SUNY Geneseo president named co-chair of regional economic development council

The Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council has tapped SUNY College at Geneseo president Denise Battles as its next co-chair. Battles succeeds former Monroe Community College president Anne Kress, who served in the role from 2016 until December 2019.

Denise Battles
Denise Battles

Battles shares the chairperson role with Robert Duffy, president and CEO of the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce Inc. The agency works to grow the economy in the nine-county Finger Lakes region.

“The statewide Regional Economic Development Councils have brought together local stakeholders in academia, business, education and nonprofits to spearhead economic development projects in their communities,” said state Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, chairwoman of the statewide REDCs. “The Finger Lakes REDC has worked to transform the region with new and expanded businesses, increased tourism opportunities and good-paying jobs.”

Hochul said Battles’ experience and knowledge will help to accelerate the Finger Lakes Forward development strategy and continue its growth momentum.

“I am deeply honored to have this opportunity to serve and advance the economic development and vitality of the Finger Lakes region,” Battles said in a statement. “It is humbling to follow Anne Kress’ exemplary record of leadership and join Bob Duffy in the role of co-chair. I look forward to partnering with Bob, whose contributions to our state are unparalleled, as well as other FLREDC team members, to grow the capacity of our region and beyond.”

Battles was named SUNY Geneseo president in 2015 and is the second woman to lead the college as permanent president since its opening in 1871. During her 25-year career, Battles has been a geologist, professor and higher education administrator and is a Colgate University alumna.

Prior to her arrival at SUNY Geneseo, she was provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and previously served as dean of the College of Natural and Health Sciences and professor of geology at the University of Northern Colorado.

“I can think of no one better to take over for Anne than Denise Battles, who will bring a new set of ideas to the table that will no doubt further our focused mission,” Duffy said. “Anne Kress’ leadership on the regional council was simply transformative for the Finger Lakes region. I am incredibly grateful for her tireless commitment to the council.”

Other members recently appointed to the council include Grant Malone, president, Rochester Building & Construction Trades; Steve Mowers, Claims Recovery Financial Services; and Lisa Burns, president, Finger Lakes Regional Tourism Council.

Ex-officio changes to the regional council include Monroe County Executive Adam Bello, Wayne County Board of Supervisors chairman Kenneth Miller and Seneca County Board of Supervisors chairman Robert Hayssen.

“In these unprecedented times it is more important than ever that the community continues to work together to support the council’s transformative efforts to move the regional economy forward,” Bello said. “I am proud to have the opportunity to serve on the council as it continues that important mission.”

REDCs were established by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2011 as a centerpiece of his strategy to jump-start the economy and create jobs. Through nine rounds of the REDC competition, FLREDC has delivered some $721 million for 950 projects.

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MCC picks retired Corning president as interim

Monroe Community College has appointed the recently retired president of SUNY Corning Community College as its interim president while it conducts a national presidential search.

Katherine Douglas, whose 40-year career has included community colleges in three states, will begin her job on Monday and is expected to serve for 12 to 18 months, the college said, while the search is conducted.

Katherine P. Douglas
Katherine P. Douglas

Douglas steps into the seat vacated in December by Anne Kress, who took a job at Northern Virginia Community College after 10 years as MCC’s president.

“As a seasoned educator and leader in higher education, Dr. Douglas is uniquely suited to lead MCC as interim president. Her commitment to the community college mission and her familiarity with the Western New York/Finger Lakes region will be an asset to MCC,” said Barbara P. Lovenheim, chairwoman of the MCC Board of Trustees, in a news release.

Douglas said in the same release: “The great respect I hold for MCC is based on my previous years of SUNY leadership and service, at which time I have witnessed the numerous successes and innovations led by MCC faculty and staff.”

Douglas retired from Corning in June after eight years as president there. Previously she was vice president of academic affairs at Sussex County Community College in New Jersey. She began her career on the faculty of Greenfield Community College, where she worked for 27 years, and was dean of social sciences at Holyoke Community College, both in Western Massachusetts.

Douglas earned three degrees from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.  Her doctorate and master’s degrees are in education, and her bachelor’s degree is in leisure studies and services/outdoor education.

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United Way unveils new funding strategy

United Way of Greater Rochester Inc. this week unveiled its community impact fund strategy for 2020 and beyond, a plan that will focus on health, education and economic mobility.

Jaime Saunders (Jeff Witherow)
Jaime Saunders (Jeff Witherow)

“Today we are offering a focus on our three new impact areas of health, education and economic mobility, to be officially launched as United for Impact 2020 in the coming year,” said United Way President and CEO Jaime Saunders during a panel discussion Tuesday at the Strong National Museum of Play. “It’s the first major shift for our organization and for your United Way in nearly 10 years, as we have been following the blueprints for change. Following a robust input process and needs assessments and more discussions and research, your United Way is shifting its impact areas to align with local, as well as national and worldwide efforts at the United Way that work directly to improve the most essential building blocks for reducing poverty and improving quality of life.”

Panelists included Common Ground Health CEO Wade Norwood; Terry Dade, superintendent of Rochester City School District; and Anne Kress, Monroe Community College president and co-chair of the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council.

