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Chancellor MacCormack calls for renewal of public higher education covenant

Chancellor Jean F. MacCormack delivered the following remarks to the faculty and staff at the annual Convocation breakfast for faculty and staff on September 6. In her remarks she announced her retirement at the end of the academic year and called for a rebuilding of the public commitment to higher education.

Chancellor Jean F. MacCormack
Convocation Breakfast For Faculty Staff
September 6, 2011

Good Morning.

Welcome back to a new academic year!

It is my pleasure to welcome you all here this morning for the fourth annual Faculty -Staff Convocation Breakfast. We continue this tradition of gathering together at the beginning of each academic year to take stock of where we are, to be encouraged about what we have already done together, to realistically identify our challenges,  and to look ahead at where are opportunities are for moving forward.

I am glad to see that all of you survived Irene!  The power of Mother Nature was in full display last week---whether it was with rain or wind -- it certainly has a way of giving us perspective about what is important---and made us all pause to recognize that not everything in our lives is totally in our control.  I hope that none of you suffered terrible losses and if you did have some flooding or wind damage or power losses that you have been able to get the effects addressed with the least stress and difficulty possible.

I certainly want to say thank you to all our campus staff, and particularly to Chief Fioravanti who led our emergency planning, and all the staff that were on duty to ensure safety on all our campuses. They were prepared, they responded immediately as things happened, and they were quick to initiate clean up and recovery activities.

SMAST as you can understand was a big worry for us located right at the entrance to New Bedford Harbor. We had to take extra precautions there--

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Irene obviously provided a noisy Northeast welcome to our new Dean of SMAST Steve Lorenhz.  Steve please stand so that everyone can see you survived very well.

I have told Steve who left a campus in the Gulf that was hit by Katrina, that he just cannot bring anymore lady storm friends with him to the SouthCoast.

But Steve is not the only  senior administrator new to the campus this year- Please meet Interim Dean of the College of Business Richard Pegnetter, who we have enticed from Florida to assist during this unexpected  transition of leadership. You must be very nice to him when the snow flies and he wonders why he agreed to come out of retirement and take on this task!!

Both of these fine gentlemen are also not the only new people to join the campus.  We are welcoming sixteen new faculty and several staff to the campus this year -- May I ask those that are here to stand--Please join me in welcoming them to UMass Dartmouth.

We are so happy to have you join us.

You are the source of renewal and new energy for us. You are our opportunity to see old things with new eyes and more importantly you bring new perspectives. You provide us hope and encouragement because you choose to join us attracted by our mission and our values.  

You bring strong credentials and new ideas, which are the lifeblood of a vibrant University. I encourage you to fully participate in everything and to not be afraid to lead, to innovate, and to collaborate.  I urge you to become the new energy and enthusiasm we need to lift our aspirations.  You are this year's faculty and staff freshmen, and just like we are focusing on enhancing our freshman student's experiences, we want you to see a long term productive future here helping us to be all we can be.

I can tell you from my own experience, you join a wonderful group of faculty, staff administrators and students. As you get to know them well you will appreciate their unwavering commitment to excellence and all that they contribute to our community.

I also wonder if there are newly tenured and newly promoted faculty here today? Please stand and be recognized for your outstanding achievements and accomplishments.  You have pursued excellence in teaching, research and service over many years, and we are all enriched by your contributions.

For all my experienced colleagues here at the campus, I want to say thank you for all that you do to make UMass Dartmouth successful.  Every time someone compliments me on UMass Dartmouth, I know that it is really you they are paying tribute to. We rely so much on you to be the steady force in all the kinds of important work that makes this great public University run. We always count on your creativity and unstoppable spirit to keep us focused on the right priorities and endeavors.

CHALLENGES

It is the power of a strong community of committed faculty, staff and students that clearly sustains us when we face challenges.  And it will be no surprise that we continue to have those.
  
We face what appears to be a national crisis of confidence in government and a related and dramatic shift in public policy regarding the willingness to invest in higher education;

We face the closely connected fiscal challenges that flow from this debate that inevitably leads to a discussion about the costs and affordability of higher education.

