SUNY Buffalo State will set the stage for major change this year, including a new strategic plan to be finalized by spring 2014, interim President Howard Cohen said today at Rockwell Hall, site of the annual presidential address.
The college will also analyze the southwest corner of campus, near Rockwell Drive and Grant Street, as the potential site for a new spate of development.
And it will undergo a critical internal analysis of its academic programming to make sure it is modern and relevant.
Cohen said those are several ways he'll help Buff State prepare for future development, financial and academic decisions during his year on campus.
Meanwhile, the College Council, led by developer Howard Zemsky, will oversee the search for a full-time president.
"I see myself as laying the groundwork so when someone comes in here as president next year, they'll have the information to make key decisions," Cohen told reporters after his speech.
The timing is important: Buff State must find a way to stabilize and ultimately grow its enrollment base, which has dropped this fall for a second year in a row, causing a budgetary hole the college must fill with reserve funds, Cohen said.
A Business First request for specific enrollment and budgetary figures is pending.
Cohen took over as interim this summer for Aaron Podolefsky, who died of cancer. An on-campus memorial for Podelefsky will be held in the coming months, though details haven't yet been finalized.
Cohen is chancellor emeritus of Purdue University Calumet, and is earning an annual salary of $225,000 from SUNY while he works for Buffalo State.
He listed Buffalo State's accomplishments over the past year, including re-accreditation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, several new degree programs a series of capital upgrades, from completion of the first phase of the Science and Mathematics Complex to the newly renovated Campbell Student Union.
But the critical part of his speech was reserved for his list of six priorities in the coming year. They include:
• Cohen called Buffalo State's southwest corner "a natural second door for us," opposite its Elmwood Avenue frontage.
The college built and opened a new dormitory in that vicinity recently, and could consider additional student housing, an alumni and visitor center, additional parking and community partnership spaces, he said.
The college will work to determine the best use of that space in the coming year.
"However these plans take shape, it will allow us to better serve our entire campus and the outside communities and to help meet our aspirations for the future," he said.
• Buffalo State will broadly consider its economic impact on surrounding neighborhoods and the region - and will focus specifically on identifying a project that qualifies for Start-Up NY.
The proposed state program allows companies to operate tax free for 10 years if they're on or near a college campus. Cohen said "Quite simply, to be a good partner, Buffalo State must find a project that we can do quickly and do well," he said.
• The enrollment initiative will be placed under the directive of a new Strategic Enrollment Steering Committee, and will focus on both retention of current students and recruitment of new ones.
• Development of the new strategic plan will take place under the oversight of a revived College Planning Council and will "articulate our strategic directions for the next five years," identifying a small number of projects, programs or activities for each of the college's strategic directions.
• The college will move to an "all funds" budgeting model to provide financial clarity and consistency, he said.
• Buffalo State will scrutinize its alignment of faculty expertise, student demand and regional business needs, Cohen said. That review process will take place under the direction of Provost Dennis Ponton and include faculty and their academic departments.