Norwood, a former Rochester city councilmember and one-time mayoral hopeful, referred to a 2018 survey sponsored by Common Ground Health that showed some of the impacts poverty has on health. For example, poor people are twice as likely to have experienced the loss of a tooth and twice as likely to be living with diabetes.

“And as someone living with diabetes, it’s incredibly responsive to the amount of stress that I experience. On high-stress days my blood sugar is out of whack,” Norwood offered. “And keep in mind I have an extra zero on my income that we’re talking about poor folks not having.”

People with low income also are nearly three times more likely to have asthma, the report also found.

Anne Kress, Terry Dade and Wade Norwood served as panelists for United Way of Greater Rochester's United for Impact announcement. (Photo by Velvet Spicer)
Anne Kress, Terry Dade and Wade Norwood served as panelists for United Way of Greater Rochester’s United for Impact announcement. (Photo by Velvet Spicer)

“People talked to us about their mental and emotional health. Sixteen percent of our respondents across the entire region told us their mental and emotional health is fair or poor. That number jumps to 32 percent for people with household incomes under $25,000 a year. And when we say mental and emotional health, we’re not talking about bipolar depression or schizophrenia; we’re talking about helplessness. We’re talking about anger. And we’re talking about destructive behavior; destructive towards others, destructive towards self. And this is the adults. This is why we need the United Way,” Norwood said. “This has a lot to do with people who have too much month and too little money.”

Dade, who was appointed as superintendent of schools in May, noted that although he was left to be raised by his father, a former undercover police officer in Washington D.C., his father and grandmother made the choice to move to Northern Virginia, affording Dade the opportunity to go to better schools than what was available in the nation’s capital at the time.

“I’m a living testament to education being the great equalizer,” Dade said. “For me, it’s a calling to make sure that every single family who makes the best choice possible to enroll their students here in Rochester City (School District), that we provide them with the highest quality education possible.”

But the data, he said, is staggering. Rochester has the third-highest childhood poverty rate nationwide, and the school district has the lowest or second-lowest performance in any indicator with regard to student outcomes statewide.

“Some of the pieces that we’re focusing in on are our math and reading proficiency; we’re right now at 13 percent. That is not OK. How do you solicit support for parents to say this is the right system for you with data like this?” Dade said. “So that will be a focal point this year and the years to come.”

Chronic absenteeism also is a problem at RCSD, where the rate is as high as 60 percent in some schools, Dade said.

“These are some of the challenges that we face, but also, like Mr. Norwood, I’m not a doom and gloom type of leader,” he added. “It really is all about how do we come together as a community to combat the challenges of poverty and make sure we’re working together in a coordinated manner to reverse the trends that we’re seeing so far?”

Dade said working collaboratively, using the collective impact model, will be key in reversing those trends.

“Our kids are greater than our egos,” he said of working together.

Kress noted that with the current economy and low unemployment rate, there should be no one living in poverty. But skill sets matter, she said.

“We have got 22 workforce clusters that we have measured multiple metrics around. There’s not a single career pathway that doesn’t in some way involve science and math,” Kress explained. “When you hear some of the challenges that students in the district are having, that the district is reaching out for help about, know that that matters. It doesn’t just matter in getting from third grade to fourth grade. It matters in getting from $30,000 to $40,000.”

And students can travel a number of avenues at the two-year and four-year degree level that still will leave them living in poverty, she said.

“And we don’t want that to happen. Early college career exploration matters,” Kress said. “We know that getting students in the eighth grade and the ninth grade interested in some of these pathways and with the skill sets necessary to move forward, matters incredibly to their future economic opportunity.”

United for Impact will allow United Way to continue to invest in critical programs and complex social change with a high return on community investment. It will allow the organization to connect people, resources, sectors and initiatives to unite toward common goals, and serve to achieve a thriving community for all.

United for Impact is the result of 18 months of listening, learning and analyzing information and ideas. Nearly 1,200 community members gave input about current and future needs, officials said, and 850 people responded to surveys to share about challenges and potential solutions.

“When this community organizes itself, focused on moving an indicator, and when we understand it’s not a research project, it’s community action, and when we understand it’s not a magic bullet, but it’s lots of things … and when we understand it’s not going to happen in a week, but we give it time, we make change occur,” Norwood said.

United Way’s health impact area will focus on ensuring that basic needs are met; that positive, sustaining social and emotional connections are built throughout an individual’s lifespan; and that individuals who have experienced trauma have opportunities to heal.

Ensuring that kids have the support they need to learn, grow and thrive through education will be done through achieving developmental milestones, developing strong self-esteem among students and helping them transition to young adulthood.

Economic mobility will be looked at through the lens of meaningful employment and having the opportunities and skills to gain and maintain that employment. Those results will lead to improved financial stability.

Beginning in August 2020, United Way will enhance its three-year grant process by engaging a core network of human service providers to implement impact grants, formerly known as community fund grants, related to health, education and economic mobility.

Innovation grants are planned to address strategic partnerships, social innovation, neighborhoods, synergies and crisis response, officials said. The support will be designed to be nimble and responsive to immediate and emerging community needs.

