September 25, 2013
Dear Faculty Colleagues:
It feels as though the fall semester has started twice this year. I hope that by now you and your students are adjusting and that teaching and learning have settled into their usual rhythms. And I hope you are enjoying the glorious fall weather that has come our way. I am writing to forward information about resources available at the college to support student success. If you are concerned about students who seem to be having a difficult time academically or personally, you can make referrals to counseling, advisement, and tutoring services to help them through. If you are excited by the intellectually gifted students in your classes, you can suggest that they seek out one of the enrichment programs we offer to engage them intellectually beyond what you do in the classroom.
For faculty an important resource at the college is the Center for the Advancement of Teaching (CAT), and I am happy to report that it has a new director, Charles Davidson. CAT is in a temporary home this year—3300 North Hall. Charles can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 646-557-4660.
I was delighted to see so many faculty members turn out for Convocation on September 3. I thought it was a wonderful event, a spirited welcome to the students who are the “fresh” faces in our community. If you were there, you heard Vice President Cook-Francis and I talk about the academic journey upon which these new students were about to embark. We advised the students to meet three milestones at each stage of their journey: first, to connect to others-- peers, faculty, and staff—because this network of relationships will help them achieve their academic and career goals by supporting their learning; second to plan their future, setting clear and achievable goals and starting a process of integrated academic and career planning; third, to expand their horizons inside and outside the classroom, exploring new areas of study and embracing the unfamiliar and interesting so as to create an educational experience that truly excites them. These messages may seem obvious to those of us experienced in the ways of academe, but we have found that for our largely first-generation college students, it is important to lay out a roadmap for them and to articulate the importance of connecting, planning, and expanding their horizons. I hope that you will convey the same messages to your own students.
As I sat down to write this letter, I thought about what an important role our faculty play in helping to orient and guide students down the right paths to their goals. Of course, their chief goal is to earn the degree, but they often need to be reminded what we know so well from experience—that the degree is just a piece of paper, essentially useless if the recipient has not engaged deeply in learning, both inside and outside the classroom. So, I thank you for fostering the kind of engagement that will give meaning to your students’ degrees.
With warm wishes for a successful semester,
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs
John Jay @ 50
John Jay @ 50 will be, as it has always been, a college dedicated to educating for justice. When founded in 1964, John Jay College of Criminal Justice brought to life the novel and inspired idea that police officers could most fully realize their potential to contribute to the social good if they were educated in the liberal arts and sciences at an institution of higher education dedicated to influencing their actions by opening their minds. Three core principles informed that vision, define our identity, and distinguish us from other colleges. First and foremost, John Jay faculty, staff, students, and community partners share a commitment to ethical conduct, social justice, and the public good that daily influences our decision-making, informs our teaching and learning, and sustains us as a community. Second, the John Jay College curriculum integrates the liberal arts and sciences and professional education, promoting collaboration across disciplines to solve problems and create knowledge from an interdisciplinary perspective. Third, members of the John Jay community link theory and practice, intentionally building bridges between the world of the intellect and imagination and the world of practice.
Over the decades since its founding, John Jay College has moved beyond its beginnings as a "college for cops" while keeping faith with its founding principles. These principles have supported us and provided continuity in the past five years as the College has undergone a remarkable transformation. We have changed the profile of our students by phasing out associate degree admissions and raising baccalaureate admissions standards, changed our academic profile by reintroducing liberal arts majors, and changed our faculty profile by hiring over one hundred new faculty to support the new majors, bring new energy to the curriculum, and advance research and scholarship. As we look toward our fiftieth birthday, we honor the college we are, as we design the college we wish to become. Our transformation is not finished; we commit to continuing to pursue innovation and to following a program of continuous self-assessment and improvement in order to best achieve our goals and best prepare our institution to meet the challenges of the coming years. Specifically, we aspire to increasing excellence in five overlapping and interdependent domains: student success, teaching, research, strategic partnerships, and institutional effectiveness.
