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December 12, 2018

A Message from Lehman College President José Luis Cruz
Happy Holidays! As the fall 2018 semester winds down, I wanted to thank you for your contributions to the advancement of our College’s mission, wish you and yours a most wonderful holiday season, and update you on my most recent activities.

Friendraising and Fundraising

In previous messages, I have kept you apprised of our efforts to bring the ACE (Accelerate, Complete, Engage) program to Lehman College. And as you may now know, thanks to the efforts of many of our colleagues at Lehman and CUNY, we have succeeded. Earlier this week, we formally announced that the Robin Hood Foundation has approved the first installment of $1.1 million of a renewable grant totaling $4.2 million that will support 125 full-time first-time students entering college and 125 full-time students transferring from a two-year college in fall 2019 for all four years of their education, with a goal of doubling four-year baccalaureate graduation rates. The grant money will cover the often-overlooked costs that make it difficult for some students to attend school full time: textbooks, lab fees, transportation costs, and gaps between financial aid and the cost of tuition. Additionally, the ACE program will offer extra personalized support for the selected students, many of whom will be the first in their families to attend college. Students will have access to resources such as embedded career development, targeted academic advising, counseling, and help with finding internships and applying for research opportunities and scholarships.

Our Lehman L.I.F.E. program had much to celebrate this year at its 5th Annual Global Citizenship Gala on October 25. We had a wonderful evening celebrating the volunteer efforts of Lehman students around the world, and I was especially proud to accompany my wife, Dr. Rima Brusi, who was among those honored at the event.

The Bronx Institute at Lehman College, along with the High School of American Studies, and Celia Cruz Bronx High School of Music, held a gala on November 6. I offered welcoming remarks and applauded the honorees—Sandra Lerner, former deputy to the president at Lehman; Erica DeJesus, an education counselor and Lehman alumna; Ricardo R. Fernández, former president of Lehman; Rene Rotolo, executive in charge, Division of Administration and Finance; Luigi Aquilla Idrovo, a current ENLACE student; Fausto Ramirez, director of Public Safety at Lehman; Darina Qafleshi, senior college lab technician in Lehman’s Department of Music, Multimedia, Theatre & Dance; and Daihana Frias, a current student at Lehman. Later that day, I attended the 4th Annual Hispanic Achievers Reception, hosted by the YMCA and the Colgate-Palmolive Company, at Carnegie Hall. Among the three honorees was Queens College President Félix V. Matos Rodríguez.

The Norwood News held its 30th anniversary celebration on November 11, and I offered welcoming remarks, along with Jennifer Tausig, executive director of the Mosholu Preservation Corporation (MPC), and Dr. Peter Scemczuk, executive director of Montefiore Health System's Moses Campus.

The Kingsbridge Heights Community Center (KHCC) held its annual Home Away From Home celebration on November 13 in Manhattan, at which I accepted the KHCC Catalyst Award on behalf of the College.

Elevating Our Voice and Raising Our Profile

Governmental Affairs

In the past several weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to discuss our college’s programs, initiatives, and aspirations with several government partners. On October 22, I met with New York State Deputy Secretary for Labor and Workforce Elizabeth de León Bhargava and a week later I had a phone conversation with Adam Forman, chief policy and data officer in the Office of the NYC Comptroller about Lehman’s contributions to economic and workforce development. On November 27, I discussed Lehman’s role as one of the nation’s top engines of social mobility with Councilman (and Lehman alum) Al Taylor. On December 5, I testified before the New York State Assembly Higher Education Committee at a hearing regarding state funding for CUNY. The next day, I met with Councilman Andy Cohen regarding our College’s Reso A capital funding requests for the upcoming fiscal year.

Informing the National Higher Ed Conversation

The last two months have been filled with opportunities to inject the values and experiences of our college into the national higher ed conversation.

The Education Trust Board of Directors’ Fall Retreat took place on October 16 and 17 in Montgomery, Alabama, which gave me an opportunity to visit the Civil Rights Memorial Center and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and discuss with fellow board members and organizational leaders the important federal and state educational policy issues of the day. Ed Trust’s mission is to “support efforts that expand excellence and equity in education from preschool through college, increase college access and completion particularly for historically underserved students, engage diverse communities dedicated to education equity, and increase political and public will to act on equity issues.” As the newly elected chair of the board of directors, I very much look forward to the work ahead.

