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September 3, 2019

A Message from Lehman College President Daniel Lemons
Welcome back to campus. Last Tuesday, with the beginning of fall classes, there was suddenly activity everywhere. It is my honor and privilege to lead the College after a historic spring and an eventful summer. After learning of our recent reaccreditation after the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) institutional self-study process, I enjoyed having some time to recharge. I was fortunate to spend time with family in the Rio Grande Valley.

As we embark on the fall semester, I look forward to the next few busy weeks, including Convocation, the official start to our academic year, along with ribbon cuttings for the Performing Arts Center and the newly renovated Leonard Leif Library First Floor. But before more time passes, here is an update of my recent activities on behalf of the College.

Institutional Reaccreditation

The end of June marked the successful conclusion to the MSCHE Reaccreditation Process which began officially with Lehman’s institutional Self-Study process in 2016. The intensive process of self-study, which benefitted from substantial input from many on campus and a dedicated steering committee, showed us areas where our college is thriving and where we have opportunities to grow.

Where we identified areas for renewed efforts, we have already begun implementing recommendations from the MSCHE. The most significant development is a new Office for Assessment and Educational Effectiveness which is being set up to spearhead the next phase of curricular renewal. Initially, it will focus on general education, but over time, it will encompass all areas of the curriculum. These efforts are not new to the College; we are building on the work that has been ongoing for more than a decade, expanding it and making it more systematic year to year.

Meetings and Conferences

I enjoyed attending the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) Student Success Academy in Orlando Florida as part of its group of six founding colleges in the AASCU Center for Student Success. Also attending were Provost Peter Nwosu, Vice President for Enrollment Management and Associate Provost Reine Sarmiento, Assistant Vice President for Strategy, Policy and Analytics Jonathan Gagliardi, Executive in Charge of the Division of Student Affairs Stanley Bazile, Richard Finger, Director of Graduate Studies, and Bascillia Toussaint, Interim Director of the Career Exploration and Development Center. We attended as a cross-divisional team to leverage the findings from our recent institutional transformation assessment in the service of strengthening our campus-wide efforts to further improve student success. Our team described a number of our current student success efforts to other attendees, networked with other participating institutions and national experts, and worked intensively together to identify clear next steps at the College.

In July and August, I met with several local leaders, alumni and supporters of the college. Our meetings were opportunities to update them on ongoing campus initiatives and events and to express my gratitude for all that they offer to the Lehman community.

  • I was pleased to meet with notable alum Elias Alcantara, a former member of the Obama White House.
  • I met with many elected officials within and beyond the Bronx delegation to update them on campus accomplishments and initiatives.
    • In my meeting with City Councilman Andrew Cohen, I thanked him for supporting the college in general, but also by way of granting the College more than $3.5 million in Fiscal Year 2020.
    • I met with the Bronx Borough President, Ruben Diaz Jr., to thank him for $700,000 in funding for FY 2020. We also discussed possibilities for enhancing career possibilities for students through his office and how we can best support students who serve the Bronx in nursing and other fields after graduation. As New York City’s CitiBike program expands to the Bronx, we discussed a potential role for Lehman in that expansion. BP Diaz is a Lehman alumnus and passionate supporter of the College.
    • Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz (also a Lehman alumnus) and I met to discuss the best time for him to visit our beautiful campus and to encourage his support for our upcoming State and Municipal Facilities (SAM) grant application.
    • Senator Alessandra Biaggi and I met shortly before a Public Service Announcement publicizing the legislation she championed, the Child Victims Act, launched in Times Square. The Child Victims Act is meant to give survivors of sexual assault, more time to bring their abusers to justice. Senator Biaggi has family ties to Lehman; her mother and grandmother are both alumnae, so she conveyed a personal and passionate connection to uplifting students here. The staffer who met with me and Senator Biaggi is a Lehman College alumnus.
    • I also met with Senator Jamaal T. Bailey at his District Office where we discussed civic participation with Lehman freshmen and potentially hosting a convening/meeting of all elected officials serving the Bronx at Lehman. I was able to highlight findings from a NSLVE study showing that Lehman students are among the most actively engaged at voting booths of any students in the country!
    • Congressman Adriano Espaillat met with me and re-affirmed his support for higher education more broadly and Lehman in particular. We discussed the importance of everyone filling out the upcoming 2020 Census and he hopes to return to Lehman in order to reiterate that message. We also discussed the possibility of his office hosting a job opportunity fair on Lehman’s campus in January or February. His Chief of Staff is a Lehman alumna.
    • The Deputy District Manager for Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez met with me to learn about Lehman. We discussed ways we can work with AOC on our many mutual interests, including health, voting and the census, and of course, education.
    • Traveling to the Northeast Bronx, I met with Assemblyman Michael Benedetto who as a former teacher, and Chair of the Assembly Education Committee, was interested to learn about our curriculum and student success. His Chief of Staff is also a Lehman alumnus.
    • Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, currently the Senate Majority Leader and Temporary President of the Senate, earned her graduate teaching credentials at Lehman. She recalled clearly the Lehman professor who played a key role in helping her earn them. Senator Cousins is a powerful supporter of the College and, as a former teacher, understands firsthand the importance of our mission.
    • Assemblyman Marcos Crespo is the Bronx Democratic leader and he also has a Chief of Staff who is a Lehman alumna. I think you can see the pattern here. Assemblyman Crespo is deeply engaged in the 2020 census, focusing on organizing to increase participation in neighborhoods that are known to have been underreported in the last census. The census is one of the bedrocks of democracy and has a huge impact on how much federal funding flows to each region.
    • Congressman Eliot Engel is also a Lehman alumnus and was in the first graduating class. He is eager to return to campus and we will be planning ways for him to come and participate in activities here.
    • Senator Luis R. Sepúlveda is the Chair of the Senate Crime Victims, Crime and Correction Committee. He is a key proponent of prison and criminal justice reform and we are going to explore the potential synergies with our General Faculty Re-entry Committee and the Provost’s new Re-entry initiative.
    • Senator Robert Jackson is a first term State Senator who previously had a long tenure as an NY City Council member, which was his position the last time I met with him. He is a tireless advocate for equitable funding for K-12 education, and for CUNY and SUNY. He is a committed supporter with over 800 Lehman students in his district.