In the past we interpreted our mission as the transmission of knowledge to promote justice and focused our attention on delivering instruction and measuring our students' mastery of subject matter. This model of education will no longer serve. To produce graduates with the flexibility, creativity, competence, and self-confidence to be successful in the twenty-first century, we must shift our focus from transmitting knowledge to producing learning, from delivering instruction to empowering students to become co-producers of knowledge, and from counting credit hours to assessing student learning. We must provide the best possible learning environment for our students, public school graduates who reflect the diversity of our city and who commute daily to the college from its boroughs and surrounding communities. We will evaluate our effectiveness as an institution by the extent to which we have given these students, our graduates, the tools they need to become lifelong learners. To accomplish this shift in focus, we must become a community in which each and every member is dedicated to the goal of student learning. To create such a community, we must cross the borders and dissolve the boundaries that often fragment academic institutions and impede change.
One such border is the invisible but powerful line that is sometimes drawn between teaching and research. We will erase that line by creating an environment in which the teacher/scholar can flourish. We will recruit, support and reward faculty who aspire to excellence in teaching; who are active and productive scholars engaged in research; who value the participation of students, including undergraduates, in their research; who create assignments and adopt pedagogies that encourage students to discover and construct knowledge for themselves; who connect students to academic and professional circles; and who model how to be lifelong learners and how to subject ideas to the rigorous scrutiny of peers.
Graduates of John Jay College @ 50 will be expected to move beyond the single academic discipline in which they majored to solve problems from an interdisciplinary perspective, most often as part of a team. We cannot develop such graduates unless we become an institution that supports interdisciplinary inquiry and expects collaboration across organizational domains. Building on our history of cross-disciplinary scholarship and interdisciplinary pedagogy, we will create structures for and shift resources toward projects and programs that are cross-disciplinary and trans-institutional. We will increase collaboration among academic disciplines and between the strictly academic activities of the College and its other functions. In particular, we will take a holistic approach to student success, working not only to help students achieve their specific academic goals, but also to promote their personal and social development and maturation. We understand that students learn best when they are supported as they meet their life challenges and when they are provided with a healthy environment free of non-academic impediments to learning. Making this possible will require the cooperation of many people who do not usually think of themselves as colleagues -- front-line staff and distinguished professors, registrars and researchers, technicians and tutors. We will all play a role in student learning and success – and the more successful our graduates, the greater our impact on the world.
We also want to have a strong and positive impact on the world directly, by becoming an institution of consequence, which means transforming the College into an incubator for ideas that change people's thinking and enhance the public good. Achieving this means taking a new approach to partnerships, one that rejects the characterization of the rest of the world as external to the core business of the college. It means having professionals--community organizers and advocates, cultural, civic, and business leaders, and our alumni--join the members of the College community as philanthropic partners and active participants in producing knowledge. It means having students move outside the classroom to engage the world directly. We will blur the distinction between inside and outside and harness the intellectual power of these mutually enriching spheres of knowledge and action to design and initiate strategies for improving individual lives and remedying social problems not just in New York City, but around the world. John Jay @ 50 will translate ideas into social justice and action on a global scale.
To make sure we are successful, we will create a culture of continuous self-assessment and improvement. We will gather data about the extent to which our actions and programs produce student learning, and we will provide regular, public, transparent, and useful feedback on institutional performance to our community. Positive impact on student learning will be the yardstick by which we measure institutional effectiveness. Having the data in hand, we will hold all members of our community, including students, accountable for learning.
These data on student learning will inform strategic decisions about academic direction and programmatic and institutional investments. We will have the courage of our convictions, and the willingness to make hard decisions and stand firmly behind them. Student success is the touchstone that will guide the College's financial planning and budget processes, our space planning, and our academic, managerial, and enrollment decision-making going forward.
To be sure, there will be challenges ahead, especially in gathering the means necessary to realize our visionary ends. To meet this challenge, we commit to increasing the resources of the College by developing new streams of revenue, increasing our efficiency and effectiveness, and linking our institutional strengths with community and university needs and priorities. Most importantly, we commit to aligning our resources with our priorities so that our assets support student learning and success.
The accomplishments of the past five years have shown us that we are capable of great change and that the institutional center holds as structures, processes, and people are transformed. We count on the strength of our commitment to learning, the energy and spirit of our colleagues, and the firm foundation on which we stand as we look forward to the half-century mark—John Jay @ 50.