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March 25, 2019

A Message from Lehman College President José Luis Cruz
While we celebrate that spring is finally here, the reality is that even through a rough winter, our College never ceased to flourish. We have continued to move forward and trend upward. And it is my privilege to update you on some of my recent contributions to our collective efforts.

Institutional Accreditation

Our Middle States Commission on Higher Education institutional self-study process has reached its final and most important stage, as we prepare for the site visit on April 7-10 and work to increase campus-wide awareness of this major step toward the college’s reaffirmation of accreditation. Following the College Senate’s endorsement of Lehman’s final draft of the self-study report in February, the report was submitted to MSCHE and I had the occasion to meet with our MSCHE liaison, Dr. Hilda Colón-Plumey at the MSCHE headquarters in Philadelphia on March 11. Since then, we have socialized the self-study report and discussed next steps with faculty and staff at a “chat, chew and mingle” event on March 14 and an Administrative Leadership Forum on March 15. Great thanks are due to the Middle States Steering Committee and all of the college participants and stakeholders who have worked so hard to see the process through.

Governmental Affairs

After a February trip to Albany regarding CUNY’s FY20 Budget Request and meetings with the Bronx Assembly delegation and representatives from the offices of Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Senators Liz Krueger and Alessandra Biaggi, I shifted focus toward the College’s requests for capital (RESO A) funding from the Borough President’s Office and City Council. To advocate for our requests ($5 million to furnish and equip our new Nursing Education, Research, and Practice Center; $2 million for a Teaching and Learning Commons; and $400,000 for a new lighting system in the Studio Theatre), I met with City Councilman Andy King on February 22 and City Councilman Fernando Cabrera on February 26.

I was able to stress the importance of Lehman’s educational mission and its role as an anchor institution to many elected officials and stakeholders at the Bronx Legislative Breakfast on March 8, an annual event, this time hosted by Lehman. The co-hosts of the breakfast are Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr. and the presidents from the three CUNY colleges in the Bronx. And on March 9, I participated in the “Somos el Futuro” event in Albany and had the opportunity to further advocate for support from our elected officials.

Shared Governance

CUNY’s Council of Presidents (COP) Fiscal Affairs Subcommittee, which I chair, met on February 14, and later the same day I also received a regular update from Laura Oliveira, the program director of the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation program, which includes 12 other CUNY colleges and is led by Lehman. I am the COP representative to the CUNY Board of Trustees Fiscal Affairs Committee, and I attended the committee’s February 25 meeting and the full Board of Trustees meeting on March 18. The President’s Student Success Roundtable, an informal gathering of executives and top administrators from several CUNY schools (City College, Queens College, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and Lehman College) to share ideas, met on March 6, prior to a meeting of the full COP and then a luncheon for CUNY presidents and deans hosted by Interim Chancellor Vita C. Rabinowitz.

The annual Cabinet Retreat and Senior Leadership Retreat (held on February 21 and 22), was extremely productive, as we continue to advance our efforts on the 90x30 initiative and the MSCHE process, as well as share ideas and coordinate efforts to promote student success. A less formal gathering, the “Funnel Huddle,” took place on February 25, which I attended. It is led by the Division of Enrollment Management and includes administrators and staff from the Divisions of Administration and Finance and Student Affairs. On March 20, I discussed a broad range of issues affecting our College with the more than 60 students who attended our annual “Pizza with the President” event.

Other meetings relating to the College that I attended were Faculty, Personnel & Budget (FP&B) on February 19; PSC Labor Management on February 20; Cabinet on February 26; General Faculty on February 27; and LC Senate on March 6.

Elevating Our Voice and Raising Our Profile

On February 15, Lehman College proudly hosted first of two New York City public advocate candidate debates prior to the special election held on February 26. Ten of the 17 candidates running for the office appeared at the debate, which was hosted by Gary Axelbank of BronxNet, and I delivered welcoming remarks at the event. More recently, on March 14, I served on a panel discussion moderated by Paul Glastris, editor in chief of the Washington Monthly, following the New York City screening premiere of the documentary entitled Unlikely. This documentary chronicles the difficulties adult students face in navigating the higher education landscape.

