Thursday, February 19, 2015

Doris Cassiday

This is a special edition of my blog that centers on an individual who was central to the creation and success of this College. For those of you who have not met Doris, she is the longest serving of the College's academic advisors. Her recent retirement announcement ended her service as a paid employee of the College after 30 years, one month and one day. All of that time has been spent counseling our students. I have spoken to numerous graduates who had Doris as their advisor, and they are universal in their praise for her clear advice and steady encouragement.

But as amazing as 30 years of employment is, Doris has done much more for this College. She has worked on behalf of the College since before its creation 41 years ago. She was part of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) effort that created the College. After the legislature established us in 1973, she served as the first chairwoman of the Board for Academic Awards, and she was the first president of the College's Foundation. Along the way, Doris has served as Founder, First Board Chair, First Foundation President, and student advisor for 30 years. That is a record of service that is simply unique in American higher education. And these accomplishments are just the ones associated with Charter Oak; she has done more.

We have honored her with the Doris Cassiday Award and an honorary doctorate and the state honored her as Mother of the Year. But none of these honors really does justice to the contributions Doris made to this institution, its mission, and its students. Presidents have come and gone, but Doris has been steadfast.

On Saturday, February 7, 2015, Doris Cassiday peacefully passed away. She lived a full life and served this College with extraordinary grace and skill. She was approaching her 90th birthday and worked full time until a few months ago. Yes, you read that correctly. We will all miss Doris terribly, but for me, it is hard not to be a little jealous of her success. She got to watch her dream - Charter Oak State College - become a reality, then a success, and she eventually became one of its stars. Who among us wouldn't want to be able to say that at the end of our lives?

About a month ago, Doris made a $20,000 donation to the Charter Oak Foundation's Shea Endowment. This is the single largest individual gift to the endowment ever received. In honor of that gift, and all the other gifts Doris has given to us and to our students, we are naming the Advising area The Doris G. Cassiday Academic Wing.

The family is having a private funeral, but if you would like to honor Doris, then I think a donation to the Foundation she both helped create and lead would be appropriate. I encourage you to think of our gifts in her memory as a "match" for Doris' gift. As I made mine, I was imagining her smiling at how her good deed was being amplified.

We will let her family know about every donation made in her memory. Rest in peace, Doris.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Welcome, new Go Back to Get Ahead students!

This new semester begins with the largest Charter Oak student body in our history. Our enrollment is up 30%, and many of those new students arrived here as part of the state's Go Back to Get Ahead program. So I want to start this entry by welcoming our new students to Charter Oak and welcoming back all of our continuing students.

It is very important to me and to our staff to check in and see how all of you are progressing. While it is wonderful to welcome such a large group of students to the College, we measure our success by how many of you succeed in completing your degree programs. By now, you have worked your way through your first courses and should have a sense of how both you and we are doing. Please share your insights with me.

I am curious about what you have been noticing about your courses, your instructors, our advising staff, and all the ancillary services we provide including eTutoring, Star Fish alerts, online library resources, orientation courseware, and Call Center support. How did your interactions with Admissions, the Registrar, and of course, Financial Aid go? We spend a great deal of our time and resources setting up these supports, and we are committed to continually improving them.

We also try very hard to produce marketing materials that provide an honest picture of Charter Oak, so my next question is for our newer students. Is the College meeting your initial expectations? Did the reality of Charter Oak match the perception you had from our website and our ads? If you are close to graduating, are you looking forward to being a Charter Oak alum?

Regarding tuition, how did the financial process go? Were your bills easy to understand? Were you able to pay them, sign up for payment plans, and generally navigate our business tools? And for those students close to finishing, was the price you paid worth the learning you acquired?

I wish I could meet you all so I try to use this blog to offer some insights into what we are working to accomplish. I would very much like to know whether we are providing you with the tools to accomplish what you are working to do. Please take a moment to give me some feedback. I will read everything that arrives, share your ideas with our staff and seek to find resolutions to any challenges you may have had or are experiencing.

Thank you for choosing Charter Oak. We succeed when you succeed.