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Board of Trustees renames Office of Development and Alumni Relations


The Gatepost Archives

By Kaitlin Carman

Interim News Editor


The Board of Trustees discussed NECHE updates, the search for a new Chief Financial Officer (CFO), and a motion to name the Alumni Center, via Zoom on Jan. 24.


Eric Gustafson, vice president of development and alumni relations, proposed a motion to name the Office of Development and Alumni Relations, located at 45 Adams Road, after Joan Murtaugh '61.


He said Murtaugh spent her career working in the Framingham public schools and has been a “very active” alumna since her retirement.


Some of her contributions to the community include her involvement with the Lifelong Learning Program that partners with the Framingham Public Library, setting up five endowment funds, and supporting the Henry Whittemore Library, according to Gustafson.


“We’d like to recognize her by naming the house that houses our department in her honor,” he said. However, the board of trustees must approve before it gets sent to the Board of Higher Education.


During the opening updates, Board of Trustees Chair Beth Casavant addressed trustee nominations. The board is currently understaffed and is feeling “the added pressure” as three members’ terms are expiring in March, according to Casavant.


She said, “We also learned that … for every one trustee vacancy, we need to put forward two names - so we need to have a trustee and we need to have an alternate.” With the need to fill the five vacancies, the board will be searching for a total of ten trustee candidates.


Casavant said the upcoming Executive Committee meeting will primarily focus on DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) initiatives. At the Dec. 7 meeting, the land acknowledgment statement was a primary focus.


During that meeting, the Board of Trustees were unable to trace the origin of the land acknowledgment statement. Therefore, the committee decided it “should start fresh to ensure that the process is inclusive and that [they] are using the land acknowledgment statement as something substantive and not just symbolic,” she said.


The acknowledgment will be included in the work involving the new University seal which included local tribes throughout that process, according to Casavant. 


She said, “Hopefully by taking this approach, even though it will be a more lengthy way of getting a land acknowledgment statement in place, it will be a way that we all can look back and say, ‘OK, we definitely did the right thing.’


“We talked to the right stakeholders, we made sure people were involved, and we are doing this for the right reason.”


Casavant thanked Dr. Jeffery Coleman, Vice President for Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement,  for “being present” and working with the Executive Committee during that process. She asked him to provide a list of “equity-minded” questions that will “help us get thinking about what the equity gaps are in our committees, and the long- and short-term DEI-related goals that we want to set.”


As for the next steps, Casavant said there will be a survey for committee chairs to complete in addition to a self-audit to determine where DEI is being implemented in committee work.


“Again, I’m not looking or advocating for forcing DEI into places where maybe it doesn’t have a natural fit, but I bet if we think about it and we look through the questions that [Coleman] provided, we probably could find some connections and things maybe we hadn’t thought of,” she said.


In her update, Strategic Planning Consultant Linda Campenella said, “If I were to sum it up in two sentences, those two sentences would be, ‘The process is working. And we’re making great progress - on track to meet milestones.’”


She attributed the successful progress to the inclusivity of their operation. “It’s working because it’s inclusive, and that was one of our paramount commitments at the beginning.


“Ultimately, we want folks to feel that their views and voices are reflected in the plan that gets developed so it’s inclusive,” said Campenella.


In her experience with other Massachusetts universities, she said the DHE (Department of Higher Education) likes to use the verb “tethering.”


“They like to see the strategic plans tethered to their own plans and priorities. So one of the things that we’ll be doing in the Strategic Planning Committee - as soon as this Friday - is tethering the themes that we’ve identified to three critical DHE documents,” said Campenella.


At the end of the update, President Nancy Niemi discussed how the University is on the way to its next milestone - the NECHE (New England Commission of Higher Education) report.


According to the NECHE website, NECHE is a “voluntary, non-governmental membership association that serves as an institutional accreditor and promotes educational excellence and quality assurance to its member institutions” in New England.


 As part of the accreditation process, institutions must periodically undergo evaluation every ten years with a check-in every five years.

 

This is to “ensure quality, innovation, and student success across the ever-evolving landscape of higher education,” according to the NECHE website.


The NECHE self-study was due on Jan. 31.


Niemi said, “The draft that they received received very positive feedback. They said, and I’m quoting now, that the overall document is one of the best they’ve read.


“It was thorough, supported by data, and well-structured - so that was extremely encouraging.”


She reminded the board about the upcoming NECHE team campus visit which will take place Apr. 7 - Apr. 10.  The University is expected to be notified of the accreditation status between September and November 2024, according to Niemi.

