Leading a college or university is not limited to such traditional responsibilities as carrying out an educational mission, overseeing faculty and staff, balancing budgets and serving as an institution’s public face. Today, the job increasingly involves navigating political battles. In an era of rising partisanship, higher education leaders must balance free speech and academic freedom with the sensitivities of students. They must determine how best to achieve student and faculty diversity. And are they positioning their institutions as engines of economic mobility, or saddling graduates with student loan debts?
City & State’s Higher Education Power 100 recognizes New York’s most influential academic leaders, who are answering these questions every day. Unlike other rankings, this list isn’t based on graduation rates, class size or test scores. Instead, we identified the college and university officials making the biggest difference, both on campus and off, whether it’s spurring job growth, advocating for policy changes or advising city and state government officials. The list, primarily made up of New York’s higher education leaders, also features lawmakers, labor leaders, philanthropists, advocates and other players in the world of postsecondary education.
Félix Matos Rodríguez is dealing with many of the same issues that have been confronting university leaders nationwide. Following a rise in antisemitism on campus, he announced a new online portal to better report incidents as part of a $1 million program on the subject. He has also ordered a 5% budget cut and hiring freeze to address a projected budget shortfall following a financial report projecting a deficit if not for federal stimulus funds. In response, critics claim that Matos Rodriguez waited too long to address antisemitism and that the budget cuts come after top CUNY officials received raises of up to 30%.
In their search for the new leader of the nation’s largest university system, SUNY’s board found someone familiar in the ways of both Albany and Washington, D.C., John B. King Jr., a former U.S. education secretary and state education commissioner, took the reins of SUNY in January. King, who had an unsuccessful run for Maryland governor last year, will need to quickly put his political savvy to work to address pending tuition hikes and the perennial budget issues confronting his new place of business.
The state Senate Democrats’ longtime point person on higher education, Toby Ann Stavisky is voicing support for parts of the Hochul administration’s higher education budget but pushing back on tuition hikes: She wants the budget to focus more on increases in state operating aid. Stavisky is also pressing for more equity on spending plans between SUNY and CUNY. Recently, Stavisky has teamed up with Binghamton Assembly Member Donna Lupardo on legislation to address the state’s nursing shortage.
This year’s Assembly committee reshuffle saw the longtime Higher Education Committee chair, Deborah Glick, move over to environmental conservation, and Albany Democrat Patricia Fahy trade the banking gavel for higher education. Fahy, a former Albany school board member, is now thrust into the debate over proposed SUNY tuition hikes. Fahy is questioning a proposal that would see a 30% hike over five years for SUNY campuses, including University at Albany, noting a need for more state funds.
With graduate student stipends continuing to be a hot-button topic, Martha Pollack announced an initiative to address the issue at Cornell University in early February. In September, Cornell’s graduate students will see an 8% hike – to $43,326 – for 12-month appointments. Pollack also navigated campus free speech issues last year, letting a speech by conservative commentator Ann Coulter go forward despite protests outside. Pollack has been focused on the concept of “One Cornell” to link the university’s rural and urban footprint between Ithaca and Manhattan.
While Lee Bollinger is wrapping up his two-decade-plus run in Morningside Heights as president of Columbia University, his legacy will be felt at the institution and beyond for decades to come. Bollinger overcame community opposition to build a new campus in Manhattanville. He has expanded Columbia’s global reach, opening 10 Global Centers on four continents. A leading First Amendment scholar, Bollinger will continue to teach at Columbia – and will continue to opine on national free speech debates – when the London School of Economics and Political Science’s Nemat “Minouche” Shafik takes over on July 1.
William Thompson Jr. has made a commitment to innovation in New York City’s education and economic systems. He has been using his perch leading CUNY’s board of trustees to push that work, which includes creating a $1.6 billion life sciences campus in Kips Bay, Manhattan, which he jointly announced last year with Gov. Kathy Hochul and New York City Mayor Eric Adams. The new campus will expand the city’s health system while providing health education spaces and life sciences research facilities.
Longtime New York government, education and civic leaders Merryl Tisch and Cesar Perales now lead the SUNY board of trustees, which serves the nation’s largest university system. Tisch, a former chancellor of the state Board of Regents, led the selection of John B. King Jr., a former state education commissioner, as SUNY’s new chancellor, marking a reunion for the two educational policymakers. Perales, a trailblazing Latino leader who co-founded what’s now LatinoJustice PRLDEF, joined SUNY’s board in 2019 after serving as an assistant secretary in Jimmy Carter’s administration, state social services commissioner and as New York City deputy mayor for health and human services.
Andrew Hamilton’s seven-and-a-half-year leadership of NYU will end in June. During that time, he has expanded the university’s global reach, its engagement with New York City and its diversity efforts: This year’s freshman class set records for racial and socioeconomic diversity. Hamilton also steered NYU’s medical school to become tuition-free, making it the first top-rated medical school in the nation to do so. Hamilton, who will be succeeded by longtime NYU administrator Linda Mills this summer, will return to the school’s chemistry faculty.
The University at Albany plays a key role in the state capital, as a major SUNY institution that has over 17,000 students – and its leader, Havidán Rodríguez, has enjoyed a high profile as well since he came on in 2017. Rodríguez is also the executive director of SUNY’s Hispanic Leadership Institute and co-chair of the Capital Region Economic Development Council and was recently appointed to President Joe Biden’s Advisory Commission on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Hispanics.
A chemical engineer by training, Harvey Stenger held a succession of administrative roles before his appointment to lead Binghamton University over a decade ago. Following his arrival, he launched the Road Map to Premier, a lofty strategic planning process and timeline involving over 400 students, faculty, staff and alumni that continues to be updated. Under his leadership, the new School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences was established, and a new campus welcome center is currently under construction.
