College of Staten Island – An Anchor Institution for the Borough
By William J. Fritz, President, College of Staten Island
This is an exciting time at the College of Staten Island. We have over $57M in ongoing State Construction projects to improve our 204-acre campus, unique in the City of New York; we have just opened a facility at St. George with classes and a tech incubator. We have outstanding faculty scholarship, rising national rankings, and, of course, outstanding and inspiring students. We have been exploring our legacy in a trilogy starting with the legacy of our institution, the legacy of our current campus at Willowbrook, and ending with a legacy of mission.
Most exciting is that the examination of our legacy has ended in a new strategic plan, “Opportunity to Ascend.” The term has a dual meaning. Since our earliest days of Staten Island Community College in 1956 and later Richmond College, our mission has been arrow-straight: to provide access to the highest quality education and the “Opportunity to Ascend to our students”. As an institution we have that same “Opportunity to Ascend”, and as a “Destination Campus” with a commitment to “Global Engagement” to become a place where students from all over the world will want to come and study and faculty and staff want to spend their careers.
We have a world-class faculty equal to a top research university and we value “Scholarship-Driven Education,” meaning that Pulitzer Prize poet Professor Tyehimba Jess makes special requests to teach freshmen students and whenever you go into the lab of Professor Dan McCloskey, one of the top 100 young scientists in the entire country as recognized by President Obama, you find undergraduate students helping out with his scholarship – something that does not occur at many research-intensive institutions.
We are a part of Staten Island, not apart from Staten Island committed to “Borough Stewardship.” We have a unique role as an Anchor Institution, the only public institution of higher education and the Borough’s second largest employer. We work with public and private sectors on the island to provide opportunities to students, to aid in workforce development, and to help with initiatives to improve Civic Prosperity (jobs plus quality of life).
Just take our new CSI Tech incubator in St. George. Its first cohort of start-up companies include a property tech firm from France, an artificial intelligence travel and tourism application company from Manhattan, and an education-based facial recognition software company founded by one of our own brilliant computer science students. Our Incubator has helped these start-ups grow and scale their businesses to enable them to stay in New York City and potentially remain on Staten Island.
Another example of Borough Stewardship is our recognition of the legacy of place and our strong ties to the Willowbrook Legacy and the Staten Island disabilities community. Our campus is where the civil rights movement for people with disabilities started. We are committed to see that the conditions of institutionalization does not return. One example is the Willowbrook Mile, a 2.2 mile long walking trail with educational stations telling the Willowbrook story.
Because of our commitment to “Student Success” our students go to the best medical schools, law schools, serve in the most prestigious not-for profits, and get the best jobs on Wall Street and elsewhere. In the past several years we have ranked high in the entire nation for taking students from the lowest two quintiles of wealth and moving them to the upper levels. Our alumni make in the top 15% of salaries compared to graduates from any institution in the country! We are the number one military friendly school in the country.
And we do all this by providing access to all. 60% of our students pay no tuition as it is covered by the State or Federal Government based on need, 75% of our students graduate debt free, and those that do borrow graduate with an average of $8,000 in debt. This access includes serving students in pre-college programs and workforce development, students with remedial needs, and degree seeking students at the associates, baccalaureate, masters, and doctoral levels.
So what is missing? As budgets decline and cost of living increases we have to be very mindful of our “Resource Management”. We simply do not have the ability to make our campus as beautiful as we would like or to provide incentives to support and retain those world-class faculty or to give our students the opportunity to participate in life changing programs like study-abroad or undergraduate research and scholarship, or to live in our residence halls, Dolphin cove, without help from philanthropy.
For over 60 years, our students have been the true legacies of our mission. From Charlotte Montalbano the first student speaker at Staten Island Community College’s 1958 Commencement to Palwasha Syar, our most recent 2017 Valedictorian, CSI has given all of our 68,000 graduates the “Opportunity to Ascend.”
The College of Staten Island has a proud legacy and looks forward to a bright future.#