“These building blocks are incredibly simple, yet they are extraordinarily complex. They are inextricably linked to one another and we must understand and address all three to ultimately support individuals, families and our community as a whole,” Saunders said. “This community is filled with tremendous opportunity, yet we are also facing significant challenges to our well-being. It is how we come together to address these opportunities and barriers that matters.”

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MCC wins $4.4 million to train more optics technicians

 A $4.4 million federal grant will help Monroe Community College turn out higher numbers of precision optics graduates.

U.S. Rep. Joe Morelle, D-Rochester, announced the grant Wednesday from the Office of Naval Research for the Defense Engineering Education Program in Optics.

This year MCC graduated 12 optics technicians, but that was a small percentage of the workers needed for 574 open positions in the Finger Lakes region, Morelle’s office said.

 “With 98 percent of these jobs currently going unfilled in our region, it’s more important than ever that we strengthen our workforce development initiatives and help students prepare for the jobs of tomorrow,” Morelle said.

“The grant allows MCC to strengthen our region’s optics workforce and help fulfill growing demands for skilled technicians in the defense critical field of applied optics,” said MCC President Anne M. Kress. “With federal support, we will expand our programs and apprenticeship network to attract more students, especially those from underserved populations, to optics education and careers.”

During three years, the grant is expected to have an impact on at least 3,000 high school and college students, apprentices, high school teachers and MCC faculty. The program will establish 150 apprenticeships and 30 sponsors from the industry to improve awareness of the opportunities in optics.

MCC is the only community college in the country offering associate’s degrees in precision optics.

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Kress a finalist for top spot at Virginia college

Anne M. Kress, president of Monroe Community College for the last decade, is one of three finalists for the presidency of Northern Virginia Community College.

The college in Richmond, Va., has 75,000 students on six campuses, making it about four times larger than Rochester’s community college. MCC has two campuses and additional off-site learning centers.

“Northern Virginia Community College is one of our nation’s largest, most diverse, and most dynamic community colleges,” said Glenn DuBois, chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges. “That’s reflected in the pool of candidates who applied for this presidency and the group of finalists moving on to the next step. These are seasoned and successful higher education leaders, and each of them is ready for the unique opportunities and challenges of leading NOVA.”

The finalists are due to visit the college for a series of introductions and events next week, including a formal interview with the NOVA board of trustees.

Anne M. Kress, president of Monroe Community College
Anne M. Kress, president of Monroe Community College

Besides Kress, the candidates are Paul Broadie II of Orange, Conn., and Joaquín G. Martínez of Hollywood, Fla. Broadie is president of two independent Connecticut community colleges, while Martínez is a vice-provost at Miami Dade College.

In a statement issued Thursday afternoon, Kress said, “Northern Virginia Community College is a dynamic, innovative institution committed to student success and to serving a diverse and growing regional economy. It is an honor to have been nominated for consideration as NOVA’s next leader and to have been selected as a finalist in its presidential search. While that search moves forward, I remain focused on serving and advancing MCC, as I have each day for more than ten years. ”

According to the Richmond college, the finalists were selected from a pool of 80 applicants.

“We were diligent in noting that NOVA’s next leader must be one that ensures that the college’s structure and culture are aligned while engaging all community constituents for the highest level of success,” said Rick Pearsons, chair of the NOVA College board, in a statement.

MCC’s board president, Barbara P. Lovenheim, said, “Anne Kress is the nationally recognized and respected leader of an institution that is among the top community colleges in the country, so it is not a surprise that she would attract the interest of Northern Virginia Community College.”

If selected, Kress would be the sixth president in the Virginia college’s history, and the second woman to hold the position. She is MCC’s first female president.

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Three women poised to take first-ever higher-ed leadership roles

On Monday, three women will create history in the Rochester area as each one officially becomes the first woman to preside over her respective college or university.

Angela Sims
Angela D. Sims

As University of Rochester, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and Colgate Rochester Crozier Divinity School all welcome their new presidents, seven out of 12 colleges in Monroe County and its bordering counties will be led by women and six will be first-female presidents.

The percentage of female presidents locally will be nearly double the national average of 30.1 percent.

“My first thought is Susan B. Anthony must be smiling down on Rochester right now!” wrote Anne M. Kress, president of MCC.

RBJ interviewed by email the Rochester area’s four current female presidents about advice they might have for the new presidents and their thoughts on the wave of women in higher education. They are:

  • Kress, president of MCC since 2009;
  • Deana L. Porterfield, president of Roberts Wesleyan College since 2014;
  • Heidi Macpherson, president of SUNY Brockport since 2015;
  • and Denise Battles, president of SUNY Geneseo since 2015.

The first three were breakers of glass ceilings at their institutions. Battles is the second permanent female president at Geneseo. (A female interim president immediately preceded her.)