After holding numerous leadership positions at other top universities, Sarah Mangelsdorf became president of the University in Rochester in 2019, where she has led major changes ever since. Mangelsdorf raised the school’s minimum wage to $15 per hour, reorganized human relations, elevated human resources oversight into Rochester’s senior leadership and brought back universitywide commencement after 30 years. She’s especially proud of the recent $1 million in federal funding the university received to expand Strong Memorial Hospital’s emergency departments.
Susan Poser broke barriers in 2021 when she became Hofstra University’s first female president. Poser has overseen initiatives to diversify faculty and strengthen ties between the university and the surrounding neighborhoods, including her work on the boards of the Long Island Association and the state’s Long Island Regional Economic Development Council. Poser also helped create cultural centers for Arab American students and for students with disabilities. Hofstra, home to the Peter S. Kalikow School of Government, Public Policy and International Affairs, is also known for hosting presidential debates.
The first international-born president of the University at Buffalo, Satish Tripathi has been in academia since joining the University of Maryland’s computer science department in 1978, including serving as chair for seven years. Since becoming president in 2011, Tripathi has grown University at Buffalo’s international presence, established significant partnerships with other universities and has reimagined the university’s physical environment, overseeing the opening of five major building projects on its three campuses. Tripathi holds three master’s degrees and has chaired various academic boards.
Maurie McInnis has been invested in bolstering Stony Brook University’s research across campus since taking on her role as president in 2020, with research expenditures increasing 22% across humanities, social sciences and creative arts. On McInnis’ watch, the Simons Foundation donated $56.6 million to improve pathways to STEM careers for underrepresented groups. Committed to supporting the broader Long Island community, McInnis leads Stony Brook in managing Brookhaven National Laboratory, a U.S. Department of Energy facility, while also overseeing Stony Brook Medicine.
As the leader of United University Professions, SUNY’s faculty union, Frederick E. Kowal has told lawmakers that while Gov. Kathy Hochul’s budget provides increases for SUNY, Albany needs to address structural financial issues and commit more funds. Kowal also said that Hochul’s SUNY expansion plan needs to address financial issues at smaller colleges. Kowal noted that while SUNY’s flagship campuses, the University at Buffalo and Stony Brook University, have consistent enrollments, 19 smaller campuses have declining enrollments and growing deficits, including a projected $16 million deficit at SUNY Fredonia.
There’s a lot more to Syracuse University than basketball. As chancellor and president, Kent Syverud has led the university through a period of innovation. In 2021, Syracuse opened a $62.5 million National Veterans Resource Center, demonstrating the university’s commitment to supporting military veterans and their families. Syverud also oversaw Syracuse’s launch of one of the first online J.D. degree programs in the nation in 2019. Earlier in his career, Syverud clerked for then-U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
Martin A. Schmidt took over as president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute last summer and was inaugurated in October in a ceremony attended by Rep. Paul Tonko, Troy Mayor Patrick Madden and other local leaders. He succeeds trailblazer Shirley Ann Jackson at the helm of the country’s oldest technological research university. Schmidt previously was provost and senior academic and budget officer of Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He holds over 30 U.S. patents and helped start seven companies.
Led by David Munson Jr., the Rochester Institute of Technology is the country’s third-largest producer of STEM undergraduate degrees among private universities. This fall, RIT is set to launch the Student Hall for Exploration and Development, or SHED, which will house project development spaces, dance studios, rehearsal rooms and performing arts theaters. His interests in research and image processing propelled him to co-found InstaRecon Inc., a startup firm commercializing algorithms for image formation in computer tomography. Munson also chairs the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities in New York.
James Davis of the 30,000-member Professional Staff Congress is pushing back against CUNY’s decision to implement a hiring freeze and cut costs across campuses. With the faculty contract set to expire, Davis led a 500-person rally in front of CUNY’s midtown Manhattan headquarters pushing for a new contract and a raise. Davis said that while Gov. Kathy Hochul’s recent budget boosts CUNY funding that can address certain issues, it does not address the impact of a decade of cuts. Davis also said increased state funding does not address city budget cuts.
After serving as Ithaca College’s interim president and provost, La Jerne Terry Cornish officially became the school’s 10th president in 2022. Cornish served as the primary architect of Ithaca Forever, the college’s five-year strategic plan, and established the Teaching Resource Allocation Committee with the aim of improving the student-to-faculty classroom ratio. Under her leadership, the college established a Return to Campus Task Force in the pandemic and earned a Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation grant from the National Science Foundation to advance STEM opportunities for underrepresented groups.
Taking the mantle from the Rev. Joseph McShane last summer, Tania Tetlow is now the first woman and layperson to become president of Fordham University. Tetlow previously served as the president of Loyola University New Orleans, another Jesuit school. In January, Fordham issued a report compiled as part of its “Taking Responsibility: Jesuit Educational Institutions Confront the Causes and Legacy of Clergy Sexual Abuse” project, which faults Jesuits’ handling of misconduct by priests and lays out efforts to prevent abuse.
Since 2017, Rabbi Ari Berman has led Yeshiva University, a Jewish institution in New York City with four campuses and affiliates including the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary. Berman has expanded the university’s reach, adding 20 graduate degrees in such areas as artificial intelligence, biotech management and special education, while also speaking out against antisemitism in society at large. Yeshiva has been denying recognition to the YU Pride Alliance, saying it plans to recognize an LGBTQ club in line with Yeshiva’s religious teachings, but New York City Comptroller Brad Lander has warned about a loss of city funding if the institution fails to do so.
