As places where individuals gather from across the globe, institutions of higher education are shaped by the world around them even as they shape the next generation. Over the past year, college and university presidents in New York dealt with a number of issues that extend far beyond the borders of the classroom.
Higher education leaders have adapted to reinstating in-person teaching while revising earlier COVID-19 public safety measures. They’ve addressed urgent calls to combat racism and climate change both on and off campus. And they’ve continued to provide students with the skills they need to thrive in an ever-changing economy. Many moved to meet these challenges while collaborating with student bodies, local communities and government officials.
It was also a year that swore off passivity on important issues in favor of speaking up and out. Jim Malatras was forced out as chancellor of the State University of New York following criticisms of his involvement in several scandals that felled his former boss, then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo. A number of institutions made strides in empowering leaders of color. Others advocated aggressively for adequate funding and increased access for low-income students.
City & State’s Higher Education 100, which was researched and written by City & State’s Julia Santiago, reflects these challenges and triumphs as it recognizes the individuals who are redefining what it means to be a leader in higher education.
Since becoming the first Latino chancellor of CUNY in 2019, Félix V. Matos Rodríguez has been a champion for diversity in education for both faculty and students. Matos Rodríguez oversaw the school’s new initiative to bolster its STEM programs for Latino students, and at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, CUNY purchased hundreds of laptops and tablets to make the transition to online learning accessible for all students and created the Chancellor’s Emergency Relief Fund. The chancellor co-chaired New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ transition team, and in February, Matos Rodríguez was named to the mayor’s COVID-19 Recovery Roundtable and Health Equity Task Force.
Since 2017, Martha Pollack has been the head of Cornell University, which has an outsized presence in Ithaca and a notable presence in New York City with its Roosevelt Island campus. In September, the university launched the new Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy, which aims to further the school’s mission in advancing policymaking and management. Pollack also launched a new To Do the Greatest Good campaign, which plans to raise $500 million in financial aid in the hopes of increasing the enrollment of lower- and middle-income students.
Since Andrew Hamilton took over as president in 2016, New York University has seen record growth in the number of first-year applicants, research initiatives and its rankings among national and international universities. In addition to creating a diverse student body, NYU has also placed the lowest increase in year-to-year tuition in over two decades. Most recently, the university has been ranked No. 14 in the nation for sustainability, according to The Princeton Review, due to the university’s grants and initiatives in combating climate change.
Lee Bollinger is Columbia University’s longest-serving president, leading the Ivy League school for more than two decades. In 2019, he announced the creation of the Climate Change Task Force and a new climate school at the university, which was touted at last year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP26, in Glasgow, Scotland. Throughout his term, Bollinger invested in the expansion of the Harlem campus and in the university’s research facilities. He is also a part of the Columbia Law School faculty and teaches a class called Freedom of Speech and Press to undergraduates every year.
Merryl Tisch has long been one of New York’s leading educational policymakers. Before her appointment as chair of the SUNY board of trustees in 2019, Tisch was vice chair of the board and also spent seven years as chancellor of the state Board of Regents. Tisch has argued against the cap on charter schools in New York City and advocated throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for providing SUNY students with increased access to mental health services. Tisch, along with SUNY Vice Chair Cesar Perales, is also overseeing a “global search” for a new chancellor for the 64-school system following the exit of Jim Malatras.
When Deborah Stanley announced her plan to retire as president of SUNY Oswego at the end of 2021, she was on track to wrap up an impressive career in higher education. But Stanley, who led SUNY Oswego for more than a quarter century, instead moved up the career ladder, taking on the role of interim chancellor of the entire 64-school SUNY system in January after the hasty exit of Jim Malatras. Within the same month, SUNY also launched an extensive search to find a permanent chancellor.
William Thompson Jr., who has chaired the CUNY board of trustees since 2016, is approaching the end of his six-year term in June. Thompson has been a champion of diversity, most notably making Félix V. Matos Rodríguez the first person of color to serve as CUNY chancellor and helped guide the system through the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to past mayoral bids and serving as a partner in an investment firm, Thompson previously served as president of the New York City Board of Education.
Seeing higher education as a path to upward mobility, Assembly Member Deborah Glick has fought for public higher education funding and defended the state Tuition Assistance Program and the state’s DREAM Act for undocumented students. In recent months, the Greenwich Village lawmaker pressured SUNY to oust then-Chancellor Jim Malatras, touted the passage of legislation increasing access to graduate education programs and lobbied for renewed aid to SUNY teaching hospitals. She also supported an expansion on the collaboration between CUNY and New York City Health + Hospitals to provide pathways for nursing graduate students.
State Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky became the first woman to chair the state Senate Higher Education Committee in 2019 and has used the post to advocate for adequate funding and keeping tuition increases in check, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. In November, she supported a $1.1 million donation to Queens College in support of contemporary Asian art and a program focusing on mental health connecting SUNY New Paltz and the University of Puerto Rico.
