Fall 2016 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!

I hope you had a wonderful summer and are settling in for another great year at Hunter. There’s much to report as we pursue our Strategic Plan of focusing on Hunter’s excellence as a research-oriented, student-focused institution that serves as a 21st century model of urban public higher education.

Hunter’s Standing Continues to Climb

We are pleased to report wonderful news from U.S. News & World Report: Hunter’s academic standing has risen to 42nd among the Best Universities in the North, up from 47th last year and 50th the year before. Our progress is even more impressive when you consider that we were 62nd in 2007. U.S. News also ranks us as 11th among the Best Public Colleges in the North. Kiplinger’s Personal Finance names Hunter “one of the nation’s Best Value Colleges.” And Princeton Review calls us “one of the nation's best colleges for students seeking a superb education with great career preparation” – a perfect description of the Hunter experience.

Welcoming New Members of Hunter’s Community

Michael MiddletonWe’re delighted to welcome the new Silverstein Dean of Education, Dr. Michael Middleton. Dean Middleton, who was selected after a national search, comes to us with an extraordinary background for leading Hunter’s School of Education, one of the nation’s foremost teacher-training institutions. He has served as the head of two university education schools, first as Chairman of the Education Department at the University of New Hampshire Durham and most recently as Dean of Education at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Like Hunter, the University of Massachusetts Boston is an urban public university with a deep commitment to serving underrepresented communities. As a first-generation college graduate himself who earned a BA and Master’s from Harvard and a PhD from Michigan, Dean Middleton has a personal understanding of what motivates so many of our students. He is a widely admired innovator in program development, strategic planning and diversity initiatives.

We are also delighted to welcome Dr. Stephen Lassonde as the director of the newly created Office of Prestigious Scholarships & Fellowships. Dr. Lassonde has a history of student engagement that ideally suits him to lead an office that prepares students to apply for top awards like the Goldwater, Marshall, Rhodes and Truman. He was most recently the Dean of Student Life at Harvard College, he served as a Yale residential college master, and was a Deputy Dean at Brown. Dr. Lassonde will work with faculty and advisors to identify strong candidates early in their academic careers, and he will support recent graduates in applying for suitable awards.

35 New Scholars Join the Hunter Faculty

We’re proud that notwithstanding two consecutive years of CUNY budget cuts, Hunter has been able to add 35 new faculty members this semester, leading the way at CUNY. We are able to achieve this expansion of our already outstanding faculty thanks to the prudent management of our budget, supplemented by grant funding and contributions from private philanthropy. The new faculty members add depth and breadth to each of our Schools and will further enhance our scholarship and impact in the classroom.

The Hunter School of Arts & Sciences is welcoming a diverse group of faculty, including computer scientists, economists, a psychologist who’s an expert on how the stigma of HIV affects gay and bisexual men and a molecular biologist who’s a leader in the field of gene regulation. Arts & Sciences also welcomes two new academic leaders. Prof. Brighde Mullins, a poet and playwright, joins us from USC as the new Director of our Goldberg MFA in Playwriting. Prof. Carol Dilley, a choreographer and performer, comes to us from Bates College and will serve as the Interim Chair of our Dance Department.

New faculty at our School of Nursing include a specialist in helping women cancer survivors and a Captain in the New Jersey National Guard Medical Command whose research has focused on biological markers for suicide in veterans. We are also pleased that Dr. Philip Alcabes has rejoined the School of Urban Public Health as Director of the BS in Community Health Program.

In addition to their new dean, Hunter’s School of Education welcomes eight new faculty members, including three in the critical field of special education. And the dedicated new faculty at the Silberman School of Social Work focus their scholarship on inequality in health and housing, as well as homelessness in the LGBT community.

How Philanthropy Is Transforming Our Campus

Our success in raising private contributions from alumni and friends of Hunter – $335 million in the past 15 years – allows us to purchase and build new spaces, undertake major capital improvements, recruit stellar faculty, initiate new academic programs and offer our students increasing numbers of scholarships and fellowships. A significant part of the philanthropy this year supports our strategic goal of making

Hunter a leader in arts education:

A $10 million gift from Larry and Klara ('54) Silverstein will help us renovate the Assembly Hall in anticipation of its serving as the New York Philharmonic’s temporary home while two years of remodeling at Lincoln Center are completed.

