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October 1, 2019

A Message from Lehman College President Daniel Lemons

Welcome to October. The leaves are starting to turn and it feels like the academic year is now in full swing.

September was full of exciting events, including the official beginning of the academic year with Convocation, and ribbon-cuttings for the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts and a new Reflection Space in the Library.

September will also forever begin with a somber remembrance of the thousands who perished in the 9/11 attacks, including four who were part of the Lehman community. We gathered outside this year on a bright, sunny morning to mark their loss, and reflect both on their lives, and on the need to learn from them, reaffirming our intent to confront hatred and ignorance with love and knowledge.

To mark the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month, I attended the inaugural event of the three-day Feria Internacional del Libro de la Ciudad de Nueva York (FILNYC), held at the Cervantes Institute. FILNYC was organized by the Lehman College-based CUNY Mexican Studies Institute, under the leadership of José Higuera Lopez. The opening event featured a stimulating discussion with Cristóbal Pera, the Knopf editor of the recently-published The Scandal of the Century, a compilation of journalistic pieces by the great Gabriel García Márquez. Lehman College’s own Dr. Melissa Castillo Planas, an Assistant Professor in the English Department, and Ariel Vargas, the president of the newly formed Latinx Student Alliance, also represented us well in a segment about our status as a Hispanic-Serving Institution on CBS New York.

I participated in an inspiring program at the LGBTQ World Café, during which a number of significant conversations were begun. Those important discussions need to be continued and expanded as we seek to have a campus that feels safe to everyone. I look forward to more events and activities that enable us do that.

Our students came out in force, as expected, for National Voter Registration Day on September 24th, in preparation for what will be a historic and significant election year. You may know that Lehman College students are nationally renowned for having higher voter participation rates, on average, than students at more than 1,000 colleges and universities surveyed across the country. 53 percent of our student body voted, and that’s three points higher than the national average among college students.

For that reason and many others, we anticipate that the Lehman College community will be very engaged in the Census 2020 and in fact, Lehman is proud to support the CUNY Census effort launched by Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez last week. At Lehman, David Charcape will act as CUNY Census Coordinator for our campus for a slate of activities under the umbrella concept, “Making Sense of the Census.” We have formed a working group that is planning numerous events to promote and help carry out the Census.

It may not be immediately clear why the Census is so important, even to a community as civically engaged as this one. The United States Constitution requires a population count every 10 years. The population count determines both the proportional representation in Congress and the state’s share of federal funds for education, housing, social services and much more. A likely undercount in Census 2020 is a serious concern and could cause the State of New York to lose funding and up to two congressional seats. In our current environment, which nationally has been exceedingly hostile to immigrant communities, more than usual undercounting is a real possibility. It is critically important that all New Yorkers be counted, including, and especially, those from historically undercounted communities, a number of which are in the Bronx. Lehman College will make every effort to make the count real in the Bronx.

Meetings and Conferences

The Lehman Summit on Student Success (LS3), convened by Provost Peter Nwosu and Assistant Vice President for Strategy, Policy and Analytics Jonathan Gagliardi, brought Tim Renick from Georgia State University to keynote on September 13th.

With Dr. Renick’s leadership, GSU has become a national model for institutional transformation with an emphasis on people, process, technology and data. Through its use of predictive analytics and other strategies, GSU has found innovative ways to meet the needs of its students, accelerating their path to graduation and saving them money.

As I mentioned at Convocation, we are well-ranked and noted across the country for being an affordable anchor institution for our students, with a better-than-predicted graduation rate. But we are always striving to learn how to do more and be even better in pursuit of the 90X30 challenge.

I had the pleasure of speaking to the board members of Braven, a nonprofit organization that has developed a credit-bearing course for students from underrepresented groups to help them build career-development skills and break into the elite networks that often lead to a thriving career. We are piloting this partnership with about 150 students with the intention of building greater networking supports which will, in turn, increase the number of students that successfully enter corporate positions.

I was inspired by meeting with Student Leaders at the Student Leaders Retreat held on Saturday, September 21st. It was a wonderful opportunity for me and other senior leaders at the college to connect with the 28 student leaders during their 15th annual Student Leadership Weekend. We listened to their feedback and concerns, and we offered some advice about leadership.

