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January 22, 2016

SUNY Cortland outreach pushed

SUNYJoe McIntyre/staff photographer
SUNY Cortland President Erik Bitterbaum addresses faculty during Thursday’s State of the College address in the Corey Union Function Room. Bitterbaum told faculty that they also need to reach out to students as a peer or mentor as part of an effort to keep graduation rates up.

By LEANN HLEBICA
Staff Reporter
lhlebica@cortlandstandardnews.net

SUNY Cortland President Erik Bitterbaum welcomed faculty back after winter break Thursday and discussed in his State of the College address ways they can help students by not only the way they teach but also by reaching out to students as peers or mentors.
Bitterbaum encouraged faculty to help advisers keep students on track, and to catch them early if they are failing or falling behind in course work. That will help keep graduation rates high.
Bitterbaum said 72.8 percent of SUNY Cortland’s freshmen in 2009 had graduated bylast spring. Nationwide,57.2 percent of studentsgraduate in six years, according to the National Center forEducation Statistics. A peer or mentor can help studentsgraduate and lead them into post-college leadership roles, Bitterbaum said.
Applied learning is also important, he said. Internships, student activities and undergraduate research will take the classroom work and apply it to real life.
Noelle Chaddock, the chief diversity officer at the college, followed Bitterbaum’s presentation with a panel discussion of diversity trends.
“It is just the beginningof a conversation,” Chaddock said before beginning apanel discussion of facultyand students on racism and diversity.
“I believe race is an important topic overall,” senior Cierra Degale said before the panel discussion. “It is a critical component no one wants to talk about and that we need to start talking about.”
Vicki Wilkins, professor of recreation, parks and leisure studies at SUNY Cortlandsaid teachers need to change their reactions in a positiveway. This requires careful thinking and reflective responses she said, responding to negative comments such as, “that’s so gay,” rather than ignoring the comment.
Bitterbaum spoke about two diversity meetings by the Black Student Union last semester, saying he hopes continued meetings lead to a more united campus where people can get to know each other without regard to race.

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