Joanie Mahoney became the first woman to lead SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in 2020 after spending two years addressing climate change, invasive waterway species and the pandemic as the university’s chief operating officer. Mahoney brings unique experience to higher education, having served as Onondaga County executive for nearly 11 years. An ally of Andrew Cuomo during his governorship, Mahoney remains chair of the state Thruway Authority, which is looking to raise tolls to maintain its 570-mile highway system.
Jennifer Raab announced in December that her more than two decade tenure leading Hunter College will conclude at the end of June. Raab, the longest-serving president of CUNY’s largest college, has seen Hunter College secure over $1 billion in research awards and grants and funneled millions into the construction and restoration of buildings, including the School of Social Work in East Harlem and the historic Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute. Raab last year helped broker a $52 million gift from Leonard Lauder, the largest ever for the Manhattan school, which will fund the new Evelyn Lauder Community Care Nurse Practitioner Program.
A former Assembly Democrat who represented Upper Manhattan, Guillermo Linares has led the state Higher Education Services Corp. since 2017. A trailblazing Dominican immigrant who also served in the New York City Council and as immigrant affairs commissioner, Linares is committed to immigrant rights and educational access for undocumented students. Linares, who oversees the Tuition Assistance Program, supported Gov. Kathy Hochul’s announcement last year of the expansion of TAP for part-time students and a $28 million federal grant to expand the GEAR UP program, which helps low-income and minority students prepare for college.
As the state’s top higher education coordinator and regulator since 2019, William Murphy presides over an office within the state Education Department that does everything from approving all new curriculum programs at colleges and universities to teacher certification, discipline and professional development for K-12 school teachers. While Murphy and his higher education coordination colleagues around the country lack the glitz and glamour of college presidents, they play a critical role in making sure the higher education system functions.
As the first Asian American to lead a CUNY college, S. David Wu is leading Baruch College using his training as a systems engineer with a career in academia spanning over three decades. Wu took over the college in the early days of the pandemic, establishing Baruch’s Task Force for the Future with the goal of engaging the college community to address long-term issues based on pandemic-emboldened challenges. Wu talks about his passion to change the status quo in higher education, with a focus on growing academic access for underrepresented groups.
With the coronavirus pandemic making him the Zoom president from the beginning in 2020, Dwight McBride was formally inaugurated as the first Black president of The New School in 2021. Under McBride’s “Framework for Fearless Progress,” the race and literary scholar envisions a college built on a culture of support that values New York’s rich civic and cultural life. McBride is the co-founder of the Academic Leadership Institute to support an increase of members of the academy committed to diversity and inclusion.
Since taking over as Marist College’s president in 2021, Kevin Weinman has made students and equality centerpieces of his tenure. Shortly after taking office, Weinman and his wife, Beth, donated $250,000 to create the Presidential Fund for Equity in the Marist Experience. Among the areas addressed by the fund: helping students attend Marist; assisting with the costs of classes that have a travel component; supporting student internships; and increasing support for first-year students – one of the keys to student retention.
Former Rep. Christopher Gibson is heading for retirement at the end of the school year after leading Siena College since 2020. Gibson, a decorated military veteran who graduated from Siena and represented a nearby area in Congress from 2011 to 2017 and was once seen as a potential Republican candidate for governor, was the first permanent lay leader at the Franciscan school. Gibson added degrees in “caring sciences” including social work and mental health at Siena, which is also known in the political world for its polling on elections both in New York and nationwide.
Following his tenure as founding dean and director of the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership at CCNY, Vincent Boudreau just entered his fifth year as president of the City College of New York. Under Boudreau, the college’s proposed Center for Co-Innovation and Medical Technology received a $750,000 “Build to Scale” grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to support the advancement of medical technology innovation. Boudreau centers his research around the politics of social movements, specifically in Southeast Asia.
Hailing from Providence College as its longest-serving president, the Rev. Brian J. Shanley began his tenure at St. John’s University in 2021 with a focus on furthering the university’s social justice mission rooted in fostering equitable education and inclusion. As a self-proclaimed sports enthusiast, Shanley is working to renovate the institution’s athletic facilities with a goal to improve the basketball fan experience and to better assist with recruiting and retention of student athletes.
Anthony Crowell’s influence comes from outside of New York Law School’s Tribeca campus as much as it does inside of it. Crowell was appointed last year by New York City Mayor Eric Adams to the City Planning Commission. He has been on six city charter revision commissions. He now chairs the review committee for nominees to the state’s new ethics and lobbying commission, which hasn’t hesitated to reject individuals deemed unsuitable. And he organized the National Association of Standalone Graduate Schools and touted NYLS as a driver in Tribeca’s post-pandemic economic recovery.
Since taking office in July 2015 as the university’s first female president, Christine Riordan has overseen sweeping changes and weathered pandemic-related storms. She established the school’s first diversity office and oversaw the $50 million renovation of the 50-year-old university center and $76 million renovation of the university’s nursing and public health hub. Riordan was named to Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman’s transition team and received recognition for her leadership at Adelphi University and across the region during the pandemic.
Previously head of the Office of Justice Programs in the U.S. Department of Justice, Karol Mason brings her passion for equity, juvenile justice and reform to her work at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. While at the Justice Department, she developed partnerships with colleges nationwide, including John Jay, to address distrust within the criminal justice system. John Jay was named a 2021 Hispanic-Serving Institution Leader by the Fulbright Program and awarded $4.77 million to strengthen a pipeline for Latino students to achieve lasting success.
