The College and Its History
In 1971, Ernest L. Boyer, chancellor of the State University of New York, conceived a new college for the state’s public university: a college dedicated to adult, student-centered education. Empire State College would invite people into higher education by removing impediments to access such as time, location, institutional processes, and even curricular custom, as well as habits of learning and teaching. Students individually would define their academic needs, purposes and efforts. The college would be flexible in supporting them, through its faculty, policies and procedures, to achieve demonstrable college-level learning. This is the animating idea, the root of Empire State College, which is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Empire State College fulfills this mission by providing learning opportunities designed to accommodate students with family, work and community responsibilities. At the core of the learning-teaching environment is individualized study and the creation of an individual degree plan that is supported by a faculty mentor to whom each student is assigned. Empire State College students can take advantage of multiple modes of study including guided independent studies, study groups, intensive residencies, online courses and blended-learning experiences. The college also was one of the first institutions in the United States to develop a program of prior learning assessment, whereby students may earn college credit through assessment of prior learning from their work and life experiences.
Empire State College has a history of responding to market forces resulting in close partnerships with the military, business and labor communities, government agencies and nonprofit associations that are seeking to provide their employees with a rigorous college education tailored to their needs. Experts from these fields have advised the college on its curricula and served as resources to students and advisors to faculty.
The college operates with a budget of approximately $100 million, building assets that extend across the state, a complex infrastructure, an expansive array of online offerings and a unique environment dedicated to adult learners. Empire State College is a member of the 64-institution SUNY system, and is among the largest by individual headcount enrollment. The college has locations clustered by geographic regions across the state and each region has its own administrative staff and structure. The college also features a School for Graduate Studies, a Center for International Programs, which provides degree opportunities for students from foreign countries in many offices around the world, and the Center for Distance Learning, which serves students in New York, out of state, and abroad and, now, accounts for nearly 50 percent of the college’s enrollment.
The Mission, Core Values and Culture
The mission and core values of Empire State College reflect a culture centered on alternative higher education for working adults that is at once innovative yet steeped in tradition. The president will enjoy the support of a committed faculty and staff who play an active role in how the college fulfills its mission.
Empire State College takes pride in its belief that learning ought to be a collaborative pursuit between student and mentor, each sharing responsibility and authority for it, regardless of wherever and however that learning takes place. To that end, the college requires that all students engage in a process of educational planning, which responds to and reflects a student’s academic, professional and personal goals.
These and other innovations – many now considered mainstream – have allowed Empire State College to maintain a leadership role in today’s competitive environment of adult higher education. Increasingly, Empire State College is being recognized as having abided by the principles of “open education” since its founding, and in that spirit now is being looked to for leadership in this important movement. Over the next several years, the college anticipates a new and broader role as a key partner within the SUNY system as it embarks on an exciting new initiative called Open SUNY. This initiative, championed by SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, will draw on the college’s expertise in providing innovative and alternative educational opportunities, and sharing and expanding these methodologies across the system.
The College Council
Each college of the SUNY system has a College Council made up of members appointed by recommendation of the governor of New York for seven-year terms. The College Council at Empire State College includes one student, who is recommended by a dean of a learning center or program on a rotating basis. The College Council provides advice to the president and college administration; represents the state of New York and its taxpayers in affirming that the college is fulfilling its public mission; and receives information about college programs, budgets, enrollments, facilities and student learning. The Empire State College Council has statutory areas of responsibility entrusted by the SUNY trustees, including the development of recommendations for the college presidency should that position become vacant. The council helps appoint the president by making a recommendation to the chancellor of the State University of New York; the chancellor then recommends the appointment to the State University of New York Board of Trustees.
The Foundation Board
The Empire State College Foundation administers and dispenses the monies generated by its fundraising efforts. It invests in the development of professional staff and faculty, provides seed money for innovation and new program development, and helps provide the infrastructure and tools the college needs to do its job. Board members come with a wide variety of backgrounds, from corporate to nonprofit to policy-making and operations, and the ranks of college alumni. Members are extraordinarily committed to the college, giving significant resources in time, funding, advocacy and knowledge. The president will have a very close working relationship with the Foundation Board as a group and with its individual members.
The Students and Alumni
Empire State College enrolls one of the largest student populations in the SUNY system, currently serving an average of 22,000 students annually. The college consistently has ranked No. 1 in student satisfaction in SUNY surveys. Empire State College students come from all walks of life and share the goal of achieving an undergraduate or graduate degree. The vast majority of students work and manage family and community obligations while enrolled. The average student age is 36, about 60 percent are female and most students have earned college credit earlier in their lives. Their diverse interests, experiences and professional goals are at the core of the incredible richness they bring to the institution.