As I describe each of these meetings, I’m impressed with how many there have been over just a few weeks. There are a couple of reasons for that. First, I am working with a seasoned pro who has joined Lehman as the part time Director of Government Relations, Sandy Cheiten. Sandy and I have worked together over many years and by now I’ve lost count of how many elected officials we have visited or hosted. The other reason is that the legislative bodies are not in session, which makes for relatively easy access as well as relaxed and wide-ranging discussions at each meeting. The goal of these meetings is to strengthen the connection of our elected officials to the College, identify projects in which we can be partners, and sometimes to ask for specific kinds of support.

On August 8th, I attended a pre-theater luncheon for the Lehman College Now Multimedia Arts Festival. This was the final two days of the remarkable College Now summer program, with a number of performances and exhibitions. Many College Now students say that the experience of being in the program changed their lives and made going to college their choice when otherwise it might not have been. College Now is a collaborative free program between the City University of New York (CUNY) and the New York City Department of Education offered as a transition for qualified NYC public high school students.

On August 26th, I had dinner with Hostos Community College President, David Gómez. We discussed our mutual commitment to higher education in the Bronx, and specific ways we are working together to facilitate transfer of Hostos students to Lehman.

2020-2025 Strategic Plan

For the last decade, Lehman College has been guided by the strategic plan, Achieving the Vision by Building a Strong Foundation: Strategic Directions for Lehman College, 2010-2020. This current strategic plan has served as a guide for the College in four key areas, including: excellence in teaching, research, and learning; enhanced student success; greater institutional and financial effectiveness; and a commitment to engagement and community service. Achieving the Vision helped usher in an era of unprecedented success for our students and institution. In celebration of a decade of achievement, the College has prepared a final report highlighting important achievements and milestones under Achieving the Vision.

On July 11th, the group of administrators, faculty and staff at Lehman responsible for kicking off our next Strategic Planning process – the Mission, Vision and Values Task Force, met to discuss Strategic Planning best practices. Co-chairs Dean Jane MacKillop and English Department Chair Paula Loscocco led our group of 12 through an overview of the process we’ll embark on over the course of the next year to discern which initiatives we should pursue to best position the institution for continued success in ways that are also aligned with our vision.

Strategic Investment and Growth Planning

Over the course of the next year, you may hear about an innovative approach spearheaded by Provost Nwosu with the goal of maximizing effective use of the resources we have at Lehman to improve and grow. The Strategic Growth and Investment Plan (SGIP) is a set of actions and recommendations that is meant to help us maintain our commitment to providing a high quality education for students, while also increasing our impact by serving more students and having more graduates. This effort will also help us overcome the impact of budgetary challenges that are resulting from a continual decline in higher education funding nationally year over year. Storm clouds are gathering over the U.S. and world economies and few doubt that we will likely face challenging economic times in the coming years. With SGIP, we are working to be the masters of our fate to the greatest degree possible.

More than a week ago, Provost Nwosu led an all-day SGIP workshop for department chairs, College administrators and staff, which I attended as well. I gave an opening presentation on today’s Higher Education Landscape. We had a productive day exploring various aspects of the initiative. Each school and department will be working to implement SGIP in a way that fits its particular discipline and learning environment. We have a common goal of using this process to do the most with the resources we have available, to further the success of students, faculty and staff.