On October 30, the Ad Council hosted a breakfast discussion on the future of higher education, and I was invited to participate along with representatives from the educational, philanthropic, and corporate communities. The conversation featured the producers and directors of Unlikely, a forthcoming documentary film that examines America’s college dropout crisis and the challenges facing students today as they move toward meaningful careers.

On November 1, I was elected to the national board of directors of the Data Quality Campaign (DQC) and participated via conference call in my first board meeting. DQC strives “to change the role of data in education so that every student is not only counted, but counts.”

On November 9, I attended the Reinvention Collaborative 2018 National Conference in Arlington, VA, which brought together educators from postsecondary research institution from around the country to share insights and models of success. I participated in a panel entitled “Cultivating Institutional Self-Discovery” with Rafael Bras, provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs, Georgia Tech; and Warwick Arden, executive vice chancellor and provost, North Carolina State University. Beth Loizeaux, associate provost for Undergraduate Affairs, Boston University, was the moderator of the panel.

On November 15, I attended the Anchor Institutions Task Force (AITF) Presidential Summit in Manhattan. On the agenda were issues regarding racial equity, engaging philanthropists, and driving economic development in the communities served by anchor institutions.

On November 16, I participated in an Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) Board of Directors meeting by phone. IHEP’s mission is to “improve college access and success in higher education for all students—with a special focus on underserved populations—by providing timely research to inform public policy decisions.”

On November 27, I participated in a presidential roundtable discussion hosted by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Manhattan. The discussion centered on the recently released report entitled The Future of Undergraduate Education, The Future of America, which represents “the culmination of three years of research and deliberation examining the country’s postsecondary educational needs and developing a national strategy to meet them.” I was pleased to contribute to the conversation through the lens of urban-serving institutions.

Global Engagement

Last November, Dr. Teresita Levy and I had the opportunity to travel to the Dominican Republic as part of a CUNY/SUNY delegation led by Congressman Adriano Espaillat. The objective of the trip was to explore partnership opportunities with educational institutions on the island. Last week, CUNY and SUNY formalized collaborative agreements with the Dominican government ministries that oversee K-12 and higher education. As indicated in the official press release, these agreements “will enable colleges and universities to develop teacher trainings, academic exchange programs and collaborative research in the areas of energy and the environment, management and mitigation of disasters, and information and communication technologies, among others.” Dr. Levy is in advanced conversations with various Dominican institutions regarding collaborations that will position Lehman as a leader in this new partnership.

On October 10, I met with Dr. Carlos A. Andújar-Rojas, interim chancellor of the University of Puerto Rico, Arecibo Campus (UPRA), who is interested in establishing student and faculty exchange programs with Lehman and other CUNY institutions.

An impressive panel of journalists, including Carla Minet from Centro Periodismo Investigativo de Puerto Rico, Alan Casanova-Burgess from WNYC, Ana Teresa Toro from El Nuevo Dia, Ed Morales from Columbia University’s Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race, plus moderator David Gonzales from The New York Times, gathered at Lehman for a program called “Journalism in the Age of Disaster—Puerto Rico: La Tormenta, The Truth and Making Sense” on October 11, and I offered welcoming remarks.

On October 22 I met with a delegation from the Universidad Argentina de la Empresa (UADE), which included President Héctor Masoero, Provost for Student Affairs Cristica Slica, and Head of Admissions Mercedes Nuñez, to discuss a possible academic partnership.

I met with Ambassador Diego Gómez Pickering, Mexico’s Consulate-General in New York City who has been a staunch supporter of Lehman and the Jaime Lucero Mexican Studies Institute at CUNY, on November 14 in Manhattan and updated him on several points of interest at the College.

On November 29, I was invited by Dr. Victoria Sanford to offer opening remarks at the “Atrocity Prevention in the Americas: Gender Violence, Citizen Security and the Role of the Police” conference hosted by The Center for Human Rights and Peace Studies at Lehman College and the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation. The conference featured discussion panels with experts from across North, Central, and South America. Rima and I had the privilege of meeting with the organizers and many of the speakers the night before at a reception.

Regional Engagement

On October 18, I attended the Regional Plan Association Board of Directors meeting. RPA is an urban research and advocacy organization. Our engagement with the RPA is connected to the recently established “Anchor Opportunity Network” through which we seek to ensure that equity is front and center in community development in the tri-state area.