On the state level, we face strong competition for enrollment/ and we are experiencing some significant difficulty with retention.

And as we try to provide excellent programs and experiences for our students, we have continued infrastructure (technology and facility) improvement challenges.

These are big challenges and there are not simple or easy solutions.

THE PUBLIC COVENANT

I would love to tell you that I see a clear pathway for improvement on the national issues, but instead I think those possibilities are only slowly emerging from the name-calling and the rancor.  What I am quite certain about is that we must find our voice in this national debate and become strong advocates for not abandoning our nation's long standing commitment to the clear mission of public higher education.

We must hear echoing across the years the words of a great leader:

"The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty and we must rise to the occasion.  As our case is new, so we must we think anew."

Abraham Lincoln said these words at the signing of the Morrill Act on July 2, 1862 that established the land-grant colleges and really established the mission of public higher education.

Our mission is absolutely consistent with that Act's intent and asks us to provide our students an education equal in quality to that provided by the very best private colleges and universities in the Commonwealth and nation.  The guiding principle for public higher education was that no talented student - because of modest circumstances -- would be denied the opportunities a higher education could offer.  In exchange for serving a broad range of qualified and talented students, and for using our intellectual gifts in service of our communities, the public would honor its commitment to sustain and support us with resources.  

We simply cannot allow the debate to be dominated by negative voices and allow the spirit and intent of the Morril Act to be hijacked.  We cannot accept the new dogmas of the "stormy present" to prevail.  Too much is at stake for our nation and our democracy. Perhaps the covenant will have to have different terms and mutual benefit.  Certainly, we must be willing to examine anew how we can realistically sustain both sides of this covenant into the future and understand how it can be re-enlivened  to meet the needs of the 21st century.

I am confident that if we pool our intellectual prowess and partner with those who share our values, we can regain an influential voice and we can find a way to renew the American public's commitment to the public education covenant.  We cannot give up without trying.

RESOURCES TO SUSTAIN THE MISSION

I would also love to tell you that our FY 12 Budget is terrific, but that is not the case. But today I will not rehearse the numbers and the losses.  I also don't want you to worry about layoffs or furlough days.  We are not considering those options now.  I can say that we can develop a plan to manage it that will still allow us to pursue our aspirations.  Although I am pretty clever with budgets, I clearly cannot multiply the loaves and fishes to meet everyone's needs and expectations.   But we will welcome all reasonable advice and suggestions for focusing on and meeting our core and priority needs.

ENROLLMENT AND RETENTION

I would love to tell you that we are truly at the top of our game and competitive for attracting the students we want and that our enrollment is still growing toward our 10,000 goal, but that is not the case. We must put serious time and energy into becoming more attractive and competitive.  I am going to make this my number one priority for this year and as I said at the Spring Town Meeting, you must do this as well. I will say more about this in a minute.

TECHNOLOGY AND FACILITY IMPROVEMENTS

I would also love to show you a full plan for completely updating all our technology and facilities, but although a lot has been accomplished -- we love being "Wimax enabled all over the campus, and there is a lot of "dirt" flying on and off campus in projects underway --we need patience for the inconveniences created by a serious backlog of needed projects. We have already done a lot, but there is much still to be accomplished.

I promise you that you will be encouraged by the breath and illumination of our new Clare T. Carney library and $61 Million dollars of projects that will unfold in our research labs and studio's , our residence and dining halls, and our athletic facilities, over the next two years.  It is a start and will give you a chance to see what is possible little by little.   

For those of you, who have been here awhile, remember the campus as it was in fall 99 when I arrived.  It is not all fixed, but it is certainly improved.  If we do not get discouraged, we can seize opportunities and make change.

I would love to be able as the designated leader of the campus to be able to address all these challenges for you so that you can be completely free to teach, discover and serve our students and communities unfettered, but realistically you already know that one person  cannot be the solution.  I try to follow the advice of Alfred North Whitehead in managing change, he said to manage "the art of progress is to preserve order amid change and to preserve change amid order." I try to set the stage well for change, but it requires the leadership of many people at every level.

