President William Fritz at the Helm of College of Staten Island
By Joan Baum, Ph.D.
The theme at the heart of William J. Fritz’s initiatives for the last four years, three of which have been as interim president of the College of Staten Island (CSI), the last year as president, has been “changing perceptions.” He means by this not only enhancing the image of the college but also of the borough. Even for many Staten Island residents the “island” lives in the shadow of Manhattan. President Fritz takes great “pride” in believing that he’s already made a big difference by way of branding and marketing. New colors and a Verrazano Bridge logo are giving the college mainstream identity around the borough, on the website and on college materials. A native of Montana who spent 27 years at Georgia State University (GSU) on the faculty and then in top administrative posts, Dr. Fritz feels he has brought to CSI wide experience especially in benchmarks and best practices, but he has also brought a long-time love for the city. For years he and his wife travelled four times a year to New York, and so he has come to know the area well. Another strength he brought to CSI was his experience at GSU, a Division I school. He is dedicated to athletics as an important way to setting the tone of an institution, especially at this time of compliance issues in sports. Certainly, the fact that CSI is the home of the winning Dolphins has made basketball its “signature game,” another reason to attract competitive students. Athletics, he points out, as adjunct to academic study, is a way to hone leadership skills and provide entertainment, which increases attendance at games and thus awareness of the college.
Being given a “mandate” as interim president to make important appointments and advance academic offerings has allowed Dr. Fritz to effect changes that have already “increased excitement” about the college. Not incidentally, he refers to himself as the 7th president of CSI because he wants to include the time when CUNY’s presence in the borough was separated into Richmond College and Staten Island Community College. He is proud of that history. He is just as proud of the new directions he has charted. For the first time CSI now has residence halls, at 98% capacity. Though housing only 450 students (many from The Bronx, looking for an affordable campus experience) out of a campus total of 14,000, their presence has affected the entire college because the dorm students help define CSI as a place to live, work, study – to “really use the campus.” Thus, the president looks to partnerships between the public and private sector to advance this initiative.
Of course, it’s in the academic area that President Fritz seeks to make the most enduring changes, curricular emphases that can offer job opportunities and enhance the quality of life. Under his leadership CSI has created three new schools in Business, Education and Health Sciences. He notes that the college can boast having sophisticated programs in general-degree engineering, including now a specialized B.S. in Electrical Engineering. Big data analytics also play an important part in the new CSI, as faculty expertise, high-performance computing and allied technologies make the college an important resource for the city, mapping and forecasting in areas that affect transportation, the environment and the economy. To this end, CSI will soon be opening a branch in St. George, on the northeastern tip of Staten Island, near the ferry, so that college graduates who work in the Wall Street area can have an opportunity to do Masters work.
All in all, President Fritz has created ten new academic departments and is pushing ahead with others that he feels will put CSI well on the way to being, as he puts it,” a national campus, attracting students from all over the metropolitan area, the state and the country. #