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There is something about the first day of autumn that makes even the biggest procrastinators admit that it is time to focus on studying rather than sun tans.

But for the rest of us, the new semester and the 2015-2016 school year is in full swing. I hope by now you’ve had a chance to spend time in the new buildings and renovated spaces on both campuses. They are the most visible examples of the exciting renewal going on at Pace, but they are far from the only examples. If you haven’t already, please spend a few minutes with me as I highlight our progress on both campuses in this short video.

I will have updates on our progress throughout the year. Please leave a comment if you have any questions or suggestions. In the meantime, I wish you the best of success this academic year. Let’s make the 2015-2016 school year a great one!

My InsideTrack conversation with Kerry Kennedy, president of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, on October 6 takes place during the TECHO, Univision Poverty Awareness Week campaign, proudly co-hosted by Pace University. These events once again highlight the University’s role as a center of discussion and debate on the critical public policy issues of our time. As I prepare for these events, I can’t help but remember the day a photograph I was in made the front page of the New York Times—all courtesy of Senator Robert Kennedy, the war on poverty, and a five-year old who answered a knock on his door.

In 1966, Senator Kennedy traveled across America to highlight the needs of the poor in places like Appalachia, the Mississippi Delta, migrant farming camps, and urban environments. On a winter day in February 1966, Senator Kennedy came to Brooklyn. He famously toured Bedford-Stuyvesant on foot—accompanied by hundreds of community leaders, the press, and yours truly, a young lawyer who had recently returned from two years working in Washington after law school.

Many of the community leaders were wary of another “tour” by a politician, but Senator Kennedy won them over with his good intentions and new legislation that provided substantial funding for a new project. He saw it all that day—burned out buildings, vacant lots covered with garbage, and abandoned cars rusting on the streets. The area looked like a war zone. Then Senator Kennedy knocked on a door at 733 Gates Avenue. A young child opened it. He looked up to see a stranger towering over him and a crowd of people behind the stranger. As you can see I am off to the side. That’s when the New York Times photographer snapped the picture. Here it is:

Friedman and Kennedy crop

Senator Kennedy’s experience in Brooklyn motivated him to introduce a national model for community development. The model’s goal was to improve living conditions and employment opportunities in depressed areas. The nation’s first community-development nonprofit was the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation in Brooklyn. As a volunteer in Senator Kennedy’s office, I did the legal work to create and organize the new Corporation. The organization still exists today—fostering economic self-sufficiency; creating healthy, stable families; promoting the arts and culture; and transforming neighborhoods into safe, vibrant places to live, work, and visit.

I am thrilled to welcome Kerry Kennedy to InsideTrack. She has continued her father’s fight against poverty, and racial and social injustices. She has also devoted herself to a wide range of global issues including children’s rights, ethnic violence, women’s rights, and human trafficking. Please join us Tuesday, October 6, at 6:00 p.m. in the Schimmel Theater for a conversation about issues that we still need to address. We can all make a difference.

The online news source, Inside Higher Ed, analyzed the latest statistics from the federal government’s data on students enrolled in distance education courses and concluded that the online education market showed “no discernible growth” between the fall of 2012 and 2013.

Pace’s experience with online education is much different. iPace, Pace’s online degree completion program, is growing. The program began with 15 students during its inaugural fall 2011 semester, and has grown to more than 250 students enrolled in iPace programs this past semester. From fall 2012 to fall 2013 iPace enrollment doubled.

One reason for Pace’s success in this area is our approach to online degree programs. Pace’s historic mission of Opportunitas has always included the type of students most interested in online learning—students who need quality, flexible education programs that fit into their busy and demanding working lives.

Years ago, many Pace students earned degrees by attending evening classes part-time. Many of these students couldn’t afford to attend college full-time, or they juggled full-time jobs and family responsibilities and couldn’t commit to full-time class schedules. Pace helped these students become thinking professionals and move beyond their means. Today there are 54 million working adults in the US with some college experience or an associate’s degree, but no bachelor’s degree. Many of these adults are veterans and members of the military. Offering online degrees and online degree completion programs allows Pace to offer a 21st century opportunity built on our century-old mission and help even more students realize their dreams of a college diploma.

Pace faculty members are experts at combining liberal education, professional preparation, and real-world experiential opportunities —perfect for iPace students who have work experience and want to integrate their professional lives into their educations. iPace currently offers five degree completion programs—a BBA in Business Studies with concentrations in marketing and management and accounting and internal auditing, a BS in Professional Communication Studies, a BS in Professional Technology Studies with a concentration in computer forensics, a BS in Nursing, and an associate degree in Arts and Sciences. Each degree is designed for students who need convenience and flexibility in order to earn a degree.

