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Board of Trustees to receive and review strategic plan in May


A man and a woman look at a woman speaking.
Ben Hurney / THE GATEPOST

By Kaitlin Carman

News Editor


The Board of Trustees discussed the University’s strategic plan draft, Trustee chair nominations, approving this year’s honorary degree recipient, and highlighting equity in policy impacts during their March 27 meeting.


Linda Campanella, consultant for strategic planning, said the strategic plan draft is in the works. 


“We're on track to present that to you as a completed executive-team-endorsed draft in May before it goes to the DHE (Department of Higher Education),” she said.


She described the strategic plan as an aspirational vision for the University in 2029.  


Campanella said, “There's a great excitement and energy and desire to be this voice for the region and a real leader in social impact - blurring the line between town and gown and being a force for transformative change in students' lives but beyond campus in the society, actually.” 


She said they want to establish the University as an “intellectual hub, an invaluable resource to the community, and a beacon for faculty and staff and certainly, prospective students who want to create a better, more equitable, and more sustainable world.”


Equity, diversity and social impact are key factors that are evaluated as new proposals are brought before leadership, according to Campanella.


In regard to program development, she said there is both focus and excitement around  highlighting opportunities that Framingham State and a few other universities offer - particularly  paid internship opportunities for undergraduate students.


Beth Cassavant, chairperson of the Board of Trustees, said, “We recognize through this plan that students’ success after graduation is very much dependent on their ability to be successful in the world outside of Framingham State, whether that's in the MetroWest - or back where they may be at home, giving students those skills by internships and those types of experiences - that's really embedded in here and I think it's exciting to think of those things.”


The ability to achieve strategic planning goals depends largely upon enrollment stability, revenue diversification, and strategic investments, according to Cassavant.


She said, “It's imperative that the whole campus understand that these fiscal realities are going to guide decision-making in priority setting those fiscal realities along with the reality that the University cannot do or be all things.”


The board unanimously approved Dr. Alisha Moreland-Capuia to receive an honorary doctorate of humane letters for the commencement ceremony on May 19.


Moreland-Capuia founded and directed McLean Hospital’s Institute for Trauma-Informed Systems Change. She is an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and an author whose research focuses on reducing unnecessary human suffering.


She was nominated by a student on the Commencement Committee, according to President Nancy Niemi.


Niemi said it is “highly appropriate” to select her to receive the degree because of her work in mental health and trauma.“I can't think of a better person to give a degree to and for our students and graduates to hear.”


Eric Gustafson, vice president of Development and Alumni Relations, said this year, the University has raised $2.17 million.


Gustafson said since the last Board of Trustees meeting, they received a $100,000 gift to establish an unrestricted endowment fund for the Danforth Museum, a $26,000 gift toward student scholarships, a $15,000 gift to the Danforth, and a $10,000 gift to the Endowed Scholarship Fund.


Additionally, the Biology and Chemistry departments both received donations of brand-new equipment.  He said, “They were very excited to get their hands on some great equipment that they didn't have to pay for.”


According to Gustafson, the relaunch of the Refer a Ram program has received “some pretty good response” from alumni after receiving a total of 45 referrals.


Students who are referred to the University by an alum will have their $50 application fee waived and will be awarded $1,000 per year for four years, totaling $4,000 over the course of earning a bachelor's degree.


[Editor’s Note: See “Refer a Ram” article] 


Student Trustee Ryan Mikelis reviewed the work SGA has accomplished over the course of AY 2023-24 with the board, including the implementation of baby-changing stations in the Athletic Center and Dwight Hall, the installation of a ramp outside CASA, raising mental health awareness, and creating gym equipment sign-out sheets to stop theft.


He also discussed the upcoming SGA elections. Candidate Night will be held on April 9 and the election will be on the 11th. 


He said, “We do have a few openings on our eBoard including secretary, vice president, and of course, student trustee. … So all of these spots have candidates for them and I'm excited to see where the future of our organization lies.”


A motion to nominate Anthony Hubbard as Board of Trustees’ chairperson and Clair Ramsbottom as vice chairperson for AY 2024-25 was passed with two abstentions - from Hubbard and Ramsbottom.


Cassavant said the board is “very grateful to both of them for their willingness to step into those roles.”


Ramsbottom said, “We're seeking to understand the student experience of being on an anti-racist campus in an anti-racist community. How does this translate into a live reality?” 


