And so it begins, Alfred University’s 183rd year. Apart from some of our student-athletes and international and HEOP students who have arrived over the past few weeks, our remaining full-time first-year and transfer undergraduate students arrived on campus today. Our returning undergraduate students come back largely over the coming weekend, as do our main campus graduate students.
Our incoming first-year class is more than 10 percent larger than last year’s, and transfers are up a whopping 63 percent over last year. Our undergraduate population is comprised of students from 21 different countries, a marked change from previous years as well. Roughly 23 percent of our undergraduates identify themselves as minority or under-represented students.
Our full-time-equivalent (FTE) graduate enrollments continue to grow, largely on account of our AUNYC programs. Since the 2012-2013 academic year, these enrollments have increased 20 percent. Moreover, the diversity of our AUNYC student body is even more significant than for our main campus undergraduate population.
What our incoming undergraduate students may not realize as they lug clothes, refrigerators, bedding, and electronics into their residence hall rooms (with the much-appreciated assistance of the members of our football team) and begin their orientation activities is that they will find a home at Alfred University, if you define home as a place where you feel as though you are valued and respected for who you truly are; that you are accepted; that you are given what you need to grow, intellectually and emotionally; and that you gain the skill sets you need to become a better, stronger, more capable individual.
That concept of “home-making” came through very strongly during our Opening Breakfast for faculty and staff Tuesday morning. It is part pep-talk about what lies ahead for the year and part reflection on who and what we are at Alfred University; a way of demonstrating to our new employees what it means to be at Alfred University, of Alfred University, and in Alfred.
Becky Butts Prophet ’70, who moonlights as mayor in addition to her full-time teaching responsibilities in our theater department, talked about the “long, productive, and continuing relationship” between the University and the residents of the village. She reminded us that the citizens of Alfred founded Alfred University. According to Becky, we “share the same space, the same values.”
Greg Connors ’92, chair of the Board of Trustees, said Alfred is “truly magical and the magic comes from everyone in this room… We all feel the energy and passion. Every one of you touches someone’s life and makes a difference.”
Provost Rick Stephens observed that he has attended similar functions at many different colleges and universities during his more than 40 years in higher education. What happens at Alfred University, and nowhere else he has been, is that the first topic at our Opening Breakfast is “talking about charity to others,” as Wes Bentz, professor emeritus of chemistry, spoke about the need to support the community charity drives, and Tim Cox, the Gertz professor of technical writing, as well as Becky Prophet, talked about volunteering in the community. “It is really something pretty special to have giving to others highlighted first,” Rick said.
Rick is spot-on with his observation. Part of what makes Alfred University the home alumni remember and have treasured for generations is that very palpable sense of caring for others, be they students, our colleagues, or the other members of our immediate and extended communities.
One young alumnus I met recently, Hongwei Li ’07 MFA, evidences just how strongly our graduates consider Alfred to be home. He earned his undergraduate degree, with a major in sculpture, from the top art school in China, the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. The Central Academy accepts only 160 students a year. While earning his MFA with us, Hongwei and his wife “just fell in love with Alfred,” he said. They got married at Foster Lake, and both their sons have Alfred in their names.
What fueled Hongwei’s affection for Alfred University? He treasured his MFA program experience and all the support he received from everyone. Hongwei spent a year teaching our first-year undergraduate art students. He has been a visiting scholars since 2009, even as his professional career has taken off. Over the coming months, he will be opening shows at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Harvard Art Museum, and Fox Art Gallery of Pennsylvania. His work has been featured in the Louvre, the National Art Museum of China, the British Museum, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
Hongwei and his family divide their time between Beijing, New York City, and Alfred. They like our community so much they bought a house on Main Street.
An alumna who keeps circling back to Alfred is our dean-designate of the Inamori School of Engineering, Dr. Gabrielle Gustad ’04. She and her husband, Jeff Povelaities ’04, first met as high school students attending a National Science Foundation Young Scholars program at Alfred University, and returned a year later as undergraduate students. After graduation, they both headed to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where Gabby earned her doctorate and Jeff received his master’s in material science. They moved to Rochester 10 years ago, Jeff taking a job with Paychex and Gabby becoming a faculty member at the Rochester Institute of Technology’s Golisano Institute for Sustainability. Now, Gabby is coming to Alfred for a third time as our dean of engineering, effective January 1.
So, especially to all the new students who join Alfred University as of this fall, Welcome Home! We are thrilled to have you as part of our Alfred family.