Photonics researcher Marc P. Christensen assumed the role of Clarkson University president this past July. Christensen was the longtime dean of Southern Methodist University’s Lyle School of Engineering, which received recognition under his leadership for its achievements in diversity, equity and inclusion. While at SMU, Christensen raised $78 million for the engineering school, including $6.7 million to establish research institutes and $11.5 million to support entrepreneurship, a background that translates well for the business-and technology-oriented Potsdam-based Clarkson University.
Prior to being promoted to superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point last summer, Lt. Gen. Steve Gilland has served in air assault, armor, mechanized infantry, ranger and special operations unit assignments as an infantry officer. Commissioned into the U.S. Army after graduating from the Military Academy in 1990, Gilland’s been deployed to the Middle East, Africa and Afghanistan, and he most recently served as commanding general of the 2nd ROK-U.S. Combined Division in Korea. His predecessor, Gen. Darryl A. Williams, assumed command of U.S. Army Europe and Africa.
Passionate about equal opportunity and access, Marvin Krislov has been vocal in advocating for a more inclusive and diverse educational environment. He previously headed the legal defense of University of Michigan’s admission policies that led to the U.S. Supreme Court recognizing the importance of student diversity – although the current high court may be moving in the opposite direction. Under Krislov, Pace University recently adopted the Okanagan Charter, an international framework for promoting mental health and well-being on campuses globally as part of the university’s wellness strategic plan.
The president of the nation’s largest Jewish-sponsored educational institution, Dr. Alan Kadish is seeing remarkable growth at Touro University – which coincides with its recent reclassification from a college to a full-fledged university. In February, Kadish announced that Touro was granted $3.2 million through the omnibus budget act to fund a new small-business legal clinic at Touro’s law school, a new equity project and a Women’s Institute for Science Entrepreneurship at Touro’s medical school, along with programs related to disaster medicine.
The president of Queens College, Frank Wu, is celebrating new funding, pushing an Albany agenda and facing pushback from students. Wu recently announced $2.2 million in federal funds to grow the CUNY school’s business and arts programs. Last year, Wu presided over the opening of the Queens College School of Business. He is also calling on state leaders to pass the Hunger-Free Campus Act. At the same time, Wu has students pressing him to overhaul the student life office, including what they say is too much bureaucracy for student clubs.
David Wippman became president of Hamilton College after holding leadership roles at the University of Minnesota Law School and Cornell University. The international law expert also spent a year as director in the National Security Council’s Office of Multilateral and Humanitarian Affairs. More recently, Wippman co-authored an essay on what he says is an attack on free speech happening from both the right and left. At Hamilton, Wippman has launched a $400 million capital campaign, with a focus on student financial aid.
Since assuming the presidency in 2013, Kimberly Cline has put Long Island University on the map, working to increase enrollment while reining in tuition increases. Athletics and arts have flourished under Cline, who elevated the university to Division I status and established the School of Arts and Communication at LIU Brooklyn as well as its film school and new 3D simulation lab. The school also runs the George Polk Awards, whose most recent honorees included New York Times journalists covering the war in Ukraine and, closer to home, scrutinizing New York’s yeshivas.
Hank Foley presided over the New York Institute of Technology’s recent string of honors, including a 12-spot jump to rank No. 22 on U.S. News and World Report’s Best Regional Universities in the North and a double-digit improvement to No. 50 on the magazine’s list of top performers in social mobility. In 2021, NYIT’s College of Osteopathic Medicine was also ranked No. 1 in diversity for colleges of osteopathic medicine by Diverse Issues in Higher Education. Last year, Foley opened interfaith centers on NYIT’s New York City and Long Island campuses.
Since coming to the Bronx from the University of Minnesota Duluth in 2021, Fernando Delgado has named a new athletic director, collected national recognition and rubbed elbows with British royalty. Degree Choices had Lehman topping its list of best Hispanic-serving colleges in the nation, while UniversityHQ picked the school to be No. 1 on its list of 100 best affordable health care administration degrees. In November, Delgado welcomed the Duke of Gloucester to campus to thank a charity the duke is patron of for awarding $1.2 million to over 400 Lehman students since 2008.
In his second year leading the New York City Council’s Higher Education Committee, Eric Dinowitz is making a mark. Earlier this year, the former special education teacher unanimously passed legislation to increase programs and coordination to make it easier for New York City students with disabilities to transition to college. Dinowitz has also worked to address antisemitism at CUNY, holding several committee hearings and other meetings to press university leaders to address the issue.
An internationally recognized expert on hospital care quality and large-scale health system management, Elizabeth Bradley has moved Vassar College forward in a number of key areas, including launching an initiative to study Vassar’s history with respect to diversity. Vassar is in the process of building its first net-zero emissions building on campus. She was recently awarded the Wilbur Lucius Cross Medal by her alma mater, Yale, for her scholarship on local and international public health.
Since becoming president of Colgate University in 2016, Brian Casey has presided over the physical expansion – and the planting of 400 trees – of the Hamilton campus. He has focused on student well-being, including new support services, and the expansion of fraternity row into a student-focused neighborhood. Casey, who recently crafted a new strategic plan and launched a $1 billion fundraising campaign, will have time to follow through on these and other initiatives: Colgate’s board voted in September to extend his contract until 2030.
Darrell P. Wheeler, who took over the presidency of SUNY New Paltz last summer, has focused much of his time on outreach to stakeholders across the community while also weighing in on issues like declining enrollment. Wheeler, a noted scholar on health disparities and HIV/AIDS, has served in leadership roles at several universities, including Iona University, where he was provost, and heading social work schools at the University at Albany and Loyola University Chicago.
