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July 2, 2018
A Message from Lehman College President José Luis Cruz

It is summer. The campus is a bit quieter, but the cacophony of political disruption fills the air, fueling our drive to double-down on the advancement of our institutional mission. As we reflect upon the end of one academic year and the approach of a new one, I wanted to give you an update on some of my activities on behalf of our collective efforts.

Elevating Lehman's Voice

I have had the opportunity to speak at events on a wide variety of subjects over this past month. In so doing, I have worked to raise awareness about the work we do and the values that guide and endeavor us to learn from others who are similarly engaged in expanding opportunity through higher education.

On May 11, I returned to California State University to serve as the keynote speaker at Celebrating the Learning Community: A New Institutional Culture of Inquiry, an event organized by the Student Success Analytics Certificate Program. I reflected upon the role that analytics have played in my administrative decisions and the importance of always contextualizing the quantitative with the qualitative.

On May 25, I spoke at the Urban Hispanic College Student Achievement Conference, organized by HSI: Urbano. The conference focused on developing actionable solutions for increasing the number of Hispanic students graduating with degrees in the STEM fields. I presented on urban STEM education as a lever for transformative change.

Then, on May 30, I had the privilege of introducing Sara Goldrick-Rab prior to her talk, "Addressing Students' Basic Needs, " in which she discussed the growing problem of food insecurity, an issue that affects nearly half of all college students nationwide. Dr. Goldrick-Rab is professor of Higher Education Policy and Sociology at Temple University and the founder of the Wisconsin HOPE Lab, the only translational research laboratory in the nation seeking ways to make college more affordable. Not only did we have the honor of featuring an academic who has pioneered a new field of scholarship and is herself an agent of change, but we were able to highlight the work of Lehman College's own food pantry, which, since its opening in April 2017, has already served over 8,000 meals.

I attended meetings for the CUNY Council of Presidents on May 23, June 6, and June 19. As part of the Presidential Search Committee at Kingsborough Community College, I met with the committee several times in May. I also participated in a CUNY Bronx Borough Hearing on June 18. I also attended and discussed issues of equity in higher ed and public policy in board meetings: Regional Plan Association on June 7, where I was recently elected a member of the Board and The Education Trust on June 20.

I also participated in a SUNY SAIL Fireside Chat on June 19. Standing for Strategic Academic and Innovative Leadership, SAIL engages up-and-coming academic leaders in thoughtful conversations about the challenges and opportunities facing higher ed institutions. On June 25, I contributed to a panel entitled "Tackling the Public Mistrust of the Value of Higher Education at the College Media Conference. During my session, I joined the editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education, the president of the American Association of Colleges and Universities and the president of the Council of Independent Colleges to discuss institutional strategies for promoting the value of the liberal arts, and the impact that secondary education has on an urban community. The following week, on June 28, I contributed to a panel hosted by the Center for American Progress in which we discussed accreditation and the next reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

Fundraising and Friendraising

This past month, I have spoken with representatives from several organizations in order to promote Lehman's ambitious 90x30 initiative. On May 8, CUNY Trustees Una Clark and John Aderounmu visited Lehman College and toured our beautiful campus. They also had the opportunity to learn about Lehman's new initiatives and to meet with campus leadership organizations, the President's Cabinet, and Lehman's students and faculty.

Beyond CUNY, on May 15, Donna Linderman, CUNY Dean for Student Success Initiatives, Tom Hilliard, Senior Fellow for Economic Opportunity at the Center for an Urban Future, and I participated in a conference call with the Hispanic Task Force of the New York State Legislature, chaired by Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, during which we proposed expanding the ACE pilot program to Lehman College. Standing for "Accelerate, Complete, Engage this initiative builds upon ASAP, a program that has been very successful for CUNY's community colleges and aims to remove barriers to completion by providing academic, economic, and professional resources to students.

I have also spoken with representatives from several organizations about how they might collaborate with Lehman and help us to fulfill our institutional goals. On May 18, alumnus Jeffrey Menkes facilitated a meeting with Lilliam Perez, the new vice president for government and community relations at Montefiore Health System, during which we discussed ways to deepen collaborations with Lehman.

In addition to our alumni, we have also been very fortunate to work with people who have opened doors for other potential partnerships. Abby Jo Sigal, the executive director of Here to Here, introduced us to BRAVEN, a national non-profit organization devoted to guiding students from underrepresented backgrounds through college and onto their career endeavors. In a meeting on May 23, we discussed their Accelerator Program, which teaches leadership and core competency in employable skill areas.

The next day, Dr. Naguib Attia, vice president for global university partnerships at IBM, spent the day at Lehman, meeting with students, faculty, senior staff, as well as myself, to discuss a potential collaboration in which IBM would share its educational resources and technology to help us better position our students for a career in the burgeoning fields of computer science and technology.

On June 2, Lehman College also collaborated with Goya Foods on a special event featuring La Sonora Poncena, a salsa band that was formed in Puerto Rico in 1954 and has since released 35 albums. I enjoyed their exuberance and virtuosity, and I am pleased that we were able to bring their music to the greater Bronx community.

On June 8, Vice President for Institutional Advancement Susan Ebersole and I met with Ischia Bravo, who is the district manager of our local community board, Board 7.

I met with Excelencia in Education on June 11. As an organization devoted to fostering the success of Latino students in higher education, Excelencia is an important national partner to Lehman College. The following week, on June 18, Vice Presidents Ebersole and Ronald Bergmann joined me at a meeting with Katherine Oliver, principal of Bloomberg Philanthropies, to explore potential collaborations, as their mission to strengthen community leadership by improving educational access aligns well with Lehman's goals.


On May 31, I had the privilege of joining many of you at Commencement. This year's Commencement was an important milestone for Lehman College, not only because the class of 2018 was our 50th graduating cohort, but because the approximately 3,500 graduates - 55% of whom were first generation college students - represented the largest graduating class in Lehman's history. We were proud to award an honorary doctorate of humane letters to Jacob Judd, Professor Emeritus of History, and to present our Alumni Achievement Award to Andre Aciman ('73), who also delivered the keynote address. Dr. Aciman is a Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature and French at CUNY's Graduate Center. Kenneth Piccininni, of the Department of Counseling, Leadership, Literacy and Special Education, was our Adjunct of the Year and Jonathan Berenguer (M.S.) was our student speaker. Outstanding Teacher of the Year, Joseph Fera, of the Department of Mathematics, served as master of ceremonies.

I was also delighted to give the opening remarks at Lehman's Honors Convocation on May 29, which featured 500 of our graduates. I was very proud to celebrate their extraordinary achievement.

Beyond CUNY, I was honored to be asked to serve as the keynote speaker at two Bronx schools. On June 23, I spoke at the Frederick Douglass Academy III and on June 29, I addressed the first-ever graduating class of the South Bronx Early College Academy Charter School. These students have overcome enormous personal obstacles to reach this accomplishment, and these speaking engagements not only allowed me to congratulate these future leaders of tomorrow, but to solidify Lehman College's role as an anchor institution, community partner, and beacon of opportunity for the students of the Bronx.

Thank you for your continued commitment to Lehman College. I hope all of you enjoy a summer that is both restful and productive.

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