Ready for a New Semester

We are all just returning from our winter break—brief for some, a bit longer for others, a welcome respite for all. It is the start of a new semester, a time I always find exciting. We come together, faculty and staff, having had time to relax, to refresh our minds and spirits, about as prepared as we can be for the intense, gratifying—and sometimes even elating—months ahead. After weeks of an almost eerie silence in the college’s halls and corridors, the campus soon will be booming with our students, filled with energy, ambition and creativity.

One of my first engagements will be to greet students new to FIT. Each semester, I find them eager and optimistic, but also apprehensive about whether they will succeed in FIT’s special, but demanding environment. I try to assure them that they never would have been allowed to step through our doors without our confidence that they can thrive with us, and then I hope they will believe me. I know that they will be supported by staff and faculty whose commitment never flags. I know their minds will be opened, talents honed—they will be stretched in ways they had not imagined.

In fact, just the other day, I was reading proofs of the college’s upcoming Annual Report, which this year is entitled “Talking Teaching.” It is focused on six professors from all of our schools and a variety of disciplines. They were asked to talk about teaching—and from that came an illuminating and inspiring discourse on technology, creativity, literacy, pedagogy and more. Their reflections on how they can bring out the best in their students simply reinforced my own appreciation of the mission of education and all that the FIT faculty has to offer—and why the start of every new semester always portends such an exciting narrative waiting to unfold.

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FIT Has Talent

One of my favorite end-of-year traditions is the UCE of FIT talent show. Filled with laughter and high spirits, it brings together the entire community around an event that is nothing but fun. The performers represent every corner of the college: staff, administration, and faculty. And what talent! It is truly moving to see the range of talent at FIT—and the heartfelt performances.

This year’s show played to a large and uber responsive audience in the Haft Auditorium and featured song, dance and poetry—as well as a moment of silence in commemoration of World AIDS Day.

For those who could not get there, let me provide a quick rundown of the acts:

Michael Zervos, from media services, and Susan Grassi, from financial aid, in full 1950’s regalia, served as “Master and Mistress of Ceremonies,” and took us back to 1978 as they channeled John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John in a sing-along from Grease.

Carol Leven, from Communications and External Relations, accompanied on piano by Vice President for Academic Affairs Jack Oliva, presented a pair of American songbook classics: “They Can’t Take that Away From Me” and “Autumn Leaves.”

Bass guitarist Dan Cooper, from Film, Media, and Performing Arts, and his non-FIT quartet, played his own composition, “I Can’t Wait,” followed by lead guitarist Mark Lesseraux, from Art and Design, and back-up guitarist Lasse Savola, from Science and Math, with an “in memoriam” medley of songs by the late David Bowie, Prince, and Leonard Cohen.

David Lawton, from International Student Services, read two of his own poems.

He was followed by three colleagues from Receiving—Donnell Parson, Wilfredo Ingram and Garnet Barracks—each of whom first sang solo and then, as a trio, turned in a stirring version of “Feliz Navidad.”

Shalaia Craddock, from Direct and Interactive Marketing, brought down the house with her a cappella version of “Orange Colored Sky.”

Finally, the entire Staff Committee of the UCE—plus the performers—closed the show with another Grease sing-along, to a great round of applause. Here’s a video clip from the finale that might get you singing also!


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FIT Wins 2016 Environmental Excellence Award

At FIT, sustainability is one of our core values and is central to our overall mission. So it was gratifying indeed to receive word that FIT has been awarded a 2016 Environmental Excellence Award by New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

The DEC states that award winners are “an elite group of committed organizations leading by example and serving as models of excellence within their industry and community.”

The competition was stiff. The DEC only gives out a few awards each year. It received several dozens of applications from a wide variety of organizations, ranging from deep-pocketed corporations to small, community-based nonprofits. The applications go through a robust vetting process. FIT’s sustainability initiatives were commended as being an “outstanding example of environmental, social and economic excellence.”

FIT’s Karen Pearson, Suzanne McGillicuddy, and William Rossi are congratulated by DEC’s chief of staff Peter Walke
FIT’s Karen Pearson, Suzanne McGillicuddy, and William Rossi are congratulated by DEC’s chief of staff Peter Walke

FIT is, of course, renowned for its curricular excellence, industry partnerships, and forward-thinking contributions to the design industry at the national and international level. What is less well-known – and what this award highlights — is how far we’ve come at FIT in making the campus itself more sustainable through our ongoing effort to reduce our total energy use.