Donald Boomgaarden has presided over a recent promotion for the Brooklyn- and Long Island-based institution of higher education. Last spring, the state Board of Regents approved St. Joseph’s request to be branded as a university – part of a growth of university status around the state. Boomgaarden continues to be involved with statewide lobbying efforts by private colleges and serves on a number of boards in both Brooklyn and Long Island.
David Harris has been quick to warn about the headwinds facing institutions of higher education, including national debates on tuition discounts and the intrinsic value of a liberal arts education. At the same time, Harris is touting a series of successes for Union College, including a soon-to-be-completed capital campaign that brought in $309 million. Harris, who recently had his contract extended until 2027, has launched a comprehensive rebranding campaign that includes exploring whether to replace the college’s Dutchmen nickname and mascot.
While Sian Lean Beilock is trading Barnard College’s Broadway address for the bucolic Dartmouth College in July, she will not be soon forgotten. Beilock accepted Barnard’s largest-ever donation – $55 million – from Dr. P. Roy and Diana Vagelos to grow Barnard’s STEM program. In 2021, she engineered a donation from the Francine A. LeFrak Foundation to create the Francine A. LeFrak Foundation Center for Well-Being, which focuses on physical, mental and financial health.
The past year has had highs and lows for the Sarah Lawrence College community, from a presidential visit to the Lawrence Ray abuse case – and Cristle Collins Judd, the college’s president since 2017, has navigated the Bronxville liberal arts school through it all. In the abuse case, Judd has taken pains to note that the college was not aware of Ray living in his daughter’s on-campus apartment. In November, she hosted Sarah Lawrence’s first visit by a U.S. president when President Joe Biden appeared at a get-out-the-vote rally for Gov. Kathy Hochul.
Seamus Carey is in the process of leading an expansion of Iona University. Earlier this year, Carey presided over the opening of a new health sciences center that is part of the new New York-Presbyterian Iona School of Health Sciences. The health sciences center is part of Iona’s new Bronxville campus, which nearly doubles the New Rochelle school’s original physical size. Last summer, Carey led celebrations as Iona was rebranded a university following approval by the state Board of Regents earlier in the year.
Laura Sparks has sparked headlines since she started as president of The Cooper Union in 2017, including launching a 10-year plan to bring back free tuition to the venerable institution in Manhattan. Sparks has established herself as a policy power player, taking on leadership roles in state and national groups, and pushing for an expansion of Pell Grants. Sparks has faced recent backlash from arts advocates for The Cooper Union’s decision to postpone, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, an exhibit about a Soviet architecture school closed by Joseph Stalin.
Miguel Martinez-Saenz orchestrated a major move for St. Francis College in September, literally relocating the college from its longtime Remsen Street home to a new building on Livingston and Hoyt Streets. Martinez-Saenz said the move within Brooklyn Heights gives the college more technologically advanced facilities and will allow for more hybrid learning. Martinez-Saenz is also highlighting the need for colleges to train Brooklyn’s workforce to help boost the borough’s booming innovation economy.
Named president of Manhattan College last summer, Daniel Gardner is continuing his career as a brother in the education order of the Christian Brothers. Gardner was assistant director of the college’s Center for Graduate School and Fellowship Advisement before becoming interim president last spring. He has also been the college’s assistant admissions director and principal of St. Raymond High School for Boys in the Bronx. In the fall, he accepted a $15 million donation from an alum to upgrade the college’s School of Science, which is now renamed The Kakos School of Science.
As president of SUNY Cobleskill, Marion Terenzio has fostered a shared governance model of leadership since her appointment in 2015. She created the school’s Institute for Rural Vitality, which addresses rural economic development issues and includes one of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture Innovation Centers that serves as a small-business incubator. In 2022, Terenzio was selected to join the state Department of Education’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Graduation Measures, created to reimagine the future of New York’s education requirements.
An accomplished computer scientist, Greg Morrisett leads Cornell’s Roosevelt Island tech, innovation, business and law campus, an economic driver that was conceived during the Bloomberg administration. Morrisett’s campus is part of the Ithaca-based university’s growing footprint in New York City. In December, Morrisett announced a $20 million donation from Andrew and Ann Tisch to Cornell Tech and Weill Cornell Medicine. The donation will be used by Cornell Tech for research related to the innovation economy and work between the campus and industry partners.
Lola W. Brabham, the head of the leading advocacy group for more than 100 private, nonprofit colleges and universities in New York, came to the job following a stint leading the state Civil Service Commission. Earlier this year, Brabham joined the chancellors of SUNY and CUNY to push for lawmakers to pass legislation to address the state’s nursing shortage. She also testified before state lawmakers this year in favor of expanding the Tuition Assistance Program, strengthening faculty diversity and investing in research and development.
Leon Botstein spent the last four decades shaping Bard College into the liberal arts institution it is today. Botstein’s founding of The Orchestra Now graduate-level master’s program exemplifies his continued efforts to expand higher education opportunities, as well as exposure to the arts. Recently, Botstein announced Bard’s Center for American and Indigenous Studies and expanded scholarship opportunities for students after receiving a $50 million endowment gift.
Last year, Mark Gearan embarked on his second stint leading Hobart and William Smith Colleges, liberal arts institutions on the banks of Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes. Gearan, who led HWS from 1999 to 2017, chaired the state Gaming Commission during his tenure as casino gambling was set to expand in upstate New York. He came back to Geneva after four years as director of Harvard University’s Institute of Politics, a period marked by tensions between Harvard leaders and the Kennedy family over the direction and governance of the famed political institute.
