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Lehman College: City University of New York
June 26, 2017

A Message from Lehman College President José Luis Cruz
The campus of Lehman College has quieted down some, as we now progress through Summer Session I toward the Fourth of July holiday. But the hard work of advancing our institutional mission continues, and I appreciate the opportunity to provide an update of how I have invested my time in the last few weeks and what has transpired since I last communicated with you.

FY 2017-18 New York City Budget

The advocacy efforts of our College yielded good results in this year's New York City budget. We will be receiving $1.86 million from the City Council to complete renovations of the Gillet Auditorium, a project that is creating a multi-functional, multi-media lecture hall with Wi-Fi that supports distance learning and video teleconferencing. The 500-seat auditorium is located in Gillet Hall, one of the campus's four original buildings erected in 1931. (Lehman received $1.7 million from the City Council for this project last year.)

Also, in the NYC budget: $500,000 from the Bronx Borough President to convert 25 traditional classrooms at Lehman into state-of-the-art Networked Smart Classrooms, where collaborative, multi-modal learning will take place, and for furniture and new equipment at our Access and Technology Center (ATC) for students with disabilities, which is being re-located on the first floor of the Lief Library. And NYC Councilmember James Vacca — who has consistently supported technology projects on our campus—allocated $118,000 for IT infrastructure.

Friendraising and Fundraising

On May 25, I met with President Philip Warner OBE of the St. George's Society of New York, the Anglo-American social and philanthropic organization founded in 1770, which offers college scholarships to Lehman students from Great Britain and the British Commonwealth. That evening I attended the Wave Hill Spring Gala Reception.

On May 30, I participated in a farewell reception for Bob Ptachik, who is retiring from his position as the Senior University Dean for the Executive Office & Enrollment at The City University of New York. I met Bob during the national search process that brought me to Lehman College, and his passion for the City University of New York only served to increase my interest in becoming part of this great system of higher education.

On June 3, I joined a ceremony marking the 31st Annual Bronx Puerto Rican Day Parade and had an opportunity to greet many of the borough's community leaders and elected officials. The next day, I marched in the parade with my wife Dr. Rima Brusi and our 11-year-old son, Álvaro. Rima received the Distinguished Educator Award from the parade organizers.

The Bronx Arts Ensemble is now in its forty-fourth year of presenting concerts in the borough, including some at Lehman, and on June 13, Interim Provost Harriet Fayne and I met with the organization's executive director, David Nussenbaum.

Public Affairs and Community Engagement

The Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP), a leading resource center for higher ed, government and non-profit entities, convened a Data Policy Summit in Washington, D.C. on June 2, which I attended. I served on the opening panel entitled "Aligning Data Policy and Institutional Priorities" alongside F. King Alexander and Mark P. Becker, presidents of Louisiana State University and Georgia State University respectively.

The New York City mayoral election will be held this November, but dialogue regarding the issues affecting residents is underway already. In this regard, television stations WCBS 2 and WLNY 10/55 sponsored a Town Hall Meeting at the Lovinger Theatre on June 12 for Bronx residents and others to share their thoughts and add their voices. I helped introduce the event, which was streamed online.

On behalf of Lehman College, I signed on in support of the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse emissions through the "We Are Still In" campaign, which aims to send a political signal to the administration—and to the world—about the United States' continued commitment to ambitious action on climate change. At this point, 9 governors, 125 city leaders, over 200 universities, and more than 900 businesses have signed on as well.

On June 14, I attended a Lehman College Foundation board meeting and participated in a conference call for the board of directors meeting of The Education Trust.

On June 19, I attended the Bronx Borough Board of Trustees meeting, where several Lehman faculty and students testified about the role the College plays in transforming lives and advocated for continued financial support of our academic programs and student success initiatives.

On June 21, I attended a board of directors meeting of the Lehman Performing Arts Center and participated in a national convening of higher education and philanthropic leaders who met to discuss issues related to postsecondary success, student debt, and the role of philanthropy. The convening was co-hosted by the TIAA Institute and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.

