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November 5, 2019

A Message from Lehman College President Daniel Lemons

October was a month full of enriching events and experiences. We began to gather feedback for our Strategic Planning process with Lehman College staff, faculty and students, guided by Dr. Sal Rinella, Senior Associate in the American Association of State Colleges and Universities-Penson Center for Professional Development. We have had a robust start to what will be front and center guiding our campus community over the next five years and it has been heartening to see the early response.

In addition to beginning the Strategic Planning process, we have also initiated a series of convenings and conversations related to renewing and updating our public spaces on campus; contemplated the role our students can play in local and national elections and started to gear up for Census 2020 and more on campus and beyond.

I had the pleasure of attending the opening reception of “Progressive Transition: New York Latin American Art Triennial,” a display of remarkable art from Latinx artists, some of whom I met. It will be in the Lehman Art Gallery through January 25, 2020.

Appearances are not everything, but high-traffic spaces like the lobby of the Music Building should reflect the broad and rich diversity of our Lehman College community. They convey a message about us to our guests on campus. For the first time in October, the Task Force for Public Spaces met to take inventory of the number of spaces that would benefit from renewal, with the goal of sending me a list of recommendations for changes by the end of November. The campus will soon be informed about how to submit suggestions to the committee.

We continue to seek external partnerships like the business networking course we’re piloting with Braven in order to give our students the best possible chance at career success. We are in conversations with CareerWise New York – administered by the South Bronx not-for-profit Here to Here – to explore offering added pathways to employment in the Information Technology, Financial Services and Business Operations industries by leveraging an apprenticeship model that has had success in Europe.

And in a few days, colleges and universities nationwide will recognize first generation students, staff and faculty on November 8th, chosen as the annual commemoration date because it is also the anniversary of the signing of the Higher Education Act of 1965. The HEA legislation was passed to extend opportunity to students otherwise passed over for college access because of economic challenges. Congress has failed in recent attempts to renew the HEA, and the House is currently marking up a bill, but it seems unlikely to be passed in Congress this session.


I had a great conversation with Wendy Lehman Lash, the granddaughter of Herbert H. Lehman. It was a pleasure to meet someone connected to the great humanitarian and public servant for whom our college is named. I hope to continue my conversations with her as well as with Adam Falk, President of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, with whom I also met in October.

Assemblyman Michael Blake, whose Assistant Chief of Staff is a Lehman graduate, and I had a great meeting as well. We discussed the status of higher education in the Bronx and issues facing the four-year graduation rates here, as well as the economic impact of Lehman’s graduates on the borough. He and I are well aware – as are my fellow presidents at City University of New York (CUNY) sister schools in the Bronx, at Bronx Community College and Hostos, of the need for a change that will address TAP funding that is capped significantly below the cost of tuition, better known as the TAP gap. Students receiving TAP awards receive waivers for the difference, so they do not have to pay it, but without full New York State funding of the TAP awards, CUNY and State University of New York (SUNY) schools must go without the needed resources the gap in funding would pay for. Last year, the gap resulted in $6.5 million less funding for Lehman College. We also discussed the philanthropic gap for Bronx institutions and the forthcoming reestablishment of the CUNY Institute for Health Equity.

I attended the American Association of State Colleges and Universities President’s and Chancellor’s Conference in late October and got to be a part of a well-deserved celebration of CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez. I met colleagues from across the country and appreciated the informative sessions on current topics of importance, like the HEA renewal, sustainability and a terrific presentation by Michael Eric Dyson and CUNY Medgar Evers president, Rudi Crew, titled, “Tears we Cannot Stop: A Discussion of Race Relations in the U.S. and its Impact on Communities.”

Dr. Teresita Levy and I attended the Comité Noviembre Annual Gala Benefit on Friday, Nov. 2nd. CUNY Chancellor Matos Rodríguez was an honoree. The organization has four scholarships for students and also runs a number of initiatives in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

At the end of October, Lehman invited many of our stakeholders to join a conversation with panelists Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, CUNY Mexican Studies Institute Deputy Director José Higuera López and Maria Matos, partnership specialist—Bronx area, New York Regional Census Center, U.S. Census Bureau, to discuss the significance of the upcoming Census 2020 in an event called “Making Sense of the Census.” CUNY has launched a system-wide effort in partnership with the NY City Council, New York City Complete Count, which will include encouraging students here at Lehman and beyond to participate in a CUNY Census Corps. The Census is hiring 500,000 temporary workers ahead of Census Day on April 1, 2020. In Bronx County, rates of pay for Census workers are between $20 and $25 an hour. You can apply here.