Since becoming president of the University of Rochester in 2019, Sarah Mangelsdorf has worked on increasing access to quality education for all students. The university, which is the area’s largest employer, raised the minimum wage for all staff members to $15 per hour in November as part of its larger initiative to combat poverty and racism in the region. Last May, the university created the University Coalition for Student Mental Health and Wellness per Mangelsdorf’s recommendation, to increase the availability of mental health resources on campus.
Harvey Stenger has led Binghamton University for over a decade, with a focus on boosting its research capabilities. In February, the school maintained its status as a top-ranked research institution, according to a list from The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. The school is also part of a federally funded coalition investing in battery research. In the fall, Stenger marked the opening of the university’s Harriet Tubman Center for Freedom and Equity.
Satish Tripathi in 2011 became the first international-born president of the University at Buffalo, where he has since expanded the SUNY institution’s research development and international presence. He has focused on the transformation of physical spaces on campus to improve student life, including the recent announcement of a renovation of the school’s library and the opening of a new café. Tripathi, who was rumored to be a contender to serve as interim SUNY chancellor, has also expanded his school’s biomedical campus and targeted climate change, with plans to be carbon neutral by 2030.
Susan Poser was inaugurated as the first female president of Hofstra University in the fall, succeeding longtime leader Stuart Rabinowitz. Born and raised in New York City, Poser began her academic career studying law, served as dean of the University of Nebraska College of Law and most recently was vice chancellor at the University of Illinois Chicago. At Hofstra, where Poser just announced a phasing out of the school’s mask mandate, she has emphasized the importance of supporting students and faculty while targeting graduation and retention rates.
Shirley Ann Jackson became the first Black woman to earn a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and to lead a top-tier research university. Since taking the helm at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1999, Jackson has tripled the number of freshman applicants, improved the university’s national ranking and boosted biotechnology and global climate change research. In October, Jackson was appointed to the U.S. Department of Energy Secretary of Energy Advisory Board, along with a group of experts to give advice on combating climate change. At the end of this school year, Jackson will retire.
Havidán Rodríguez, who has led the University at Albany since 2017, guided the SUNY institution through the COVID-19 crisis, conducting research with the state Department of Health on the pandemic’s effects on minority communities and facilitating online learning. He also pioneered the Hispanic Leadership Institute fellowship program to promote SUNY’s Hispanic leaders and recently joined forces with the Albany Law School and Hudson Valley Community College on a joint pathway program through which accepted students can earn degrees from each school.
Maurie McInnis assumed the role of president at Stony Brook University, a world-class research institution, in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic and won praise for implementing public safety protocols. McInnis also oversees Stony Brook Medicine, a leading academic medical center where, in response to COVID-19, researchers at the SUNY school have pursued several avenues for treating or detecting the deadly virus. McInnis also launched a strategic budgeting process across the university.
Under Ari Berman’s leadership, Yeshiva University has risen in the U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of national universities, with the Jewish academic institution currently ranked at No. 68. In the fall, the university announced the new Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks-Herenstein Center for Values and Leadership, which aims to promote critical thinking, complex discussion and leadership skills. Berman has also touted the prowess of his school’s high-performing Division III basketball program.
There’s a lot more to Syracuse than basketball. Since taking the reins in 2014, Kent Syverud has increased the university’s research in STEM and programs that foster diversity and equity. In 2020, he oversaw initiatives to bolster support for students with disabilities. In November, the university opened a new $62.5 million resource center dedicated to veterans and their families. Syverud aims to make Syracuse the most supportive university for veterans, with the center offering career development training and an innovative research lab.
Since taking office as the president of the Rochester Institute of Technology in 2017, David Munson has positioned the university as one of the nation’s leading institutions in technology, design and the arts. This past year, RIT has expanded many of its schools and programs, including the business school, center for design and performing arts spaces. Munson is also supporting RIT’s Action Plan for Race and Ethnicity, which aims to make the university a more inclusive and equitable place.
Jennifer Raab has been the president of Hunter College for more than two decades, and during that time, she has spearheaded a number of initiatives to improve the CUNY institution. An attorney and former chair of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, Raab has helped the school garner over $400 million in donations as well as leading improvements to the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College and Hunter’s School of Social Work.
Since Frederick E. Kowal was elected president of the United University Professions in 2013, he has led the nation’s largest public higher education union in a number of battles on behalf of 37,000 academic and professional faculty at SUNY. In recent years, he has advocated for coronavirus protections for his members and increased staffing at SUNY hospitals, and this year, he’s calling for a $250 million increase in funding for SUNY beyond the governor’s proposal after years of budget cuts.
James Davis last year was elected president of the Professional Staff Congress, a labor union representing 30,000 faculty and staff at CUNY. An English professor at Brooklyn College, Davis previously spent five years as the union’s chapter chair at the school. Only two months into the position, Davis took to the streets and led a rally calling on New York City to create a better plan for monitoring and reducing the spread of COVID-19 on CUNY campuses. Davis has also been fighting for additional funding as part of an initiative to make what he calls #APeoplesCUNY.