It has been a team effort that has included projects large and small. We installed energy-efficient lighting all over campus and put 67 high-efficiency washers and 75 dryers in two dorms, which saved nearly 900,000 gallons of water in 2011 alone and reduced drying times. We installed 17,000 square feet of Green Roof material – which diverts an estimated 300,000 gallons of runoff from the sewer system each year — and painted 10,000 square feet of rooftop in reflective paint. And the Green Roof project is set to expand to cover more than an acre, resulting in more energy savings. We developed a robust recycling program and an innovative composting project.

And that’s just the short list.

For more than a decade, FIT’s facilities planners and engineers have worked largely behind the scenes to replace and retrofit all of the many systems that keep FIT running. Much of this is invisible to us. But it is these big, often unnoticed, projects that have created the big energy reductions.

Those of you who were here in 2008 may remember our “Chiller” plant retrofit. That is the plant that provides cooling for all of the buildings on campus. That retrofit alone reduced our total carbon emissions by 5,000 metric tons per year. Similarly, the energy-efficient retrofit of Kaufman Hall saves 3,500 metric tons and the campus-wide lighting project saves another 1,100 metric tons. We also put “Energy Star” refrigerators in Alumni, Coed, and Nagler Halls; replaced inefficient elevator and escalator controls; and installed an ultra-low- emission generator for the data center.

These efforts have resulted in huge strides in reducing our carbon dioxide emissions: working together, we reduced FIT’s overall carbon dioxide emissions by a remarkable 43 percent. These projects have set us well on our way to meeting the pledge I signed in support of United Nations Climate Negotiations in November of last year to reduce FIT’s total carbon dioxide emissions by a full 50 percent by 2020 from the 2005 baseline.

So as we celebrate winning this well-deserved Environmental Excellence Award, we should also take a moment to acknowledge the work that the entire FIT community has invested in making our campus a shining example of environmental stewardship in action.

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A Model Citizen…a Model Neighbor

How many times have we all heard the admonition: if you see something, say something? Fortunately for us, it was that simple admonition that nagged at our neighbor Jane Shreibman when she spotted an oddly wired device in a trashcan outside her West 27th Street apartment one September Saturday night. It was two hours after West 23rd Street was rocked by a huge explosion that ended up injuring 31 people. Her initial reaction was to keep on walking, but not for long. She called 911—and as you probably know, that phone call saved lives. The device turned out to be an explosive as well.


We were fortunate to have the opportunity to honor Ms. Shreibman recently at a lovely event here on the FIT campus co-hosted by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. Many local officials, including New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, State Senator Brad Holyman, Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, as well as members of the FIT community and the public, were there. Also present were Deputy Inspector and Commanding Officer Brendan Timoney and Community Affairs Officer Detective Ray Dorrian—both with the 13th precinct of the NYPD and both eager to show their appreciation.

Ms. Shreibman, who lives just a half-block from campus, is more than a nearby neighbor. She is also a Center for Professional Studies and Continuing Education student who has been taking courses with us for many years. I was struck by some of the things she said regarding her decision to call 911. Like so many of us—I suspect—she had her doubts about whether to call. After all, she said, she was used to seeing lots of “crazy objects” tossed away on the city’s streets. Still, she thought it would be irresponsible not to call. And when she did, still uncertain of her instinct, she apologized to the 911 dispatcher “in case I was wasting their time,” she said.

I think we can all agree that Ms. Shreibman performed an exemplary act of citizenship, compassion and community service, one that we all can learn from. As I said at the event, I believe that this one phone call puts to rest whatever cynicism we may harbor about the capacity of one person to make a difference.


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Albert Kriemler Honored at Couture Council Luncheon

There was a special warmth at this year’s Couture Council luncheon which had nothing to do with the brilliant early September sun or the lovely ambiance at the David Koch Theater at Lincoln Center. It came from our awardee Albert Kriemler , creative director of Akris, who radiated gratitude, appreciation and humility with every word and gesture. There were at least 400 ardent admirers in the audience, many of them turned out in elegant Akris designs, and I think they would agree.

Akris is an international fashion house headquartered in Switzerland and it is where Mr. Kriemler is based. In his acceptance speech, Mr. Kriemler offered a valentine to New York City, reflecting on the way it has inspired him over the years and the role it has played in his career. Indeed, rather than showing his collection in Paris this year, as he always does, he is—for the first time ever—showing it here in New York…“as a tribute,” he said, “to the Couture Council and to give back … the love and respect this city has offered to me since I was only starting.”

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