 

Niemi announced an executive search for a new Vice President of Administration, Finance, and Information Technology as Dale Hamel is retiring this October.


She said, “There’s no way we will replace Dale Hamel as the person, but, as a CFO, we will look for somebody who can help us see into the future.”


The University contracted the executive search firm Isaacson, Miller and lead consultant Dan Rodas to find the best candidate, according to Niemi.


“We look forward to welcoming finalists to campus in late spring. The timeline will allow some overlap with Dr. Hamel so we can ensure a smooth transition before his retirement,” said Niemi.


During the Development and Alumni Relations report, Gustafson announced the University has fundraised approximately $1.6 million this year.


Gustafson said they are waiting for a response from the Board of Higher Education to approve the guidelines for the endowment incentive program, “But it's going to happen.


“It will serve as a great opportunity for donors who want to support endowment to have their gift matched by the Commonwealth,” he said.


Student Trustee Ryan Mikelis’ report focused primarily on SGA’s involvement with student life and partnership with the CIE. He said, “SGA has been highlighting the impact that MLK brought to the fields of diversity and inclusion,” referring to Martin Luther King Jr. Day that took place on Jan. 15.


Mikelis said one event was a  “You Can Change the World table in honor of his legacy. … The goal of that table and the purpose of it was to highlight the ways to students that MLK left a legacy and how students want to follow that legacy.


“Our activity at that table was a footprint activity where we had cutouts of footprints that said, You Can Change the World by … and then students could write in the way they want to change the world,” he said.


The completed footprints will be laminated and taped to the wall in the SGA office, according to Mikelis.


He also announced that SGA is searching for a new diversity and inclusion officer as Ellen Lopes stepped down for personal reasons. 


Mikelis said, “We’ve really made an effort to reach out to affinity groups to see if anyone there is interested in taking on that role.


“Coming up on Feb. 7, we’re having an affinity group mixer to really help affinity groups collaborate with one another … and also create a better partnership between affinity groups and student government so that we can help them with any goals they have, and really represent the entire student body to the best of our ability,” he said.


Additionally, the new baby-changing stations that were recently installed in the Dwight Hall and Athletic Center restrooms were another way in which SGA was able to represent the campus community - especially students who are parents, according to Mikelis.


He reminded the board of the upcoming Big Budget meeting, which will take place on Feb. 6 at 6:30 p.m. in McCarthy 419.


Big Budget is an annual meeting during which SGA approves proposed budgets and allocates group one student organizations funding from the SATF (Student Activity Trust Fund). Budgets determined this year will be implemented for FY25.


Mikelis said, “All students pay a $70 student activity fee that is annually allocated amongst all student organizations through Big Budget. And this budgeting and the amount of unallocated funds is determined by the numbers of enrolled students.”

 

The allocations will cover the organizations’ needs for maintaining equipment, providing services to the community, and hosting events.


Trustee Diane Finch asked Mikelis how students can receive funding for new student organizations, to which Mikelis responded, “I believe you need about two or three students with a similar interest to form a student organization, and you just have to go to the EXP (Student Experience and Career Development) Office, draft the constitution, and then that club will be entered into the group 6 organizations, which are new startup clubs.


“They’re allocated a set amount of money to use for a year and if they grow and if they’re consistent, then that number - their funding - will increase. … If they ever want more funding, they can request that from student government,” he said.


During the Student in the Spotlight, what Niemi referred to as “the best part” of the meeting, Dr. Michael Harrison, chair of the Department of Marketing, introduced senior marketing major Jillian Hansen.


Hansen is a first-generation Honors Program student who has been inducted into two honors societies and currently has the highest GPA of all marketing majors, “a stellar 3.82,” according to Harrison.


He said Christy Garcia, the Director of the Framingham State University Entrepreneur Innovation Center (EIC), stated that “the website was only possible because of all of Jillian’s hard work.


“Jillian’s done so well, she’s been invited back and is extending her internship in the spring semester,” Harrison said.


“Jillian was also a key member of the winning project team in Dr. Rahman’s Strategic Marketing course,” during which her team developed a social media campaign for Greenlight Analytical, a Canadian company that produces specialized testing equipment for agricultural projects, said Harrison.


He said, Henry Kay, board member of Boston Harbor Angels and investor, told him, “‘This group is so fantastic and the company is definitely going to be using their tag lines.’’’


Hansen said she is thankful for all the opportunities FSU has provided her with and the guidance of her professors. “The community at Framingham State really has kept me so satisfied here. I truly feel like I’ve been supported in every way.”



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