The Rev. Joseph McShane, who has served as Fordham University’s president for nearly two decades, is set to retire in June. McShane, who championed many initiatives to cultivate Fordham’s growth and attract strong applicants each year, has overseen the Jesuit school's transformation from a strong regional institution to a highly rated national university. During his tenure, he has raised $1 billion for the university. In February, the school announced that Tania Tetlow, the president of Loyola University New Orleans, would succeed McShane, becoming the first woman and the first layperson to lead the school.
Joanie Mahoney became the first female president to lead the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in 2020. The following year, the school was ranked in the top 10 in The Princeton Review’s list of “Top 50 Green Colleges.” Under her leadership, the school has been dedicated to research and innovation in sustainability and was awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation to serve underrepresented students in science and technology fields. Mahoney previously served as an Onondaga County executive and remains board chair at the state Thruway Authority.
La Jerne Terry Cornish has risen quickly through the leadership ranks at Ithaca College. She joined the private institution as its provost and senior vice president for academic affairs in 2018, succeeded Shirley Collado in the role of interim president last year and was appointed to the top post on a permanent basis in March. Cornish has helped launch a physician assistant studies graduate program, announced a new music, theater and dance school and spearheaded the Ithaca Forever strategic plan.
A Siena College alumnus, Christopher Gibson became the president of Siena College in 2020. Since then, he has led efforts to promote equity and racial justice through curriculum reform and student and faculty recruitment. Gibson is also a military veteran and served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, where he was known as a relative moderate. One of his first initiatives at Siena was encouraging nonpartisan student engagement in democracy.
Since becoming Baruch College’s first Asian American president in 2020, S. David Wu has led the CUNY school through the COVID-19 pandemic while pursuing a vision of academic excellence and increased opportunities for economic mobility. Wu is the former provost and executive vice president of George Mason University, where he focused on eliminating academic disparities, and he has set similar goals at Baruch’s Manhattan campus. Wu was recently recognized as one of the “Outstanding 50 Asian Americans in Business” by the Asian American Business Development Center.
After unexpectedly donating $30 million apiece to Lehman College and the Borough of Manhattan Community College in 2020, philanthropist MacKenzie Scott hasn’t shut off the flow of charitable donations. In June, Scott announced some $2.7 billion in donations to nearly 300 charities, including $15 million awarded to Hostos Community College in the Bronx. Scott, who was once married to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, announced another round of grants in December, but declined to make the details public for the time being.
Darryl Williams graduated from West Point in the early 1980s and went on to become the military academy’s first Black superintendent four decades later in 2018. Since becoming the head of the U.S. Army service academy, he has put an emphasis on developing leaders of character while tackling a number of schoolwide issues, from sexual assault to racial justice. Williams’ efforts have been spurred by his belief that open discussion between cadets on difficult topics will drive academic success.
Prior to becoming The New School’s first Black president, Dwight McBride had nearly three decades of experience promoting inclusivity and equity in academia. Since assuming the presidency at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, McBride has outlined goals for expanding the Manhattan private institution’s fundraising and deepening its connections to alumni. He is also focused on social justice initiatives and developing The New School’s cultural role within New York City.
Although Anthony Collins’ nearly 20-year run as president of Clarkson University will come to an end in June, his role in expanding the university’s academics and national reputation will leave a lasting legacy. Under his leadership, the university has expanded to include the Lewis School of Health Sciences and has promoted economic development in the area. Collins has also emphasized advancing STEM education, including efforts around technology and sustainability.
Vincent Boudreau is the president of The City College of New York, where he previously was the founding dean of the institution’s Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership. Boudreau, who initially held his post in an interim capacity, has endeavored to improve funding for the school. The college’s Center for Co-Innovation and Medical Technology recently was chosen to receive a $750,000 grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration in order to spur medical innovation and create jobs in the Greater Harlem area.
In 1991, Guillermo Linares became the first Dominican-born individual to win election to public office in the United States. The former New York City Council member, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs and Assembly member now leads the state Higher Education Services Corp., the state student financial aid agency that administers tuition assistance. Linares has been a staunch advocate for COVID-19 vaccination for students and for robust scholarship funding.
Last year, the Rev. Brian J. Shanley became the 18th president of St. John’s University, where he has focused on increasing equity in education, citing the Vincentian principle of service to the poor. Shanley has also focused on expanding the university’s athletic facilities to enhance student engagement. In November, the university unveiled the new Institute for Critical Race and Ethnic Studies, a research center that aims to create partnerships both inside and outside of the university to study and combat systemic racism.
Since Christine Riordan became Adelphi University’s first female president in 2015, she has since championed many initiatives and spurred the Long Island school’s ongoing expansion. Under her leadership, Adelphi has launched over 30 new academic programs and has met a 94% career placement rate for undergraduates. Riordan also established the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Adelphi which has initiated a new training program for all faculty and staff. In December, she was named to Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman’s transition team.
Prior to joining John Jay College of Criminal Justice in 2017, Karol Mason ran the Office of Justice Programs in the U.S. Department of Justice. Mason is an expert on juvenile justice and bail reform, and her John Jay colleagues often weigh in on local criminal justice debates. The college was recently awarded $47.7 million by the U.S. Department of Education to expand STEM opportunities for Latino students and $2.6 million to study the effectiveness of New York City’s gun violence interruption initiatives.