The three new presidents reporting to duty Monday are:

  • Sarah C. Mangelsdorf, who is coming to UR from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where she has been provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs.
  • Joyce P. Jacobsen, who has already introduced herself at Hobart and William Smith Colleges through podcast interviews, comes from Wesleyan University, where she served as provost and senior vice president for academic affairs.
  • Angela D. Sims will lead Colgate Rochester Crozier Divinity School in its new location on North Goodman Street. She was dean and vice president of institutional advancement at Saint Paul School of Theology in Leawood, Kan., and Oklahoma City, Okla. Sims has the distinction of being the first African-American woman to head a local college, as noted by Rochester City Mayor Lovely Warren when Sims’ appointment was announced.
Incoming University of Rochester president Sarah C. Mangelsdorf is pictured during a visit to the River Campus December 17th, 2018. Mangelsdorf will assume duties at the University in July 2019. // photo by J. Adam Fenster / University of Rochester
Sarah C. Mangelsdorf

“The fact that these three campuses represent vastly different institutional types – a research university, theological institution and liberal arts college – is particularly noteworthy,” Battles said. “For example, national data show that women are far less likely to lead research universities than, say community colleges.”

Being on the leading edge of a national trend may not be the first thing Mangelsdorf, Jacobsen and Sims deal with Monday morning. Besides familiarizing themselves with the lay of the land, the location of the presidential restroom, and the names of their staff, all three will be in some uncharted territory; none have been presidents before. That’s not unusual for top academic administrators in the Rochester area, regardless of gender. Candidates for these jobs often have their first presidential-level job at colleges and universities here before either moving on or retiring.

Joyce P. Jacobsen
Joyce P. Jacobsen

Those who’ve gained experience on the job locally suggested the three be true to themselves.

“Be yourself; your authentic voice and vision of leadership was central to your selection as president,” Kress said.

“Lead from your strengths,” offered Porterfield.

Another common suggestion was to start off by learning the institution and its culture.

“It is important to value what was done before and also create new strategic pathways for the institution using your gifts and abilities,” Porterfield said.

Kress added, “Honor the past while preparing for the future: As you learn more about the history and culture of the extraordinary institution you lead, you will learn how your unique experiences will help it advance and thrive in the years ahead.”

Macpherson also stressed transparency.

“A successful presidency is about communications, transparency and clarity,” she said. “People don’t have to agree with all of your decisions, but if they understand why you’ve made them, they will accept them. It’s important to establish early on how you work with others, and how you want others to work with you.’

Macpherson also brought up the invisibility that women – even at the presidential level – sometimes experience.

“Don’t sweat the small stuff,” she said. “There will be times when you enter a room and people won’t realize you are the president. They may even address someone else standing next to you. How you handle those moments will be remembered.”

Kress, the most experienced female college president in the area, also suggested the newbies reach out to their colleagues. “The depth and diversity of leadership within the Rochester region is powerful, and your new community stands ready to support your success.”

According to a study by the American Council on Education, though the percentage of female presidents across the country is growing, the rate was slower between 2001 and 2016 than it was in the previous 14 years. And upon closer examination of the 2016 statistics, when 30.1 percent of colleges and universities had female presidents, the study found that women are more likely to be presidents at community colleges and limited-scope institutions than universities with greater resources, as Battles pointed out.

Private nonprofit colleges had a female presidential rate of 27.3 percent while public institutions were at almost 33 percent and community colleges hit 36 percent, according to the June 20 edition of Inside Higher Ed.   

The article also reported that public colleges and universities are about twice as likely to hire minority presidents as are private ones. Perhaps surprisingly, while many African American administrators are trained at historically black colleges and universities, the percentage of those institutions that have black presidents is declining.

But with seven out of 12 –  58.33 percent – colleges in Monroe County and its bordering counties now having women at the helm, Rochester is certainly ahead of the curve.

“It is extremely exciting to think that the Rochester area is leading the way across the country in female presidents of higher education institutions,” Porterfield said. “It is fitting that in the birthplace of women’s rights that we would be a model for women leaders.”

Several of the current presidents said the wave of female presidents can only inspire other women to do the same. “If she can see it, she can be it,” Macpherson said, echoing the motto of the Geena Davis Institution on Gender in Media. “I like to think that motto works for higher education, too.”

Women now in presidential seats owe a debt of gratitude to their female forebears, Kress said. “Their success in the face of great odds opened the door for us. We need to do the same.”

Macpherson said concerted efforts to mentor women, along with the American Council on Education’s “Moving the Needle” campaign, have helped move the percentages in the direction of parity, even though they haven’t reach the goal yet.  Moving the Needle has set a goal of parity by 2030.

“Women in positions of influence can and should help with this; we recognize the barriers that women might face (both internally and externally,) since we faced them ourselves. And we can purposefully offer women opportunities to demonstrate their ability to success,” Macpherson said.

Battles added demographic shifts are playing a role, too.

“Part of that increase is no doubt attributable to greater numbers of women in the higher education pipeline,” she said. “As more women enter academia, those qualified for the role of president also increases.”

Indeed, “women make up the majority of students pursuing undergraduate degrees in the U.S., and the same is true in our region. Yet, only about a third of college presidencies are held by women, so it is powerful and empowering that women studying in the Rochester area can look to the leadership of their college or university and see themselves,” Kress said. “In turn, the women leading these institutions will undoubtedly reflect back on the challenges they experienced in reaching these positions and work to remove them for the next generation of leaders.”

Last week, as outgoing UR President Richard Feldman bid farewell to many of his colleagues, he took pains to note that he has faith that Mangelsdorf will be a great president and said she was hired because she was the best candidate.

But two local female presidents said woman also bring unique gifts and challenges to the presidential suite, too.