  • A $2 million gift from George and Frayda (’60) Lindemann has established a named professorship for the Music Department’s Chair, Prof. Suzanne Farrin.
  • A $500,000 gift from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has created the Mellon Arts Fellowships, a pipeline for students from under-represented minorities into the world of the arts.
  • Thanks to a $500,000 gift, our Dance Department has acquired a second named studio – “The Jody,” named for the donor, Foundation Board member Jody Arnhold. It joins “The Peggy,” (see below) named for former Assistant Provost Peggy Tirschwell and funded by an earlier $500,000 gift from her brother, Richard Gilder.

Hunter dance class

We’re also extremely pleased that private contributions are helping us bring more practitioners-in-residence to our campus. A $450,000 donation from Nurture Nature Foundation has established the Theodore Kheel Fellowship in Transportation Policy at the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College. Named for the legendary New York lawyer, labor mediator and environmentalist, the Kheel Fellow will help develop a transportation plan for New York that can serve as an international model. And the Elise C. Tepper Fellowship, named in honor of a 1956 graduate and funded by a $300,000 grant, will support a practitioner-in-residence at the School of Education.

Modernizing & Expanding Our Campus

Hunter construction siteWe are all indebted to the Senate Master Plan Committee which, under the leadership of Prof. Laxmi Ramasubramian and with the help of Synthetivity, LLC, has produced an insightful analysis of our campus’s physical state and a strong vision for our future. The committee’s call for improved and reimagined spaces for teaching, learning and collaborating will lead to changes that will encourage people to spend more time and be more productive on campus. The committee’s principles will guide the campus expansion and modernization which is already underway. By far the most ambitious current project is our collaboration with Sloan Kettering to create a magnificent new science research building  that will serve as a pipeline for generations of Hunter-trained scientists and provide a 21st century home for our School of Nursing and physical therapy programs. Construction on this breakthrough project is well underway, with the foundation nearly completed.

weill cornell building exteriorWe already have a wonderful model of how new science facilities have an extraordinary impact on faculty and students: the cutting-edge labs on the floor we’ve purchased in Cornell’s new Belfer Research Building. Our researchers are just finishing their first year there, and they have already won several major awards, including from the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, NIH, National Science Foundation and National Academy of Sciences. We will continue strengthening this partnership with Weill Cornell, a unique collaboration between a public college and an Ivy League university.

casa lally building exteriorYou are all welcome to attend the celebration on Oct. 19 from 6 to 8 pm of the reopening of Casa Lally, the beautifully restored townhouse at 132 E. 65th Street that is now home to three important Hunter institutions: our Italian language school, Parliamo Italiano; our pioneering new LGBT Policy Center and our research center and exhibition space for contemporary art, the Artist’s Institute, which we relocated from downtown to bring it close to the main campus. This fall, the Artist’s Institute will be featuring the work of photographer and filmmaker Sharon Lockhart.

The Baker Building, our Theatre Department’s new home on 67th Street, is open and fully operational. Classes began there last semester, and now the rehearsal and club spaces are ready for use. We’re planning further remodeling of the interior as well as a connector to the East Building, thus linking all our 68th  Street buildings with 67th Street.

Hunter display requesting improvements for next generation of studentsIn January, we expect to unveil the marvelous changes – almost entirely privately funded – that we’ve made on floors 6 and 7 of the Cooperman Library. The entire 7th floor will be dedicated to a single, all-important cause: student success. The new Silverstein Student Success Center will encompass the Dolciani Mathematics Center, to support skill development in math across all courses of study; the Skirball Science Center, which will offer comprehensive assistance in all areas of science; the Rockowitz Writing Center to help students improve this essential skill; a Pre-Professional Center to provide support to students pursuing careers in law, business, medicine and health; and the new Office of Prestigious Scholarships & Fellowships. On Floor 6 will be the world-class library our School of Education has long deserved, as well as renovated study spaces and classrooms.