LEADERSHIP AT EVERY LEVEL

What I must tell you today is that to meet these challenges over the long term will absolutely require us to really have  leadership at every level, to be willing take some risks so that we innovate to sustain excellence, and more than ever they require us to collaborate across departments, colleges, divisions and campuses. They also require us to establish clear external partnerships to allow us to really continue to transform our own and other communities.  

Today, I would like to remind us of the power we have together to accomplish great things:  Remember that .... Being a UNI-versity does mean we have the power of shared mission that unites us in purpose. We do multiple things, but we are united in why we do them.

Let me just underscore again my theme for today. We must lead at every level. We must be willing to take measured risks to innovate for sustaining excellence. We must choose Collaboration to transform ourselves and our communities.

What exactly do I mean when I say that we must lead at every level?

Leadership does not reside at one level of the institution. You know this intuitively.  Leadership is not the responsibility of one person.  I know people like to say "the Chancellor did it or decided it", or "the Chancellor will do it, or some people's absolute favorite--"The Chancellor made me do it".   And I recognize that I have high visibility as a leader.  But the truth is that people lead from every level of this institution when they actively engage in shaping programs and services, solving problems that emerge and inventing new and better ways to do things.  Leadership is exercised when new partnerships are formed within and outside the campus by individuals who see a need, and seek creative ways to meet it. We all have unique perspectives to bring to our shared mission and we all have to feel responsible for making it come alive and be accomplished.  I have never felt that I could do it all, make it all happen, and take credit for all the great achievements over these years.  Many people have demonstrated true leadership and more than ever that will be necessary in the next years.

LEADERSHIP TRANSITION

This year is going to bring some major leadership changes at UMD.  A few days ago, I told President Caret that I would like to retire at the end of this academic year.

I have certainly been honored to be your Chancellor and I have loved every minute -- well almost every minute--there have been a few days that were terrifically hard--But I consider myself blessed to have had the privilege of working with you and for you to take UMass Dartmouth on an journey of growth.  To work with so many creative people in such a noble cause of serving students and our community has been a true blessing for me.   But I hope that you will understand that after what will be 13 years here and 12 years in senior leadership at UMass Boston, a quarter century of being "on" practically 24/7 with lots of stresses and a heightened sense of responsibility, I know that it is time for me to have a different pace in my life and for you to be able to select a new leader to work with you to take UMass Dartmouth further down the path of excellence.  New ideas, new energy, new perspectives will only enhance a solidly, grounded institution's future.
  
I am so grateful to all of you for your support and contributions to our shared accomplishments, but I know it is the right time for me and for UMD to have change.

President Caret will visit the campus soon to discuss how the campus will organize with him to conduct a national search this year for a new Chancellor. I am confident that he understands the UMass Dartmouth mission and will help you find the right person to lead with you over the next phase of development.

But all of you must be willing to lead at your level.  You must be the true keepers of the flame of aspiration and the light of our history, and our true core values and you must be willing to share it with a new Chancellor as you did with me so that there can be the benefit of the  fresh and  "new" alongside  continuity of purpose.

My leaving does not have to mean change in direction or cause an alteration in solidly embraced goals and aspirations.  It just means you all have greater responsibility to lead at your level to unleash the true power of this place. Last spring at my town meeting,  I called upon each of you to provide input on how we could do our work better, and I have been inspired by how many of you have provided wonderful ideas we are moving to implement.  This is truly leadership at every level.

I am calling on you to be willing to continue that leadership and take some risks to sustain the excellence we have here.  We need to not to be afraid to give up some of the tried and true "comfortable" ways we do things to actually fully implement "best practices" in curriculum and in services to students.  We have never been afraid to "break new ground" when we were convinced it would serve our students better.  Our future depends on our ability to do this urgently and effectively now once again in context of our mission.

