Recapping the virtual State of the University address


Photo Credit: Pace University on YouTube

Britni Dunn, Executive Editor

On Feb. 10, President Marvin Krislov gave the annual State of the University address on Zoom.

The theme of the address was “Pace Forward,” displaying the main message of how the University plans to move forward after a life-altering year. 

The event began with an introduction by Kadijatu Shaw, the Student Government Association President on the Pleasantville campus. Shaw shared the struggles she faced as a result of the pandemic, including adjusting to staying home, letting viewers know “we are all in this together.”

Shaw was recently honored with the Jefferson Award for public service work, registering students to vote and supporting South African children through her non-profit.

President Krislov kicked off his speech comparing the current circumstances to that of the State of the University last year.

He began, “When we met for the State of the University one year ago I outlined an optimistic future for Pace. We had been working hard, rethinking how we did things and getting ready to charge ahead. I announced 15 Beekman, our new tower in lower Manhattan. I talked about a Pleasantville plan to build a sustainable model for that campus. I outlined a powerful new vision for the Elisabeth Haub School of Law under the leadership of Dean Horace Anderson, and then just weeks later the pandemic arrived and upended all of our plans.”

President Krislov went on to point out the unknown and terrifying hardships the University community encountered at the beginning of the pandemic. He thanked the students, staff and faculty for their work and resilience throughout the struggles of COVID-19 and virtual learning. 

He then outlined a plan being led by the Strategic Planning Steering Committee “involving stakeholders from all across the University and assisted by partners at the Boston Consulting Group.”

“This is an effort to take a fresh look at what we do and how we do it. Our goal is to shift the focus to the world around us and to respond to what our students are looking for and what employers need from graduates and to recognize those changing patterns and align ourselves to respond to them. That has always been what we do. Pace gives,” he continued. 

The Strategic Planning Steering Committee, led by Vice President Jean Gallagher and Professor Matt Marcello, has been analyzing data, and are now looking to the community for important next steps.

“This will be a multi-year process,” President Krislov said. “It is important so we need to get it right. Right now we are building the school and college-based teams that will drive this work…working within our governance structures and the structures of each school or college. Talk to your leadership and please be involved. We want to hear from everyone!”

Everything is listed on the website and you can find out how to be involved here!

He continued, “What I know is that as a result of this work, we are going to end up with a plan for a University that leverages all that we have accomplished this year. Our four and six-year graduation rates reached new highs with our recent graduating class and we will continue to drive up our graduation rates, our retention and our reputation.”

Krislov also shared that he was optimistic for the future because “we are building a University where everyone is valued, everyone is included and where we recognize the unique talents and contributions of everyone in our community.” 

“Throughout the last year we witnessed, rather, we continued to witness, unarmed Black Americans killed by police officers. Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed while out for a jog. Breonna Taylor was shot and killed while asleep in her apartment. We watched on video as the life was snuffed out of George Floyd, a police officer driving his knee into Floyd’s neck,” President Krislov said.

“Just 10 years ago this heartbreaking reality came to Pace, too. Our student, DJ Henry, was killed by a Pleasantville police officer while DJ was out with his friends after a homecoming football game. This summer our nation was shocked into action protests against police brutality sprung up across the country, by some counts, the largest protests in our nation’s history. We all became more aware of the systemic racism that lingers in our society. We became aware that we need to do better,” he continued. 

President Krislov affirmed that the University is working on being actively anti-racist. He brought attention to the presidential task force for diversity, equity and inclusion and said that the administration is actively listening to their recommendations.

The University is also partnering with organizations including The National Urban League, NAACP and The National Council for Faculty Development in Diversity. 

He shared that the University had done a campus climate survey and that later this month, Chief Diversity Officer Tiffany Hamilton will lead the community in a campus conversation to discuss the survey and how it can be implemented into the strategic planning process. 

President Krislov also made an important announcement during the address; the University will be launching the Barry and Jackie Gosin Center for Equity and Inclusion thanks to the donation of trustee Barry Gosin.

The center will focus on developing new courses that focus on diversity, equity and inclusion as well as new programming, research and partnerships.

The goal of the new center is to help increase scholarships available and awarded to students of color, increasing faculty diversity and generally working towards the goal of honoring the University’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.

In a University press release, the Gosin Center was described as supporting the “ongoing efforts at Pace in anti-racism and equity, expands work to elevate job placement and entrepreneurship among Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) students, and enhances academic scholarship in these areas.”

The press release outlined the goal of increasing opportunities through diversifying the entrepreneurship experience, career advisement and resources, expanding critical inquiry and community partnerships in anti-racism and facilitating the development of equity literacy. 

President Krislov acknowledged the although the speech was intended to be about the future of Pace, he took a moment to look back on all that the University has accomplished in the past 11 months.

He broke down the past year in numbers—last spring, 2,224 students graduated through virtual ceremonies and 2,200 new students went to virtual orientation. 700 faculty members signed up for training for virtual learning. 300 students from beyond the tristate area stayed in quarantine hotels, and in the spring, 342 did the same.