The New York Botanical Garden Board of Trustees held its 127th Annual Meeting on November 15, which I attended. Two days earlier, I had met with Dr. Carrie Rebora Barratt, NYBG CEO and William C. Steere Sr., president, to discuss the organization’s partnership with Lehman — especially as it relates to our Plant Sciences program, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. In preparation for this discussion, I had the pleasure of meeting with professors Renuka Sankaran, Eleanore Wurtzel, Edward Kennelly, and Haiping Cheng on November 8.

Shared Governance and Academic Excellence

Lehman is the lead institution for the 12 CUNY colleges participating in the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program, which is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation. On October 12, I met with the four Co-PI’s of the program, the project director and our interim dean of Natural and Social Sciences to discuss the work ahead. Lehman’s Master of Science in Organizational Leadership program had a celebration of its first graduating cohort later that day, and I offered welcoming remarks at the event. I also offered welcoming remarks on October 15 when Lehman and PepsiCo, Inc. announced a new, dynamic partnership at a special afternoon event on campus. A panel discussion with a group of young managers at the company included three Lehman alumni—Lisette Lamboy (’17), Andres Restrepo (’13), and Michael Saldana (’15). The event also featured the launch of the PepsiCo Leadership Speaker Series.

On October, 25, CUNY Interim Chancellor Vita C. Rabinowitz visited the Lehman campus and met with several different groups, including the College’s Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) Executive Committee, Provost’s and Deans’ Councils, Executive Committee of the General Faculty, and 10 student leaders. Later, Interim Chancellor Rabinowitz toured the campus with Executive in Charge and Assistant Vice President of Campus Planning and Facilities Rene Rotolo and Interim Dean of the School of Natural and Social Sciences Pamela Mills, and then had lunch with me and the President’s Cabinet members.

The CUNY Welcome Center held a conference at Lehman for counseling and college-transfer professionals on November 2, and I gave opening remarks. Later that day, I taped a video greeting for the “Black and Brown in STEM” panel discussion at Lehman, which featured as a keynote speaker Professor Danny Bernard Martin from the University of Illinois at Chicago, whose passion for mathematics and equity in education corresponds with what we are accomplishing here at the College.

Lehman’s graduate program in Counselor Education is up for re-accreditation, and having submitted self-study materials, a site visit from The Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Education Programs (CACREP) was held on November 7. I met with the review team during the exit session and was pleased to hear the team’s impressions about our program.

College-wide, I presided over Senate meetings on October 10, November 7, and December 12 and Faculty, Personnel and Budget (FP&B) committee meetings on October 23, November 6, and December 4. I also attended a Provost’s Council meeting on October 11, Labor Management meetings on October 15 and December 11, and College Senate Governance committee meetings on October 25 and November 29. On November 28, I gave a report at the General Faculty meeting where we celebrated the contributions of Dr. Duane Tananbaum to our College.

I am still holding regular meetings with the deans of the College’s five schools and individual meetings with department chairs. In my last message, I inadvertently omitted mention of meetings with Department of Early Childhood and Childhood Education Chair Nancy Dubetz, and Department of Africana Studies Chair Mark Christian, for which I apologize. I have met recently with Department of Chemistry Chair Andrei Jitianu, Department of Sociology Chair Kofi Benefo, Department of Philosophy Chair Julie Maybee, and Department of Middle and High School Education Chair Wesley Pitt.

In relation to my participation in CUNY’s governance structures, I chaired Council of Presidents (COPS) Fiscal Affairs Committee meetings on October 10, November 19, and December 10. I participated in the CUNY Board of Trustees meetings on October 29 and December 10, and attended a Council of Presidents meeting on October 31. On November 12, I met with three other CUNY college presidents—Dr. Scott E. Evenbeck of Guttman Community College, Dr. Thomas A. Isekenegbe of Bronx Community College, and Dr. David Gómez of Hostos Community College—to discuss pending issues at our respective institutions. On November 19, I presented a report on the work of the COPs Faculty Diversity Working Group, which I co-chaired with President Michelle Anderson of Brooklyn College, to the CUNY Board of Trustees Committee on Faculty, Staff and Administration meeting and attended a meeting of the Committee on Fiscal Affairs. On October 22, I met with José Zamora Orellana, president of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (HSPE) Chapter at Lehman, and the next day I attended a board of directors meeting of the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts. Earlier today, I attended a Lehman College Foundation Board of Directors meeting.

