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February 13, 2018

A Message from Lehman College President José Luis Cruz
I am pleased to welcome you back to campus, hopeful that you all enjoyed the festivities of the holiday season. With the Spring Semester now in full swing, this is a good opportunity to recap some of my recent activities in support of our collective mission.

Elevating Lehman’s Voice

Over the last several weeks I was able to support Lehman College’s advocacy efforts on several important issues.

Federal Higher Education Act

Last week, I was in Washington, D.C. to testify on accountability in higher education before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), as Congress seeks to reauthorize the Higher Education Act. I urged lawmakers to move toward an equity-focused accountability system to ensure that scarce resources are directed to the students most at need and the institutions that serve them. My testimony is available here. I will share updates on the reauthorization as it moves through the legislative process.

Immigration Reform

For the many members of the Lehman community with varying levels of immigration status, the past year has been filled with anxiety, confusion, and frustration. So, in December, I eagerly joined two dozen higher education leaders from across the country to launch the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration—a collective effort to improve how colleges and universities address immigration-related matters that are affecting campus communities right now.

Resilient Puerto Rico Advisory Commission

As a Puerto Rican who is indignant at the federal response to the misery suffered by the island’s residents following Hurricane Maria, I readily agreed to serve as a commissioner of the Resilient Puerto Rico Advisory Commission (RPRAC) in its Education, Health and Social Services group. The RPRAC is modeled after the Hurricane Sandy Commission and is supported by The Rockefeller Foundation, the Open Society Foundation and the Ford Foundation. The commission will offer recommendations to help guide Puerto Rico’s rebuilding process in order to make the island stronger and better prepared for future challenges. Last week, I attended the commission’s kick-off meeting and look forward to the important work ahead.

Bronx Legislative Breakfast

Lehman College, along with the Office of the Bronx Borough President, hosted the annual Bronx Legislative Breakfast last week. Many of the borough’s elected officials and guests from CUNY, including Vice Chancellor of Facilities, Planning, Construction and Management Judith Bergtraum and Senior Vice Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer Matthew Sapienza, attended the event. This gathering allowed all to learn about CUNY’s fiscal plans and priorities in relation to the just-announced State and City 2018 budgets and provided a forum to elevate the funding needs of Lehman College and our sister CUNY community colleges in the Bronx. Lehman College will continue to advocate for resources in the coming weeks and we’ll keep you posted on the State’s budget negotiations.

Celebrating Lehman’s Legacy – 50th Anniversary

We will officially kick off our 50th Anniversary in April with two prestigious events: the Lehman Lecture on April 10, and our Gala, which will take place on April 11. John B. King, president of The Education Trust and a former U.S. Secretary of Education, will deliver the Lehman Lecture, which will be held on campus. And we are delighted that actress, producer and activist Kerry Washington will join us at the Gala, accepting our Award for Artistic Achievement. Our other honorees will be Phyllis and Ivan Seidenberg, both Lehman alumni, who will receive the Distinguished Alumnus Award. Joanne and Christopher Stavrou will receive our Medal for Business, Cultural and Civic Leadership. Finally, we will award a special President’s Medal to Edith and Herbert H. Lehman, to be accepted by their granddaughter Wendy Lehman Lash. A comprehensive calendar of additional commemorative and celebratory events will be forthcoming.

Expanding Lehman’s Reach

Agreement with Eight Mexican Universities

Last month, we signed an agreement with eight of Mexico’s top public universities, with the expectation that these agreements will lead to student and faculty exchange opportunities as well as bilateral research projects. The Statement of Shared Interests (SSI) is an unprecedented agreement between the Mexican universities and the Jaime Lucero Mexican Studies Institute at CUNY, housed at Lehman. For more information about the agreement and the participating universities, follow this link. The day after the signing, I participated in a television interview with representatives from three of the schools on Pura Política, a Spanish-language news program on NY1 Noticias.

Meeting with Dominican Republic Delegation

I met with Dr. Ivan Grullón, president of the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo (UASD), and several of his colleagues on January 23. We followed up on our conversation about a possible partnership between Lehman and UASD that began last year when I traveled to the Dominican Republic with a group led by U. S. Representative Adriano Espaillat.