“Research shows that women lead using different gifts and skills in building teams, creating vision and moving communities forward,” Porterfield said. They create “robust community engagement and communication,” she said.

And they disproportionately face family responsibilities that conflict with career progression, Battles noted.

“Data show that women presidents are twice as likely as men to have altered their career progression to care for others. Those life choices can influence a person’s desire or opportunities to pursue, assume or continue a presidency,” Battles said.

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Other women have served at area colleges

It should be noted that the MCC, Roberts, Brockport and Geneseo presidents are not the only female presidents who have served in the Rochester area. Nazareth College, founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph as a college for women, has had six female presidents, starting with Mother Sylvester Tindell in 1924.

Three of the last four presidents at Nazareth have been men and all of them came after that school went coeducational in 1971. President Daan Braveman plans to step down in 2020, so it’s possible Nazareth could return to female leadership then.

St. John Fisher, which started as a college for men, also went co-ed in the early 1970s and more than two decades later was led by Katherine Keough from 1996 until her death in 2006.

And Finger Lakes Community College was the first community college in the area to hire a female president: Barbara Risser, who served from 2007 to 2016.

The first woman to be president at Geneseo was Carol C. Harter, who served from 1989 to 1995, when she left to become president at University of Nevada, Los Vegas. There she became that institution’s longest-serving president.

Of 12 local schools, only Rochester Institute of Technology and Genesee Community College have never had a female president.

Diana Louise Carter

Wegman Foundation gives $3 million to help low-income MCC students

Monroe Community College has received a $3 million gift from the Wegman Family Charitable Foundation to help low-income students in need of food and other necessities overcome obstacles that make it hard to attend college or complete a degree.

Wegmans’ gift will provide scholarships for food, funding for two programs that assist low-income students with emergency grants and services, and counseling aimed at helping students stay on track and graduate.

“Helping Monroe Community College students overcome hunger and other barriers to higher education will lead to more graduates working in and contributing to Rochester’s economy,” said Danny Wegman, president and chairman of the board of the Wegman Family Charitable Foundation.


“On a daily basis, too many MCC students are choosing between pursuing higher education and eating or feeding their families,” said MCC President Anne M. Kress. “Monroe Community College greatly appreciates the Wegman Family Charitable Foundation’s generous support of our efforts to combat student hunger and basic needs insecurities in order to help more students earn the certificates and degrees they need to be successful.”

The gift contributes to MCC’s $50 million “Every Bright Future Needs a Strong Foundation” campaign, which has raised $45 million so far. In a 2014 study of food and housing insecurity on community college campuses, half of the MCC students who participated said they cut back on meals or went without eating at times because they lacked money for food.

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Faculty heats up MCC Board of Trustees meeting

A tense meeting of the Board of Trustees of Monroe Community College Monday night brought out more than 250 people, many of whom wore red “Union Strong” T-shirts and held red signs referencing a faculty vote of no confidence in college President Anne M. Kress.

After three hours, including at least 30 minutes when the board left to go into executive session, the meeting came to a conclusion with some spectators crying out “Shame! Shame!” for the board not letting more than 11 people speak at its hour-long open forum portion of the meeting.  

Before the Faculty Senate and Faculty Association officially delivered the results of their vote (88 percent of those who voted supported the no-confidence measure) announced last week, the board and Kress had their say.  

The board members first passed a seven-paragraph resolution praising the embattled president and affirming their support for Kress and her leadership team.

Anne M. Kress
Anne M. Kress

Kress made a lengthy statement herself, using the traditional time set aside for the presidential report. She reviewed in detail the achievements of the college and her administration over the last nine years. She also reviewed some economic factors all schools have been facing, such as enrollment declines.

Kress noted “even as enrollment and funding declined considerably, MCC has not laid off faculty and staff,” making do by restricting new hires and reorganizing.

“The battle some wish to wage with me is one-sided,” Kress said, maintaining her cool throughout the  event. She suggested, however, that though faculty are included in shared governance of the school, they have failed to work on issues such as academic policies and curriculum that falls in their jurisdiction.

All the waiting clearly wore on some faculty members; during the executive session, one faculty member proposed they adjourn to another space to hear the statements that wouldn’t fit in the 60 minutes designated for speakers.  Before they could do that, though, the board returned.

When faculty, staff and retirees got their chance to speak, the picture they painted of the community college was, unsurprisingly, less flattering than the board’s and Kress’ description.

Faculty Association President Bethany Gizzi ditched her prepared remarks, she said, because the board issued the resolution of support for Kress before they heard from faculty.

“You are not prepared to hear us. I am not prepared to accept that as an answer,” Gizzi said. The vote of no confidence and 68-point list of complaints faculty had shared were not the result of disgruntlement over a labor contract at impasse, she said, as Kress has suggested.

“430 people have told you that something is wrong here,”  Gizzi said.

Biology professor Mary Jo Vest upbraided the board for failing to pay attention to faculty comments at other meetings and suggested they were only engaged on Monday night because  media were there. She said board members usually avoid eye contact with speakers, leave to take phone calls or even pack up and leave during the forum.

Meanwhile, she said, they are given only one viewpoint—Kress’—“filtered and crafted to match the public persona” and make decisions based on “biased information.”