As president of CUNY’s Brooklyn College, Michelle Anderson leads operations for the ethnically diverse campus. After leaving her post as dean of CUNY School of Law, Anderson’s leadership of Brooklyn College has displayed advancements in academic momentum and career services. Brooklyn College has recently announced the Tow Mentoring Initiative and Career Partners program, providing students career-focused resources and mentorship opportunities, with Aon, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers as the Career Partners program’s inaugural Platinum partners.
As the first woman to lead NYU Tandon School of Engineering, Dean Jelena Kovačević has prioritized the school’s inclusion of female students and faculty, aiming to increase gender equality in tech. While Kovačević’s personal research focuses on cybersecurity and sustainability, NYU Tandon has also invested $1 billion into expanding its research facilities in Downtown Brooklyn. These initiatives aim to fuel NYU Tandon’s health engineering research, as well as increase their tenure faculty by 40 full-time employees.
For a quarter century, Joyce Brown has led SUNY’s Fashion Institute of Technology as its first Black and female president. Since her appointment, Brown, a former CUNY vice chancellor, has transformed FIT’s academic offerings, creating almost 50 degree programs. In pursuit of social justice and equitable educational opportunities for students of color, FIT has inaugurated its first cohort of Social Justice Scholars, awarding full-tuition scholarships and post-graduate apprenticeships to 11 freshmen entering from New York high schools.
After serving as interim president during the 2019-2020 school term, Berenecea Johnson Eanes assumed the presidency of York College. Showing immense strength and perseverance, Eanes led York College through the COVID-19 pandemic. Her work to expand York College’s academics have seen a rise in support for the Queens campus; the New York City Football Club pledged $7.5 million in support of the York College Foundation, which was followed up by $2.1 million in federal funding for York’s academic programs.
An award-winning composer and classical guitarist, James Lentini is not merely the president of Long Island’s Molloy University. The higher education leader is also a voting member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Grammy Awards. Lentini led Molloy’s recent elevation to university status and secured the school’s largest single gift, $2 million, from coffee entrepreneur S. Zaki Hossain last year. Lentini has a presence in the Long Island community, serving on the boards of the Long Island Association and the Long Island Arts Alliance.
The fourth generation of his family to work at Monroe College, Marc Jerome has worked his way up to the presidency of the college. He has promoted town-gown relations through being the longtime chair of New Rochelle’s business improvement district, his decision to open up the college to victims of the 2022 deadly Bronx fire and a recent collaboration with the Saint Lucia Ministry of Education on scholarships for first-generation college students. Jerome was appointed to New York’s Higher Education Services Corp. board in 2018.
Over the past three years, Christine Mangino has led Queensborough Community College, whose mission involves boosting the local economy and training workers to fill local jobs. Formerly the provost at Hostos Community College, Mangino has worked her way up the ladder in the CUNY school system since she was an assistant professor at Hostos in 2004. At Queensborough, Mangino has set goals of increased inclusivity and diversity, establishing the Male Resource Center to boost retention of male students.
The Borough of Manhattan Community College is CUNY’s largest community college, with around 20,000 students. Not long after Anthony E. Munroe came on as BMCC’s president in 2020, the school received a $30 million gift from MacKenzie Scott, the largest in its history. Munroe has focused on boosting enrollment and addressing gaps in socioeconomic mobility, career development and sustainable pedagogy as the school carries out its mission of preparing students to enter the workforce.
Since Kenneth Adams was named president of LaGuardia Community College in 2020, he has made student well-being and equitable educational opportunities his top priorities. After successfully raising $15 million last year in support funds for students impacted by COVID-19, Adams has since continued his efforts to advance LaGuardia’s growth. Ultimately, LaGuardia received $400,000 in federal funding to expand vocational training and $5 million for health care career training. After a decrease in LaGuardia’s student body population following the pandemic, these investments have increased higher education opportunities.
As the first Latina president of SUNY’s Purchase College, and the first in her family to graduate high school, Milagros Peña is no stranger to achieving academic excellence. In 2020, Peña became president after leaving the University of California, Riverside, where she was the dean of the College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. Purchase College has just announced a new university-based retirement home, built on its campus, created to enrich the lives of students, faculty and residents alike.
For the past eight years, President Katherine S. Conway-Turner has led Buffalo State University with a strong sense of school and community spirit. When Conway-Turner is not attending school sporting and academic events, she is leading the Bengals Dare to Care Day, which connects faculty and students to community centers across the Buffalo, providing services to local agencies in an effort to increase their social justice impact. Conway-Turner, who co-chairs the state’s Western New York Regional Economic Development Council, is retiring this spring.
A chemist, Robin Garrell has seen the CUNY Graduate Center rack up a series of STEM-related honors and investments in recent years. Last summer, the Graduate Center received a $3 million research training grant from the National Science Foundation to create the Nanoscience Connected to Life initiative to train doctoral students to connect life science with nanoscience. Garrell last year launched a new astrophysics master’s degree program and announced a $4 million grant from the Simons Foundation which will make the program tuition-free.
Coming to CUNY’s Medgar Evers College with a professional background as a biologist and educator, including as a senior fellow at the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, Patricia Ramsey has led Medgar Evers with an emphasis on socioeconomic justice and health equity. As the first scientist and female president of the Brooklyn-based college, Ramsey has worked hard to empower her community. Recently, Medgar Evers was awarded the first ever Augustus F. Hawkins Centers of Excellence Program grant from the U.S. Department of Education.
The new dean of Columbia Journalism School, Jelani Cobb, said he wants to see a “democratization” of journalism. This vision includes reducing the cost of a journalism degree and increasing transparency on how journalists do their job to increase public trust. Cobb, a longtime New Yorker writer on issues related to race, history and politics, has authored books on former President Barack Obama and the hip-hop aesthetic, and co-edited a recent collection of New Yorker writings on Black history and culture.