Since 2016, David Wippman has led Hamilton College, where he has launched a $400 million campaign for need-based student financial aid and fought for an increase in Pell Grants. Wippman has also served as dean of the University of Minnesota Law School, had a stint as a director in the National Security Council’s Office of Multilateral and Humanitarian Affairs and now represents the interests of independent colleges and universities on the board of The Commission on Independent Colleges & Universities in New York.
William Murphy took on the role of deputy commissioner for higher education in the state Education Department in 2019, after spending over eight years in the agency as bureau chief for professional education. During a state Senate committee hearing on the quality, equity and affordability of public higher education last November, Murphy listed a number of initiatives the agency took during the coronavirus pandemic, including efforts to ensure that teacher and health professional licensing continued.
Dr. Alan Kadish’s efforts since becoming president of Touro College in 2010 culminated in a major milestone – the institution in New York is now officially Touro University. Touro, which was formed a little over a half century ago as a Jewish institution, now serves some 19,000 students at 35 schools in five states, including New York Medical College. The university also unveiled plans in January to create a new 243,305-square-foot campus in Times Square.
Marvin Krislov has sought to position Pace University as the nation’s top private school for economic mobility and academic success. Last summer, Pace University unveiled the new Barry M. and Jackie Gosin Center for Equity and Inclusion, which fosters efforts against racism and holds academic and entrepreneurial opportunities for students of color. Under Krislov’s leadership, the university recently opened The Center for Sustainable Business just steps away from Wall Street, which puts a focus on social and environmental needs in addition to economic ones.
Kimberly Cline’s tenure as president of Long Island University has been marked by an emphasis on expansion – perhaps most notably in the arts. She helped establish the School of Arts and Communication at Long Island University in Brooklyn and recently oversaw the launch of the School of Film and Digital Media. The new film school has attracted big names in the industry, from film producer Michael Tadross to actress Whoopi Goldberg and Broadway producer Wendy Federman.
Frank Wu became the first Asian American president of Queens College in 2020 and has since been dedicated to fighting racism and promoting equity within the university. Last fall, the college received an endowment of $1.1 million from a local manufacturer to fund contemporary Asian art. Wu is also working on the launch of a Queens College School of Business that will offer degrees in finance, risk management and quantitative economics.
Kevin C. Weinman was announced as Marist College’s president last summer, a return home of sorts for a native New Yorker who grew up in New Jersey. Weinman, who previously served as chief financial and administrative officer at Amherst College, took the reins in October aiming to maintain as much in-person learning as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, addressing mental health needs and combating sexual abuse at the college are among his top priorities. Weinman also kicked off Marist's largest hiring effort with the goal of increasing the diversity of the faculty and staff.
Henry Foley became the president of the New York Institute of Technology in 2017, bringing his wide experience and knowledge in economic development and research to the school, which has campuses on Long Island and in Manhattan. Foley has sought to increase the university’s global outreach and management of resources. The institute’s School of Architecture & Design recently secured philanthropic support for its digital fabrication and robotic matter labs, and graduate programs.
Since stepping into the position of president of Lehman College last July, Fernando Delgado has been focused on advancing the success of Lehman’s many first-generation students – as he was once one himself. The college was recognized last year as one of 35 “Fulbright Hispanic-Serving Institution Leaders” by the U.S. Department of State. Delgado also worked with The Bronx Institute at Lehman College to win a $12.2 million grant to connect low-income students with educational opportunities.
Since 2009, Brennan O’Donnell has been the president of Manhattan College. Manhattan College was recently listed as one of the nation’s universities with top student voter turnout, with nearly 60% voting in 2020. Last fall, the college’s 30,000-square-foot Patricia and Cornelius J. Higgins '62 Engineering and Science Center opened, with plans to provide new lab resources for students to collaborate with others in research.
Sian Leah Beilock was named president of Barnard College in 2017, following her 12-year tenure as a cognitive scientist and psychology professor at The University of Chicago. Barnard, a 3,000-student institution which sits next to and often partners with Columbia University, opened the Francine A. LeFrak Foundation Center for Well-Being in 2020 on Beilock’s watch. This year, she brought on Emma Wolfe, a former top adviser to then-New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, as senior adviser to the president.
As the president of Colgate University since 2016, Brian Casey has championed efforts to make the school more accessible and equitable. Recently, the university announced a program to provide full tuition assistance to low-income students, starting with the class of 2026. Other universitywide initiatives that Casey has initiated include efforts to promote diversity and inclusion as well as improve the school’s sustainability efforts. Colgate recently touted a 102% increase in applications for the class of 2025.