10,000 COVID tests were processed through the community testing program during the fall semester, while 5,000 and counting have been processed this semester.

There have been 224,714 zoom meetings, with a grand total of 131,879,669 meeting minutes.

He also shared that while enrollment is down, it is not near the 20% drop that was predicted by experts. The University is also welcoming the biggest group of spring semester first-year students in over 14 years due to deferred enrollment from the fall.

During the 2019-2020 academic year, the Pace CARES Fund awarded $621,000 to 890 students to help students in the face of economic hardship during the pandemic. The Student Government Associations on both campuses decided to redirect the unused student fees to Pace CARES, which goes to students in need of emergency funds. 

President Krislov closed the address admiring the work of all of the people at the University, including the “normal” things and the new traditions, like the Social Justice Week in honor of DJ Henry.

He announced that the new brand platform for the University will include a new, up-to-date website this spring. He also announced that the University will be creating “a new digital media workspace where faculty can collaborate with instructional design in digital media experts to build high-quality digital learning experiences.”

“That is part of the overhaul of the fourth, fifth and sixth floors of One Pace Plaza West that we were forced to reschedule from last summer. The work is getting underway now with construction starting Mar. 1 and it will provide brand new spaces for Lubin, new classrooms outfitted with the latest technology and a new home for the entrepreneurship lab. We moved the psychology department and the counseling center to a new home at 52 Broadway and we’re building new offices for the Dyson Publishing Program in 163 William. A new space for Actors Studio Drama School that is in 41 Park Row will also be ready by March,” he added. 

President Krislov also announced that the University will go on with the work on rethinking the use of space, sharing that they have closed the Midtown Center, are refiguring space at the Haub Law Campus and are consolidating leases downtown.

Despite a tight year financially, the Office of Development and Alumni Relations was able to fundraise almost as much as the previous fiscal year, and even more than the year before that.

New donors were also brought in, including the Andrew Mellon Foundation that supports the new University Storytelling for Equity and Inclusion Fellowship.

He also spoke about the launch of the New York Resilience Internships this year, which ensures students have career preparation opportunities throughout the pandemic. $350,000 was raised in the summer for support of these internships and $225,000 has been committed already this spring. 

President Krislov ended his speech by stating that although things are tough, the University has already passed through the worst.

“We fully expect fall 2021 will look pretty close to what we have come to think of as a normal fall semester,” he shared, using vaccination success and the persistence of the University community as a reason for this optimism. 

Comparing the University’s move forward to President John F. Kennedy’s promise to get Americans to the moon, President Krislov ended with, “Now it is time for our moon-shot. To come through this past year not weakened, but stronger… to build a strong Pace for the next century.”

The address then moved into a Q&A section led by Joan Walker and Bernadette Baumann, who took questions from the Zoom chat. 

The first question was about the new Gosin Center and inquired if President Krislov had more details about its launch and development. 

In response, President Krislov answered that the center would begin immediately.

“The point person for the work in the short-term is going to be Tiffany Hamilton, the Chief Diversity Officer, and we are going to get a faculty group and a staff group to talk about more plans,” he said, emphasizing that the goal of the Gosin Center is to create an inclusive workplace and create opportunities for students, faculty and staff of color.  

President Krislov was then asked how he stays balanced and well throughout the pressures of the pandemic. He shared that he now has a book club with the extended Krislov family and said it is important to connect with people during this isolating time. 

A question was also asked about how students can help with the strategic planning process, but it was skipped as Walker stated that the information will be sent out in writing.

When a question regarding updates on reinstating benefits when asked, President Krislov replied that they are doing what they can to reinstate benefits and “monitoring the budget carefully, and when the census is taken I think we will have a better idea. We know this is very important to people, and I hope that we will be able to have some sort of announcement relatively soon after the census.”

Another question was asked about what success would look like in terms of graduation rates, to which President Krislov answered that the goal is to try to make sure that those that start at the University who want to graduate, can graduate.

He stated that while it would be impossible to have a 100% retention rate, they will do all that they can to address issues that make people choose to leave the University or not graduate.

President Krislov highlighted that connection is one of those issues that he has been working on especially throughout the pandemic and that reaching out is essential to becoming a stronger institution and community.

When asked about the University’s plans to move ahead of other higher education institutions, he said it is essential to ensure that the University is focused on interdisciplinary learning across the colleges and on whom the Univerity will partner with, whether it is other colleges or employers.

The University will also begin to look into how to utilize the summer break and how to incorporate technology more into learning.

The final question related to the recruitment of international students and how the University will get students to campus in the summer or the fall.

President Krislov shared that there were issues with the Visa process and that “the international market has changed… it’s not just the United States that is playing now in the international market.”

“Over the past few years, other countries have really stepped up significantly. I still think the United States is the number one destination. I’m convinced that New York is going to continue to be a great draw, but we are going to have to work a little harder.” he added. 

The question section came to a close, which marked the end of the State of the University address. Krislov made more closing remarks for students to reach out with any questions, recommendations or issues they may have and once again thanked the entire school community for their work in keeping the University afloat.