In fact, the Provost and I feel that it is very important to maintain direction and momentum at UMD.  So we have also agreed that to best prepare for this leadership transition, Dr. Garro will step down from the Provost role in January 2012.  Dr. Garro and I had been talking about his plans to transition back to the faculty and we agree, it would not be wise for both of us to make this transition at the same time, and leave a new Chancellor without an experienced academic leader in the Provost's Office.  I will appoint Dr. John Farrington as the Interim Provost in January.

Let me express my deep appreciation to Dr. Garro for his extraordinary service to UMass Dartmouth over the last five years.  His enthusiasm for the mission, his commitment to enhancing our service to students and to expanding our scholarly endeavors, as well as his passion for excellence, and his boundless energy have made a lasting contribution to our campuses growth.  He shares our core values at the deepest level.  We all owe him a debt of gratitude for his years of service in challenging and difficult times.   Provost Garro will take a sabbatical in the spring semester before returning to his faculty appointment in the Stem department in SEPPCE. I predict great new things emerging about science education.

I look forward to working with John Farrington in this new role on campus and Provost Garro and I are deeply grateful that we could call upon him once again to serve his alma mater. John knows well the power of this institution to transform an individual life and his willingness to serve in this demanding role is related to his affection and admiration for what UMass Dartmouth means in the life of so many students.  He was a terrific interim leader for SMAST and I know he will bring the same passion, analytical ability and sense of humor to the transition tasks in academic affairs.

Once the new Chancellor is appointed, there will be a full search for a new provost, John is not interested in the permanent position but he is willing to jump in in January so that he and I can work closely together for a semester, complete some important academic projects, and then he is willing to serve with the new Chancellor and be the continuity in academic planning the new Chancellor will need.  The Deans are uniformly enthusiastic about working with John, and I know that you can count on them to lead with you and him from their levels.

CONTINUED COMMITMENT

I certainly do not intend to make this announcement and slip away over this year. You can count on to be fully engaged and committed until my last day of service in June.  There are many things to be accomplished this year.

We will have our ABA accreditation visit at UMass Law in November and we hope to achieve provisional status in the spring.  I will work closely with the core team to help this happen. We fought to have a Law school and we are determined to have an excellent one.  The Dean, faculty, staff and students of the Law School have been hard at work on this process because they know how critical it is to their ultimate success.

As I mentioned earlier, being competitive and attractive to new students is critical for us.  We were not able to meet our enrollment goals this year.  This will require that I jump in to enrollment management in a new way.  The Provost will now focus on academic policy and standards, curriculum change where needed and retention strategies in the colleges and student affairs.  He will work closely with faculty and Deans on key quality issues in the classroom.  I will directly engage with the Enrollment leadership and staff on recruitment, marketing and enrollment management activities; Deb McLaughlin will provide the resource perspective and management guidance to sustain both sets of activities and will give special attention to how we are operational zing our ideas about improved student services.

I cannot stress enough how critical it is for us to make ourselves attractive to talented students and to provide them solid and enhanced services and programs. This absolutely requires some cross-boundary engagement and I am asking everyone involved to focus on student success rather than who they report to, or how we have always done it, or only what they do. The whole process of enrollment, achievement, and retention must be a seamless experience for our students.

During this year, I will also work very closely with Michael Eatough to move our Charlton College fundraising campaign toward goal, and with Paul Vigeant to ensure our regional partnerships are solidly established and sustainable for the future. Our external partners-donors and regional business and municipal officials--are key to our sustained success as well.

Of course, I will be working with all of you in managing our budget constraints.

Since as you know Dr George Smith intends to retire in December and Dr. Richard Panofsky will do the same in January, I will focus attention on conducting the searches to replace these two extraordinary people.  Again, it is difficult to truly express how grateful I am to these two gentlemen for the service they have provided to the campus over many, many years.  We are a truly more diverse, inclusive, civil place and a have a profound array of data and analysis for decision-making because of their contributions.  Dick does so many things, my fear is that he is irreplaceable- at least by one person.  We will celebrate them more as their retirement approaches, but please let them know that the leadership from their levels will be missed.