I attended the iPace Commencement ceremonies last year. The joy and pride that permeated the room was infectious. Many graduates had never been in the same room with their faculty, advisers, and classmates before. Everyone was very happy to connect in person. Watching them match familiar names to unknown faces was a delight. Two graduates also spoke. They told us how much their degrees meant to them at a time in their lives when receiving a diploma was either a distant memory or unfulfilled dream for their peers. They were also overjoyed to share their accomplishments with spouses and children. The experience reminded me that life-long learning has many benefits beyond the diploma.

While debt often has negative connotations, not all debt is bad. Debt in pursuit of a university degree is one of the best investments a student can make in his or her future. The return on investment in education is real.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) did a study a couple of years ago. The OECD found that the typical graduate from a four-year college earns 84 percent more than a high school graduate. The same study also indicated that a college degree is worth $365,000 for the average American man after subtracting all the direct and indirect costs over a lifetime. For women—who still tend to earn less than men—a college diploma is worth $185,000.

College graduates aren’t having problems getting their careers started either. The US Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics reports that as of 2012, college graduates from the Class of 2008 had spent just six percent of the previous four years unemployed. Eight out of ten Class of 2008 graduates had one full-time job during the previous four years, another eight percent of the graduates had multiple jobs during that time period.

No one wants to start his or her career in in the red. And the amount of debt a student incurs should be considered in light of his or her intended career choices. The good news, however, is that in addition to the economic returns your college education will produce, the federal government gives graduates more advantageous repayment options than ever before.

Under Income Based Repayment (IBR), students who have US Department of Education (DOE) loans only have to pay a maximum of 10 percent of their income per month. Any balance left after 20 years is forgiven. IBRs are especially attractive to graduates working in government and non-profit jobs because the DOE forgives their loan balances after 10 years. IBRs are growing in popularity among students. The DOE reports that between April 1, 2013, and September 30, 2014, participation in IBRs doubled.

Graduating from Pace also is an advantage for people carrying student loans. Approximately six out of ten Pace students have at least one internship. Many have multiple internships. This real-world experience gives our graduates an advantage in the job market. In fact, PayScale ranks Pace graduates in the top 15 percent nationally for average earnings in first and mid-career jobs. Pace students also have a lower loan default rate than students from many similar schools.

Students or parents considering student loans should explore their options with Pace’s professionals in our Financial Aid Call Center at 1 (877) 672-1830; while graduating students should talk with a counselor in our Career Services Department. The department is one of the largest of its kind among colleges in New York City. Students can make an appointment with a counselor by contacting the appropriate campus office at http://www.pace.edu/career-services/location-hours-staff-directory.

Finish in Four

The number “four” pops up a lot in our everyday lives.

There are four seasons—spring, summer, autumn, and winter. There are four directions—east, west, north, and south. There are four books in Islam, and the Four Noble Truths express the basic orientation of Buddhism. In Christianity the four-point star, or the Star of Bethlehem, represents both Jesus’ birth and the purpose for which he was born, and children ask the four questions at the Passover Seder. In professional baseball, basketball, and hockey, teams must win four games out of seven to be crowned champions.

In numerology, the number “four” is defined as disciplined, strong, hard-working, and conscientious. These four adjectives describe Pace students.

Now the number “four” is more prominent on our Pace campuses. We kicked off our Finish in Four campaign at the start of this semester. We handed out flyers during Orientation and hung posters on both campuses. There’s also a new video on the way. The campaign supports Provost Sukhatme’s goal to have students graduate from Pace in four years or less.

There are all sorts of advantages for students to finish in four. For one thing, students who graduate in four years pay less than students who delay graduation. In addition, lower costs often translate to lower student debt. Students who finish in four can also begin their careers faster—which mean becoming economically independent and self-sufficient. Most important, however, students who commit to finishing in four years are more likely to complete their degrees than students who plan on taking longer to graduate.

Graduating in four years may not be for everyone. Some students who work and attend school at the same time, for example, may not be able to commit to Finish in Four schedules. But students who do commit to graduating in four years or less do not have to sacrifice their undergraduate experiences to do it. These students are still afforded every opportunity Pace has to offer—including access to internships, study abroad programs, honor societies, student activities, and leadership opportunities.

Finishing in four isn’t difficult—it just takes the commitment, dedication, and hard work Pace students are known for, combined with the thoughtful planning they do with their advisers. Pace faculty and staff are very supportive of this initiative and there is no doubt in my mind that once our students commit to Finish in Four, they’ll do it!

In a few days we’ll cut the ribbon and officially open the expanded Kessel Student Center. Since we are rebuilding approximately half the campus, there will be more ribbon cutting ceremonies in the months ahead. Slowly but surely, student life and bustle—rather than construction—is becoming the most visible activity on campus.