Ty Stone isn’t just a leader in higher education – she’s a driver of economic growth too. The president of Jefferson Community College since 2017, Stone also co-chairs the North Country Regional Economic Development Council and has been laser-focused on job growth in her upstate community. The college’s plans to revive its downtown area, which were scrapped in 2020, were recently reinstated. The plan includes renovating an old nightclub into an educational facility and hub for students, in part as a way to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
Since Elizabeth Bradley came on as president of Vassar College in 2017, she has expanded its reach beyond its campus in Poughkeepsie. She has forged partnerships overseas in China, India and Rwanda, while collaborating closer to home with Columbia University on a joint, five-year master’s of public health program. Bradley was named to the state’s New York Forward Reopening Advisory Board during the coronavirus pandemic, and in January, she became a director of the American Association of Colleges and Universities.
Since 2018, David Harris has focused on advancing the Union College Challenge – an effort to encourage students to participate in something they have never done before. Harris has also overseen the college’s plan to bridge together the liberal arts with engineering. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Harris created task forces and programs to accommodate students with remote learning and campus safety policies. The college recently began working with the Schuler Education Foundation to invest up to $40 million to fund the tuition of low-income students.
Cristle Collins Judd is wrapping up her first term leading Sarah Lawrence College, and last summer, she was extended for a six-year term. She has not only boosted the private liberal arts college’s campus – completing a $200 million capital campaign in 2019, building a new campus center and a theater – but also spearheaded a civic engagement initiative with its neighbors in Westchester County. The community engagement effort was funded by a $1.2 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, where Judd previously served as a senior program officer.
After more than a decade serving as the president of SUNY New Paltz, Donald Christian is set to retire from the position in June. Throughout his time as president, Christian oversaw initiatives to expand the school’s programs to meet student interests, including new STEM and 3D printing programs. The school drew attention for using its technology to print over 24,000 face shields during the coronavirus pandemic.
Last year was a big year for Iona College. The Westchester-based Catholic institution, with campuses in New Rochelle and Bronxville, is moving forward with its NewYork-Presbyterian Iona School of Health Sciences, set to open in 2023 thanks to $20 million in funding from the major medical provider. Iona also finalized a purchase of the campus of the now-defunct Concordia College in Bronxville, where the new health sciences school will be sited. At the helm of Iona is Seamus Carey, who has served as president since 2019.
Since assuming the presidency at St. Joseph’s College New York in 2017, Donald R. Boomgaarden has boosted enrollment across its campuses in Brooklyn, Long Island and online. Among Boomgaarden’s efforts are a $17 million student center scheduled to be opened in 2023 and an emphasis on instilling Catholic values of social responsibility, service and inclusion. Last year, Boomgaarden was appointed to serve as a board trustee on The Commission on Independent Colleges & Universities in New York.
Since Laura Sparks became the first female president of The Cooper Union in 2017, she has improved the school’s finances and continued to promise full-tuition scholarships for undergraduate students by 2029. Sparks also oversaw the school’s recent addition of a center for digital fabrication for students specializing in art, engineering and architecture. During the COVID-19 pandemic, The Cooper Union also served a vital role in donating supplies such as goggles, masks and wipes to essential workers.
As president of St. Francis College since 2017, Miguel Martinez-Saenz has focused on education reform and creating an inclusive learning experience for all students. Last year, the college appointed Jeanne Arnold as its first permanent chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer as part of a larger universitywide initiative to create a welcoming environment for all. As an advocate of increasing students’ social and economic mobility, Martinez-Saenz forged a partnership with Cerberus Capital Management to help connect students to professional opportunities and resources in finance and technology.
As the leader of Bard College for more than four decades, Leon Botstein has become synonymous with the Annandale-on-Hudson institution. With a background in music, Botstein has emphasized arts and humanities in developing a well-rounded liberal arts experience. In 1990, Botstein developed the Bard Music Festival, which expanded programming after the creation of the school’s Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts. Botstein has also cultivated Bard’s international ties, including a decision to finance full tuition for 100 Afghan refugee students.
In order to run the City University of New York’s sprawling, 25-campus system, Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez relies heavily on aides such as Executive Vice Chancellor Hector Batista. Batista, who also serves as CUNY’s chief operating officer, was named to the post in 2019 after serving as CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City. Batista this summer will be joined by Wendy Hensel, who was named CUNY’s executive vice chancellor and university provost in February.
New York City Council Member Eric Dinowitz entered politics by following in the footsteps of his father, Assembly Member Jeffrey Dinowitz – and an intense interest in educational policy runs in the family as well. The younger Dinowitz, who previously taught special education and served as a local leader of the United Federation of Teachers, was named chair of the City Council’s Higher Education Committee after winning a full term last fall. The elder Dinowitz has been a proponent of increased school aid for New York City.
At Cornell Tech, Greg Morrisett has been dedicated to fostering academic innovation and increased social responsibility and inclusion in the tech sector. Morrisett has helped spearhead new artificial intelligence initiatives that can supplement studies in media and technology. Morrisett has also advanced initiatives towards diversity within Cornell Tech, among both faculty and the student body, to create systems that stop the perpetuation of stereotypes and biases.
