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OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT

Jennifer J. Raab, President
(212) 772-4242
president@hunter.cuny.edu

 

Fall 2007 Open Line

It's a pleasure to welcome you back to campus for the start of Hunter College's 138th academic year. The months ahead promise to be very exciting. We have a number of major events planned, prominent national guests will appear on campus, and we are pleased to announce a wide array of improvements to our physical plant and technology services.

It is especially exciting that 60 new faculty members with outstanding credentials are joining us this fall. The class of incoming freshmen is one of the most diverse in the nation and is full of exceptionally qualified students. And our national reputation continues to rise, as measured by the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings.

Our Rising Reputation

It is with great pride we report that Hunter College has earned a top spot in the 2008 edition of "America's Best Colleges" published by U.S. News & World Report, ranking 12th among public universities in the "Best Universities-Master's" category. Overall, among the 574 public and private institutions in this category, Hunter is in the first tier with a rank of 51, up from 62nd place for the past two years. And Hunter's peer assessment – our reputation among our competitors – is the highest among CUNY's senior colleges for the third straight year. 

Our rapidly growing reputation is truly a tribute to Hunter's talented faculty, dedicated staff and wonderful students.

A Great Student Body Gets Even Better

Our student body gets better every year, and this semester strongly confirms that fact. The incoming students are increasingly competitive, with average SAT scores among freshmen rising by 10 points for the second straight year. SAT scores of Hunter students have increased steadily over the past three years.  The 25th-75th percentile range is now 990 – 1180, indicating that 75% of Hunter students scored higher than 990 on the SAT and 25% received a score higher than 1180.  Among the CUNY senior colleges, only Baruch exceeds Hunter in this area.
 
And our student body remains among the most diverse within our peer group: The class of 2011 is comprised of 27% African-American and Latino students; 25% Asian students and 71% of incoming students were born outside the United States or had at least one foreign-born parent.
 
A further mark of our success is that the Macaulay Honors College keeps attracting top high school students. For the entering class, we had well over 1,000 applicants with an average SAT of 1,354, and 110 Honors students are now enrolled.
 
Besides the many high achievers who excelled in their high schools’ hardest classes, the Class of '11 includes two published authors, a filmmaker and at least two actors who have their Screen Actors Guild cards. Two freshmen with remarkable personal stories are Francisco Menacheca, 22, who has completed two tours of duty with the Navy in Iraq, and Kate Skoczypiec, 19, an extraordinary young immigrant from Poland who was featured in a front-page article in The New York Sun on August 30. You can read the article at http://www.nysun.com/article/61578.
 
One major reason for Hunter's burgeoning appeal is that it remains a spectacular value: Our students graduate with one of the lowest debt loads in the nation.
 
We can all be proud of the progress we are making in improving the classroom experience. One measure is that the number of classes with fewer than 20 students has increased by 5% over last year. 
 
And we have put some great new programs in place to give students a more enriching and enjoyable experience. One of the more significant is an expanded counseling program. Each incoming freshman has been assigned a full-time advisor who will be in contact at least four times a semester through face-to-face meetings, phone calls or email. We also have set up a similar program to offer our many part-time students academic, financial and support services.
 
Our "Advising on the Go" program offers peer counseling in high-traffic areas like the cafeteria and OASIS, using a variety of electronic tools. A response team has been set up to answer students’ email questions. And “Ask Advisor Alex” responds to questions on the weekly Student Affairs E-Bulletin.
 
I am also pleased to report that, in its fourth year of existence, Manhattan Hunter Science High School, graduated its first class this past June. One hundred percent of the senior class graduated and 97 percent have been admitted to at least one college, including Columbia, Cornell, the University of Michigan, UCLA and other selective colleges. Twenty-one students are attending Hunter, all with full tuition scholarships; one has enrolled in the CUNY Honors College, and two in the Teacher Academy. The other exciting news about MHSHS is its inclusion in the 2007 edition of New York City’s Best Public High Schools: A Parents' Guide, which was recently published.
 
New Faculty Strength
 
Princeton Review's America's Best Value Colleges recognizes our faculty as "a huge asset." We are excited to welcome the addition of some 60 new faculty members, including some internationally renowned figures.
 
Among them is Joachim Pissarro, who joins us as the Bershad Professor of Art History and Director of the Hunter College Galleries. His appointment was made possible thanks to a $1 million gift by Dr. Susan Bershad ('75) and her husband David with the goal of further strengthening Hunter College's Art History and Studio Art departments. In addition to his professorial duties, Pissarro will help develop the exhibition and curatorial programs of the Hunter Galleries. A portion of the Bershad gift will be used to support exhibitions at the two galleries.
 