I’ve recently toured the campus and it’s very exciting to see the construction sites shrink and our renewed campus take shape. The expanded Kessel Center has more room for student activities and meetings, as well as dining, and is once again teeming with student life. We still need to do some landscaping and, when the weather gets better, we will plant grass, shrubs and trees. By summer Kessel will look like a Pace postcard.

I’m also very excited that work on the Environmental Center is just about finished. Students are using the new classroom and we completed many of the site improvements last fall. All that’s left is to finish the new farmhouse, and we hope to have that completed soon.

Construction on Alumni Hall continues. The first of two new residence halls under construction, Alumni Hall will open for business in time for the fall semester. Work on the new athletic facilities is also progressing. The baseball field is ready for its new surface. Once the weather improves, we will put down a new artificial turf field for football and other sports. We are also putting the finishing touches on a new lecture hall in Willcox Hall. Students will begin using the new space next semester.

Other new facilities are already open. Students in our media arts and communications program started working on a new sound stage in Willcox last fall. We also replaced the old sculpture studio in Paton House with a new one in the Art Barn and added an additional classroom in Paton House. These new spaces also opened last semester.

The renewal of our Pleasantville campus has many advantages. Once construction of Alumni Hall is complete, we will relocate many students from Briarcliff to Pleasantville and all students will benefit from enhanced academic and social programs. We’re creating more green space for students to enjoy, and our new living learning communities in the residence halls will help us inject academics deeper into student life.

Most of all, however, our physical renewal in Pleasantville will lead to greater interest in, and growth of, our academic programs. We’ve seen it before. When we renovated the science labs in Pleasantville, enrollment in our science programs went up. When we created a new state-of-the-art home at 140 William Street in New York City for our performing arts program, enrollment jumped and our ability to recruit and retain high-quality faculty members also improved. We expect the same result in Pleasantville from this major project.

Former UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill once said, “We shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us.” No doubt our new and improved facilities in Pleasantville will help shape students for many years to come.

Years ago, Toyota penetrated the North American automobile market by producing a car that consumers had been asking for, but still couldn’t get—a small, fuel-efficient car that met people’s basic transportation needs. Toyota not only created the car, they produced a memorable advertising campaign to go with it. Toyota’s slogan, “You asked for it, you got it, Toyota,” permeated media for a decade.

Toyota’s advertisements from that period are old fashioned today, but there is nothing dated about soliciting accurate, balanced, and worthwhile information from people, and then acting on the feedback to improve their experience.

That’s the concept behind Pace’s new “You Asked, We Acted” campaign. The program’s goal is to ensure students have a greater voice in their college experience and, ultimately, in their own success.

At Pace, our mission never changes. We help students become thinking professionals through a mix of liberal education, professional preparation, and real world experiences. But Pace students come from diverse geographic, ethnic, and economic backgrounds. They also have different high school experiences and ability levels. What better way to ensure each student gets the most out of his or her college experience than to ask how we can make the experience more valuable?

Of course, we can’t say “Yes” to every idea, and we are already working to address some issues students brought to our attention. But when students recently suggested better training related to on-campus employment, Pace’s Organizational Learning and Development Department and the Office of Student Affairs created a training program for both student employees and supervisors of student employees. They are piloting the program this semester.

Students also suggested more information on majors, minors, and combined degree programs. We acted with the Majors Series. The Majors Series highlights Pace’s various academic programs and related career opportunities.

The list goes on. From requests for online and remote math placement exams, to more first semester course choice flexibility, enhanced financial aid information, and more student relaxation spaces, we’re listening and acting to improve our students’ Pace experience.

This week the University kicks off a six-week campaign that highlights many of our students’ suggestions and the steps Pace is taking to implement their ideas. There will be “You Asked, We Acted” posters on both campuses and we’ll use other media to share our students’ good ideas. Best of all, the Student Experience Action Team will continue to take our students’ suggestions at youasked@pace.edu. Please get in touch!

For most of us, monetary policy is terra incognita, the land that ancient cartographers knew existed, but didn’t know much about. Macroeconomics is not given much attention in high school curricula, so most freshmen arrive at college without understanding macroeconomics generally, and even less about monetary policy. Pace freshmen are no exception. The mystery of monetary policy extends far beyond the freshman year. Early in my career, I served as deputy assistant secretary for capital markets policy at the US Department of the Treasury, and I attended the monthly Treasury-Federal Reserve lunch with senior officials from both agencies. Let’s just say I was on a very steep learning curve.

Believing that this woeful gap needs to be filled, the Federal Reserve Board sponsors an annual competition for undergraduate economics teams to test their understanding of and facility with the major monetary policy issues facing the nation. The competition has two rounds: An initial round, run by five of the 12 Federal Reserve Banks; and a final, national championship round at the Federal Reserve Board in Washington, DC. Pace has had a team competing for approximately 10 years. In their first year, the Pace team placed 20th out of 35 teams in the New York Federal Reserve Bank’s initial round.