Daisy Cocco De Filippis is not the type of leader to back away from a challenge, taking over Hostos Community College at the height of the pandemic in 2020 after 12 years leading Naugatuck Valley Community College in Connecticut. At Hostos, she has worked to ensure the quality of education did not falter while espousing her motto “manos a la obra/all hands-on-deck.” Since then, Cocco De Filippis has shown her continued commitment to civic engagement and collaboration through her roles in the “New” New York blue-ribbon panel and Latinas in Higher Education Conference.
One year ago, Diane Recinos was appointed Berkeley College’s president, succeeding Michael J. Smith on a permanent basis following a stint as interim president. A longtime administrator at Berkeley College, Recinos led the college’s campuses in the suburban New Jersey communities of Woodbridge and Woodland Park before taking over as senior vice president for student success. She said that one of her key priorities at the school, which also has a campus in midtown Manhattan, is training students for a remote workforce, stressing Berkeley’s background in distance education.
Since the first class of Boricua College students was enrolled in 1974, founder Victor G. Alicea has worked hard to ensure that Puerto Ricans, Latinos and other underserved populations have access to an affordable and inclusive education. For over four decades heading up the bilingual, private liberal arts college, Alicea has been informed by his experiences being born in Puerto Rico and raised in Harlem, bringing with him an intimate knowledge of New York City’s immigrant communities.
A longtime artist and educator, Frances Bronet became president of Pratt Institute in 2018. Recently, the Brooklyn-based art, design and architecture school has taken major steps toward increasing its architecture and design-focused sustainability efforts. Most notably, Pratt formed the Affordable Small Home Sustainability initiative, aiming to preserve Brooklyn’s affordable housing through much needed home repairs, as well as increased health and safety measures. With the support of House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and local community partners, the initiative was selected to receive $1.9 million in federal funding.
In January, Donna Stelling-Gurnett announced that the Association of Proprietary Colleges was now the Association of Private Colleges, saying it “better represents the primarily family-founded institutions that are members of APC,” including both proprietary institutions and those that are now nonprofit. She has pushed for changes to state Tuition Assistance Program rules to expand access to part-time students at the state’s for-profit colleges and been a fierce advocate for her 12-member institutions.
Timothy Sams brought nearly three decades of higher education experience to SUNY Old Westbury when he was named its president in 2021, succeeding the legendary civil rights leader Calvin O. Butts III. As a vocal supporter of social justice education, Sams has already notched some big funding wins. SUNY Old Westbury was recently awarded $878,000 through the U.S. Department of Education’s Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education, funds that will be used toward advancing equitable higher education opportunities and career outcomes for students from underserved communities.
CUNY’s newest community college welcomed a second president, Larry D. Johnson Jr., in 2021. Stella and Charles Guttman Community College, which opened its doors as The New Community College at CUNY a decade ago, is federally designated as both a minority-serving and Hispanic-serving institution due to its diverse student body. With Johnson’s background in higher education leadership and as a trustee on the Phipps Neighborhoods board, he advocates for equitable, student-focused higher education pathways leading New Yorkers toward career opportunities.
After nearly nine years at the helm, Timothy Hall is set to retire as president of Mercy College in June. The college’s leader is known for establishing the Mercy Success Toolkit, aimed at creating scalable strategies to increase student success, including that of students of color. Mercy – which has locations in Dobbs Ferry, Manhattan and the Bronx – was awarded with a 2022 Excelencia in Education’s Seal of Excelencia, becoming the first private college and New York-based college to win the award for its achievements as an official Hispanic-serving institution.
As the president of Metropolitan College of New York since 2018, Joanne Passaro has taken on a leadership role in New York state’s higher education community, including serving as a board member of The Commission on Independent Colleges & Universities in New York. Passaro came to New York following 11 years as provost of Wisconsin’s Carroll University and leadership roles at Point Park University in Pittsburgh and at Mercy College in New York.
July 2023 will mark the end of Kevin Drumm’s 13-yearlong presidency at SUNY Broome Community College. Since he assumed the post in 2010, the college has attributed numerous advancements to Drumm’s leadership and initiative. In addition to Broome’s continual efforts to modernize campus infrastructure, he recently announced plans for a closer partnership with Binghamton University. Titled Binghamton Advantage Program 2.0, the proposed program expands upon an existing iteration, aimed at increasing student enrollment. Drumm is also the co-chair of the state’s Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council.
Lori V. Quigley was named the interim president of Medaille University in June, succeeding Kenneth Macur – which was just the latest transition for the school, which officially transitioned from a college to a university in May. Quigley’s experience in education reaches far beyond these bounds, including as the longtime chair of National Indian Education Association of New York, where she has recently been named ombudsperson. As a Seneca Nation, Wolf Clan member, Quigley emphasizes integrity and equity in her work.
An expert on child and adolescent mental health, poverty and inequality, Michael Lindsey became dean of the Silver School of Social Work at NYU last year. Lindsey’s academic focus came from growing up in Southeast Washington, D.C., during the height of the 1980s crack cocaine epidemic. He used this lived experience to focus his work on how to address addiction, poverty, mental health and the lives of marginalized people, and he has recently praised New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ new mental health agenda.
Philanthropist MacKenzie Scott is no stranger to charitable funding for educational institutions. Among the early beneficiaries of her largesse were New York’s Hostos Community College, Lehman College and the Borough of Manhattan Community College, and in 2022, she donated to College Access: Research & Action, which aims to help low-income New Yorkers get into – and through – college. Her $11 million gift to Brooklyn’s Ascend Charter Schools will also fund an increase of student body admission, as well as three new locations expanding the schools into Flatbush, Cypress Hill and Brownsville.