Among the many other outstanding professors who have joined us are Nancy L. Greenbaum, one of the nation's top RNA researchers, as a full professor in the Department of Chemistry; Michael Thomas, whose latest novel, Man Gone Down, was praised by The New York Times Book Review, as an assistant professor of English; Diana Reiss, whose research on self-recognition among Asian elephants was recently featured in The New York Times, as a member of the Animal Behavior and Conservation program; Michael Siller, an award-winning researcher on autism, as an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology and Tricia Striano, a specialist in child psychology who will contribute to both the Department of Psychology and Hunter’s recently-established Center for the Study of Autism. 

We are also proud to announce three Distinguished Lecturers. Ellen Chesler is the Director of the Eleanor Roosevelt Initiative on Women and Public Policy at Roosevelt House. Ellen comes to Hunter from The Open Society Institute, the international foundation started by George Soros, where she was senior fellow. Neal Cohen is a former Health Commissioner of New York City who will play a vital role in helping launch the School of Public Health at Hunter. And Karen Hunter is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, author and radio host.     

More information about the other great new faculty members can be found on the Hunter website: http://www.hunter.cuny.edu/

Major Academic Initiatives

I am delighted to announce that Hunter College will become the site of the new CUNY School of Public Health, New York's first public school of public health. We took the first major step toward that goal by winning approval at all levels of governance and the state of New York to confer -a Doctor of Public Health Degree. We have just admitted our first class of 15 doctoral students, and look forward to developing the other elements of the School.

Hunter is also in the process of seeking permission from the state to confer, with the Graduate Center, joint doctoral degrees in biology, biochemistry, chemistry, and physics. Hunter's transition to a doctoral-granting institution in the sciences recognizes our enormous contribution to the training of doctoral students.

Hunter is also in the process of developing exciting new academic programs, including an undergraduate interdisciplinary concentration in public policy studies, and a graduate program in the teaching of Chinese.

We are preparing for our ten-year review by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, our accrediting body. We have also launched the
Mellon Project, the re-envisioning of our general education requirement, which is supported by a generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
All of us at Hunter can take pride in the College’s newly formed Autism Center. The Center will produce important new scholarship, create innovative teacher training programs and conduct intervention research to help the many children and their families affected by autism spectrum disorders.
With the related work being done by our schools of Education, Arts and Sciences, and Social Work and Health Professions, Hunter College is poised to make significant contributions in the autism field. We are indebted to Shirley Cohen, professor of special education, for her ground-breaking work to bridge the divide between research and practice and for her leadership.

In an exciting development, the Hunter College School of Education has joined with the Department of Education and the consortium of three of the top-performing urban charter schools in the country – KIPP Academy, Uncommon Schools, and Achievement First – to be their academic partners and prepare their teachers. In this partnership, we and the consortium are co-designing and co-teaching a master’s program that combines the most powerful research on effective teaching with continual assessment. Supported by a new Americorp grant to the School of Education and a major fundraising effort by the Robin Hood Foundation that will bring $30 million to the partnership, this program has enrolled its first cohort at Hunter this past summer.

On the Horizon -- a Restored Roosevelt House, a New Public Policy Institute & the Science & Health Professions Building

The renovation of Roosevelt House continues apace, with the ribbon cutting planned for the fall of 2008. As many of you know, it will open as a public policy institute dedicated to teaching, research and public programming with Hunter faculty members and visiting scholars playing the leading roles.
The Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute is already collaborating with one of the country's premier research and policy institutions, the Aspen Institute, to co-sponsor a multi-part series of events. The first program is entitled "Aspen at Roosevelt House: Conversations on Presidential Leadership in Honor of Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr." The first event, scheduled for January 14, 2008, will focus on presidential leadership in war with Tom Brokaw and historians David Kennedy and Joan Hoff Wilson. Please save the date for what promises to be an exciting evening.

We are pleased to be working with a Hunter Senate-appointed committee, chaired by History Professor Jonathan Rosenberg, which is discussing faculty development and curriculum initiatives for the Institute. Under the leadership of the Blanche D. Blank Professor of Public Policy Joseph Viteritti, the undergraduate public policy curriculum is pending final approval as a certificate program.
 
Progress continues on the planning for the new Science and Health Professions Building to be built at 67th & 2nd Avenue. We plan to issue an RFP before the end of the calendar year for the disposition of the Brookdale property. 

Ever-Improving Technology

Some cutting-edge technology is in place or will be coming online very soon that promises to make the academic journey a lot smoother for students, faculty and staff.