“Our college community needs you to hear us,” she said, receiving the first of many standing ovations faculty and staff granted each other.

Adjunct professor Jesse Redlo said Kress’ administration has created a toxic climate. “I speak today, knowing I could be terminated,” he said. Redlo said adjuncts who teach the maximum number of courses allowed earn $18,000 a year, he said, which is below the poverty level in New York State.

When the people working most with students are paid the least, said history professor Gordon P. Dutter, “actual policies say more about how much you value teachers than rhetoric.”

Once again, faculty members called for evaluations of Kress and her administrative team, saying they should be at least as rigorous and frequent as those used for faculty members. And they cited a 36 percent drop in enrollment during her tenure.

Elizabeth Laidlaw, a philosophy professor and instructor of professional ethics, thanked the board members for their hours of community service, but also reminded them that the board, the faculty and Kress are all obligated to honor their current labor contract. That hasn’t been the case, she said.

“Her administration has violated our contract at least 13 times,” Laidlaw said, citing each number of the agreement that had been violated.

Three business people and alumni also spoke in favor of Kress and her administration.

Jim Sydor, owner of Sydor Optics, said an optics program at MCC that he depends on for qualified job candidates was going to be abandoned before Kress visited his company and became passionate about the optics program.

Alumni Lee Patterson, who was in the first class of students at MCC in 1962, credited Kress with turning around the focus of the MCC Foundation so it now devotes its efforts to supporting students with scholarships rather than raising money for buildings or events.

After the meeting, Board President Barbara Lovenheim declined to comment. During the meeting she did say that in response to faculty comments, the board would begin responding to questions raised in the forum with answers on its web page. The answers would be limited to questions raised about agenda items, she said, and would begin in February 2019.

Kress said she heard the faculty concerns, but again ascribed their discontent to the lack of a labor contract agreement.  

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Kress responds to no-confidence vote

Monroe Community College’s embattled president, Anne M. Kress, Tuesday characterized a faculty vote of no confidence in her as a union bargaining ploy, but said she will reach out to faculty representatives to try to seek a resolution.

Kress held a press conference Tuesday morning reacting to the no-confidence vote’s results that showed an overwhelming – 88 percent of those who voted – lack of confidence in her administration. A number of MCC’s board of trustees attended the conference, but declined to comment until the board’s Dec. 2 meeting.  The board earlier issued a statement of support for Kress.

“We believe the way to negotiate is at the table,” Kress said. “Making this about me won’t change any of that.”

MCC President Anne M. Kress takes questions on the no-confidence vote on her administration. (Photo by Diana Louise Carter)
MCC President Anne M. Kress takes questions on the no-confidence vote on her administration. (Photo by Diana Louise Carter)

Kress particularly struck out at faculty charges of high turnover, noting the college has a retention rate of 95 percent overall and 97 percent among faculty.

“This is a very discouraging turn of events, but I would be dishonest if I said it was surprising,” Kress said, noting the Faculty Association has been talking about a no-confidence vote ever since the union declared an impasse in July over contract negotiations.

A 68-point list of complaints the faculty issued last week included dropping enrollment and three labor contracts that have stalled under Kress’ administration.

Kress said enrollment is down everywhere at state schools, primarily due to the economy being on the rise again.

“Our enrollment highs were during the Great Recession,” she said.  More people are back to work rather than seeking new skills at community colleges, she said.

Kress also characterized labor contract struggles as a product of reduced state support for higher education.

Regarding the faculty union’s and senate’s requests that the trustees conduct a transparent review of Kress and her administrators, Kress said, “No one’s evaluation is transparent,” because they are personnel matters. She noted, however, that the board has created a task force that is looking at the way all evaluations are conducted.

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Vote on MCC’s Kress could lead to statement of no-confidence

Monroe Community College faculty and staff on Monday and Tuesday are taking a vote on whether to issue a statement of no confidence in President Anne M. Kress.

Anne M. Kress
Anne M. Kress

Both the MCC Faculty Senate and the faculty union, the MCC Faculty Association, have launched the vote, while also issuing a 68-point list of grievances. Additionally, they ask the MCC board of trustees to conduct a transparent evaluation of Kress and her leadership team.

Voting was taking place in person on both the Brighton and downtown campuses, while absentee ballots were being made available at MCC’s Applied Tech Center and its Public Safety Training Facility. Faculty leaders said between the two groups, 690 full-time faculty and staff, and part-time adjunct faculty are included in the vote.

Kress said she believes the call for a no-confidence vote is related to a third faculty union contract in a row that has reached impasse.  Since impasse was declared in the summer, Kress said, “They’ve been pretty clear about no contract linking to no confidence.”

She also mentioned that she’s no longer invited to Faculty Senate meetings, though both she and Faculty Senate President Amanda B. Colosimo said they meet monthly. Kress said, however, that the formal points of contention have not been brought to her or the board of  trustees.

Board of  trustees Chairwoman Barbara Lovenheim also issued a statement in support of Kress but added that she would not make any additional comments on the matter.

Lovenheim’s statement said, in part, “We are in communication with President Kress about her initiatives and approve her approach with the College. MCC has a clear Shared Governance Policy that articulates and provides ways in which employees and students can participate in college governance. There are many opportunities for employees to set priorities, goals and strategies for the institution.”

