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Lehman College: City University of New York
March 17, 2017

A Message from Lehman College President José Luis Cruz
A late winter storm this week gave the Lehman College community a rare “snow day” and provided me and my family yet another lesson in how much we still need to learn about coats, boots, and shovels before we can truly call ourselves New Yorkers. It also gave me a chance to take stock of the past six weeks to report on some of the ways we are continuing to fulfill the mission of Lehman College and ensure its continuing success in the challenging years ahead.

Shared Governance and Campus Events

On February 21, I attended the CUNY Board of Trustees meeting in which Lehman College’s request for $12 million to fully fund the construction of our Nursing Education, Research and Practice Center was approved; work on the 50,000 square-foot state-of-the-art teaching facility will begin next year.

With campus life in full swing, I continued my “listening tour” and visited faculty and staff of the Leonard Lief Library, School of Education, School of Health Sciences, Human Services & Nursing (HS2N) and School of Arts and Humanities. In the past few weeks, I also furthered my understanding of our institutional state of affairs by attending a General Faculty meeting; presiding over a College Senate meeting; hosting a luncheon attended by Lehman’s Associate Deans—Christopher Malone, Mark Tausig, Gaoyin Qian, Salita Bryant, Janet Munch, Clarence Stanely, Pamela Hinden, and Goher Murtaza; and meeting with Student Government Association President Gentian Muhaxheri and several other student leaders to discuss issues of college-wide importance.

I also had the opportunity to deepen my understanding of our beloved institution by spending time with several retiring faculty members at a luncheon I hosted in their honor at the Art Gallery and had the privilege of reconnecting with my predecessor, President Ricardo R. Fernández; I continue to value his good counsel and friendship.

One of my greatest regrets continues to be not being able to attend all of the cultural events that take place on campus, but I was pleased to see BUSTED! on March 10 in the Lovinger Theatre. This multi-media production was conceived and directed by Rick DesRochers, director of Lehman’s Theatre and Multimedia Performing Arts Program, and choreographed by Professor Amy Larimer, director of the Lehman Dance Program. My wife Rima and I were much impressed with the quality of the production and the talent of our students; and we were happy to experience the performance in the company of Provost Niki Fayne and her husband Henry.

Public Affairs and External Relations

In the past several weeks, I have continued reaching out to our elected officials to emphasize financial support for Lehman and CUNY. On February 14 I traveled to Albany to present a joint budget request on behalf of Lehman College, Bronx Community College, and Hostos Community College to the Bronx Delegation of the New York State Assembly. A few days later, I presented Lehman College’s requests for the NYS 2017 Capital Budget with Bronx Borough president Rubén Díaz, Jr. Our requests were well received by all our elected officials and I feel confident that funding will be forthcoming.

The CUNY/Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, & Asian Legislative Caucus held its annual gathering in Albany on February 18-19, which offers students and educators the opportunity to meet with members and staffers of the NYS legislature; I attended a caucus workshop on Higher Education investments on the opening day and was honored to announce the new interns at this year’s traditional Caucus CUNY Scholars Program luncheon. More recently, I welcomed NYS Senator Gustavo Rivera to the office so we could share notes about new federal immigration policies and how they may affect the Lehman community.

In the last several weeks, I have also had an opportunity to represent our college on various board meetings. For example, I attended a board meeting of The Education Trust, where I joined other directors in welcoming John King, former U.S. Secretary of Education, as the organization’s new president; participated in a meeting of the Jaime Lucero Mexican Studies Institute’s advisory board; and attended a meeting of the New York Botanical Garden Board of Trustees, where it was my honor to be elected as a trustee on the board.

On the friendraising and fundraising front, I met with Beth Lief, executive director of The Carroll and Milton Petrie Foundation; traveled to Washington, D.C. for an intimate meeting with the CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and a handful of higher education policy experts; attended the 37th annual 100 Black Men gala with my wife, Dr. Rima Brusi, as guests of CUNY Chancellor James B. Milliken, who was being honored by the organization; met with Abby Jo Sigal and Randy Moore of The James & Judith K. Dimon Foundation; explored collaborations with Miguel Fuentes, president and chief executive officer of the Bronx Lebanon Hospital Center, and his colleague Robert Sancho, vice president of development and external affairs; and, met with Carron Staple, superintendent in charge of more than 50 Bronx high schools, to identify challenges in need of attention and opportunities for more productive collaboration.

Organizational Updates

In my last update, I promised to provide additional details regarding preparations for our 50th Anniversary Campaign. Today, I am happy to report that we have selected a consulting firm to engage the campus community in crafting an action plan for our Campaign efforts and that the following members of our campus community have agreed to serve on the Campaign’s Steering Committee: co-chairs Bill Latimer and Ira Cohen; Ron Bergmann, Keith Happaney, Janette Tilley, Hermino Martinez, Faith Deveaux, Marty Zwiren, Gina Harwood, Clarence Stanley, Kenneth Schlenger, Deb Shanley, Gautem Sen and Gladys Maldoon. From an organizational perspective, the day to day work of our colleagues in the recently integrated Development and Alumni Engagement unit will be overseen by Mr. Vincent Clark, Vice President for Administration and Finance. The steering committee members and consultants will not only help inform the work, they will help move it forward through their direct efforts and by engaging other folks on campus who may be well positioned to open a door, strengthen a relationship, or make an ask.

Last semester, impressed by the College’s positive trends in student enrollment, retention, and graduation rates, I asked Vice President Sarmiento to develop an inventory of Lehman’s student support services to help me better understand how our resources are currently being allocated on behalf of these functions. A few weeks ago, armed with the inventory produced by VP Sarmiento with help from colleagues across all divisions and schools, I asked Provost Fayne, Vice President Sarmiento, and Vice President Magdaleno to determine if there are ways to combine or group common resources/departments/functions to add scale to our existing efforts as a means to ensure that our College can sustain the upward trend it has experienced in student outcomes, even as we face challenging financial times ahead. Specifically, I have asked them to engage our dedicated student service staff and all relevant stakeholders in a conversation that will help us determine how to best organize our work to increase the number of students served, improve the quality of the services provided, and maximize the overall impact of our existing investments on student success.

Finally, I want to commend all of the Lehman professionals who worked tirelessly to have the campus and parking areas cleared of snow and ready for classes after this week’s storm. I continue to be impressed by their invaluable contributions to our educational mission.

I look forward to seeing you around campus, and don’t forget: I will be giving my first “State of the College” address on Monday, March 27 at 3:30 PM in the Lovinger Theater. Please make sure to email Events.RSVP@lehman.cuny.edu if you plan to attend. During my speech I plan to announce a campus-wide challenge to advance the Lehman mission to an astounding new level!

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