Shared Governance and CUNY-Wide meetings

  • July 17th, I met with the Performing Arts Center Executive Board.
  • August 7th was the first CUNY, Council of Presidents (COPS) meeting.
  • August 20th, I presided over the first meeting of the Faculty, Personnel and Budget Committee (FP&B).
Elevating Our Voice and Raising Our Profile

While on vacation, I was delighted to tour our sister campus, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley on July 24th and meet with President Guy Bailey, who has had noteworthy success with student retention, research expenditures and increasing philanthropic gifts to the institution. Like Lehman, UTRGV is a Hispanic-Serving Institution, and what we also have in common is that two of the three institutions from which it was created in 2013 are ranked in the top 20 institutions nationally for social mobility.

UTRGV serves a population of 1.5 million -- almost the same as the Bronx – on campuses spread over 100 miles along the Rio Grande River from Brownsville to Rio Grande City. What our institutions also have in common is taking important steps to increase student success. UTRGV is part of the cohort of AASCU colleges we met with in Florida at the Student Success Academy. My visit to UTRGV was meant for us to share our ideas and experiences to continue to improve. I got to see the Performing Arts Center, the Science Building – which has a very cool Constellation Wall! – the Engineering Academic Building’s new facilities, as well as tour the brand-new School of Medicine.

Back in the Bronx in August, I was delighted to attend the Bridge Scholars Dinner and meet with the first cohort of Macaulay Bridge Scholars who are transfer students from CUNY community colleges. They are starting here this fall as part of the Macaulay @ Lehman program.

Celebrating Excellence

One of the remarkable hallmarks of a Lehman education is how actively staff and faculty partner with students to help them complete their education in a timely way. The Robin Hood Foundation generously awarded the City University of New York (CUNY) a $4.1 million grant to expand the Accelerate, Complete and Engage program at Lehman this fall for the first time. Lehman was mentioned in an Op Ed about ACE in the New York Times this past week. ACE offers comprehensive support to eligible students in the form of financial, academic and personal assistance with the goal of at least 50% in the program graduating in four years. Two hundred-fifty new students are part of the first ACE cohort at Lehman.

In July, the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement – a signature initiative of the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education (IDHE) at Tufts University’s Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life – shared wonderful news about voting data among Lehman Students compared to those on more than 1,000 college and universities nationwide noting that the 2016 voting rate among our students was 53.1 % in the 2016 Presidential election compared to a 50.4% average for all institutions.

Lehman’s affordability and quality education is one of the pillars of opportunity contributing to social mobility and is part of a larger renewal throughout the Bronx. In August, Money Magazine reported that Lehman was one of seven of our sister CUNY colleges that scored in the top fifth of Money Magazine’s 2019 nationwide survey, “Best Colleges for Your Money.” We also celebrated the news that a recent study conducted by the New York Times and the Urban Institute’s Center on Education Data and Policy found that Lehman College students graduate at a rate that places it among the best performing institutions for student degree completion (student success) across the country. Lehman’s graduation rate is 9% higher than that predicted by the study.

Lehman’s Nursing Department Chair C. Alicia Georges received the well-deserved honor of being named a Living Legend by the American Academy of Nursing along with four of her other colleagues before news of the college’s pre-licensure undergraduate registered nursing program, as well as the online registered nurse-to-bachelor of science in nursing program were ranked number 1 in both Nursing Explore and RegisteredNursing.org.

Washington Monthly ranked Lehman 33rd out of 386 colleges in its “Best Bang for the Buck” rankings for the Northeast – another national recognition that we are living up to our mission to provide an affordable, high quality education that promotes upward mobility for our hardworking and talented students.

Organizational Updates

I’d like to welcome Bridget Barbera, Lehman’s new Special Counsel, joining us from CUNY, where she was most recently Assistant General Counsel.

The PAC Executive Board is developing a new strategic plan with the assistance of Michael Kaiser from DeVos Institute of Arts Management. Mr. Kaiser is past President of the Kennedy Center in D.C. and has worked with dozens of cultural institutions around the world, including many in New York.

Looking Ahead

  • September 3rd: College FP&B and Herbert H. Lehman College Foundation Board meeting
  • September 4th: CUNY COPS meeting and Lehman College Senate meeting
  • September 11th: 9/11 Ceremony
  • September 18th: Convocation
  • September 19th: Ribbon cutting for the opening of the renovated Performing Arts Center
Thank you again for all that you have done and will do to help Lehman fulfill and advance its mission. I wish you a productive and successful start to the academic year. I’ll see you around campus.

Daniel Lemons

Previous messages from President Lemons can be found here.