MSCHE Institutional Self-Study

On November 14, I was pleased to report that the steering committee of our Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) institutional self-study process approved a preliminary draft of the self-study report. The report was shared with the chair of our site visit team, Dr. Sue Henderson (president, New Jersey City University), prior to her visit to campus on December 7. Today, I am pleased to report that her visit to campus proved to be most productive and provided important feedback that the executive committee is now incorporating into the final draft that will be presented to the steering committee for approval and the Lehman College Senate for endorsement in early 2019. The final report is due to the site visit team on February 17, and the site visit will occur on April 7-10. As I have stated previously, the MSCHE self-study process and review are integral to Lehman College fulfilling its mission and maintaining an exemplary level of critical service to our Bronx community and beyond. I greatly appreciate the high-level of campus engagement to date and am confident that we will maintain this level of connection to the process in the months ahead. Additional information on this important process is available on our MSCHE portal.

Organizational Updates

Academic Affairs

During the past two weeks, I’ve had the privilege of participating in the on-campus interviews of the four finalists recommended by the search committee for the position of provost and senior vice president of Academic Affairs and Student Success. I want to thank all who have weighed in on this important process. I hope to announce who our next provost will be sometime in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, I hope you will join me in thanking our extraordinary search committee for their invaluable work on this search: Anne Rice, committee co-chair, assistant professor, African and African American Studies, and chair of the Executive Committee of the General Faculty; Ron Bergmann, committee co-chair, vice president for Information Technology/CIO; Stanley Bazile, dean of Student Affairs; Althea Forde, director of Instructional Support Services/Enrollment Management Division; Jonathan Gagliardi, assistant vice president for Strategy, Policy and Analytics/Office of the President; Daisy Flores, student and president, Lehman College Student Government Association; Pamela Hinden, director, Adult Degree Program/School of Continuing and Professional Studies; Paula Loscocco, professor and chair, English Department/School of Arts and Humanities; Pamela Mills, interim dean, School of Natural and Social Sciences and professor of Chemistry; Rosa Rivera-McCutchen, associate professor, Graduate Program in Educational Leadership/School of Education; and, Bradley Schoenfeld, assistant professor, Exercise Sciences/School of Health Sciences, Human Services and Nursing.

Administration and Finance

The search committee for the position of vice president of Administration and Finance/CFO had their kick-off meeting on December 4 and is currently evaluating applicants with an expectation that finalists will visit Lehman in early spring 2019. Please join me in thanking the committee members for their willingness to serve on this important search: Rene Rotolo, committee co-chair and executive in charge and AVP of Campus Planning and Facilities; Edi Ruiz, committee co-chair and AVP of Information Technology; José Cao-Alvira, interim associate dean, School of Natural and Social Sciences and associate professor of Economics and Business; Haiping Cheng, chair of Biological Sciences and chair of the Senate Committee on Budget and Long Term Planning; Christina Chiappa, CUNY deputy CFO; Richard Finger, senior director of Enrollment; Melissa Kirk, chief of staff, Office of the Provost; Elvira Senese, director of Financial Aid; Jonathan Gagliardi, AVP for Strategy, Policy and Analytics.

Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

I want to thank Dawn Ewing Morgan, chief diversity officer and Title IX coordinator at Lehman, for her work in solidifying the policies and practices that maintain a safe and supportive environment for faculty, staff, and students and visitors. You can learn more about the CUNY Policy on Equal Opportunity and Non-Discrimination and the CUNY Policy on Sexual Misconduct by visiting the College Policies website. In addition, you may want to visit Lehman’s Title IX website to learn about ways to combat sexual assault and other unwelcome sexual behavior. You will also find the contact information for the campus personnel trained to address sexual harassment and sexual violence. The College’s booklet, “CUNY/Lehman Policies and Procedures, What You Must Know,” which contains general information about the policies, is available here.

Celebrating Excellence

On August 17, facing several administrative transitions and our institutional reaccreditation process, I expressed confidence that the generosity of spirit and the vastness of the talent present in our campus community would serve us well as we continued our journey to become the leading contributor to educational attainment in the Bronx. And that in so doing, we would live up to the ideal, articulated upon our founding, of working to “enrich the human spirit and offer to as many as [could] realize their potential, the opportunity to be so enriched.”

Today, as I reflect on the many and varied accomplishments of our faculty, students, and staff, I am happy to say that my confidence was well placed. I’d love to thank you in person and hope you will consider attending our faculty and staff holiday celebration on Friday, December 14 from 3:00-6:00 p.m. in the Faculty Dining Room.

In the meantime, best wishes for the rest of the semester—and see you around campus.

José Luis Cruz

Previous messages from President Cruz can be found here.