A warm gathering of Lehman administrators, faculty, friends, and supporters of the College greeted Dr. Peter Nwosu, Lehman’s new provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs and Student Success, on February 20 at a special reception held in his honor.

I continue to represent Lehman College and the important values that are the bedrock of our mission in the national conversation about education and equity at various conferences, meetings and events. The Education Trust Board of Directors, of which I am chair, held its winter meeting on February 27, and I attended. Also, the American Council on Education (ACE) held its annual meeting in Philadelphia on March 9-12, which gave me a number of opportunities to speak with other higher ed administrators and share ideas. I was proud to attend the ACE Closing Plenary Panel moderated by former U.S. Secretary of Education and now CEO of The Education Trust, John King, as one of our very own students, Jonathan Yubi Gómez, served as a panelist and shared his educational journey as a transfer student.

Celebrating Excellence

On February 23, I was honored to attend the Urban Male Leadership Program’s third annual awards and scholarship brunch at Eastwood Manor in the Bronx. I offered welcoming remarks and presented the “Trailblazer Legacy Award” to Congressman Adriano Espaillat, one of the event’s five honorees. This fundraising event stands as yet another example of the important, transformative role of the UMLP. The proceeds from this event will help provide scholarships for students and defray costs for textbooks and other college-related expenses—the kind of support that is often a determining factor for students to achieve their degrees. Also, on February 27, I opened the doors to a reception in Shuster Hall’s room 330—the President’s Conference Room—where an art show featuring works from entirely Lehman alums (13 total) is now on display.

On March 21, I was privileged to address a group of family and friends who were on campus to celebrate and cement the legacy of Cindy Lobel through the establishment of the Cindy Lobel Scholarship program. The scholarship will support Lehman undergraduate and graduate students pursuing degrees in History. The next day, I was pleased to welcome over 200 colleagues from Lehman, Bronx Community College, Hostos Community College, Guttman Community College, and CUNY for the 2019 Bronx Transfer Affinity Group Summit — it was a great opportunity to examine our collective policies and practices with an eye to improving the experience of our transfer students. Later that afternoon, I was honored to meet Dr. Joseph S. Francisco, distinguished professor at the University of Pennsylvania, who was on campus to deliver the 39th Annual Arthur Sweeny, Jr. Memorial Lecture. His lecture was entitled “From Complexes to Aerosols: New Insights into Atmospheric Chemistry.”

Organizational Updates

On March 7, the College Bookstore officially reopened in the Old Gymnasium Building, across the main walkway on campus from the one-story building it occupied for over 25 years. The upcoming construction of our new Nursing Education, Research and Practice Center in the space between Davis Hall and Carman Hall necessitated the relocation, with the now empty former bookstore building slated for demolition later this year.

I heartily welcomed the recent news that the City University of New York Board of Trustees had named Queens College president Félix V. Matos Rodríguez as the eighth chancellor of CUNY, making him the first person of color to lead the greatest urban university in the world. Chancellor-designate Matos Rodríguez will start his new position on May 1, and I am confident that his leadership and extensive experience will ensure that CUNY will be able to surmount the challenges ahead while reaching new levels of excellence.

At the end of the semester we’ll be saying hasta luego to José Magdaleno, vice president of Student Affairs. In a note to the campus community, I wrote that there is much that I will miss about VP Magdaleno in his absence. He shaped the college and campus experience for our students in myriad ways and significantly improved the institution during his 25-plus years of service. He has been an integral part of Lehman’s success over the years, and has built a division devoted to student success. I wish him all the best as he moves into this new chapter in his life.

Looking Ahead

With just two weeks to go before our MSCHE site-visit, I hope you have a chance to participate in one or more of the information sessions that will be advertised at the division and school levels and invite you to familiarize yourself with the process and our self-study report by visiting our MSCHE website. In the meantime, I wish you and yours a most productive and healthy spring season.

See you around campus.

José Luis Cruz

Previous messages from President Cruz can be found here.