Board of Trustees discuss perception study

By Ashlyn Kelly

News Editor

By Haley Hadge

News Editor

The Board of Trustees discussed a perception study of the University conducted by the company Elevate and brainstormed the steps to take in response during its Nov. 17 meeting. 

Trustee Brian Herr said during his Enrollment and Student Development Committee report that the findings of the University’s perception study show “a lot of great things about the University and a couple of areas of opportunities where we can improve.” 

Lorretta Holloway, vice president of Enrollment and Student Development, said two main points the study showcased were “students really want to be wooed” and they want to feel “special.”

She said the report pinpointed the “biggest concern” for the University is “it is not standing out enough.” The way to combat this is by “highlighting what’s different” about FSU through marketing and outreach approaches. 

Holloway said Trustee Clair Ramsbottom asked at a previous Board of Trustees meeting why there is an emphasis being placed on the University’s education program when there is no longer a growing market for teachers.  

In response, Holloway asked, “Is that really a viable thing for us to keep emphasizing” – especially considering the other programs the University has to offer?  

She said Trustee Nancy Budwig asked if this perception study were conducted at other “regional publics,” would it be that much different? Holloway followed this point up with the question, “How can the University ‘differentiate’ itself from ‘everyone else?’” 

Herr stated in his report that in addition to the initial responses to the study underway, the study will also “need to be imbedded in our accreditation and strategic planning work long term.” 

Holloway added there will be a follow-up meeting to review the “deep-data information” of the participants that were part of the focus group of the perception study in order to better understand what sector of the market is being reached and whether this includes the University’s target market. 

As an example, Holloway referenced the responses from parents in the study. “There’s only 36 parents in that group. And that’s only 0.2% of the parents in the state,” said Holloway. 

She said the concern here is clarifying who and where these survey participants are, and how to respond to their opinions about the University.  

This is important to have clarity about, according to Holloway, because “the rest of the people may not have those other concerns.

“We’ve heard we’re a ‘sleepy campus’ before,” she added. “How do we actually leverage that?” 

Holloway said a student she met at a recent Open House for the University said she enjoyed the “laid back” and “relaxed” environment of the dining hall, adding, “I could so see myself showing up in my pajamas and having tater tots for breakfast with my friends.”

It’s important to “accurately represent ourselves” so that the right students find and attend and remain at FSU, added Holloway. 

“It’s time for us to really look at doing a comprehensive strategic enrollment management plan,” she added. 

During her Academic Affairs Committee report, Trustee Budwig said, “The percentage of white females is really dropping.” 

Holloway said these drops have been seen among education majors at FSU adding, “The majority of education majors are middle class white females.

“You look across the board, education programs, they’re all losing numbers. So I don’t think they’re going somewhere else to be teachers,” she said. “This is a crisis in education because so few people want to be teachers anymore.”  

In her Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement report, Holloway “highlighted” some of the “excellent” work of Eric Nguyen, director of the Center for Inclusive Excellence (CIE). 

Holloway said Nguyen worked with the Support. Education. Action. Leadership. Strength. peer health educators to discuss “racial health disparities and how to share this information with the student body through their upcoming work.”

She added, “He has launched a program called iRAMS: Foundations of Social Justice, which is a five-week social justice program for Framingham State undergraduates.”

She said this program is a step toward answering the questions, “How do we help students advocate for themselves?” and “How do we help students become active citizens in their communities?” 

Holloway said students are “very clear” in identifying problems, but need support in figuring out how to enact “sustainable change.”

In the Development and Alumni Relations report, Eric Gustafson, vice president of Development and Alumni Relations, said the University is having a “strong year” for fundraising with approximately $760,000 raised so far. 

He said his office has been able to hold in-person, hybrid, and virtual events so far. “Any events that we can easily do in a hybrid format, we will be doing that – definitely folks prefer to attend it that way.”

He added, “It brought in some folks regionally who would have a hard time getting to Framingham for that event on a Wednesday evening but could log in from work or home.”

In his Chair’s Report, Kevin Foley said the Presidential Search Committee has narrowed down the candidate pool to 12. 

He said the next step in the process is background checks conducted by WittKeiffer, the search firm hired to assist in the search. 

The search committee will meet Nov. 29 to make the recommendation as to which three candidates will be the finalists, according to Foley. The Board of Trustees will hold a meeting Dec. 15 to decide on the next president of the University.

Foley added he and President F. Javier Cevallos have made “headway” toward filling the vacancy on the Board of Trustees that has been open for three years. 

In the Compliance Audit and Risk Report, Trustee Anthony Hubbard said the Fiscal Year 2021 audit came back “clean” and there were no “pervasive risks” of fraud found. 

He added the “negative” impacts of COVID-19 were “offset by one-time government funding.

“We actually came out with an increase in our net financial position,” Hubbard said. 

In his Administration, Finance, and Information Technology Report, Trustee Michael Grilli said the Finance Committee had been discussing how to handle the “surplus cash.”

According to Grilli, the “surplus” is around $5 million. 

He moved a resolution to commit $1 million of the $5 million to create a strategic enrollment management plan “that will probably include upgrading the website.” The other $4 million will be reinvested in “traditional investment vehicles.”

The resolution passed 9 – 0 with no abstentions. 

In his President’s Report, Cevallos said all the labor contracts have been “settled.”

He added, “That is really good news.”

Cevallos highlighted two grants the University recently received.  

English Professor Bartholomew Brinkman and Interim Henry E. Whittemore Library Dean Millie Gonzaléz received a grant to create a digital humanities center and Whittemore Library received a grant for “The Big Read.”

In the Student Trustee’s Report, Hillary Nna said SGA held an Administrators’ Forum at which students brought up concerns about Wi-Fi issues, extending the hours for the Whittemore Library, and the new online registration platform. 

Nna said SGA also recently sponsored the Campus Safety Walk and identified areas of concern such as CODE BLUE Emergency Phone placement and the need for more lighting and crosswalk signage. 

She added SGA has also held open forums “for students to give feedback on the presidential search candidates to WittKeiffer” and to voice their concerns about the white supremacist-related decals found on campus recently.  

Cevallos introduced Hae Won Ju, department chair of fashion design and retailing, who introduced Gabriela Mendez-Acevedo, a senior fashion design and retailing major, the Student-in-the-Spotlight.

Mendez-Acevedo said after her freshman year, she was recommended to apply to become a Peer Mentor. 

“It was a shock to me because there I was barely passing my classes, but someone deemed me worthy of a leadership position,” said Mendez-Acevedo.

She said she currently sits on the Council on Diversity and Inclusion and is interning at Puma in their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion division. 

Mendez-Acevedo added she is also completing an independent study titled “The Community Upcycling Project,” which she is “very proud of.”

According to Mendez-Acevedo, most of the clothes will be donated to “Homes to Homes” for distribution to those in need, while some will be upcycled by FSU fashion design and retailing students. 

She said, “I always knew that giving back to communities in need was important to me, so I wanted to prioritize that this semester.”