I also continued to meet with many elected officials within and beyond the Bronx delegation to update them on campus accomplishments and initiatives.

  • In my meeting with City Councilman Mark Gjonaj, we discussed his love of Lehman College as well as his commitment to encouraging even more of our students to vote and be otherwise engaged in upcoming elections. He is well known for his advocacy for small businesses which abound in the Bronx, and we hope to build connections that could provide future opportunities for Lehman business students.
  • Senator Luis R. Sepúlveda came to campus to meet with representatives of the General Faculty Re-entry Committee. He toured campus and met with Committee members Dean Jane MacKillop, and Professors Peggy Conner, Carl Mazza, Anne Rice and Penny Prince, after touring the new science building – he supported funding for the new facility when he was in the Assembly – and visiting the library.
    Senator Sepúlveda was impressed by the depth of experience held by the Committee and wants Lehman to be a leader and model for New York state prison systems and efforts related to prisoner re-entry, which can be barriers to employment for some Lehman College students and recent graduates. We’re excited about continuing the dialogue with the Senator on this issue as well as the issue of Voter Registration and Census 2020.
  • I met with President Carlos Andujar from the University of Puerto Rico Arecibo on his third visit to Lehman to discuss developing a student exchange program and other ways that Lehman College and the University of Puerto Rico might work together. We will sign two Statements of Shared Interest next month so that we can begin formally working together. One will be a system-wide agreement between CUNY and the University of Puerto Rico to develop exchange programs, joint research, teaching and learning projects, and to host joint events, conferences and institutes. The second agreement will be between Lehman and the UPR-Arecibo Campus, and will concentrate on creating programs in Journalism and Media, Nursing, and English language skills.
  • It was a pleasure to have a good turnout for the ribbon cutting at the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts. I would like to extend a special thank you to Vice President for Administration and Finance Rene Rotolo for seeing the project through and Senior Vice Chancellor for Facilities Planning, Construction and Management Judith Bergtraum, for all that she has done for Lehman over the years. Among those who attended were Lehman College Alum Bronx Borough President, Ruben Diaz Jr., CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez, Executive Vice Chancellor and former Lehman President José Luis Cruz, Executive Vice Chancellor Hector Batista, CUNY Trustees Michael Arvanites, Una Clarke and former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer, Assembly members Jeffrey Dinowitz, Nathalia Fernandez, Victor Pichardo and José Rivera, Senator Jamaal Bailey and City Council Member Andrew Cohen.
  • Senator Gustavo Rivera came to campus for the CUNY Talks Sexual Health & Empowerment Summit.
  • Councilmember Carlos Menchaca gave a lecture on the importance of Civic Engagement in the Immigrant Community to scholarship recipients of the Mexican Studies Institute.
  • The City Council Higher Education Committee, led by Councilwoman Inez Barron, came to campus on September 26th to learn about STEM education at Lehman. While here, they raised important questions about faculty diversity, and whether it matches the diversity of our student body.

Shared Governance and CUNY-Wide meetings

  • October 2nd: Lehman College Senate
  • October 2nd: Council of Presidents
  • October 7th: CUNY Board of Trustees
  • October 9th: Cabinet Meeting
  • October 14th: Columbus Day-Indigenous Peoples Day/College Closed
  • October 15th: Faculty Personnel & Budget Meeting
  • October 21st: Campus Town Hall to Kick-Off Strategic Plan
  • October 22nd: Community Partner and Alumni Strategic Plan Kick-Off
  • October 22nd: Meeting with State Director of Workforce
  • October 23rd: Strategic Plan Kick-Off with Students, Alumni and the President’s Advisory Board
  • October 24th: Strategic Plan Kick-Off with the Steering Committee
  • October 24th: 6th Annual Global Citizenship Gala Fundraiser
  • October 28th: CUNY Board of Trustees Meeting
  • October 29th: Faculty Personnel & Budget Meeting
  • October 30th: Meeting with Hostos President, Bronx Community College President and Guttman President

Thank you again for all that you have done and will do to help Lehman fulfill and advance its mission. I hope you’ve had 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.