SUNY Cobleskill to share president

Two pairs of upstate SUNY schools will share presidents and services as part of a regional campus al

Two pairs of upstate SUNY schools will share presidents and services as part of a regional campus alliance plan, following several long-term administrative vacancies and turnover at the schools.

SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher announced Wednesday that she will recommend to the SUNY Board of Trustees that SUNY Delhi President Candace Vancko also serve as president of SUNY Cobleskill, where she has been appointed officer-in-charge, effective immediately.

In addition, Zimpher said she will recommend that SUNY Institute of Technology President Bjong Wolf Yeigh also serve as president of Morrisville State College, which has been headed by Interim President Richard J. Carreno for a little more than a year.

“We knew the smaller technology campuses have had the biggest challenges,” said David Lavallee, SUNY provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs. “For many years, they’ve struggled to have a fully functioning and well-staffed administration with a small number of students. So historically, it’s been a challenge, and that’s where our focus has been.”

The recommendations will be made as part of the recently established SUNY Campus Alliance Networks, which was created in response to the state’s fiscal crisis and will allow campuses to increase enrollment, faculty and jobs within their communities by shifting overhead administrative costs to their instructional sides, Lavallee said.

The administrative alignment comes on the heels of Donald P. Zingale’s announcement he would retire as SUNY Cobleskill president on Aug. 3, following a 44-month tenure in which he was the subject of a still-unresolved federal lawsuit. The agricultural school has undergone a high turnover rate within its administration, with no president in the last 10 years serving more than three years.

“It’s a mixed thing for both campuses,” said Vancko, who noted how excited she was to manage both campuses. “Delhi is giving up half a president and Cobleskill, though it doesn’t have a president currently, is at least giving up that title. But the tradeoff is they’re getting someone who’s experienced with SUNY and is a seasoned administrator.”

Vancko has served as Delhi’s ninth president since 1999. Prior to her Delhi term, she served as vice president for enrollment services at Hocking College in Ohio. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Penn State University and her doctoral degree in higher education administration from Ohio University.

Although Cobleskill and Delhi are 100-year-old technology schools with similar missions, Vancko said she doesn’t expect to walk onto Cobleskill’s campus with an already established plan of how it should operate.

“It never works that way,” she said. “It has to be my learning about the campus, learning the culture, how people feel about the campus and its strengths. And then after I get to know the campus, we’ll work together on how we can best position ourselves for the future.”

Lavallee said that local college councils have registered concern about how their respective colleges will coordinate services.

“It’s a big unknown how it’s all going to roll out,” he said. “They want to know how they’re actually going to get these services together and have a unified administration. It’s something that will be worked out department by department.”

Carreno, interim president at Morrisville, will work with SUNYIT President Yeigh and their respective college councils to determine the best transition for stakeholders in their region. Carreno will still serve as interim president during the transition, which Lavallee said will occur if the Board of Trustees approves Zimpher’s recommendation.

Yeigh, who could not be reached for comment, said in a news release Wednesday that he would be honored to serve as president at both schools.

“Shared leadership and other measures that will emerge as our alliance develops will only enhance the quality of education at our campuses and give more students access to it,” he said in the release.

Though the campuses will share presidents, they will not be merged and will retain their individual identities, including insignias, academic specialties and program offerings.

A chief operating officer will be “in charge” while the president is away from one campus, Lavallee said. Most colleges already operate this way, as presidents generally have meetings out of town requiring frequent travel, he said.

Students can access the academic resources of the second campus in their region, Lavallee said. For example, if a course is full at Cobleskill, students will be able to take it at Delhi and transfer the credit back to Cobleskill when completed.

“Obviously people have their loyalties, and they want to make sure they get at least as good a service as they got before,” Lavallee said. “We want students to get better service with this.”

Zimpher first outlined the idea for shared SUNY services in her State of the University address at the beginning of the year. It was formally established Aug. 4.

SUNY Cobleskill has an enrollment of 2,600 students divided among 50 programs. About 650 faculty and staff work on the 782-acre campus. SUNY Delhi enrolls more than 3,100 students at its 625-acre campus. Students at both campuses, which are approximately 45 minutes apart, begin their fall semesters Aug. 29.

More than 2,800 students are enrolled at SUNYIT, with a growing number of students enrolled in online degree programs. Classes start Aug. 29. Morrisville State College enrolls approximately 3,300 students at its 150-acre campus and begins its fall semester Aug. 22. The campuses are located about 30 miles apart.

Proposed alliances include SUNY schools at Plattsburgh, Albany, New Paltz, Purchase and Empire State College; Cortland and Oneonta; Upstate Medical University and Binghamton; Environmental College of Science and Forestry and Oswego; Canton and Potsdam; and Alfred State, Fredonia, Geneseo and Brockport; as well as invited regional community colleges and a slew of downstate schools.

Upstate Medical University in Syracuse has already crafted an academic plan with Binghamton University and an administrative plan with neighboring SUNY Environmental College of Science and Forestry, Lavallee said.

SUNY school presidents will discuss further plans for sharing services and administration at a Sept. 8 meeting.

Categories: Schenectady County

Leave a Reply