have.

My best wishes for a productive semester.

Jennifer J. Raab