Jelena Kovačević became the first female dean of the NYU Tandon School of Engineering in 2018 and has since focused on expanding representation for women in engineering as well as investing in the school’s research initiatives. NYU Tandon’s current freshman class has over double the number of women than the national average in engineering, and women make up a quarter of the school’s faculty. Tandon is now planning to launch a new program for robotics and innovation.
In 2020, Kenneth Adams became the president of LaGuardia Community College, where he has capitalized on his prior experience in workforce and economic development as dean at Bronx Community College, president and CEO of Empire State Development and the state’s tax and finance commissioner. On Adams’ watch, LaGuardia has launched a cybersecurity training program, a coronavirus-era financial aid relief program for students in need and STEM programs for Hispanic and low-income students.
Marion Terenzio has served since 2015 as president of SUNY Cobleskill, a 2,500-student school. Terenzio, who had previous stops at Bloomfield College in New Jersey and The Sage Colleges in New York, also serves as co-chair of the Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Council and is a member of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities’ Task Force on Community Partnerships.
Since Michelle Anderson was named president of Brooklyn College in 2016, she has launched a number of initiatives, including the We Stand Against Hate campaign that fights against racism and promotes diversity and equity. In November, Brooklyn College announced the opening of a new cancer center aimed at reducing health care inequality among cancer patients. The school also launched its Healthcare Career Hub of Central and South Brooklyn in August to encourage students to become health care professionals in a post-pandemic world.
In 2020, Berenecea Johnson Eanes was named president of York College, following a full school year in which she served as the CUNY school’s interim president. During her tenure, Eanes has focused on creating an engaging and inclusive student community. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she created an emergency relief fund for students that now exceeds $50,000. She has also been focused on growing graduation and retention rates at the Jamaica, Queens, campus, which in the past few years have been rising.
Anthony Crowell has led New York Law School for nearly a decade, becoming its dean after serving as counselor to then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Since coming to New York Law School in 2012, Crowell has developed the school’s academic programming and expanded its role in its Tribeca neighborhood. Last year, the school established a Tribeca Pandemic Recovery Task Force to bring relief to community organizations, businesses and workers. Crowell also has overseen several strategic planning efforts, revamped the curriculum and created an office of diversity, equity and inclusion.
As president of Monroe College, Marc Jerome envisions an affordable and accessible education to all regardless of background or status. Last year, Monroe College was ranked No. 21 on Newsweek’s list of the most affordable private colleges in the United States. Since becoming Monroe’s president in 2017, Jerome has led initiatives providing local students with a debt-free education. He has also pioneered multiple partnerships in countries in Africa and the Caribbean for international students to earn a degree at Monroe.
Joyce P. Jacobsen became the first female president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges in 2019 and has since used her expertise in economics to move the university forward. Jacobsen has boosted fundraising and championed successful infrastructure and sustainability. Last year, the school announced the addition of 12 new campus sports, which Jacobsen believes will help foster community during the pandemic and beyond. She recently received the 2021 Carolyn Shaw Bell Award for individuals who help advance women in economics.
Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Steve Coll has spent nearly a decade as dean of the Columbia Journalism School, and he will step down in June while continuing to teach budding journalists. At Columbia, Coll oversaw the opening of The Ira A. Lipman Center for Journalism and Civil and Human Rights and the addition of a data journalism graduate degree. In 2020, the school partnered with the Pulitzer Center to fund grants for individuals in the class of 2020 due to COVID-19 disruptions.
Since 2014, SUNY Buffalo State College President Katherine S. Conway-Turner has maintained a strong focus on fostering a tight-knit community that welcomes diversity and inclusion. On campus, she has put forth community service as a primary focus and connects with the large student body via her frequent social media outreach. Conway-Turner also successfully navigated the fall 2021 semester return to in-person learning, while pushing for both student and faculty vaccination for COVID-19. She currently serves as a co-chair of the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council.
Since becoming the president of Queensborough Community College in 2020, Christine Mangino has revitalized the school both physically and academically. Last year, the Bayside, Queens, CUNY community college received $430,000 from the state’s Workforce Development Initiative fund towards the school’s Certified Recovery Peer Advocate program. The program helps individuals seeking to recover from substance abuse enter the workforce. In December, the school celebrated the opening of a new campus building that marks its first expansion in 60 years.
Milagros Peña in 2020 became the first Latina president of Purchase College – in the entire 64-school SUNY system – and has since been a champion of inclusive and accessible education. With 83% of Purchase College students hailing from New York state, Pena has emphasized the school’s responsibility to give back to the broader Westchester community. Last year, construction of a senior citizen housing development on the campus of Purchase College was approved.
When Joyce Brown was named president of the Fashion Institute of Technology in 1998, she became the first female and first African American person to lead the SUNY school. Over the years, Brown has expanded FIT’s Manhattan facilities and added new programs with the objective of creating a more well-rounded liberal arts education rooted in critical thinking. The school recently unveiled The Social Justice Center at FIT to create more accessible and equitable opportunities for students of color.
Diane Recinos was named the president of Berkeley College in March, and she brings a deep understanding of the institution, having been a part of its administration for nearly three decades. Prior to her appointment, Recinos held roles as Berkeley’s interim president and as senior vice president of student success, a role in which she was in charge of campus operations, marketing and offices of disability and veteran services. The school educates some 3,800 students online and at campuses in Manhattan and New Jersey.