Looking to the future, we’ve asked Prof. Christa Acampora, who has recently joined the Provost’s Office, to work with the Senate Master Plan Committee on the next phase of the modernization of the Cooperman Library. Prof. Acampora is leading the national search for a new Chief Librarian, so she is the ideal choice to coordinate this effort.

The Senate Master Plan Committee has also identified a need for spaces where students can participate in club and co-curricular activities. In response, we are working closely with the Undergraduate Student Government to transform a space in Thomas Hunter Hall into a new student union with a game room, offices for student government and services and a re-envisioned workspace for student publications.

Student Success, a Major Priority

hunter students for major madnessAs part of our laser-like focus on supporting students and improving retention and graduation rates, we have initiated the expansion of online and hybrid course offerings, with particular focus on those that fulfill the general education requirement. We now have more options available than ever before with 12 new online classes in development. And we are creating a new Online Center to help faculty develop still more such courses. Located in Rooms C 104-105 in the North Building, the center will be fully operational in mid-October.

Our Student Engagement Initiative, which supports student-faculty activities outside the classroom including trips to cultural and civic events and student participation in faculty research, has been so successful that we’re increasing its funding this year. Highlights from the past year include a Geography Department trip to Black Rock Forest, allowing students to gain field experience not normally accessible at an urban university, and attendance by students and faculty in our Asian American Studies and Japanese programs at the show Allegiance. Faculty and students who have ideas for engagement activities should contact Associate Provost Vanya Quinones-Jenab.

The Hunter Initiative in East Harlem

all in east harlem kidsWe’re grateful to Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and the City Council for a $125,000 grant for our All in East Harlem (AIEH) initiative. Led by its first full-time director, Dr. Lilliam Barrios-Paoli, AIEH is rapidly emerging as a national model of academic engagement in a local community. The storefront headquarters we recently opened across from the Silberman building on E. 119th Street and the 65 faculty-and-student-supported projects we have launched are tangible evidence of our growing commitment to neighborhood engagement and change. Special thanks to everyone who has been involved in this project; if you would like to participate in research, field placements or volunteer activities in East Harlem, please reach out to Dr. Barrios-Paoli.

Upcoming Events to Watch For

Our Distinguished Writers Series has another great lineup of guest speakers. On Oct. 18, American poet Ellen Bryant Voight will speak. The full listing is available here.

This semester, there will be three special election-focused events for students hosted by Roosevelt House and the USG: debate viewing parties on Sept. 26 and Oct. 19 and an election night gathering cosponsored with Generation Citizen and the USG.

And on Sept. 27 Roosevelt House joins with Dr. Jeffrey Parsons and CHEST - The Center for HIV Educational Studies & Training – in a symposium on HIV and public policy. The event marks the 20th anniversary of this Hunter-based organization’s groundbreaking work in the health field. If you are interested in attending, please RSVP here.

Vintage Roosevelt posterAnother highlight of Roosevelt House’s fall season is “See How They Ran,” an exhibit of presidential campaign memorabilia focusing on Franklin Delano Roosevelt's five national campaigns, with a special section devoted to the women who have run for the presidency beginning in the 19th century. Opening night is Sept. 28, with acclaimed historian Geoffrey Ward in conversation with Harold Holzer, the Jonathan F. Fanton Director of Roosevelt House.

Our Art Department has announced its rich programming for this semester. The Leubsdorf Gallery, located on the lobby level of the West Building, will feature the exhibit Nahum Tevet: Works on Glass, 1972-1975, Sept. 23-November 20. And at our 205 Hudson Gallery, Something Possible Everywhere: Pier 34: NYC 1983-1984 will be on exhibit Sept. 30-Nov. 20. And you’re invited to stop by Spots, Dots, Pips and Tiles an exhibit at the Silberman Building’s East Harlem Art Gallery from Oct. 5 through Feb. 2017.

I welcome this opportunity to tell you about the exciting things happening at Hunter, and please follow our media channels to learn the latest.  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 Flickrpages, our interactive events calendar, campus video screens, and the Hunter website. And please contact me with any questions.

My best wishes for another productive semester at Hunter.

Jennifer J. Raab