She added the racial demographics of Framingham State are changing more quickly than those of the state of Massachusetts. 


“So the second-largest population in Massachusetts is Latino or Hispanic. I think that's important for us to keep in mind as we think about our role as we talk about our strategic plan,” said Ramsbottom. 


Additionally, she said Framingham is close to being classified as a Hispanic-serving institution. 


To be labeled as such, a University’s demographics must be comprised of at least 25% Latinx students, and to be a minority-serving institution, over 50% of students must be non-white,  according to Ramsbottom. 


She said the percentage of white students is currently at 52.8%.


Ramsbottom highlighted the importance of assessing policy impacts from an equity lens and invited Lorretta Holloway, vice president of academic enhancement, to share an example of such an assessment and how the University responded.


Holloway said her office purchased laptops for the Laptop Loaner program, which is run by the Division of Student Success and funded by donations.


“But what it turns out is that there are disproportionately students of color and low-income students who are borrowing the laptops. We've also learned that if a laptop isn't returned and is counted as lost - it is counted as lost for a bit and then is counted as stolen,” she said.


As a result, she said police had to get involved and sometimes even showed up to a student’s residence to retrieve the “stolen property” per the lost-inventory policy.


“If you think about what that looks like and how many communities that look like me do not have that relationship with law enforcement, that is not an experience we want our students to have,” she said.


The University’s solution was to purchase laptops that cost less than $1,000, because anything less than that is not listed as inventory. Nor is it enforced by that particular lost-inventory policy, according to Holloway.


“We pulled all of those laptops out of rotation and had them recommissioned by IT and, with donations, bought laptops. … We just have other ways to address laptops that aren't returned,” she said.


Trustee Diane Finch said she finds equity and student gaps “contrapuntal” as there are variances within demographic groups. For example, she said the data shows Black male commuters not performing as well as Black male residents, yet it is the opposite situation for Latinx students.


“It begs the question, ‘What’s happening here? What are those support systems?’” she asked.


She suggested looking at Historically Black Colleges and Universities and their equity-minded approaches. “They’ve been doing this forever with their Black populations.”


Jeffrey Coleman, vice president for diversity, inclusion, and community engagement, said cultural nuances are important and should be considered when interpreting data.


He said, “One of the cultural nuances is that a lot of your Latino students have to be close to family because they're the translator for mom [or] grandma, and so going to college is not necessarily considered supporting the family immediately.


“And going away to college could be perceived as abandoning the family, so they're going to need to go back home and provide support in that way,” said Coleman. 


He said situations like this can explain why Latinx commuter students might have a better academic performance than those who are resident students and are away from their families and support systems.


During the Academic Affairs and Enrollment Management report, Iris Godes, dean of strategic enrollment management & chief enrollment officer, addressed the FAFSA delay that colleges and universities across the country are struggling to navigate.


“A lot of people will wait to come to the [accepted student] events before they deposit, and then this year, they don't have financial aid anyway. … I would anticipate over the next three to four weeks, we continue to see a decline in deposits and then hopefully, once we start rolling out the financial aid, which is targeted to get going the week of April 22 … we will start to get them [financial aid packages] out,” said Godes.


According to Trustee Nancy Budwig, there is a decrease in deposits compared to previous years. “We have close to 4,000 …  that have been delivered here. … Last year at this time, we had 6,000 - so we're kidding ourselves if we think that people are going to deposit not having their financial aid. So the big question is, ‘When will these go out?’”


Because of these delays, many families across the country are “skipping out” as they are unsure of whether they will be able to afford college without aid, according to Budwig.


Anne Roberti, executive director of English Language Programs and Community Education, presented Basma Hassanin as the graduate student in the spotlight.


She received her B.A. in Pharmaceutical Sciences in 2014 from Ain Shams University in Egypt and worked at Sigma-Tec as a quality assurance specialist, and later as a lead specialist at NAOS Solutions.


Hassanin said, “For all international students, life can be lonely. To immerse myself in the community, I searched for jobs.” 


She has worked with the University Police since 2022 where she is now a team lead. She worked with the English Language Programs and has served on two hiring committees as well as the Graduate Education Council. Additionally, Hassanin was awarded a graduate assistantship and is working for the Center for Inclusive Excellence (CIE).


“The CIE’s mission is to foster an environment for safety and inclusivity - where everyone feels a sense of belonging - and I'm not just saying this … I’ve seen this firsthand. They are truly remarkable at what they are doing.”

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