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Lehman College: City University of New York
November 7, 2017

A Message from Lehman College President José Luis Cruz
The national headlines in the past several weeks have further established that we are living in a time of cyber confusion, political disruption, social turmoil, economic inequality, and climate upheaval. But through it all, Lehman continues to advance its mission and solidify its role as a quintessential anchor institution in the Bronx. Below is a summary of my recent work on behalf of this college-wide effort.

Fall 2017 Convocation and Inauguration

This year’s convocation also served as my official installation as president of Lehman College.  I welcomed the occasion to reflect on our College’s rich history, the challenges and opportunities we face, and the urgency of the work at hand.   And I was grateful for the opportunity to communicate the five priorities that will continue to guide our work in the year ahead:

First, we will build our institutional capacity to not only expand student access, increase completion rates, and reduce time to degree, but also to ensure that our graduates become educated, empowered, and engaged members of their communities.

Second, we will establish a robust data analytics operation to accelerate the graduation rate gains that in the past five years have established Lehman as CUNY’s fastest improving senior college. 

Third, we will optimize our resource allocation practices, continue to increase revenue from grants and contracts, and work to expand our virtual and physical infrastructure.

Fourth, as a means to accelerate our progress and ensure the coherence of our actions, we will double down on the strategies outlined in the Connected CUNY Strategic Framework and our College’s Achieving the Vision Plan — including those strategies designed to better support our faculty’s research, engaged scholarship, and creative activities and those meant to enhance our students’ career prospects in the knowledge-based economy.

Fifth, we will continue to solidify our identity as the most important, mission-critical senior college of the world’s greatest urban university.  

I will provide updates on each of these priorities as the year progresses.  In the meantime, thanks to all of you who participated in or sent warm wishes for my inauguration. This was a momentous experience for me and my family, and I was grateful to be able to share it with so many loved ones, colleagues and special guests.

90x30: Organizing Principle, Value Proposition, Catalyst for Urgent Action

At convocation, I stressed that 90x30 — our goal to double to 90,000 the number of high-quality degrees and credentials earned by Lehman students by the year 2030 — is not only a catalyst for urgent action to help ensure that the promise of prosperity of a resurgent Bronx is within the reach of all those who seek to meet their full potential, but that it is also a value proposition to compel change agents in the public and private sectors to invest in our venture to become the top contributor to educational attainment in the Bronx. 

Today I am pleased to share that leaders including the Bronx Borough President and senior representatives from the Institute of Higher Education Policy, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Lumina Foundation, American Association of State Colleges and Universities, The Education Trust, Complete College America, and The Aspen Institution have expressed support for 90x30.  And that we have seen how 90x30 has help accelerate our efforts to secure grant funding, position ourselves as University leaders, and strengthen partnerships.

For example, 90x30 figured prominently in our discussions with the Mayor’s Office, as our colleagues in NSS and the Department of Computer Science successfully competed to be one of two CUNY campuses to receive the CUNY 2x Tech Partnership Grant. This initiative “seeks to double the number of City University of New York (CUNY) students graduating annually with a tech-related bachelor's degree by the year 2022.” This grant will allow Lehman to fund two new faculty lines for technology specialist majors and one advising line for computer science majors. Additionally, this partnership will connect the program with industry personnel for positons as adjuncts and to sit on the advisory board.

As I stated at convocation, the endgame may be in 2030, but the journey to 90,000 requires deliberate, intentional action today.  To this end, the members of my cabinet will be working closely with our various shared governance and administrative bodies to clarify the 90x30 vision and chart the path; set the foundation and build capacity; unleash innovation and resource the work; and celebrate and promote the success we register along the way.   To ensure that the elements of scale, impact, and quality inherent in 90x30 are fully explored, several retreats have already been held and other are being planned for the months ahead.  We are compiling the most commonly asked questions regarding 90x30, and I will begin addressing them in these monthly messages, and post them on our website.

Elevating Lehman’s Voice

In the past several weeks I’ve been privileged to add Lehman’s voice to important discussions concerning the challenges and opportunities facing colleges and universities across the country, and how we can best position ourselves to advance our missions against a most uncertain national backdrop.

