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May 7, 2018

A Message from Lehman College President José Luis Cruz
The last six weeks have been eventful ones for our College community, made more memorable by our celebrations, heightened activity and purposeful planning. Before we celebrate our 50th Commencement, here is an overview of the collective efforts I have been a part of on behalf of this remarkable institution.

Major Events

State of the College

On April 30, I delivered my second annual State of the College address and presented a vision of the future for Lehman as it looks toward its next half-century. I made three statements and substantiated each of them with several images.
  • The state of the College is strong because we are weathering storms; expanding opportunity; improving learning; increasing graduation rates; increasing educational attainment; educating career ready professionals; educating effective leaders; educating engaged change agents; educating scholars; creating knowledge; serving the community and celebrating excellence.
  • The vision of the College (90x30) is compelling because it is a proclamation of national relevance; a recognition of a moral imperative; an articulation of our institutional values; and an invitation to transcend perceived limitations.
  • The people of the College are committed because we are clarifying the vision; building institutional capacity; expanding and beautifying the campus; investing in analytics and technology; and planning for success.
As always, I look forward to working alongside the campus community to bridge the gap between our current state of affairs and our professed aspirations.

50th Anniversary Leadership Awards Gala

The Herbert H. Lehman Foundation 50th Anniversary Celebration & Leadership Awards Dinner was held on April 11 at the Ziegfeld Ballroom in Manhattan and officially kicked off the commemoration of this historical moment for Lehman College. Rima and I were delighted to welcome more than 300-plus alumni and supporters of Lehman College, along with our honorees. One of the most touching moments at the gala was when honoree Kerry Washington accepted her award. In her speech, Ms. Washington, an internationally renowned actress, producer and activist, recounted memories of visiting on campus with her mother, now a retired Lehman professor, and delivered a powerful endorsement of our College and the value Lehman brings to lives of our students and our community.

Herbert H. Lehman Memorial Lecture

John B. King Jr., one of our nation's foremost champions of educational equity in policies and practices, delivered this year's Herbert H. Lehman Memorial Lecture on April 10. Dr. King's own schooling mirrors the kind of transformative journey experienced by many CUNY students, who face seemingly insurmountable hardships along the way, then find transcendence in learning and support in a community of educational mentors. Dr. King has helped open the doors of opportunity for countless individuals—in his service as the first African American and Puerto Rican New York State education commissioner, then as U.S. Secretary of Education, and now as president and CEO of The Education Trust. His remarks deftly combined aspects of his own educational experiences and advocacy efforts with the work we are doing at Lehman to widen access and propel even more students upwards.

Shared Governance

At Lehman College, in addition to several cabinet meetings and individual meetings with campus stakeholders, I attended meetings with the General Faculty and its Executive Committee, and chaired three regular meetings of FP&B (Faculty, Personnel & Budget) in March, April and May and two regular meetings of the College Senate in March and April. I also met with Student Government Association President Victoria Antonetti and Vice President of Student Affairs José Magdaleno on April 13. In addition, I participated in the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts Board of Directors meeting on April 30.

For CUNY, the Council of Presidents held a regular meeting on April 11: on the agenda were issues pertaining to student fees, the CUNY Adult Learner Initiative, forthcoming changes to the Policy on Sexual Misconduct, and a preliminary analysis of the FY2019 State Budget. This was followed by a meeting of the Chancellor's Faculty Diversity Working Group, which I co-chair with Brooklyn College President Michelle Anderson. Earlier in the month, I met with Vice Chancellor for Facilities Planning, Construction and Management Judith Bergtraum to discuss ideas for student housing on the Lehman campus.

As a member of the CUNY Board of Trustees Committee on Fiscal Affairs, I attended separate meetings of the Audit, Fiscal, and Investments committees last month. As the Council of Presidents representative on the Kingsborough Community College Presidential Search Committee, I attended a meeting on April 12. Today, I welcomed CUNY Trustee Mayra Linares-Garcia to our campus for a series of meetings with students, faculty, and staff.

Public and Government Affairs

My outreach efforts on behalf of Lehman College included a wide range of activities. Along with advocating for the College, like my testimony in March before the Bronx delegation of the New York City Council in favor of the College's RESO A request for the FY2019 Budget, I also participated in formal activities, including the investitures of City College President Vince Boudreau and University of Albany President Havidán Rodríguez, and brief meeting with Richard A. Carranza, the new Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education. There were also some other notable instances where I sensed the impact of the College on our students and community.

