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Lehman College: City University of New York
May 25, 2017

A Message from Lehman College President José Luis Cruz
I am so much looking forward to my first Lehman College Commencement exercises on June 1. In the meantime, I have been participating in many of the awards celebrations and student recognition ceremonies that signal the end of the academic year. The pride I feel for our students is immense; the admiration for our faculty and staff unbounded. Now, as the campus flora blooms and leafs out, I present here another update of my activities thus far in the month of May.

Public Affairs and Community Engagement

On May 11, I traveled to Washington, DC to participate in a panel discussion entitled “Diving into the Data: Translating America’s Perceptions into Policy” at New America, a top, non-partisan think tank that focuses on technology and policy solutions. I noted how our country’s two- and four-year public sector institutions provide economic mobility and security for residents, and also that they require more resources, not less, to do so.

The following day I enjoyed a visit to my office by Ambassador Diego Gómez Pickering, Consul General of Mexico in New York, before a meeting with High School of American Studies Principal Alessandro Weiss.

Lehman College was chosen the host site for the special premiere on May 10 of Raquel Cepeda’s film Some Girls as part of the One Book One New York initiative, a unique city-wide conversation that includes dozens of events around New York City. This year, the book picked is Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, which I highly recommend; both the film and book feature intertwining themes of immigration, race and identity. On May 21, journalist, author and television news anchor—and Bronx native—Chris Hayes discussed his new book, A Colony in a Nation, before nearly a full house in the Lovinger Theatre. The book furthers our understanding of how racial politics and vast social inequities regarding crime and punishment continue to divide—and define—our country. Also recommended!

Shared Governance

On May 12, I attended the second PSC-CUNY Management Meeting of the spring semester. Later in the afternoon, I attended a meeting of the FP&B Committee, where I had the opportunity to reflect on the past academic year and the collective work we will be engaged in this fall. It was also an opportunity to thank the chairs of the various departments, many who will be returning to their faculty teaching positions, for their service over the past year.

The CUNY Presidential Working Group on Faculty Diversity, on which I serve as co-chair, increased its activity this past month, and I had several meetings and phone calls with my CUNY colleagues to discuss issues relevant to our goal of widening access to CUNY professorships. In this regard, on May 5, I called CUNY School of Public Health Dean Ayman El-Mohandes; on May 9, I met separately with Baruch College President Mitchel B. Wallerstein and Borough of Manhattan Community College President Antonio Pérez on their respective campuses, then participated in a phone call with The Graduate Center, CUNY President Chase F. Robinson; on May 12, I met separately with Guttman Community College President Scott E. Evenbeck and York College President Marcia V. Keizs on their respective campuses, then in the afternoon participated in a call with Medgar Evers College President Rudolph F. Crew.

The Council of Presidents met at CUNY Central on May 1, and after the presidents lunched with CUNY Chancellor James B. Milliken, I met with CUNY Executive Vice Chancellor and University Provost Vita C. Rabinowitz about the Governing Board of The Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), which collaborates with the 16 CUNY colleges and the CUNY Graduate Center. Later, I attended a CUNY Board of Trustees meeting.

Campus Events

Lehman Lecture

On May 5, U.S. Congressman Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), who represents northern Manhattan and the part of the West Bronx where Lehman College is located, delivered the 48th annual Herbert H. Lehman Memorial Lecture. As the country’s first Dominican-American member of Congress and once an undocumented immigrant, Congressman Espaillat has direct, empathetic understanding what is like to be in this country today under threat of deportation. His comments certainly reflected the durable humanitarian values of the College’s namesake.

VR / AR Academy and Training Lab

Lehman College and its private partner Eon Reality, Inc. celebrated the grand opening of the Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality Training Academy and Development Lab at Lehman’s satellite campus, CUNY on the Concourse, with a special ribbon cutting ceremony on May 17. This occasion marked a bold, auspicious step forward for Lehman College and another important advancement for the Bronx, which is experiencing economic development and growth in the high tech sector.

Celebrating Excellence

I played baseball in my youth, so it was quite an honor to receive a Lehman Lightning baseball jersey and a baseball signed by the members of the 2017 Lightning baseball team at a special Senior Day event on May 2, prior to the team’s game against SUNY New Paltz.

Lehman faculty members and students, busy as they were as the semester ended and finals neared, found time to gather and share their scholarship, civic concerns and advocacy efforts. I was able to attend some of these events on campus, including the 2017 Restorative Justice Conference titled “Crafting a Just & Equitable Society—Challenges and Possibilities” on May 5; the renewed annual conference sponsored by the CUNY Institute for Health Equity and a Town Hall discussion on Social Action, co-sponsored by the PSC CUNY Lehman Chapter Social Justice Committee and Lehman Student Government, both on May 8; and the Jaime Lucero Mexican Studies Institute at CUNY’s 6th Annual Conference, this year focusing on education, on May 13.

The rich spectrum and vibrancy of activity at Lehman College are reflected in the end-of-year celebrations and ceremonies held to honor students and faculty. On May 4, there was a Faculty Achievements Reception at the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts, hosted by the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs. The very same day I attended the Annual Meeting, Induction Ceremony and Dinner for Sigma Xi, the prestigious national honor society dedicated to scientific research. On May 7, I welcomed guests at the Lehman College and Community Chorus and Orchestra’s Spring Concert. The Department of Social Work held a celebration on May 8 for undergraduate students completing their fieldwork; and the following day I delivered welcoming remarks at the Urban Male Leadership Program (UMLP) & CREAR (College Readiness, Achievement and Retention) Futuros Induction and Awards Ceremony.

I videotaped a greeting on May 10 for the Student Honors Ceremony of the Lehman Urban Transformative Education framework here in the College’s School of Education. (The event was held on May 18.) This was quite a special occasion. Beside the other award winners, this year’s LUTE Award recipient, Dr. Yasmin Morales-Alexander, is an assistant professor of Early Childhood Education here at Lehman. Her remarkable journey in the academic realm actually began at Lehman many years ago when she accompanied her father, Victor, to his job on campus, often visiting the library and surrounding herself in a world of books.

On May 15, I offered a welcome to the attendees of the 2017 SEEK Honors Celebration: A Day of Recognition awards ceremony. This annual event has been taking place here for over forty years, although the Percy Ellis Sutton SEEK program has been in existence since Lehman College was first established forty-nine years ago.

The sixth and final New Faculty Orientation event, a roundtable forum I co-hosted with Provost Fayne at the Lief Library, took place on May 17. Afterwards, I presented the President’s Award to Lehman Lightning women’s basketball star Amely Del Rosario at the annual Athletics Awards Dinner. On May 19, I attended the Master’s of Social Work (MSW) Graduation Celebration.

Finally, and in the spirit of determination and perseverance that every college academic year demands, I attended the Adult Degree Program Graduation on May 24. A number of the degree recipients have spent over 20 years amassing the credits necessary to graduate!

Commencement is a week away. This year, honorary degrees will be awarded to New York State Board of Regents Chancellor Dr. Betty Rosa, our keynote speaker; pioneering epidemiologist and Lehman alumnus Dr. Jeffrey Gilbert; and Latin jazz great Eddie Palmieri. Also, we will present the Adjunct Teacher of the Year Award to Prof. Martin Gitterman, and the Excellence in Teaching Award to Prof. Duane Tananbaum, who graciously accepted my invitation to preside over our Commencement exercises this year.

If I don’t see you before Commencement, then you have my congratulations on a successful year at Lehman and best wishes for a happy, restful summer.

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