Advancing 90x30

We continue to advance our work on the 90x30 initiative, which will increase degree and certificate attainment as well as help generate greater posterity in the Bronx.

Socializing 90x30

I met on December 4 with Wendy Lehman Lash, president of the Edith A. and Herbert H. Lehman Foundation to discuss our priorities for the year. To help with student retention, I met on December 7 with Meg Egan, director of CUNY Strategic Initiatives, along with VP for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer Ron Bergmann, regarding the Lehman Student Success Dashboard. I was also able to update our City Council representative Andrew Cohen on 90x30 later in the month. (We also talked about funding for upcoming campus capital projects.) And I was happy to share our 90x30 initiative with the Bronx Chamber of Commerce president, Nunzio del Greco, and the Bronx Rotary Club at separate events during the month of January.

Exploring Best Practices

Last month, Lehman was proud to host CUNY’s Academic Momentum Planning Summit. The event brought together representatives from the various colleges and Complete College America to refine plans to boost graduation rates and cut time to degree. There are several groups working on a number of related projects at Lehman, under the auspices of the Office of the Provost. I was also privileged to join more than 100 Lehman faculty, administrators and staff at Wave Hill for a day-long faculty retreat full of stimulating discussions about topics including student research, micro-credentials, actionable data, pedagogical modalities, and envisioning Lehman in 2030. And I had the opportunity to discuss Lehman’s participation in the CUNY 2X Tech Initiative with representatives from the NYC offices of Small Business Services and Tech Talent Pipeline, along with NSS Associate Dean Christopher Malone and VP Bergmann.

Strengthening Partnerships

On January 17, I met with Tracy Day, founder and CEO of the World Science Festival, to discuss the City of Science event to be held on Sunday, March 11 at The APEX Center on campus. This fun and engaging event, which makes stops in all five boroughs in the course of a year, includes science, tech, engineering and math stations for all ages. I also met with Thomas K. Wright, president of the Regional Plan Association on February 5. As a member of RPA’s NY Region Anchors Strategy Network Working Group, our discussion focused on collaborations regarding anchor strategies in light of our 90x30 initiative.

Black History Month

Our profound concerns about equity and social justice in our country prevail all year long but come into particular focus during Black History Month in February. On Wednesday, February 14, the Urban Male Leadership Program (UMLP) at Lehman College is hosting its annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Tribute from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. in the Lovinger Theatre. The theme of this year’s tribute to Dr. King is “Honoring the Past, Inspiring the Future,” and will feature a keynote address from Keith L.T. Wright, former New York State assemblyman and chair of the New York County Democratic Committee. Also, on Wednesday, February 28, a day-long program called “Beyond Walls and Border” will examine the issue of mass incarceration, political prisoners and repression. The program will include a morning and afternoon film viewing and panel discussion with Lehman faculty, activists from the 1960s, and people affected by mass incarceration. This event, which will be held from 10 a.m.—5 p.m. in the Lovinger Theatre, is free, open to the public, and faculty are invited to bring their classes. Professor Mary Phillips from the Africana Studies Department and Professor Robyn Spencer from the History Department organized the event.

Remembering Yoryi Dume

Like so many of you, I was deeply saddened to learn about the death of Yoryi Dume, an exceptional young man. Yoryi was a Presidential scholar majoring in Latin American and Caribbean Studies; he had also won a Gilman Award to study in Brazil and was waiting to hear about his application to a Fulbright program. The day I met him, listening to him speak about the work he had done in Brazil and the opportunities afforded to him by Lehman, it was apparent that Yoryi understood the power of knowledge, not just for self-discovery, but for transforming communities. My sincerest condolences go out to his family and loved ones, and to the Lehman community which he represented in such an exemplary way. We are working on a resolution to posthumously award Yoryi a much-deserved bachelor’s degree at commencement.

Good luck for the new semester, and I hope to see you soon around campus.


José Luis Cruz

Previous messages from President Cruz can be found here.