Buffalo State College President Katherine Conway-Turner recognized the commitment faculty and staff members continue to make in fulfilling the college’s mission, despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and other external challenges, during her 2020 State of the College address, which she delivered virtually on October 20.
“The switch to remote instruction, the pivot to virtual support services, the move to remote work for staff not essential to be on campus, and the institution of new cleaning and health protocols were all daunting to consider and impossible when first described,” Conway-Turner said, “but we made the impossible possible, and the spring semester was completed with the major goals of our outstanding urban-engaged educational institution met.”
This fall, those measures were repeated and many more added to respond swiftly and safely to the pandemic. Among the measures put in place were implementing processes for tracing and screening for COVID-19, working with health officials to review and share new information as it evolves, and communicating constantly with the campus, which has included making daily updates to the COVID-19 online dashboard.
“Please stop to appreciate the work of our entire campus community,” Conway-Turner said. “These tasks are being completed in addition to all the normal work that is required to meet the educational and support goals of our campus.”
She also touched on the financial challenges that Buffalo State—and institutions throughout SUNY—is facing. These challenges, begun years before because of demographic shifts, significant decreases in transfer students, lower retention rates, and unfunded mandates, were exponentially increased by the coronavirus pandemic, including a severe hit to the state tax base. The resulting projected deficit of $14.8 million for Buffalo State’s 2020–2021 academic year, she said, will require innovation and cooperation to weather.
“The need to work together as a campus has never been more important than it is today,” Conway-Turner said. “We will need to elevate innovative ideas to the front while we stop or sunset projects that have served us well in the past but will not in the future. We will realign our priorities and prepare for today and tomorrow.”
In closing, Conway-Turner focused on the civic unrest that swept through the country last summer following George Floyd’s killing and other instances of police violence against people of color, which saddened, angered, and dismayed many members of the Buffalo State community.
On a bright note, she emphasized Buffalo State’s longtime commitment to social justice, which is now being enhanced. This includes launching a social justice website, increasing the campus’s connection with external community partners, and assessing how the curriculum can deepen students’ exposure to and understanding of social justice both historically and in its present manifestations.
“This year, we will deepen our work in the social justice space as we meet this moment,” she said.
2019–2020 in Review
Within her address, Conway-Turner highlighted some of the numerous accomplishments achieved during the previous academic year:
- American International Recruitment Council naming Buffalo State its “Institution of the Year” in recognition of its innovation and commitment to international student recruitment.
- Washington Monthly magazine once again naming Buffalo State a “best bang for the buck” campus; the college received the highest ranking of all campuses in Western New York.
- CollegeNet’s Social Mobility Index ranking Buffalo State 32nd out of 1,458 campuses for social mobility opportunities for students.
- Increases in the number of students taking service-learning courses and participating in the largest Dare to Care community service day last fall. The college’s Civic and Community Engagement Office, which oversees both of these initiatives, also implemented compelling programs to increase student voter registration.
- Completion of the final construction phase of the Science and Mathematics Complex, including the new Whitworth Ferguson Planetarium, and eagerly awaited renovations to the Academic Commons in E. H. Butler Library.