I met with CUNY Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Operating Officer Hector Batista. Mr. Batista also met with Senior Leadership and Cabinet before touring our beautiful campus. I also met with the Labor Management Committee as well as the CUNY Board of Trustees.

I was pleased to welcome the Regents’ Early Childhood Blue Ribbon Committee of the New York State Education Department to campus on October 17. The Committee, led by Regent Dr. Lester W. Young, Jr., and Regent Dr. Luis O. Reyes, has been examining early childhood care and education in New York State to make recommendations for improvements. The Committee’s daylong work session here was geared toward teacher preparation, convened by Dr. Zoila Morell, of Lehman’s own School of Education. The work of a previous, similar committee resulted in the My Brother’s Keeper Teacher Opportunity Corps II grant at Lehman, which is a major contributor to the teaching workforce in the Bronx and New York City.

I had the great pleasure of being invited to the Times Tech Talks, coordinated by the New York Times, featuring President of the Harlem Children’s Zone Geoffrey Canada in conversation with Op-Ed columnist David Leonhardt, who was the co-author of the study I’ve mentioned both at Convocation and in other venues related to a study of 370 schools among which we had a nine percent higher than predicted graduation rate. At a dinner after the presentation, I had an interesting discussion with Mr. Leonhardt and invited him to visit the campus. A week later, I learned a great deal hearing Mr. Leonhardt in conversation with higher education economist Professor Susan Dynarski, professor of Public Policy, Education and Economics at the University of Michigan at a breakfast hosted by The Steinhardt Institute for Higher Education Policy at New York University. In an afternoon session, the CUNY Grad Center’s Professor Paul Attawell joined Professor Dynarski and other panelists to discuss student socioeconomic mobility.

Celebrating Excellence

Lehman College Alum Jonathan Berenguer, a Bronx native and educator, has been nominated by the New York Daily News as a Hometown Hero, recognized for his resilience and passion for teaching.

One of Lehman’s most highly ranked programs, Nursing, shared, ahead of the first annual C. Alicia Georges Research Conference, that the program will offer a doctor in nursing practice (DNP). The program starts Fall 2020, and soon after will be located in the new $75 million state-of-the-art Nursing, Education, Research and Practice Center, which will house the entire department. Lehman College is scheduled to break ground on the 52,000 square-foot nursing facility in early 2020. Funded by New York State through the CUNY Capital Improvement Program, the New York City Council and the Bronx Borough President’s Office, the Center will be located where the former bookstore stands, between Carman and Davis halls, and will support current nursing pedagogy, with campus-based simulation labs. Construction is expected to take three years to complete.

You have heard me say before that Lehman has a projected enrollment of more than 15,000 – a record since the 1970s. CUNY has shared the news that our sister schools have experienced similar increases, even though many other institutions of higher education are seeing declines. Last month, CUNY reported that overall freshman enrollment at CUNY rose 2.8 percent this fall to 40,768 students.

Strategic Planning

I enjoyed officially kicking off our Strategic Planning Process with dozens of stakeholders in the Lehman community on October 21st. I opened our first meeting to introduce Dr. Sal Rinella, a strategic planning expert who will be consulting with us for this process. I referred to the sometimes cynical, but also relevant musings of Stanley Fish about strategic planning’s potential pitfalls. I presented ten framing questions for thought as over the next few months we set a course for the College for the next five years. That includes thinking more aggressively about diversity in hiring, our environmental impact with regards to climate change and how we might mitigate our carbon footprint and an exploration of what it means to be an anchor institution.

The Strategic Planning Process is happening almost parallel to our work with the CUNY’s Performance Management Process (PMP) an annual goal-setting process that was been submitted to the Chancellor in October and covers 2020-2024. The PMP Process includes setting targets on CUNY-wide priorities like graduation and retention rates, and diversifying faculty. With PMP, we have not been wildly aspirational in setting goals, but at the same time we need to stretch in order to constantly have better results for students, faculty and staff.

That applies to strategic planning as well as the task forces in seven key areas have begun their work. For example, while our graduation rate is nine percent higher than predicted by some external evaluators, we want get to 12 percent or even as high as 18 percent higher in the next five years. The Strategic Planning process is on a timeline that will result in a finalized Strategic Plan by the end of next semester.

Shared Governance and CUNY-Wide meetings

  • November 5th - Faculty, Personnel and Budget
  • November 6th - Council of Presidents
  • November 6th - Lehman College Senate
  • November 22nd - First Annual C. Alicia Georges Nursing Research Conference
  • November 25th - CUNY Board of Trustees Meeting
  • November 28th and 29th - Thanksgiving Day Observance – College Closed

Until next month, enjoy these busy weeks leading up to the end of the semester.

Daniel Lemons

Previous messages from President Lemons can be found here.