PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS BY ACTING/INTERIM PRESIDENT DR. AUGUSTINE BOAKYE – AUGUST 24, 2020
(DELIVERED AT OPENING OF CONVOCATION 2020)
Good morning and welcome to the official start of the Essex County College 2020-2021 academic year. As you know, a month ago on July 21st, I was appointed Acting/Interim President and I am thankful for the opportunity to serve this historical institution.
I want to thank Chairwoman Dr. Marion Bolden and each member of the Board of Trustees for their confidence in my ability to step up and lead this great institution. And, I thank you, the Essex County College family, for your support and for all of the best wishes you have extended to me.
As I embark on this new journey I realize how much work needs to be done during these unprecedented times. And I want to tell you that, as some of you already know, I am not afraid of hard work. In the short month that I have assumed this position, we have rallied together, faculty and staff, and accomplished a number of things. Together, we can accomplish much more. This truly reflects on our Convocational theme: “We are all in it together”
Our reality today is colored by the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. As you all know, it has affected the College’s finances, enrollment, and overall well-being. Let me repeat these key points: Our reality today is colored by the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. All of you should know that the Coronavirus has affected the College’s finances, enrollment, and overall well-being. Directed by CDC Guidelines, state and local health departments, the Governor’s Executive Orders, and the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education, our efforts are focused on providing students with a quality and affordable education in concert with exceeding the standards of keeping everyone on our campuses safe and healthy.
I would be remiss if I did not request, at this time, a moment of silence. As we keep still for a few moments, let us remember those whom we have lost – colleagues, loved ones, family, and friends. And let us pray for those who fell ill to the insidious disease COVID-19 and give thanks for those who have recovered.
In my short time, we have seen some accomplishments including:
– Submission of our Restart Plan to the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education
– Implementing safety measures across our campuses
– Upgrading facilities and having our staff return to campus on a staggered schedule
Yes, despite the pandemic, the work continues to improve the main campus.
The Fast Track WELCOME CENTER has served over 1,000 students since it opened. I thank the staff that came forth volunteering their time to serve our students. I especially want to thank Ms. Christina Cook, Counsellor Victor Stolberg, Professor Darlyn Warner, Dr. Eunice Kamunge, and Mr. Hamza Wedam for their willingness to assume multiple roles and help to move the needle from a minus 50% deficit in enrollment to -26%. Similarly, I appreciate everyone who has and is working hard to support the Massive Outreach Campaign either from campus or from home.
Let me also announce our new restrooms will be unveiled shortly with touchless features that will assist us all in maintaining cleanliness and safety. These facilities are also equipped with a modern ventilation system to keep our environment cleaner.
I’m also happy to announce The Center of Teaching and Learning Excellence which will be open to provide you with resources and training.
I would like to acknowledge the accomplishments of our students:
We want to congratulate Ms. Yelitza Perez, Class of 2019, on her well-deserved NASA internship for this fall. Yelitza is currently a student at Rutgers University.
I am proud of the academic accomplishments of our student-athletes. In the 2019-2020 academic year, 9 student-athletes achieved a perfect 4.0 GPA. 23 student-athletes achieved a 3.50 or better GPA, and 41 achieved at least a 3.00 GPA. 63 percent of the entire department achieved a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the cancellation of our upcoming fall athletic schedule. We are still ready and able to move on at the appropriate time.
Despite all the COVID-19 interruptions, our faculty continued to provide quality education and our students continued to excel. We certified 895 graduates for the 2019-2020 academic year. Congratulations to all our graduates! We will still have time to celebrate their commencement
I am proud of the outstanding research our faculty is conducting. Engineering faculty member Dr. Teryn Cha delivered a virtual talk on Artificial Intelligence in Taxation at the March 28 Korean-American Women in Science and Engineering NJ-NY annual virtual conference.
Associate Dean Patricia Slade received a national award. The 2019 Distinguished College Administrator Award from Phi Theta Kappa.
Let me also recognized Assistant Professor/Counselor Victor Stolberg who authored a series of articles that were published in various national publications. Over 60 publications!
Dr. Robert Spellman, Division of Humanities, worked with our Student Life & Activities Office to develop a series of digital motivation tapes for students. These motivation videos were aired over various Social Media platforms.