Campus screening of Deportados

Deportados, the CNN en Español (CNNE) documentary film, was screened at the Lovinger Theatre on March 27. Covering the histories of several undocumented immigrants, the film also portrays cases of undocumented youths called "Dreamers” and explores the issues that DACA (Deferred Action for Arrivals in Childhood) is facing. A panel discussion afterwards included U. S. Congressman Adriano Espaillat; CNN en Español Vice President of Programming and co-producer of the film Cathy Reyes; José Higuera-López, director of the Jaime Lucero Mexican Studies Institute at CUNY; Ulises Gonzales, an author and lecturer at Lehman; and Francisco Aquino Ramirez, one of Lehman's student "Dreamers.” CNN en Español Anchor and Political Correspondent Juan Carlos López moderated the discussion. Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz, Jr., a proud Lehman College alumnus, and I both provided welcoming remarks. Special thanks go to Professors Jim Carney and Tom O'Hanlon from Lehman's Department of Journalism & Media Studies for organizing and presenting this event.

Hecksher Foundation for Children

Along with Interim Vice President of Institutional Advancement and Executive Director of the Lehman College Foundation Susan Ebersole, I met on April 2 with Peter Sloane, chairman and CEO of the Hecksher Foundation for Children, as well as with two program officers from the foundation, Shelby Marzouk and Cara Bowers, to discuss their possible support for some of Lehman College's student access and degree completion initiatives. Karen Balliet, senior program director of the Solon E. Summerfield Foundation, also joined the discussion.

Conversation with New York Federal Reserve Bank President Dudley

On April 18, I welcomed William C. Dudley, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, to the Lehman College campus; he was here to participate in a special conversation entitled "Macroeconomic Outlook,” which was moderated by the team of Lehman College students that won top honors at the College Fed Challenge, Maiden Lane Division. Coordinated by the Dean's Office of the School of Natural and Social Sciences and the Department of Economics and Business, the event drew quite a crowd. Dudley was appointed president and chief executive officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in 2009, and this summer he plans to retire, so this was a special opportunity for the Lehman community to gain some high-level insights regarding economic growth, trade, and fiscal policy.

4th Annual Restorative Practices / Transformative Justice Conference

This day-long conference on May 4 was designed to explore possible relationships between trauma-informed practices in K-12 schools and other educational settings. Professor David Fletcher from Lehman's Department of Education and the conference's Planning Committee deserve kudos for mounting this informative event, which has tremendous relevance in the communities our College serves.

Academic Programs and Student Success

Global Engagement

Along with Professor Teresita Levy of Lehman's Department of Latin American, Latino and Puerto Rican Studies and the director of International Programs and Global Partnerships, I met with Dr. Alfredo de la Cruz Baldera, president of Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra (PUCMMA), one of the Dominican Republic's top higher education institutions. Joining us was José Miguel Hernández, director of International Programs at PUCMMA. Our discussions focused on possible future partnerships, including a teacher-training institute, a medical school pipeline program, and a 2+2 program, in which students would study at PUCMMA for two years, then come to Lehman for the last two years, or vice versa.

CUNY Puerto Rico Rebuilding

This summer, CUNY students will be able to work with non-profit organizations helping to rebuild Puerto Rico, where residents still suffer greatly from the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria in September 2017. Through a partnership with Governor Cuomo's New York Stands with Puerto Rico Recovery and Rebuilding Effort, CUNY Service Corp – Puerto Rico is now accepting applications for the program, which will take place from mid-June to early August. Students can earn stipends and college credits while making a difference. I was honored to participate in some of the planning for this program in mid-April and proud that the course that will be offered for academic credit is a new experimental course developed by Lehman College. Thanks to Prof. Teresita Levy, Amanda Dubois, and Yvette Rosario for their exceptional work in making this happen.

Introduction to Leadership Workshop

I was invited by our SGA President, Victoria Antonetti to visit the Introduction to Leadership Course she leads as part of The Herbert H. Lehman Center for Student Leadership Development program. It was gratifying to meet the mentors and attendees at the session, where I was able to answer questions about my personal leadership trajectory. I'm proud and pleased to witness how eager Lehman students are willing to learn from each other as they work to meet their full potential.

Reception for Accepted Students

Several hundred people attended a reception on April 21 for students accepted into Lehman for matriculation. By all accounts, interest in the College and its programs is growing. I welcomed the students, parents and guardians to the event, and stated that "the word is out” about Lehman College in regard to our affordability, excellence, and tight-knit college community.

Doctorate of Nursing Practice

The New York State Education Department (NYSED) has begun reviewing Lehman College's proposed Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) program, which would be the first doctoral level degree program we offer. This means amending the College's Master Plan. NYSED asked the College to prepare a readiness review document, and on April 23 and 24 a three-member team accompanied by a NYSED liaison visited the College, toured the nursing education facilities and met with a number of Lehman officials as part of the approval process. This is an exciting step forward for the College, as our highly-regarded nursing program continues to grow and attract students from around the world.