  • Our new automated transcript request system enables students to request and pay for a transcript online, eliminating long lines.

  • Degree Audit System (Degree Information for Graduation) is a great new web-based tool to assist students, faculty and staff. The system allows undergraduates and their advisors to go online to track their progress toward their degrees. It’s a comprehensive, easy-to-read progress report to help students meet their academic requirements.

  • Library Wireless & Laptop Loan is in place throughout the Jacqueline Grennan Wexler Library and students with laptops can now access the network by logging in with their Hunter email address and password. At the request of Hunter’s Student Government, we instituted a pilot program to make loaner laptops available. The program has met with great success and we are looking to expand it further. Funding for this project was provided through CUNY Compact Funds, student technology fees and other sources.

Campus Improvements

I'm sure you've noticed the improvements around campus, and more are on the way. Thomas Hunter Hall, the neo-gothic jewel that was one of the original cornerstones of our current campus, will be undergoing extensive renovation and restoration to extend its useful life into a second century. The work will begin in the spring semester and will include window replacement, façade restoration, re-pointing of the masonry, roof repairs and re-structuring the parapets and the building's signature turrets. The sidewalk bridge around the base of the building will be maintained until the completion of the project, as required by Local Law 11.

Work also continues on the renovation of the Loewe Theatre, the College's 120-seat black box theatre, to upgrade the air conditioning and heating which will allow use in all seasons, as well as other minor improvements to make the theatre technically state-of- the-art. The Loewe Plaza has also been renovated to improve handicap accessibility and expand seating. The re-landscaped plaza will open later this fall.
We've built three new biology labs on the 9 floor of the North Building and renovated laboratories in psychology, chemistry, physics and geography. Work will start this fall on a new phone system to replace our 20-year-old switchboard.
As for the future, our ability to plan and manage projects has been greatly strengthened by the addition of Conan S. Freud as Acting Vice President for Finance and Administration. It is a position for which he is superbly qualified, since he has more than two decades of operating experience with New York City's government.
 
He served most recently as Deputy Commissioner for Administration in the Department of Transportation where he was responsible for a 10-year capital plan of nearly $9 billion, an annual budget of more than $600 million and a professional and support staff of more than 300 people. He also oversaw the Transportation Department’s Human Resources Bureau, and he managed the Facilities and Security Bureau.
 
Here at Hunter, he will be in charge of some of our most essential operations, including ICIT; the Office of Budget and Planning; Continuing Education; the Business Office; the Facilities, Management and Planning Office; Human Resources; Public Safety, and the Office of Environmental Health and Safety.

We Keep Getting Greener

Several steps have been taken to make the campus more environmentally friendly. We are already using cleaner oil in the MFA building boiler, and we plan eventually to replace the oil with gas.
We have expanded the recycling program for electronic waste to include lab equipment that may be hazardous to the environment. And we are switching to more environmentally friendly cleaning products.

Distinguished Visitors on Campus 

One of the most exciting events on our fall agenda is our Distinguished Writers Series. Some of the most acclaimed authors in the world today will be joining us.  

  • On Thursday, September 20, our guest will be Kathryn Harrison, the best-selling novelist, memoirist and essayist.

  • October will bring two distinguished writers:  Annie Proulx (October 4 at 7pm) is best known for her short story "Brokeback Mountain," which was made into an Oscar-winning movie, and she won the Pulitzer Prize in 1994 for her novel Shipping News.  Robert Pinsky (October 25) was the Poet Laureate of the United States from 1997 to 2000, and he is an internationally recognized poet, essayist and translator.

  • On Tuesday, November 13, our guest will be Michael Cunningham, whose novel The Hour won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the PEN/Faulkner Award in 1999.

  • On Thursday, December 6, we will be joined by Lynn Emanuel, who has been described as one of the most crucial figures in modern American poetry.

All of the Distinguished Writers lectures are scheduled at 7:30 p.m. in the Faculty Dining Room on the eighth floor of the West Building. I hope to see you there.  

Tom Daschle, who is best remembered for his service as the Democratic Senate Majority Leader during the first two years of President Bush's first term, is the first national figure we have scheduled to appear on campus, with more in the works. 

Daschle will spend time with students and faculty members in seminars, discussion groups and other settings answering questions and exchanging views. With the 2008 presidential campaign already in full swing and the first primaries only about five months off, there should be plenty of lively discussion.

We hope that all of you--students, faculty, administrators and staff --take advantage of everything Hunter has to offer, and participate as full partners in creating a rich academic environment.

Best wishes for a successful semester.

Jennifer J. Raab
President

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