Medgar Evers College was founded in 1970 to fill a need for a local institution of higher learning in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn – and that principle of community development lives on to this day. Patricia Ramsey, who took over as president of CUNY’s only predominantly Black institution last year, has partnered with the city on economic recovery efforts, teamed up with Brooklyn College and Kingsborough Community College on a health care career hub and launched CUNY’s first cannabis degree program.
The Graduate Center at the City University of New York has a long track record as a trailblazer, whether it’s producing cutting-edge research or breaking gender barriers. The Graduate Center’s current president, Robin L. Garrell, followed the lead of Mina Rees, another female scientist who became the founding dean in 1962. The Graduate Center over the years has awarded more than 15,000 degrees, and it had around 3,500 doctoral and master’s students as of 2019.
Lola Brabham was appointed in 2021 to lead The Commission on Independent Colleges & Universities in New York, which represents over 100 private, nonprofit institutions of higher learning. Brabham is no stranger to working with New York’s political leaders. She served as commissioner of the state Department of Civil Service and was a member of the New York State Council on Women and Girls. Brabham has advocated for increasing financial aid for students due to the coronavirus pandemic and expanding access to graduate programs.
Daisy Coco De Filippis became interim president of Hostos Community College in 2020 and assumed the role on a permanent basis last year. The first female Dominican president of any CUNY school, she has led efforts to promote community engagement as well as social and economic mobility among a diverse student body. An expert in Dominican women studies, Cocco De Filippis previously served as the president of Naugatuck Valley Community College and was Hostos’ provost and senior vice president for academic affairs.
President Kevin Drumm has driven SUNY Broome Community College’s expansion during his 12-year tenure, including the construction of a natural science center, the renovation of its welcome center and its manufacturing center, the opening of on-campus housing for the first time and the conversion of Binghamton’s Carnegie Library into a culinary and events center. Drumm, who co-chairs the Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council, also formed a partnership with Binghamton University President Harvey Stenger to allow Broome students to continue their education at Binghamton’s School of Management.
With an endowment of over $8 billion, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation bills itself as the country’s “largest supporter of the arts and humanities.” The Manhattan-based foundation has awarded thousands of grants to institutions across the country, including Syracuse University, Barnard College and Hunter College in New York. Led by poet and scholar Elizabeth Alexander since 2018, the foundation was formed in 1969 by children of the industrialist and former U.S. Treasury Secretary Andrew W. Mellon. In 2020, Alexander announced that the foundation would focus solely on social justice moving forward.
For over a quarter century, Emily Tow has headed The Tow Foundation, an organization supporting nonprofits that aid underserved populations, with a major focus on higher education. Tow has led the foundation from its roots as a small family organization to a foundation with over $20 million in annual donations. Her work in philanthropy extends beyond The Tow Foundation, including as a trustee of The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization raising awareness in criminal justice, and as a board member of the New York State Juvenile Justice Advisory Group.
Prior to succeeding Calvin O. Butts III as president of SUNY Old Westbury in 2021, Timothy Sams had served as the vice president of three academic institutions: Prairie View A&M University in Texas, Morehouse College in Georgia and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York. Under Sams’ leadership, SUNY Old Westbury has been recognized for its efforts at social justice, diversity and social mobility. In December, Sams was named to the advisory transition committee of Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman.
Since becoming the president of Mercy College in 2014, Timothy Hall has been advancing equity for minority and low-income students. Mercy College is known for its Personalized Achievement Contract mentoring program, in which students are paired with experts who give advice on academic, professional and social aspects. Under Hall’s leadership, the freshman class retention rate has risen by 10%. Last year, Hall made sure that transparency was prioritized and resources were available during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Medaille College, a private college with campuses in Buffalo and Rochester, is aiming to become a university, beginning the process of applying for a change in designation that President Kenneth Macur said better aligned with the school’s educational offerings. Macur, who has led the college since 2015, announced last year $1.5 million in need-based grants to attract students primarily from rural areas. Macur was also elected chair of the Committee on Policy Analysis & Public Relations for the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities last summer.
Claudia Schrader made history in 2018 as the first Black president of Kingsborough Community College. When in-person learning at the Brooklyn campus was shut down due to COVID-19, Schrader stayed in touch with students by visiting them outside their homes or offices. Schrader, who is originally from St. Croix, previously held leadership positions within the City University of New York, including as provost at Bronx Community College and associate provost at Medgar Evers College.
It was only a decade ago that The New Community College at CUNY – since renamed Guttman Community College – began educating students in Manhattan. Last summer, Larry D. Johnson Jr. became the school’s second president. He brings two decades of experience in higher education, having most recently served as the president of Phoenix College, an Arizona community college. Last fall, Johnson announced a new speakers series on campus featuring prominent individuals in the New York City area to discuss timely issues.