I will continue to support our Conversations that Matter series and urge you to attend as we continue the preparation work needed for a new strategic plan. I hope in the spring to engage many people in an extensive SWAT analysis so that we can provide a new Chancellor with what she/or he needs to shape a new strategic plan with you.

Finally, I hope to work with the faculty to formalize a constitution that the faculty, Provost, myself and Board of Trustees will approve to bring clarity to our shared governance procedures. I also hope to gain approval for a new Graduate Student Constitution to empower them to govern their own matters well.   These tasks are unfinished business in the eyes of the Trustees and I would like to work collaboratively with the Senate and the Graduate students to ensure that we are in compliance with Trustee policy and have a structure for action that provides a strong voice for faculty and students  on important campus matters.

INNOVATE TO SUSTAIN EXCELLENCE

We have so much to be excited about.  So much to be proud of: Challenges yes, Transitions yes, but Opportunities -- so many.  I am urging you to be willing to innovate- which means taking some risks-- to create and sustain excellence. Congratulations to so many for seizing opportunities to do just that:

Karen O'Connor. Mark Smith of the Ocean Explorium and Tesafey Meresi of the College of Engineering for their recently announced $2.8 M NSF grant for an exciting STEM education partnership.

The College of Engineering for creating a new Bioengineering Major that is attracting new students.

All of the faculty and staff of our Portuguese programs for forming an alliance with the The New England University Press to broaden the availability of their extraordinary collection of published works.

The Nursing Faculty for attracting a six figure gift for a new Sym Lab for the clinical preparation of their students.

To Steve Hedgedus and his colleagues for creating a partnership with Greenlight for Girls to run an exciting science program for over 150 eager young  students -- out future mathematicians and science and engineering students.

For the faculty and staff of the College of Visual and Performing Arts for the extraordinary way they welcome so many groups into the Star Store first floor space and make the arts so key to the revitalization of New Bedford.

Paul Vigeant for staying the course with our wonderful industry partners so that an exciting new BioManufacturing Center will break ground in a few months.

Magali Carrera and Doug Roscoe and so many other faculty colleagues for collaborating effectively to create our new University Studies curriculum.

To the energetic staff of Student Affairs who constantly seeks ways to serve students in new ways from Midnight Breakfast to newly established learning communities in the residence halls.

To the Faculty and Students at SMAST who worked hard to recruit an excellent new Dean, create a program plan for new space while they continue the extraordinary work they do for the fisheries community and the region.

To Michael Eatough and the staff from advancement for raising $13.8 M this year again and for producing those wonderful videos that tell the story of the people of UMass Dartmouth.

To Deb McLaughlin and all the staff of administration and Finance for listening carefully and working hard to improve the grounds, the public spaces students use in the colleges, the fabulous new Residence Dining Hall.

If we keep creating these opportunities we will thrive.

COLLABORATION THAT TRANSFORMS

I close with urging greater collaboration in what we do.  The campus has a history of adversarial approaches to some key issues.  Truly, I have never really understood what constructive purpose it serves.  In fact, I have found mutual respect and joint endeavors often are far more fruitful than win- lose encounters.  I am deeply appreciative to our unions for being willing to try to put the adversarial aside on important issues and to seek together to find the best solution.  Collaboration calls us all to higher ground.  It is not easy to do, but the benefits are extraordinary.  I understand quite clearly that for reasons of perspective and role, the Unions and I do not always agree, but more times than not with a sense of common purpose we have been able to find common ground.  

This is also true in the big administrative/faculty debate.  Counting how many administrators we have, or focusing on how productive faculty really are simply take time away from the more critical tasks of identifying how we need to work effectively together to accomplish our shared core goals.  In times of fiscal constraints, it is easy to point fingers but actually sharing expertise, and resources can help good things to happen. Working with people who do things differently, approach problems differently, seek varying outcomes can be productive and foster unanticipated outcomes.