On September 28, I served as a panelist in a webinar hosted by the American Council on Education (ACE) in which college and university presidents and higher education scholars reacted to the recent findings of the American College President Study 2017 produced by ACE’s Center for Policy Research and Strategy. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

On October 3, I traveled to Georgia State University to weigh in on a panel of the Education Writers Association Higher Ed Seminar on “How to Cover the New Reality on Campus: Adult Learners.” A few days later, I traveled to Washington, D.C. for the Accelerating Latino Student Success (ALASS) Institute’s Excelencia in Education workshop, where I participated in one of the panel discussions on “Leadership Perspectives for Advancing Latino Student Success.” 

On October 17, I was back in our nation’s capital for both a finance committee and board of directors meeting at The Education Trust, a national research and advocacy organization known as “fierce advocates for the high academic achievement of all students — particularly those of color or living in poverty.”

On October 25, I attended a convening of college and university presidents organized by ACE and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation for an important discussion “on how to protect freedom of expression on campuses in a way that preserves the spirit of open, robust inquiry while also ensuring that all are able to enjoy the rights and protections of the First Amendment.” The convening was held at Boston University and the discussion was moderated by Jack DeGioia, president of Georgetown University.

On October 26, I had the opportunity to discuss best practices to improve the retention and graduation rates at a higher education panel organized by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The next day, I participated on the “Panel on Education” of the Anchor Institutions Task Force (AITF) 2017 Annual Conference in New York City. The AITF is a “growing network of over 700 leaders promoting the engagement of anchor institutions—including colleges, universities, hospitals, community foundations, libraries, arts institutions, and other anchors—in community and economic development.”

In the next two weeks, I will be representing Lehman at a President’s Convening on Higher Education and Immigration at the National Press Club, the Education Reform Now National Conference in D.C., and a Capitol Hill day to advocate on behalf of dreamers that is being organized by The Education Trust and the KIPP Foundation.  I will update you on these and other efforts in future communications.

Advancing Lehman’s Mission in the Region and Beyond

On September 21, I met with Abe Fernández, director of Collective Impact at Children’s Aid (formerly Children’s Aid Society) and co-director of South Bronx Rising Together, to share information about 90x30 and explore ways to help underprivileged students advance through postsecondary education. Through Mr. Fernández, I have become acquainted with the efforts of the Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative (ESPRI), and at the request of Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz, Jr., I was invited to meet with the ESPRI Steering Committee on September 29 to discuss Lehman’s commitment to increasing educational attainment in the Bronx.

During the second week of October, Lehman College signed agreements with two of Cuba’s most prestigious higher education institutions, Sancti Spiritus University (UNISS) and University of Camagüey (UC), to create an academic alliance between us that will allow Lehman students to travel to Cuba for study beginning in 2018. These agreements further expand our global academic partnerships and opportunities for students.

Later this week, I will travel to the Dominican Republic as part of a CUNY-SUNY delegation led by Congressman Adriano Espaillat which will visit several colleges and universities to explore partnership opportunities. More details will be forthcoming.

Organizational Updates

As you all know from previous communications, we are currently managing several searches to fill key leadership positions.  Today, I am pleased to share that the search committees for the position of provost and the position of vice president of Institutional Advancement are entering the candidate evaluation phase of their process. Also, job descriptions have been developed for the positions of dean of the School of Education and dean of the School of Continuing and Professional Studies and the description for the dean of the School of Arts and Humanities is being finalized.  Information regarding the composition of the search committees for each of these dean positions and the corresponding search timelines will be forthcoming.

Congratulations to Our Champions

In closing, I hope you will join me in congratulating our Lehman College men's and women's soccer teams for reaching the championship round this year.  I was proud to be in attendance at the College of Staten Island Soccer Complex this past Saturday to witness our women’s team receive the runner-up championship trophy and our men’s team earn their second championship trophy in a row.

See you around campus.

José Luis Cruz
President, Lehman College
The City University of New York

Previous messages from President Cruz can be found here.