President Bertolino talks challenges, opportunities at Southern

Josh LaBellaNews Writer

 Southern Connecticut State University President Joe Bertolino made his first university address to a crowd of faculty and students this Monday in the Adanti Student Center Ballroom.

The event, which took place at 1 p.m., opened with the video of the Convocation of the class of 2021. The video ended with the flash mob in front of Buley Library. President Bertolino said he thought the video encapsulated the vibrancy that is Southern.

“Southern has a special spirit that isn’t replicated on many campuses,” said Bertolino.

The purpose of the university address, Bertolino said, was remind the attendants of Southern’s successes, to share priorities and how he plans to achieve them and to talk about the roles the faculty will have in seeing them through.

“While I continue to remain enthusiastic, optimistic and positive about the present and future of Southern Connecticut State University,” said Bertolino, “at the same time, these emotions must be tempered by the reality of the changing landscape on our campus and in higher education.

According to Bertolino, the reality is that higher education is not perceived well in the current time on all levels. He said that will make their jobs more challenging.

“On a national level the value of higher education is being questioned,” Bertolino said. “With tuition rates continuing to rise and student debt spiraling, colleges and universities are increasingly being seen as elite institutions, out of touch with what’s happening in the real world.”

President Bertolino said the university serves a working class population and national studies show that regional public universities like Southern consistently move students up the economic latter. He said, for him, that gives southern value and a sense of purpose.

“We can make this a good time for Southern and the people we serve,” Bertolino said.

Southern has had many successes recently, Bertolino said. He said they include the university now being featured annually in the Princeton review of green colleges, being in the design phase of a new 74 million dollar Health and Human Services building, and receiving praise for its 14 to 1 student-faculty ratio.

“The buzz surrounding Southern is quite strong, and getting better,” Bertolino said. “When I’m out in the community or meeting with alumni I constantly hear positive comments.”

The goals he set for the university included raising student retention, building a stronger graduate program and rolling out a new advisement model within the next three years. He also said he wants to establish a physical Southern presence at Gateway and Housatonic community colleges.

“If we have our way it will be introduced in the spring of 2018,” said Bertolino. “We are very excited about it.”

President Bertolino said he was looking for the entire campus community to identify opportunities for efficiency, reorganization, or realignment of responsibilities. He said to succeed it must be a team effort.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” said Bertolino, “It’s a wonderful opportunity and an exciting time for Southern.”

According to Bertolino, the ways that the faculty can help are not that complex.

“Have institutional pride and be optimistic,” he said. “I’m asking to you to fully participate in the process, to share ideas and concerns, with a focus on solutions.

Photo Credit: Palmer Piana – Photo Editor

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