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October 10, 2018

A Message from Lehman College President José Luis Cruz
The challenges we face as a country can only be met through the coherence of our actions. So it is that against the divisive drama playing out in Washington, we must maintain our focus on the work at hand, celebrate the steady progress we are achieving in service of our College’s critical mission, strengthen our connection to each other, and advocate on behalf of the ideals we hold dear. Here is an overview of the collective efforts I have been part of at Lehman in the last several weeks.

Convocation 2018

Lehman College’s 2018-2019 academic year was officially launched at Convocation, which was held on September 12 in the Monroe and Rose D. Lovinger Theatre. I reflected on the year that was and foreshadowed the year that will be, using the following student-centered points of pride to illustrate the momentum sustaining our work: and presented a vision of the future for Lehman as it looks toward its next half-century. I made three statements and substantiated each of them with several images.
  • Opportunity: The Fall 2017 full-time freshman class was Lehman’s largest in nearly a decade, while total student enrollment was our largest since 1976, when CUNY’s free tuition policy was discontinued.
  • Retention: The proportion of first-time full-time freshmen who returned as full-time students the following fall was nearly 10 points higher than the CUNY senior college average.
  • Graduation Rates, Freshmen: The six-year graduation rate for the first-time full-time freshman cohort that entered in 2011 increased 8.6 percentage points compared to our Fall 2007 cohort —the largest growth rate of any CUNY senior college during this four-year period.
  • Graduation Rates, Transfers: The four-year graduation rate of students who transferred to Lehman from a CUNY associate degree program in Fall 2012 was 7.5 percent higher than the CUNY average.
  • STEM Majors: In the four years between Fall 2013 and Fall 2017, the number of undergraduate STEM majors nearly doubled — this 96 percent growth rate is the highest in all of CUNY.
  • Value: Forbes recently set out to identify "the schools where grads owe the least relative to their likely mid-career income" — Lehman was one of only four public colleges to rank in the top 25 "low-debt/high-income schools."
  • Social Mobility: At a time of growing inequality in America and waning support for public higher education, Lehman is one of our nation’s top engines of social mobility. The Chronicle of Higher Education recently ranked our College as third in the country for helping students "whose parents were in the bottom 20 percent of income levels reach the top 20 percent for individual earnings."
  • 90x30: Just one year after launching 90x30, the number of degrees and professional certificates earned by our students increased by 12 percent—far exceeding the annual growth rate required to meet 90x30. This increase is also the largest in nearly a decade, and more than double the number of degrees and professional certificates conferred 20 years ago.
At Convocation, we also extended congratulations to Dr. Joseph Fera, deputy chair and assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics, for earning the Teacher of the Year award; and to both Anyelina Fermin, college assistant in the Department of English, and Richard Santapau, custodial supervisor in the Department of Buildings & Grounds, for earning the President’s Award for Outstanding Contributions to the College.

I am most grateful to our student participants during Convocation: music major Justin Kelly for his solo vocal and piano performance of “Believe in Yourself” from The Wiz; Daisy Flores, president of the Student Government Association and a dietetics, foods and nutrition major, for her reminiscence of visiting the Lehman campus as a four-year-old, which helped spark her passion for learning; and the members of the Lehman Student Jazz Ensemble for providing the processional and recessional music at the event.

Friendraising and Fundraising

We continue to discuss possible support for some of Lehman College’s student access and degree completion initiatives, among many other issues, with the Heckscher Foundation for Children. I met with the foundation’s board in this regard on September 12, and again with the foundation’s chairman and CEO, Peter Sloane, on October 4. At the latter meeting, we talked about creating jobs programs with promising pathways and partnering to create a pilot program to facilitate transferring of credits.

On September 24, I met with leaders from the Robin Hood Foundation regarding a proposal to expand the ACE (Accelerate, Complete, Engage) program to Lehman College — an initiative that we have been pursuing on various fronts now for several months. I was accompanied by Donna Linderman, CUNY’s associate vice chancellor for Academic Affairs, whom on September 6, I had the honor of hosting on campus for a discussion about the ACE program with representatives from our divisions of Academic Affairs, Enrollment Management, and Student Affairs. We expect the proposal to be considered by the Robin Hood Foundation’s board in the next few weeks.