Elevating Lehman's Voice

As a means of strengthening and expanding our mission-critical presence in the Bronx and beyond, it is my intention to raise the profile of Lehman College and extol the accomplishments of its faculty and students any way possible. Here are some recent examples.

Regional Plan Association

Because of Lehman College's role as an intellectual and cultural center of the Bronx, a working relationship with the Regional Plan Association makes sense in helping to devise ideas that will maintain economic growth, environmental sustainability and a proper quality of life. I first met with RPA officials on February 5, and then participated in RPA's NY Metro Region Anchor Strategy Working Group at the Montefiore Medical Center on March 2. The second meeting of this Working Group was held at Rutgers University on March 29, and I participated by conference call. On April 3, I discussed Lehman College's evolving institutional role with two RPA Board members—David Armour, chief city executive, NYC, Siemens Corporation, and Michael Critelli, CEO, Cloud Parc.

The Hechinger Report

Along with Michelle Asha Cooper, president of the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP), I co-wrote an op-ed article for The Hechinger Report entitled "To succeed in tomorrow's workforce, today's students need equity-driven policy,” which was published on April 17.

To a Degree Podcast

While at ACE2018, the American Council of Education’s 100th Annual Meeting, in mid-March, I recorded an episode called New Presidents on Leadership, Innovation and Student Success for To a Degree, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Postsecondary Success team’s podcast, where I was joined by Mary Papazian, President of San Jose State University, and Scott Rawls, President of Northern Virginia Community College. The podcast was posted on March 27.

"The Bronx Now"

I was interviewed on April 5 by Joe Kelleher, host of BronxNet’s program The Bronx Now for an upcoming segment entitled “Borough of Universities.” Most of my comments focused on how Lehman College is expanding its role as a transformative engine of opportunity here in the Bronx and beyond.

TIAA Forum 2018

I participated in the Executive Roundtable at TIAA Forum 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona. The roundtable included 25 college and university presidents who discussed the future of undergraduate education and its connection to the future of America.

Institute for Higher Education Policy

On April 20, I participated by phone in the regular meeting of the Institute of Higher Education Policy (IHEP) Board of Directors. IHEP’s Postsecondary Data Collaborative continues to be a key resource for higher ed institutions looking for ways to maximize research and analysis.

Other Meetings

To help the Anchor Institutions Task Force (AITF) Presidential Subgroup develop a paper that illustrates the value of institutions of higher education as anchors in the community, I was interviewed by Lisa Bacon on April 3. On the same day, I participated in a conference call with Higher Learning Advocates (HLA) Executive Director Julie Peller and HLA Communications & External Affairs Director Ted Eismeier, along with several of HLA’s consultants, to discuss their Champions project. HLA is a non-profit based in Washington, D. C. working to improve postsecondary education and training so that students earn a degree or credential or find employment.

Celebrating Excellence

On March 29, I joined in the celebration of the life and work of Stephen Hawking hosted by Lehman’s Center for Theoretical and Computational Sciences. Since then, it has been my great pleasure to commend and honor people right here at Lehman College. Some of the celebratory events that I attended over the last few weeks included: the Faculty Achievements Reception; the launch of the ninth volume of Obscura, the literary magazine of Lehman College; the Student Research Symposium; the CUNY Service Corps Culminating Event; the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society 2018 Induction Ceremony for Lehman’s nursing students; Administrative Professionals Day Breakfast; SEEK Honors Day and 50th Anniversary Celebration; and the Latin American and Latino Studies Showcase. Looking back at this impressive list confirms how special this College is. Again, my congratulations to all who were honored at these events!

Congratulations, as well, to Professor Joseph Fera of the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science for winning this year’s Outstanding Teacher Award, and to Adjunct Lecturer Kenneth Piccininni of the Department of Counseling, Leadership, Literacy, and Special Education, for being named Adjunct of the Year.

In Closing

Commencement exercises for the 50th graduating class of Lehman College will take place on Thursday, May 31, outdoors on the South Field of the campus, rain or shine. We will present Professor Emeritus Jacob Judd of Lehman’s history department, with an honorary doctor of humane letters. Acclaimed author André Aciman (’73) will receive our Alumni Achievement Award and deliver the keynote address. Our outstanding teacher of the year, Joseph Fera, has graciously accepted our invitation to serve as master of ceremonies.

If that isn’t enough to celebrate, here’s another reason: approximately 3,500 students have applied for graduation, making the class of 2018 the largest graduating class in Lehman’s history. I hope you will join us!

To bring this message full circle, here is Lehman College’s 50th Anniversary announcement video, which premiered at our gala. Enjoy!

I look forward to seeing you around campus before the semester’s end or at Commencement.

Follow me on Twitter: @LehmanPresident

José Luis Cruz
Previous messages from President Cruz can be found here.