You Asked We Acted

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!

Pace victory in national policy

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.

Grace and celebrity

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

Pace supporters display true holiday spirit on Giving Tuesday

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.