The Herbert H. Lehman College Foundation Board met on September 26. At the meeting, Vice President Susan Ebersole and I welcomed Board Member Dennis F. Gleason as the interim chair, recounted Lehman’s recent accomplishments, and discussed potential ways in which the board could help accelerate our College’s strategic goals. Vice presidents José Magdaleno and Reine Sarmiento joined the meeting and provided insights on the relationship between philanthropic support and student success.

Elevating Our Voice and Raising Our Profile

On September 6, I offered welcoming remarks at a reception held in the Lehman College Art Gallery celebrating Pintando: Colors of Education, a special six-week exhibition featuring more than three dozen paintings that are widely recognized as treasures of Mexican heritage, all commissioned by the National Commission of Public Textbooks to illustrate the covers of books used in Mexico’s schools. The exhibition, which had its only stop in New York at Lehman, was presented in conjunction with the Mexican National Commission of Public Textbooks and the Institute for Mexicans Abroad through the Consulate General of Mexico in New York. The Jaime Lucero Mexican Studies Institute sponsored a series of related lectures by Mexican and Mexican-American visual artists in September.

Dr. Manoj Pant, director of the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT), visited Lehman on September 18 to discuss a potential partnership. Dr. Teresita Levy, director of Lehman’s Center for Global Engagement and associate professor in the Department of Latin American and Latino Studies, joined our discussion. Dr. Pant also met with faculty from our Department of Economics and Business.

A quarterly meeting of the New York Botanical Garden Board of Directors took place on September 20, which I attended. A week later, I was invited to speak with the board members of the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence (JNGI) at the Century Association in Manhattan. I was joined by President David Gómez, Hostos Community College, and President Thomas Isekenegbe, Bronx Community College. The JNGI board is considering creating a Coalition for Equity and Scalability and asked for our insights.

On September 21, I met with Laura Oliveira from the Department of Chemistry, who is serving as the project director for the New York City Louis Stokes Alliance Minority Participation (LSAMP) program led by Lehman. A kick-off meeting of all of the principal investigators in the CUNY-wide LSAMP program is to take place on October 12.

On September 27, I provided testimony to the New York City Council’s Committee on Higher Education during a hearing on “African American Studies and Hiring of Black Faculty at CUNY.” Also providing testimony on behalf of CUNY was Interim Chancellor Vita C. Rabinowitz and Kingsborough Community College President Claudia Schrader. I was able to draw on much of my work on the Chancellor’s Faculty Diversity Working Group, which I co-chair with Brooklyn College President Michelle Anderson.

In the interest of sharing ideas about our various student success initiatives, I joined two other CUNY presidents for a breakfast meeting on October 3. The event was suggested by John Jay College of Criminal Justice President Karol V. Mason, and included City College of New York President Vincent Boudreau.

CUNY is piloting a new professional development program in collaboration with the Harvard Institute for Educational Management called “Diversifying CUNY’s Leadership,” which is aimed at cultivating the next group of future leaders at the CUNY. At the request of Interim Chancellor Rabinowitz, I participated in a panel discussion, “Leading CUNY: Academic Affairs,” on October 5.

The 2018 Hispanic Federation Education Summit was held on October 9 at The Graduate Center. Along with Queens College President Félix V. Matos Rodriguez and Miami Dade College President Eduardo J. Padrón, I participated on a panel discussion titled “Entre Familia Leaders of Higher Education Institutions.”

On October 9, I participated in a conference call hosted by Jennifer Bell-Ellwanger, president and CEO of Data Quality Campaign (DQC), and DQC Board Chair John Bailey. DQC is a non-profit policy and advocacy organization working to help educators utilize to improve decision-making and student outcomes.