Congratulations to Associate Professor of Nursing Majuvy Sulse for receiving the Excellence in Nurse Education award from the Philippine Nurses of America, Inc.
The list continues. I have received many accomplishments from faculty, staff, and students and we truly appreciate and honor you. Please keep it up.
To those who have separated with us, especially our retirees such as Professors Shelby Hawkins, Linda Harvest, and Robert Leone, I say thank you.
…………Highlights of Programs and Offerings
Through our Community and Continuing Education area, Training, Inc. Department, in partnership with Bergen Community College, received a $650,000 Apprenticeship Grant for Healthcare. This will provide training and certification for students in Certified Nurse Assistant, Clinical Medical Assistant, and Patient Care Technician.
I am pleased that our EOF program, with over 1,000 students, continues to be one of the largest in the state of NJ and has maintained its funding to assist students with resources including funds to cover their tuition as well as other expenses.
We obtained American Bar Association approval to expand our Paralegal Studies (PLS) program to the West Essex Campus.
ECC continues to partner with over 15 high schools in the area offering dual enrollment. Onboard for 2020-2021 are the Newark Board of Education, all three Essex County Technology High Schools, Orange High School, East Orange High School, Belleville High School, and Irvington High School.
Dr. Steplight-Johnson, Director of the Student Development and Career Center, has been the driving force on campus in getting the word out on the importance of the 2020 Census. If you have not yet done so, please fill out your Census 2020 form. The deadline is September 30
Now more than ever, we as the Essex County College community have to build on our social justice programs and activities… these programs have been firmly promoted by Sociology Professor, Dr. Charles Pinderhughes for many years. And our social justice committee is creating programs that will impact the entire Essex County Community
……….Other Important Highlights
Our Strategic Plan is being followed and attention will be focused on academic program assessment.
Wellness Center: The Wellness Center is another key wraparound service designed to provide important assistance to our students.
Student Food Pantry: Our Food Pantry is open and has been a vital resource for our students and their families.
Food Services: We are currently utilizing the services of a food truck, which is on campus daily, between 11:30 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. The College is in negotiations for new on-campus food service.
College Store: Operations of our College Store are under the direction of the educational services company Follett. The Store offers a wide array of academic materials and College apparel. Students will be offered digital textbooks on the first day of class.
Our Child Development Center will be open for operations on September 8th.
Also, our West Essex Campus will be in operation to serve our students in the surrounding areas.
………My Vision for the Upcoming Year
In a year’s time at the 2021 Convocation, I want to stand before you and commend everyone on a job well done. I want to stand here proudly stating that this institution has overcome low enrollment, fiscal crisis and that the pandemic could not stop us from doing our best to serve the students.
To do that, we must all focus on moving this institution forward and in serving the community and living the slogan of Students First. This means:
Faculty engaging with students to help them through the learning process
I want us to create a Mentorship program for all new students.
In the same way, I would like to expand the Progressive Retention Initiative some divisions have practiced and seen results.
Faculty creating new opportunities for the exchange of ideas that will uphold the Middle States Standards.
Staff working in teams to service students collectively through Advisement and guidance of students.
Breaking down barriers to improve communication and decision making that guides the institution into a new era.
I want us to re-engage our alumni to give back to the College and be part of the College decision-making body.
At the heart of the model to serve the students in the Faculty. Faculty make a huge difference in the lives of our students. I ask that you re-engage with the passion that led you to be a teacher, an instructor, a faculty member, and that you infuse this new spirit to create enthusiasm in your classroom via Zoom or Moodle or in person. This indomitable spirit will help us all overcome the stress of these uncertain times and it will provide hope to the next generation.
………Charge to Faculty and Staff
I’m asking each and every one of you to fulfill our mission of putting Students First!
Together we can ensure that our students complete their Associate degree requirements or earn a needed certificate. This will in turn allow for the personal and socio-economic development of our community.
I am counting on you to make Academic Year 2020- 2021 a pivotal and successful year for the institution. For Fall 2020, all courses will begin remotely for the first week. However, our intention is to bring some courses back on campus and support students. The library and Computer Labs will be open for students to utilize.
Finally, I extend sincere thanks to the Convocation Committee which has worked diligently and creatively to bring the annual kickoff of the academic year to us virtually.
And always remember, our first priority at Essex County College is Students First!
The Convocation 2020 welcoming address was pre-recorded and presented on YouTube