Colosimo said Kress’ administration pays only lip service to the idea of shared governance. “The voice of faculty is often requested, but nothing is ever done with it,” she said.

Faculty complaints have fallen on deaf ears, said Association President Bethany A. Gizzi. She said the no-confidence measure is not being taken lightly and with the recognition that it puts MCC in an unfavorable light.

“The hope is the board will be more receptive to our concerns. We’ve been bringing concerns (to the board of trustees) via open forum for a year without any response from them,” Gizzi said.

Some of the faculty complaints:

  • 11 staff reorganizations, such as consolidating, deleting or moving offices in five years, disrupting both students and faculty.
  • Spending $1 million on predictive software that has produced little information of substance about students in several years, except for one determination that was ignored.
  • Unilateral decision-making in a range of situations where communication and consultation was required, and reversal of decisions when it was determined after the fact that rules were broken by failing to include others in the decision making.
  • Continuing to grow the administrative staff during a time when student enrollment has declined by 35 percent and faculty positions have been similarly cut.
  • Failure to address downtown campus enrollment, which lags at about half of what it was predicted to be.
  • Failure to reach agreement on faculty labor contracts in a timely manner, resulting in mediation at the expense of students and taxpayers.

Kress said the administration has followed rules on consulting faculty about reorganizations and hiring, but the faculty point of view is not the only one to be considered in college decision-making.  She also said it is untrue that the percentage of administrators has increased, while noting that non-teaching professionals are the only category that has increased substantially.

Despite the disagreements, Kress said, “Our college is amazing. It is full of dedicated, amazing professionals … who really put students at the center of what they do.”

Results of the vote are due to be announced Nov. 26.

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Regional Economic Development Council posts annual report

Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council co-chairs Anne Kress and Robert Duffy (Photo courtesy of Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce)
Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council co-chairs Anne Kress and Robert Duffy (Photo courtesy of Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce)

The Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council has endorsed 23 projects in the nine-county region, with a total cost of more than $171 million, to further the Finger Lakes Forward strategic plan.

In its 2018 annual report, FLREDC proposes $20 million in state investments in the projects, which are expected to bring a return on investment of 9 to 1.

Some of the larger investments include:
• Mason Farms—$2 million in state funding for the $16.7 million Mason Farms operating expansion in Wayne County;
• Rochester General Hospital—$2 million toward the $14.9 million multi-specialty clinical research campus in Monroe County;
• Village of Dundee—$1.6 million in state funding for the wastewater collection system improvements in Yates County;
• Cornell AgriTech—$1.6 million for the $4 million high throughput phenotyping project in Ontario County;
• Strong National Museum of Play—$1.5 million toward the $23 million museum expansion project in Monroe County;
• Midtown Parcel 2 LLC—$1.5 million in state funding toward the $21 million Butler/Till expansion;
• Rochester Institute of Technology—$1.5 million for the $10 million genomics research lab cluster; and
• WBS Capital Inc.—$1.5 million toward the $18.8 million Hawkeye Trade Center project.

The FLREDC annual report also outlines progress since the 2011 first round of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development Council initiative. Some 732 projects in the Finger Lakes region have received awards through the Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) process, representing a $2.4 billion investment, including $300 million in state support.

“The state support we have received over the last seven years has truly facilitated our region’s transformation and has accelerated our momentum in moving the Finger Lakes forward,” said FLREDC co-chairs Anne Kress and Robert Duffy in a statement. “The enthusiasm and commitment of all council members is certainly evident in the 2018 annual report. We remain united for success, and our results show that we are realizing our shared vision to extend economic opportunities to all of the region’s residents.”

Round eight of the REDC initiative will award more than $750 million in state funding and tax incentives, including up to $150 million in capital grants and up to $75 million in Excelsior Tax Credits for projects and activities identified by the councils as regional priorities. In addition, more than $525 million from state agency programs will be awarded through the CFA process.

Funding will be announced by the end of 2018.

The annual report also details some of the progress that was made in the region’s economic development plans this year. That includes the $50 million state award for Rochester’s ROC the Riverway initiative, a plan to immediately begin work on 13 projects to ignite growth around the Genesee River.

All but two—Rochester Network Supply Inc. and Rochester Stadium Operations LLC—of 2017’s CFA awards are on schedule, the report shows, and the Finger Lakes region received $37.2 million last year in CFA awards.

Some 1,995 jobs were created in the Finger Lakes through CFA funding last year, according to the annual report, and 503 jobs were retained.

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MCC alums provide $4 million gift to help struggling students

High school sweethearts who attended Monroe Community College together and rose to the top of the business world returned to MCC Monday to announce a $4 million gift to lead the college’s fundraising campaign for student scholarships.

The gift is the largest in the history of the community college. Further, MCC Foundation’s $50 million “Every Bright Future Needs a Strong Foundation” campaign was described as one of the largest for a community college. The campaign began in 2010 and has raised $39.5 million so far.

Robin and Timothy Wentworth graduated from MCC in 1980 with associate degrees in, respectively, music and business administration. Today they live in St. Louis, and Timothy Wentworth is CEO of Express Scripts, a Fortune 100 company. The company is the largest pharmacy benefits management company in the United States and listed as the 25th largest company overall.