Lehman's 90x30 Challenge

As you know, in the State of the College address this spring, I celebrated the many accomplishments achieved by our campus community, and challenged us to think through what it would take to double the number of high-quality degrees and credentials — from 45,000 to 90,000— that our students are expected to earn by the year 2030.

Today, I am happy to report that we are making good progress in the development of a “roadmap” to help guide our internal ideation, consultation, and implementation processes to advance this ambitious goal. The Division of Enrollment Management, in collaboration with Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, Information Technology, and Administration and Finance, has responded especially well to the 90 x 30 challenge! Thanks to these collaborative efforts, the College is preparing for a record enrollment this fall and possibly the largest freshman class in Lehman's history. To ensure that these students have the advising, financial aid, and academic support they need to succeed, the College will establish a Freshman College based on a redesign of the Freshman Year Program. Increased enrollment and the reimagining of existing programs to further enhance student success are examples of the ways in which Lehman is striving to fulfill its mission as an engine of opportunity.

We are also making progress in getting the word out about the quality of our work and the boldness of our aspirations. Last week, I was pleased to learn that Allan Golston, president of the U.S. Program of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was planning to devote his monthly HuffPost column to Lehman College. In the piece, published this past Wednesday, he called on institutions across the country to “follow Lehman's lead in thinking big and helping all students succeed.”

Celebrating Excellence

On May 30, I welcomed more than 500 Lehman graduates-to-be and another 2,500 or so proud family members and friends for the 2017 Honors Convocation at the Lehman College Performing Arts Center. As I looked out from behind the podium, I felt a renewed sense of confidence in the promise of the future that awaits us—just as I did two days later, at our College's 49th Commencement celebration.

Everyone was careful not to mention “rain” in the days prior to Commencement, and fittingly, the weather was glorious. Over 3,100 students applied for undergraduate and graduate degrees this year—the most in our College's history. Professor Duane Tananbaum served as master of ceremonies, while U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, CUNY Trustee Fernando Ferrer, and CUNY Vice Chancellor for Labor Relations Pamela S. Silverblatt provided some good advice to the graduates. One exciting highlight: two master's degree recipients briefly occupied the podium for a marriage proposal! (She said yes.) All in all, it was a Commencement to remember—my first here at Lehman College. I am already looking forward to the next one.

And as a reminder that the excellence espoused by our college extends well into the K-12 years, just two days after Commencement, I attended The Bronx Institute's Con Ed-ENLACE STEM Knowledge Competition, an event now in its third year, which took place at the Lovinger Theatre. I welcomed those in attendance, including two CUNY trustees, Rita DiMartino and Mayra Linares-Garcia; Eric Soto, director of Bronx public affairs for Con Edison; and NYS Higher Education Services Corporation President Guillermo Linares. And I watched with interest as middle-school students competed in a Jeopardy-style match focused on science and mathematics topics. Much deserved kudos belong to Dr. Herminio Martinez for his longstanding service as director of the Bronx Institute.

Yet another cause for celebration was the 2017 Commencement of the Macaulay Honors College on June 12, held at the United Palace Theater in Manhattan. I was pleased to attend and applaud the graduates, especially those who attended Lehman. And on June 22, I had the privilege of attending the CUNY College Initiative Graduation, a program of the Prisoner Reentry Institute at John Jay College —the transformative impact of higher learning was palpable in every word said, every hug given, and every smile shared with those in attendance.

On a more personal note, in the past few weeks, Rima and I had the opportunity to attend graduation ceremonies for three of our five children: Esteban earned a J.D. degree from NYU Law; Marco a B.S. degree in Physics from Caltech; and Álvaro a 5th-grade diploma from PS 24. Their accomplishments are a testament to the multigenerational impact of higher education and a reminder of why it is so important that we at Lehman continue to transform the lives of our students — because of what it means for them today, and what it will mean to theirs tomorrow.

My first full summer in the Bronx awaits. I hope you enjoy all the season has to offer.

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