In 2012 and 2013, the Pace team came in first in the New York Fed’s initial round, besting students from fine economics departments at institutions like Cornell, Princeton, NYU, Hamilton, and others. In the national competitions, Pace placed third in the whole nation both years—which I regarded as a hugely impressive accomplishment.

This year, the Pace team again won the New York Federal Reserve Bank’s first round, and then was awarded first place in Washington, DC, besting teams from Princeton, University of Chicago, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Bentley University. Three Pace team members suffered significant health issues before and during the competition—yet several judges at the Federal Reserve Board said that the Pace presentation was one of the best presentations they had ever seen.

The Pace team’s championship is an extraordinary accomplishment. The team members are smart, but so was their competition. More than smarts is required for success at this level. Their victory is a testament to the team’s hard work and total commitment to mastering this complex area and the many conflicting policy considerations that attend each decision of the Federal Reserve Board and its Open Market Committee. It also bespeaks a tremendous amount of hard work and commitment by the team’s formidable coaches, professors Mark Weinstock; Gregory Colman, PhD; and Anna Shostya, PhD; as well as Department Chair Professor Joseph Morreale, PhD. The members of the team have our great admiration: Dyson College Economics majors Kelsey Berro (co-captain), Jordan Jhamb (co-captain), Julia Mikhailova, Katherine Craig, Lauren Price, and Daniella Gambino.

The team’s victory is so much more than simply coming in first in a very challenging competition. It is a graphic demonstration of the fact that Pace students, with the kind of superb leadership that our talented faculty coaches provided, can compete on equal terms with the best students in America—and win. We are very proud of all of them.

A few weeks ago, I accompanied two of our students to a small reception for The Kevin Spacey Foundation (KSF): America.

The event was hosted by business leader and philanthropist Adrienne Arsht at her splendid house in Washington D.C. to thank some of the larger supporters of a concert for Mr. Spacey’s global foundation. Adrienne is a wonderfully generous patron of the performing arts (e.g., the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami). Adrienne and I also served together on the Board of the American Ballet Theatre many years ago.

The KSF sponsors the creation of new works, designs, and tailored educational opportunities through KSF Learning. The Foundation also offers scholarships. We were very proud that the first five scholarships in the U.S. were awarded to Pace Performing Arts students. The two sophomore scholars, Larissa Jeanniton and Nicholas Delgado, were invited to the reception.

It was a lovely evening with an interesting group of people. Both Adrienne and Kevin Spacey spoke movingly about the Foundation’s important work. Among the highlights for me and for many of the people there was Larissa and Nicholas’ maturity, charisma, and dedication to their art.  I was very proud of them and their representation of Pace and its students.

For Larissa and Nicholas there is no doubt that the highlight of the evening was when Kevin Spacey took them aside to talk to them and give them advice about their careers as performing artists. He talked with them for some time, and had we not had a plane to catch, the conversation would have continued. As you can see from the photo below, his interest in them and their careers was genuine and very inspiring.

Kevin Spacey Pic

First there was Black Friday. Large retailers co-opted the day after Thanksgiving to kick off the holiday shopping season. Small mom and pop retailers weren’t about to be left out. They proclaimed the third day of the four-day weekend as Small Business Saturday in the hopes of drawing shoppers to their stores. Online retailers followed suit, electing the following Monday as Cyber Monday to push their products and sales. Even shippers had their own day—Free Shipping Thursday on the final Thursday before Christmas.

The holidays are behind us, but with so much focus on shopping and sales each holiday season, let’s applaud the United Nations Foundation and New York City’s 92nd Street Y for creating Giving Tuesday in 2012. The two groups created Giving Tuesday in response to the overemphasis on consumerism during the holidays. The day has its roots in the Bible verse, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

I am enormously proud of the way our Pace family members embraced Giving Tuesday this year. After raising approximately $13,000 in 2013, we set a Giving Tuesday goal of $25,000 for 2014. A generous alumnus had agreed to match contributions up to $25,000, so we hoped to meet our goal and raise $50,000.

Thanks to the spirit and generosity of our Pace friends, alumni, and supporters, we met our goal by the afternoon. By the end of the day, almost 300 donors contributed more than $76,000—providing the University with a total of $101,700 to support things like curriculum development, scholarship programs, and student activities.

Even after the holidays, it is appropriate to give thanks. At Pace we are thankful for everyone who recognizes that the United States cannot succeed in an increasingly complex and interconnected world unless the great middle class of students—not just students from the most selective colleges in America—receive first-class educations that combine high-quality classroom instruction with real world experience. Pace educates these students every day and they go on to fulfill their promise and potential. We are thankful for the support of our friends and extended Pace family members whose generous gifts allow us to help these hardworking young men and women achieve their dreams.

My warm wishes to you for a happy, healthy, and successful year as we begin 2015.

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