I am urging you to put effort this year into adopting a collaborative attitude.  Assume that partnership can and does work.   I might ask you to do it in memory of our former President Donald Walker who played the role of healer here so many years ago after a tumultuous period in our history.  He passed away a few weeks ago and we just heard the news.   My sense of him from all those who knew him, was that he was a true collaborator.  We can transform ourselves and our community by aligning to accomplish our goals. Let's resolve to collaborate more.

THE POWER OF SHARED PURPOSE

We have done this in the past and it has worked for us:  I remind you

---Together, by tightening our belts a bit, choosing realistic revenue enhancement paths, growing our enrollment selectively, we solved a dramatic budget shortfall faced in Fall of 99 that might have limited our potential aspirations.

---Together we decided to grow our enrollment and we able to expand both our undergraduate and graduate student population while still enhancing our academic profile. While we seemed stalled in reaching our final goal of 10,000, I believe with determination, we can reignite our efforts and make the modest last steps needed.

---Together, over the last 12 years, we have sent 16,557 strong, well-prepared graduates out to change the world.  Although like everyone in today's global community they face challenges, they are UMD lights on the horizon and we know that they will continue to make us proud. We celebrated so many of their contributions at Honors convocations, student leadership awards, and pinning ceremonies. They represent a crowning achievement of our efforts. They are lives transformed.

---Together we have established new schools- SMAST, SEPPCE, and the UMASS Law School and enhanced programs at all the other colleges;

---Together we have planned and built new academic buildings on and off campus- Star Store, ATMC, the new residence halls, the Charlton Building, the Research Building, and the Fall River Professional Education Center. We have created the Portuguese American Archives, and are completing a major renovation of the Library.  And  this year with industry partners, we will break ground on state of the Art Bio-Manufacturing Service and Training Center, and a new SMAST II facility. We will also begin the planning work for a new academic building.

---Together we added a Fitness Center, soon to be expanded, a new track and athletic fields, new space for Student Affairs in the campus center and now transformed residence halls;

---Together we have supported important faculty development programs and integrated new technologies into the repertoire of our instruction.

---Together we have revitalized our general education curriculum and articulated clear and compelling learning outcome goals that we can track and measure effectively.

---Together we have added 6 new undergraduate majors and 6 minors, 14 Masters Programs, 9 doctoral program and a JD program that have attracted  many new students

---Together, We have put important programs on line to improve access for non-traditional students.

--- Together, we have partnered closely with our community in the educational, economic, and social agenda so key to transforming the region, and we are recognized as essential to their future

I could mention so many more big and small achievements, so many names of people whose ingenuity and determination is moving us forward -- so much and so many in which we should take great pride, but I mention these bigger achievements to simply  remind us that despite real challenges, we are very lucky to be working in such a creative and generative place with amazingly talented and generous people.  

Everywhere I look I see that our entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well and people know it and feel it. This can and will be our source of continued growth and strength.

Malcolm Gladwell urges in "Blink," a book that all the freshmen are reading and will discuss with faculty and staff this afternoon, that we trust our insight moments. We need to know with great certainty, not so much from analysis, but from just seeing how it changes people to have the opportunity, that what we do here is valuable and important and that it needs to grow and thrive.  

I count on all of you to remain partners with me as we set out on a journey of completion for me and new exploration for you.

Let's be reminded what the Morrill Act of 1862 that established public institutions did:

The Morrill Act set aside land across the nation to establish public campuses "to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts, in such manner as the legislatures of the States may respectively prescribe, in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life."

Clearly, we have evolved with the times.  We need to continue to do that to meet the needs of the 21st century student and community.  I am also convinced that when all the rhetoric is toned down, the public and the nation want us to do that as well. So let's go now to welcome our newest community members at Freshman Convocation and continue that work.

 

Author:  "John Hoey [Contact]"
Date:  15-Sep-2011
Department:   News & Public Information

You can find this article at:
http://www.umassd.edu/communications/articles/showarticles.cfm?a_key=2943