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February 11, 2019

A Message from Lehman College President José Luis Cruz
With the spring semester now in full swing, and a number of important initiatives underway, I wanted to update you on some of my recent activities on behalf of the College.

Governmental Affairs

As I write this, I am on my way to Albany for several advocacy meetings with legislators regarding CUNY’s FY20 Budget Request and Lehman’s capital budget request. Today’s meetings will complement several other past and future conversations with Borough, City, and State elected officials on these topics. Our priorities for capital funding from the State include $7.6 million for a campus-wide emergency power system upgrade, $4.125 million for Carman Hall uninvent and fan coil replacement, $11.6 million for phase 2 of the Library renovation project, and $7.6 million for the rehabilitation of the pedestrian bridge connecting the Music Building Plaza to the Concert Hall and Library. Our prioritized requests for capital funding from the Borough President’s Office and City Council (reso A funding) include $5 million to furnish and equip our new Nursing Education, Research, and Practice Center (expected to be completed in 2022), $2 million for a Teaching and Learning Commons, and $400,000 for a new lighting and dimming system for the Studio Theater. For a summary of the capital projects currently underway at Lehman College, please refer to our Momentum Newsletter (Nov. 2018).

Institutional Accreditation

As noted in my January 23 message to the campus community, our Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) institutional self-study process is now in the home stretch as we prepare for the site visit on April 7-10. Following the December 7 preliminary visit to campus by the chair of our site visit team, Dr. Sue Henderson (president of New Jersey City University), the College’s Middle States executive committee integrated her recommendations and those of other University and campus stakeholders into the report. On January 22, the College’s MSCHE Steering Committee approved the third draft of the self-study report, which was transmitted to the College Senate for consideration and endorsement. On February 6, the College Senate discussed the report and approved a resolution endorsing it and the process by which it was developed. The executive committee will continue editing the report for clarity, attention to University and campus feedback, and compliance with MSCHE expectations. We will continue to raise awareness on campus about the reaccreditation process and the site visit, knowing how vitally important this work is.

Elevating our Voice and Raising our Profile

I was honored to represent Lehman College at a January 30-31 convening of a dozen higher education leaders from across the country hosted by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The objective of the convening was to tackle important questions regarding the diversity and strength of the academic leadership pipeline, especially as it respects to faculty in the arts and humanities. As a result of this participation, we expect to partner with Mellon on innovative approaches to leadership development programs.

Lehman College has been selected as one of six colleges and universities in the first pilot cohort of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) Center for Student Success. As part of this effort, Lehman will be part of a learning community that will help validate the value of strategies, tools, and resources that AASCU will ultimately extend to all AASCU member institutions with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Lehman CSS team met with AASCU representatives via conference call on February 5 to discuss the work ahead.

AASCU’s Annual Meeting will be held on October 27-29 in Phoenix, and on January 21 I participated in a conference call as a member of the meeting’s Planning Committee. I expect the focus of this year’s annual meeting to center on the role of state colleges and universities as stewards of place and anchor institutions in their communities, a focus that coincides with our own institutional identity.

The AGB Institute for Leadership & Governance in Higher Education convened a panel discussion for aspiring college presidents entitled “What Challenges Lie Ahead for Higher Education” on January 23 in Washington, D. C., and I was pleased to serve as a panelist along with Nancy Zimpher (former chancellor of the State University of New York), Dennis Jones (president emeritus, National Center for Higher Education Management Systems), and Sally Mason (president emerita, University of Iowa).

Since being elected to serve as the chair of the board of directors of The Education Trust, I have been actively involved in board development and governance efforts. Accordingly, in the past few weeks, I have engaged in several conversations with current and prospective board members and participated in a conference call with The Education Trust Board of Directors’ Development and Governance Committee on February 6.

Other notable recent engagements with national higher education organizations include: on December 18, I participated in a conference call for a meeting of the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) Board of Directors Finance and Audit Committee; on January 17, I participated by phone in an advisory board meeting of the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE); and on January 30, I met on campus with DQC President and CEO Jennifer Bell-Ellwanger regarding the organization’s vision and goals.

Community Convenings

Alessandra Biaggi, the newly elected state senator from New York’s 34th district, which includes Lehman College and a good portion of the Bronx, was sworn in during a ceremony held at the Lovinger Theatre on January 6, and I was honored to welcome the large crowd. There was a strong sense of Lehman pride at this event: Senator Biaggi’s mother and grandmother attended Lehman, and her oath of office was administered by Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who received her teaching credentials in business education from Lehman. Among those who delivered remarks were U.S. Rep. and Lehman alumnus Eliot Engel (Lehman alumnus and chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee), U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, and state Sen. Michael Gianaris.

Lehman College is fortunate to receive a great deal of support from city and local officials toward fulfilling our mission, the impact of which benefits Bronx residents and others immeasurably. It is always a pleasure to introduce some of our distinctive academic and programmatic feats to visiting officials, like on January 29 when our campus community welcomed Councilmember Andrew Cohen from District 11 (which includes the Lehman campus), Andrew Brokman (deputy director, External Affairs, Mayor’s Office of Media & Entertainment), and Anne del Castillo (chief operating officer & general counsel, Mayor’s Office of Media & Entertainment) for a tour of the Lehman Tech Center and the Virtual Reality Training Academy & Development Lab at the CUNY on the Concourse campus.