MCC Foundation announced that the college’s Building 4, which houses a theater, will be renamed the Robin and Timothy Wentworth Arts Building.

Robin and Tim Wentworth, standing next to MCC President Ann Kress, far right, announced a gift of $4 million for student scholarships. Photo by Diana Louise Carter.
Robin and Tim Wentworth, standing next to MCC President Ann Kress, far right, announced a gift of $4 million for student scholarships. Adrian Hale, far left, an MCC grad who received a scholarship, also spoke. Photo by Diana Louise Carter.

The announcement was made in an atrium attached to the arts building, and the audience included students wearing “Thanks for my bright future” T-shirts signifying they had received scholarship help to attend the school, just as Tim Wentworth did 40 years ago.

Wentworth said he was not a standout student in high school and no one in his family had attended college. But he got a boost from then-girlfriend, Robin, to go to college with her and the deal was sealed when he opened a letter from MCC telling him he had won a scholarship funded by Eastman Kodak Co.

“I came here and it changed everything,” he said Monday.  He later earned a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University.

The Wentworths gave the music department a Steinway piano in 2009 and have funded full scholarships for 40 student scholarships a year. Their new gift will increase that to 100 music and business students a year. The couple has also provided significant gifts to the University of Rochester, where two of their three children attended college.

Tim Wentworth said he was inspired by MCC President Anne Kress’ assertion that a college scholarship can make a big impact on a family’s trajectory. “This path is an important path,” Wentworth said.

As an example, 2014 MCC graduate Adrian I. Hale spoke at the announcement about the academic start he got at MCC when attending on a Rosalie Cornell scholarship. Hale said he grew up in the impoverished section of Rochester known as “The Crescent” and neither of his parents completed high school, but they gave him the gift of early literacy and numeracy.

“MCC allowed me to find my purpose,” Hale said. While a student he was mentored by Robert Duffy, the former city mayor and police chief who now heads the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce. He went on to get a bachelor’s degree in political science from Yale University, spending his school breaks as an intern for Duffy; he has worked full time for the chamber since 2017.

Hale called the scholarships campaign “a coalescing of support and commitment” and said that its effect on students will be “freeing them from the confinement of their pocketbooks.”

Kress added, “Our inspiring and generous alumni and community understand the remarkable impact MCC has. They know firsthand the incredible futures that result when we work together to invest in our students. They know their support truly changes lives.”

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GM gives truck to MCC for student technicians

MCC and GM representatives gather by the lastest vehicle GM has given to the MCC automotive program
MCC and GM representatives gather by the latest vehicle GM has given to the MCC automotive program.

General Motors dealers today donated the latest in a long line of vehicles to Monroe Community College for automotive students to use as they train to become GM-certified automobile repair technicians.

The donation of 2017 GMC Sierra Denali diesel truck was unveiled Friday morning at MCC’s Applied Technologies Center on West Henrietta Road. The center houses the GM Automotive Service Educational Program.

“Apprenticeship programs like ASEP have long been the foundation of the American workforce and continue to be instrumental in preparing individuals for the jobs of the future,” said Mike Zafonte, regional training manager for GM’s Northeast region. “Our support of students and the program is vital to our long-term business success. We look forward to growing our relationship with MCC.”

“This program provides students with the highest quality automotive education possible,” said Greg Stahl, owner of Bob Johnson Chevrolet. “When Bob Johnson Chevrolet sponsors a student, we know we are getting the best of the best to work on our customers’ vehicles.”

Some 230 students have graduated from the program, with 100 percent of them placed in jobs. Since the program began in 1985, GM has donated 51 vehicles and other equipment.

“With GM’s partnership, our students gain skills linked to industry standards, so they can contribute in the workplace at the highest levels from day one,” said MCC President Anne M. Kress.

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O-AT-KA to expand in Batavia

O-AT-KA Milk Products Cooperative plans to build a 20,000-square-foot expansion onto its production facility in the city of Batavia.

A state grant of $750,000 was announced Wednesday, Jan. 10, for the $34.5 million project, which also includes incentives from the Genesee County Economic Development Agency.

The addition on the plant at Cedar and Ellicott streets will allow the creation of 20 new jobs and is expected to have a new production line running in it by next fall. O-AT-KA Chief Financial Officer Michael Fuchs said the line will handle retort beverage products, such as coffee and tea lattes, protein drinks and nutritional supplement beverages that the company already makes in Batavia.

“This project supports our continued growth and will allow us to meet growing market demands for our products,” Fuchs said. “The support we continue to receive from ESD, GCEDC and our board of directors is a testament to their commitment to the livelihood of our dairy farmer owners and to our position as a leading employer in Western New York.”

O-AT-KA is the largest private employer in Genesee County and currently employs 440 people. Some 400 New York dairy farms supply the plant with milk.

The co-chairs of the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council, Monroe Community College President Anne Kress and Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce President Bob Duffy, said in a joint statement: “Agriculture is an important industry and a key driver of our regional economy. This expansion project will also create solid opportunities for area farmers, shaping the future of the region’s agricultural industry, helping to move the Finger Lakes forward.”

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