Joanne Passaro, who has led Metropolitan College of New York since 2018, has displayed a commitment to social justice, both in her research into homeless New Yorkers and in carrying out the college’s mission in her role as a higher education leader. Under Passaro, the school hosted multiple vaccination sites on its Bronx and Manhattan campuses. Passaro is also a member on the board of trustees of The Commission on Independent Colleges & Universities in New York.
Donna Stelling-Gurnett heads the Association of Proprietary College, an organization that represents 11 for-profit colleges in New York and advocates for their interests before state and federal government officials. In January, Stelling-Gurnett responded to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s State of the State address by saying the state should extend part-time Tuition Assistance Program funding to all New York colleges, including those she represents. Last year, she called on the Biden administration to extend proposed Pell Grant increases to proprietary schools as well.
Led by President Daisey Holmes, the BNY Mellon Foundation helps advance the educational success of underprivileged students in New York and Pennsylvania. The foundation was created by the global asset manager BNY Mellon, which has funded initiatives focused on financial inequity, social entrepreneurship and diversity and inclusion. Holmes oversaw the launch of a $1 million scholarship grant to low-income CUNY students in 2019 and followed that up in 2020 with another $10 million grant for CUNY’s NYC Future of Work Initiative.
Years before COVID-19, CUNY officials decided to create a school of public health. Ayman El-Mohandes, who in 2013 became the first permanent dean of what’s now the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy, has helped establish the school as an independent entity with its own campus in Harlem. In February, the school teamed up with U.S. Military Academy at West Point to secure a $12.4 million award to create an intelligence and computational modeling center for nutrition and health.
The Pratt Institute is led by Frances Bronet, who became president of the Brooklyn-based art, architecture and design school in 2018. She has been active with the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture over the years, including as president and co-founder of its Women’s Leadership Council. In March, Bronet applauded New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ “blueprint” for an economic recovery in the city, saying its emphasis on green building technologies and the creative and design sector would “drive more inclusive economic growth.”
Abby Jo Sigal was recently appointed to run the Mayor’s Office of Talent and Workforce Development, which connects underserved New Yorkers with training and employment in key industries. It’s a natural next step for Sigal, who previously led Here to Here, which prepares low-income New York students for college and beyond. Sigal also ran The James and Judith K. Dimon Foundation, a funder of Here to Here. Last year, she worked with the New York Jobs CEO Council to help low-income CUNY students find jobs.
In September, Richard Buery Jr. took the reins of Robin Hood, a major nonprofit organization devoted to reducing poverty in New York City. Buery brings a wealth of experience to the organization, including as a former deputy mayor for strategic policy initiatives in the de Blasio administration, as president and CEO of Children’s Aid Society and in several leadership roles within the charter school sector. While Robin Hood has funded a variety of social services, it has also focused on higher education, whether it’s helping immigrants attend college or finding ways to increase graduation rates at community colleges.
A longtime benefactor of the City University of New York, the Brooklyn-based Carroll and Milton Petrie Foundation awards grants to New York City colleges and nonprofit organizations that align with its mission of combating poverty through higher education and getting people jobs. The foundation has been run for a little over two years by Cass Conrad, who previously spent a decade and a half at CUNY working on school support and development.
New York State United Teachers, the state teachers union, garners more headlines pushing for funding or policy changes affecting the teachers it represents in public schools, but it advocates for a number of college-level employees as well. The union’s point person on higher education issues is Roberta Elins, who chairs NYSUT’s Higher Ed Policy Council and also has served for the past decade as president of the United College Employees of Fashion Institute of Technology, where she’s also a professor of advertising and marketing communications.
As a partner at top lobbying firm Greenberg Traurig, Pamela Madeiros specializes in legislative and regulatory matters, with a special focus on education and professional licensing. She assists clients navigating the state Education Department’s Office of Professions, which oversees education, licensing and discipline in a number of professions, as well as the department’s Office of College and University Evaluation and Bureau of Proprietary School Supervision. Among her recent clients are the Coalition of New York State Career Schools and NYU School of Medicine.
In July, Michael Lindsey will become dean of the New York University Silver School of Social Work. A scholar of poverty, inequality and child mental health, Lindsey currently heads the NYU McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research. “Ensuring that students have the best possible experience in terms of their preparation to be social workers is critically important,” Lindsey told Washington Square News after his appointment was announced. “When they graduate from the program, they should feel prepared to go into any community and any setting and do great social work.”
Lennyn Jacob is an adult student at Bronx Community College, the mother of a son with autism and an activist on behalf of CUNY students who have disabilities. In testimony before the state Legislature last year, Jacob called for more funding to support the 11,000 current CUNY students with disabilities, who often faced greater challenges when schools went to remote learning during the coronavirus pandemic.
Perla Rodriguez was promoted to the position of director of education programs at the Hispanic Federation in January, a role in which she supports Latino students from early childhood to the collegiate level. Rodriguez has overseen numerous programs, such as the Latino Education Advocacy Directors Coalition,which advocates for the rights of Latino and other underserved individuals across New York. The program now offers remote learning resources for both students and parents in planning for higher education.
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