As part of the College’s ongoing celebration of its 50th anniversary, and in conjunction with our Office of Institutional Advancement, we inaugurated a new lecture series entitled “Conversations at 50” on January 30. The idea is to highlight the five schools of the College and create a dialogue with our alumni and community members about how we can accelerate progress on our collective goals through strengthened partnerships. The first host was Dean Jane MacKillop of the School of Continuing and Professional Studies. Next up: Dean James Mahon of the School of Arts and Humanities on March 19.

The superb 2018-2019 season of entertainment at the Lehman Center for Performing Arts, presented by Goya Foods, extends until June 1. As part of the College’s 50th anniversary, a number of Lehman alumni and friends of the College witnessed an incredible performance on January 19 by the world-renowned Ballet Hispánico (also nearing its 50th anniversary), which began as a grassroots educational performing arts organization in New York City. This gave us a good opportunity to show off the progress being made in the $15 million renovation of the Center. First, a reception was held at the Art Gallery, and Bronx Borough President Ruben Díaz Jr. presented proclamations to the College for its role as an anchor institution in the Bronx and to Goya Foods for its support of the Lehman Center. Also attending this event were state Senator Biaggi, state Assemblyman and Lehman alumnus Jeffrey Dinowitz, and CUNY Board of Trustees member and former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer and his wife Aramina, a Lehman alumna.

Shared Governance

As 2018 ended and the New Year began, my internal administrative and shared governance efforts in regard to the College and University continued apace. Pertaining to Lehman College’s leading of the 12 CUNY colleges participating in the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program, on February 6, Interim Chancellor Vita Rabinowitz and I hosted a breakfast meeting with the presidents and deans from the other CUNY colleges participating in the LSAMP program to discuss future plans and actions. I was joined by our superb Lehman team, Laura Oliveira (program director), Dean Pam Mills, and Prof. Gustavo López.

I attended a labor management meeting on December 11. On both December 12 and February 6, 2019, I presided over the College Senate at its monthly meetings. At the request of the College’s Department of Chemistry, I met with its members to discuss the 90x30 initiative on December 13; I also met with Department of Biology members similarly on February 6. On December 14, I was able to enjoy several student presentations during Prof. Niyati Mehta’s class in the Freshman Year Initiative Program, where she helps students tackle interdisciplinary learning strategies. The students were quite impressive!

I participated in meetings convened by the Lehman Performing Arts Center’s Executive Committee (January 30) and its board of directors (February 6). I continued to hold regular meetings with the deans of the College’s five schools and individual meetings with several department chairs. I also attended a meeting of the College Senate’s Governance Committee on January 24 and attended a meeting of the Executive Committee of the General Faculty on January 28.

The Lehman College Foundation’s Board of Directors, of which I am an ex officio member, met on December 12, and I attended. Also, I have been taking the opportunity to introduce myself to a growing number of friends and supporters of Lehman College and relate to them how the College is fulfilling—and expanding upon—its mission. I had several such meetings in December.

With respect to involvement in CUNY’s governance framework, I attended a meeting of the Jaime Lucero Mexican Studies Institute’s advisory board on December 18. I was present at the Council of Presidents meetings on January 8 and February 6, both of which were followed by a luncheon for the presidents and deans hosted by Interim Chancellor Rabinowitz. Earlier on January 8, I joined presidents from Queens College, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and City College, along with provosts from these colleges, for a Presidents’ Student Success Roundtable. I attended a meeting of the CUNY Board of Trustees Committee on Fiscal Affairs on January 14, chaired a Council of Presidents (COPS) Fiscal Affairs Committee meetings on January 16, and attended a CUNY Board of Trustees meeting on February 4.

On January 28, the College’s Center for Global Engagement held a special reception for the seven Lehman students who are finalists to receive the Chancellor’s Global Scholarships (CGS) Office of Special Programs Scholarship (OSP) for the Winter 2019 and Spring 2019 round to study abroad. This is always a proud moment for students, faculty and staff, as it marks such an extraordinary achievement.

Organizational Updates

I hope you’ve had a chance to welcome Dr. Peter Nwosu to our campus. He is now two weeks into his tenure as provost and senior vice president of Academic Affairs and Student Success and is adding much value to several important and time-sensitive initiatives. His expertise in relation to evaluative and communicative processes, along with his team-building abilities, will provide invaluable benefits to the College. On February 8, a welcome reception was held for Dr. Nwosu and included members of the President’s Cabinet and the provost search committee.

Looking Ahead

A campus coming back to vibrant academic and cultural life means a long list of events and activities scheduled to be taking place, including some commemorating Black History Month. The Urban Male Leadership Program, the Lehman chapter of CREAR (College Readiness, Achievement and Retention) Futuros, and the Department of Africana Studies are hosting this event will be hosting a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration on Feb. 13 in the East Dining Hall, Music Building, and Prof. Gary L. Ford Jr. from Lehman’s Department of Africana Studies will be the keynote speaker. I am also looking forward to guest lecturer Dr. Alex E. Chávez of the University of Notre Dame, who explores in his book Sounds of Crossing: Music, Migration, and the Aural Poetics of Huapango Arribeño the contemporary politics of Mexican migrant cultural expression manifest in the sounds and aural poetics of a musical genre originating from north-central Mexico. He will be delivering both a book discussion and a lecture / recital on February 13 in the Music Building.

Good luck in the new semester, and I’ll see you around campus.

José Luis Cruz

Previous messages from President Cruz can be found here.