The Mellon Foundation is a New York-based foundation that donates hundreds of millions of dollars annually to educational, arts and community-based organizations, with a focus on supporting the arts and humanities as well as social justice advocacy. Led by the poet and academic scholar Elizabeth Alexander, the Mellon Foundation’s recent work includes targeted efforts to increase opportunities for previously incarcerated people. Additionally, grants for expansions in racial and social justice education have been awarded to Columbia University, Syracuse University and CUNY.
Since 1995, Emily Tow has led The Tow Foundation as president, continuing its mission to support individuals, schools and nonprofit organizations serving historically marginalized communities. Under Emily Tow’s leadership, the foundation has invested in The Tow Mentoring initiative at CUNY’s Brooklyn College, connecting students to valuable mentorship opportunities. As a member of the state Juvenile Justice Advisory Group, and a trustee of The Marshall Project, Emily Tow has shown a continued commitment to community involvement and social justice advocacy.
Cynthia Danes recently succeeded Daisey Holmes as point person on BNY Mellon’s philanthropic efforts, which aim to benefit underrepresented populations where the Manhattan-based financial firm operates. In 2020, the BNY Mellon Foundation made a $10 million grant to CUNY to help fund the NYC Future of Work Initiative and expand its CUNY transfer scholarship program for students with associate’s degrees. BNY Mellon also exposes Borough of Manhattan Community College students to the financial services industry via its S.T.A.R.T.U.P program.
As the student trustees of CUNY and SUNY, respectively, Salimatou Doumbouya and Alexandria Chun preside over the collective student governments for the two massive public university systems. Doumbouya, a student at the New York City College of Technology, was elected chair of the CUNY University Student Senate last April following a prolonged election stalemate. Chun, a student at Binghamton University, has held various positions in Binghamton’s Student Association, where she led the overhaul of Binghamton’s student election code. As trustees, both hold the same power and voting ability as other members of the university boards.
Pamela Madeiros has cultivated an important niche within education law, focusing on interfacing with the state Education Department’s higher education office on such matters as college and university accreditation and degree programs as well as professional license requirements. She also works with special education programs and schools for the deaf across the state. In December, Madeiros was cited by New York City Mayor Eric Adams for her work to expand investment in preschool special education support.
Dan Fuller joined Ostroff Associates last year after a long career developing education and higher education policy in New York’s Executive Chamber. As deputy secretary for education for Gov. Kathy Hochul and her predecessor, Andrew Cuomo, Fuller was the point person on a number of higher education issues, including the creation of the Excelsior Scholarship program and the expansion of the Tuition Assistance Program. He also served as director of the Reimagine Education Advisory Council, which worked to reopen schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since Abby Jo Sigal’s appointment to the New York City Mayor's Office of Talent and Workforce Development last year, the Adams administration has announced the CUNY Inclusive Economy Initiative and the Apprentice Accelerator, both of which include plans to connect New Yorkers to career opportunities by 2030. These initiatives aim to make targeted advancements in workforce development and economic security for New York City’s underserved communities. Sigal was previously the founding CEO of HERE to HERE, a career and community development nonprofit funded by Jamie Dimon.
Terrance Blackman Stroud’s work and influence on higher education goes beyond New York – from Indiana University’s flagship campus in Bloomington all the way to the White House. The deputy commissioner for training and workforce development in the New York City Department of Social Services, Stroud works closely with CUNY and SUNY. An alum of Brooklyn College and IU’s Maurer School of Law, he created a bridge program for Brooklyn students to study law at IU. Last year, he was appointed by President Joe Biden to The Commission on Presidential Scholars.
As the leader of the labor union representing SUNY’s graduate student assistants, Andrew Dobbyn has been fighting for pay hikes and other benefits for the individuals he says actually teach most of SUNY’s students. The graduate student pay issue has become one of the biggest higher education issues nationally, with University of California graduate assistants ending a six-week strike last year after state officials agreed to raises that could be as high as 66%. Dobbyn is also pushing legislation that would exempt graduate assistants from university fees.
An advertising and marketing professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology, where she heads up the school’s United College Employees, Roberta Elins is a fierce advocate for higher education affordability. Elins is also part of a labor group that is pushing a $4.7 billion New Deal for Higher Education. Elins noted the proposal would increase student support services, a key issue in the national higher education debate. In 2020, Elins questioned the governor’s touting of free tuition, noting that the Excelsior Scholarship program did not cover student fees, a growing revenue stream for colleges.
The CUNY Coalition for Students with Disabilities is a student-led organization representing over 11,000 students with disabilities across CUNY’s 25 colleges. As a CUNY student, a mother of a neurodivergent son and chair of the coalition, Lennyn Jacob advocates for advancements in opportunity and accessibility for students. Since she joined the coalition in 2020, Jacob has submitted testimony to the Assembly several times, advocating for budget expansions for CUNY’s Linking Employment, Academics, and Disability Services and the state Education Department’s Readers Aid Program.
As the senior director of education programs, Perla Rodriguez oversees the Hispanic Federation’s advocacy work targeting the advancement of educational opportunities for Latino and other minority students. The nonprofit organization supports students from early childhood through college preparation via multiple education programs. Rodriguez is a longtime supporter of higher education: She leads CREAR Futuros, the Hispanic Federation’s mentorship program connecting college students to social services and internships, and previously worked on CUNY K16 Initiatives.
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