Kingsborough Community College has a legacy of excellence spanning fifty-five years. With a rank in the top four community colleges in the nation according to the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program, the south Brooklyn institution nurtures the minds of thousands of students.
The beauty of Kingsborough is that it welcomes those who want to learn with open arms. Regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, or any other status a person may hold. Unfortunately, in recent years, enrollment has been on a decline. Shrinking from sixteen thousand students to as low as eleven thousand. This drastic decrease is just one issue that Dr. Claudia V. Schrader faces since her recent appointment as President of the college. The challenge of convincing people to spend thousands of dollars a year is a daunting task. Even if it is an investment for the future.
“I’ve probably been here seven weeks, and I would say the most critical priority is enrollment. The college experienced a significant enrollment decline which as you know sometimes it can have an impact on moral, it can also have an impact on resources,” said Dr. Schrader. “Because then we use those resources to provide more support to students, for faculty to engage in research and scholarly activity and to do programming and just make Kingsborough a more vibrant academic community. So, my priority would be enrollment. That’s number one.”
The issue of enrollment decline is one that demands immediate action. It’s the kind of problem that forces Dr. Schrader to take a step back and analyze what Kingsborough needs to change, but also think about the strengths of the college and how to emphasize them.
“In terms of how I’m going about doing that, [I’m] just thinking about what we’re doing, figuring out what’s needed. One of the big areas is marketing and advertising. We need to have a presence outside of Kingsborough. We do great things, but no one really knows,” said Dr. Schrader. “So, a lot of my emphasis is how do we get the word out about who we are? And what are our bragging points? Our Marine Science area, we have students who believe strongly in civic engagement. We have an incredible faculty that does research that really cares for students. We have the highest retention rate and highest graduation rate in CUNY and people need to know that.”
With experience in Academia dating back to 1989, Dr. Schrader spent twelve years at Medgar Evers College as Senior Vice President and Provost, as well as Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost at Bronx Community College.
Her hands-on practice with the diverse academic community of New York, as well as holding various positions in multiple institutions have helped prepare her for the challenges she faces as President.
“Everything that I’ve done at Medgar and BCC prepared me to be here. At Medgar, I was a junior faculty member, so I learned a lot from senior faculty members, and you know I sort of had to, as a young person you sort of have to be very firm and strong and have strong convictions,” she said. “And, at BCC, I got to do a lot as senior vice president and provost. When you combine those things, I think people see in me somebody who is really strong and a leader, and I know a little bit about a lot of things, so that’s really helpful.”
It is a tumultuous time to be a college student. The nation is at one of the most divisive points in recent memory. With diversity comes differences in opinion, religion, and political ideology. These core philosophies can create turmoil among a student body. Dr. Schrader however, believes that students and faculty can work past these divergences to strive for greatness.
“I want to improve the campus climate. There are a lot of undercurrent issues with people who have different political ideologies and religious beliefs, and while I don’t expect everyone to agree with each other, I do expect respectful discourse and tolerance for the ideas of other people. I really want a climate that people who have diverse beliefs and backgrounds can really just agree to what we have in common and that’s our students, and that’s the most important thing,” said Dr. Schrader.
One of the most important tasks that any administration faces is open lines of communication between professors, students, and upper faculty. Access to information is paramount in creating an academic environment that runs smoothly.
It can be difficult to hear the questions and concerns of the whole student body, let alone an entire college. Simple issues become magnified when unnecessary. Dr. Schrader has several plans in motion to get the information she thinks is essential to the people it affects.
“I’ve already started open lines of communication. I promised I would start having an annual report to the campus community. And that’s just a report that shares what I’m doing,” said Dr. Schrader. “I’m working on a new initiative right now where all the administrative VP’s will send updates to the campus on things that I think they should know. I think that there might be a subset of the campus population that has information and somehow, it’s not trickling down. I want everyone to know. So, we’re starting on that.”
With multiple decades of experience and a can-do demeanor, she looks to continue KBCC’s policy of striving for greatness.
“I would say that I would like my legacy to be someone who restored Kingsborough to its greatness in the eyes of other people. We already know it’s great. I need other people to know that Kingsborough is great. I want to be able to restore that. I want to be able to elevate it back so everyone else can see what we already know,” said Dr. Schrader. “This is exactly where I want to be. I want to be in some place vibrant and with different cultures and beliefs.”