Dear Members of the Campus Community:
I am writing to share my intention to retire at the end of June 2022, after a 45-year career in higher education and 12 years as president of SUNY New Paltz.
It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as president and to have had such a long and rewarding tenure in this role. I am pleased and proud of the collective accomplishments of this community. Amid budget challenges and more recently a worldwide pandemic that tested all our abilities and stamina, this community and each individual student and employee has persevered and excelled through it all. The quintessential SUNY New Paltz community spirit I have come to respect and cherish has been especially apparent this past year.
Over the past decade, the College’s reputation as a top-tier public university has grown both statewide and nationally. SUNY New Paltz has been recognized for high retention and graduation of students from historically underrepresented groups as well as first-generation and low-income students, with rates well above state and national averages for both public and private institutions. Additionally, the College continues to rank in the top 3% of colleges and universities in an index of upward socioeconomic mobility of our graduates and is nationally recognized for its support of veteran and military-affiliated students.
At the same time, we have worked together to advocate for the value of a liberal education tailored to 21st century needs, for study abroad and student research experiences, and for the great breadth of disciplines and majors at New Paltz. The growth and contribution of our Honors Program since our review and re-visioning in 2009-10 is a great point of pride. Responding to student and regional needs, new programs were added to our academic offerings, including Autism, Astronomy, Biochemistry, Creative Writing, Mechanical Engineering, Digital Design & Fabrication, an online MBA, and a bachelor’s completion degree, to name a few. We also expanded and strengthened programs and opportunities for students from underrepresented groups and grew our EOP program by 20%. The College saw rapid growth of STEM enrollments, the development of additive manufacturing and 3D printing, and the addition of a new Engineering Innovation Hub on campus, thanks to state and private funding. This was part of the most significant capital investment, renovations and building expansion at SUNY New Paltz since the 1960s-70s, including seven major renovations and three new buildings. We have engaged alumni in new ways, and are nearing completion of a first-ever major fund-raising campaign. We successfully achieved two decennial reaccreditations and renamed buildings that previously honored those who enslaved others.
Reflecting the community spirit I noted above, we endured together and kept moving forward through budget challenges, floods and hurricanes, a mumps outbreak, free-speech debates, the unexpected passing of beloved faculty and staff colleagues and of students, a water crisis and a pandemic.
These are collective accomplishments that bear the mark of the dedication, hard work, and creativity of many in our campus community. In the coming year, we have an opportunity to build on our momentum as we prepare for the next chapter in SUNY New Paltz’s history. This includes positioning the College for continuing success in a dramatically changing higher education world, ongoing planning for a post-pandemic future, additional progress on diversity, inclusion, and anti-racist initiatives, and setting the stage for the next president’s entry and success.
I have asked Chief of Staff Shelly Wright and VP for Finance and Administration Michele Halstead to initiate the procurement process for a search firm. As the search process for a new president advances, we will share relevant public information on a presidential search website. I hope you will find this helpful for staying informed about how the search will be conducted and the progress being made. The SUNY-wide Presidential Search Guidelines outline the makeup of the search committee. I have already reached out to Presiding Officer Reynolds Scott-Childress to initiate our elected/selected process for faculty membership. The College Council plays a leadership role in the search, with support and guidance from the SUNY Chancellor’s Office and the SUNY New Paltz President’s Office staff. The Chancellor and Board of Trustees are responsible for selecting and appointing campus presidents from a list of three finalists recommended by the search committee and the College Council.
I am pleased to share that Interim Provost/Vice President for Academic Affairs Barbara Lyman has accepted my request to remain here as Provost during the first year of the new president, which will allow my successor to search for the new provost while also being able to work with an experienced academic leader during their first year as president until the next provost is on board. I wish to thank Provost Lyman for her willingness to continue her outstanding work at New Paltz, which will contribute welcome stability in academic and campus leadership during this presidential transition.
I have been a full-time university administrator for nearly 25 years, and most of that time this work has been all consuming, especially these years as president. I will want to take some time to re-group to figure out where I want to direct my energy and attention for the next stage, beyond reclaiming some beloved projects like growing a garden and spending more time outdoors. Sandy and I look forward to spending more time with family, including our first grandchild.
I wish for my successor the same warmth and acceptance that Sandy and I received from faculty, staff, students, alumni, and supporters of this top-tier public university.
Donald P. Christian