Shared Governance

It has been a very productive month on the shared governance front. College-wide, there was a Faculty Personnel and Budget meeting on October 2, plus a Cabinet meeting on September 18. At the Student Leadership Retreat on September 22, there was a session with the Cabinet and students. The newly created President’s Council, which includes the President’s Cabinet; school deans; the chief librarian; the chairs of the College Senate, general faculty, PSC Lehman Chapter, DC-37 Lehman Chapter, Student Government Association, and Student Legislative Assembly, held its inaugural meeting on September 26. The Senate Governance Committee met the following day.

I am now holding regular meetings with the deans of the college’s five schools and individual meetings with all of their executive committees and department chairs. This began in September with Chief Librarian Kenneth Schlesinger, School of Arts & Humanities Dean James Mahon, and Department of Political Science Chair Elhum Haghighat, and then proceeded with the School of Education Executive Committee; School of Natural and Social Sciences Interim Dean Pam Mills; School of Education Interim Dean Serigne Gningue; School of Health Sciences, Human Services & Nursing (HS2N) Dean Elin Waring; Department of Music, Multimedia, Theatre and Dance Chair Janette Tilley; Department of Social Work Chair Carl Mazza; the HS2N Executive Committee; School of Education Interim Dean Gaoyin Qian; Department of Art Chair Sean McCarthy; Department of Health Sciences Chair Danna Ethan; Department of Economics and Business Chair Dene Hurley; Department of Nursing Chair C. Alicia Georges; Department of English Chair Paula Loscocco; Department of Journalism and Media Studies Chair Thomas O’Hanlon; Department of Anthropology Chair Victoria Sanford; Department of Biology Chair Haipeng Cheng…and in October, with Department of Languages & Literatures Chair Thomas Ihde; Department of Mathematics Chair Nicholas Hanges; Department of Counseling, Leadership, Literacy and Special Ed Chair Janet DeSimone; Department of Psychology Chair Kevin Sailor; Department of Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences Chair Cheryl Gabig; Department of Latin American and Latino Studies Chair David Badillo; Department of Computer Science Chair Brian Murphy; and Department of Physics & Astronomy Chair Dimitra Karabali.

I also met in September and October with Deputy Director José Higuera López of the Jaime Lucero Mexican Studies Institute at CUNY, Interim Dean of Academic Affairs and Executive in Charge Daniel Lemons (who joined us on October 1), and Director of Lehman’s Center for Global Engagement and Associate Professor in the Department of Latin American and Latino Studies Teresita Levy.

The search for the position of provost and senior vice president of academic affairs and student success is underway. I met with Vice President for Information and Technology and Chief Information Officer Ronald M. Bergmann and Africana Studies Professor and Chair of the General Faculty Anne Rice, co-chairs of the provost’s search committee, on October 3, and later in the day charged the entire committee. We will update the campus community as the search progresses.

As the semester proceeds, we are advancing our efforts for our Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) institutional self-study process in preparation for the official site visit next April and a December meeting with the chair of the site visit team. On September 21, I met with Professor Ira Bloom, chair of the Self-Study Steering Committee, and then a week later with the Steering Committee as a whole. A meeting with the newly formed Administrative Leadership Forum on October 1, which included a number of associate deans and HEOs, covered some of the challenges we are facing with the MSCHE review.

In relation to my participation in CUNY’s governance structures, I chaired Council of Presidents Fiscal Affairs Committee meetings on September 14 and October 9, attended a Council of Presidents meeting on October 3, and participated in separate meetings of the Board of Trustees’ Faculty Affairs Committee and Investments Committee on October 9.

Remembering Vincent Clark

Many people have expressed a desire to celebrate the life of our beloved colleague, Vincent Clark, who passed away this past August. I am fully supportive of this effort and pleased to announce that we have established the Vincent W. Clark Scholarship Fund. In the coming weeks, we will be sending more information about the fund, as well as events and other opportunities to commemorate his life and legacy at Lehman.

See you around campus.

José Luis Cruz

Previous messages from President Cruz can be found here.