The annual Student Academic Conference brings together Empire State College students for sharing, support and inspiration and showcases their academic work. It serves as a venue for the public recognition and celebration of students and their academic and intellectual achievements and pursuits. The Student All College Conference is modeled after the college's annual All College Conference for faculty, staff and professionals, which brings together the entire college community to share and learn from each other.
The college’s more than 66,000 graduates include members of the U.S. Congress, the New York Legislature, and leaders in education, the arts, business and the civic life of their communities. Students develop a strong loyalty to the college, a commitment that is reflected by strong alumni support, positive response to outreach for resource development, alumni willingness to serve in volunteer positions for the college, and in alumni’s ongoing enthusiasiam and promotion of Empire State College and its mission. An active Alumni Student Federation Board allocates funding for a wide array of student and alumni activities across the college. Alumni are represented with one member on the Empire State College Foundation Board and serve as important Empire State College connections to their communities, often identifying ways in which the college can be a partner in serving community needs.
The Administration, Faculty, Professional and Support Staff
Many members of the Empire State College community have a wealth of historical knowledge about the college drawn from years of experience, while more recently hired faculty, professional and support staff, and administrators bring important perspectives from other institutions along with a wealth of teaching and professional experience.
Empire State College has nearly 2,000 full- and part-time employees. Approximately 70 percent are faculty (with 96 percent holding a terminal degree), 15 percent are professional staff, 12 percent are support staff, and the remaining 3 percent are administrators.
The administrative team of the college is charged with a broad range of responsibilities including academic affairs, admissions, alumni and student relations, government relations, communications, partnerships, philanthropy, business services, student financial services, technological enhancement of student services and computer services.
Several annual meetings bring together various groupings of the dispersed community, either in person or through technologically enabled opportunities. These meetings include a fall academic conference, the virtual meeting for academic employees to discuss topics within and across disciplines, and the All College Conference, a hallmark of the college’s culture, which brings together all voices of the college to examine various issues.
Challenges and Opportunities
Empire State College faces challenges common to many colleges, including those in state university systems where a primary concern is declining government funding. Thus, it is imperative that the president continues efforts to advocate for the college through state and federal legislative bodies and within the SUNY system, while at the same time responding to the needs of the state, the nation and the communities where college offices are located.
The college’s commitment to a shared governance system allows for the thoughtful exchange of ideas between the administration and the college’s faculty and staff. Productive engagement with this system by the president is essential.
The college is at a moment in time when it has the opportunity to lead enormously significant transformations in higher education across the state, nationally and globally. The president will be presented with the challenge of successfully managing this opportunity without sacrificing the core values of the college and its central attributes, which now are being accorded national recognition.
With regard to administrative structure, the college has some of the typical centralized vs. non-centralized challenges of a geographically dispersed organization, among them individual automony of college learning sites vs. centralization of processes and systems, serving students using a combination of learning modalities, and communication with and among professionals and faculty across the state.
Empire State College is considered an exemplar of what research shows is most popular with today’s adult student: a “blended” model of online and in-person education. Empire State College’s expertise in assessment of students’ prior learning is another significant asset and a distinguishing characteristic in adult education in which the college has a significant national and international reputation. The president will direct human and other resources to take the blended-learning and assessment practices to new levels, and to ensure that the college remains at the national forefront of adult education.
The Position and Basic Functions
The president will provide the leadership and strategic direction for Empire State College; oversee its critical policy and advocacy efforts; and be responsible for the successful management of its day-to-day operations, including determining operating policy, managing enrollment and development of external grant funding, and coordinating organizational activities, media, government and business relations. Reporting to and working closely with the chancellor of the State University, and with the chairs and members of the College Council and the Foundation Board, the president will ensure that Empire State College continues to be fiscally sound and that its strategies and programs meet the diverse needs and interests of its students, faculty, professional and support staff, and its administrators. It is critically important that the president be able to speak enthusiastically and persuasively to internal and external audiences about matters of concern to adult learners; represent and advance the work of Empire State College in blended learning, the assessment of students’ prior college-level learning, and in enriched online delivery; and promote the college’s visibility locally, at the state level, nationally and internationally.
The president will be a model of integrity who will emphasize academic quality and inspire continued collaboration, dedication and accountabilty for student performance from the entire college community. The president will be an ambassador and advocate for the Empire State College mission, its students and the field of adult learning in government arenas, throughout the state university system and in a wider world of higher education leaders. The president will be an enthusiastic communicator with potential funders across the country, who will positively support and contribute to the college and its efforts. The president will guide the continued enrollment growth of the college while balancing the resource needs for the array of delivery modes on which the college prides itself.
The priorities of the president of SUNY Empire State College will be to:
- gain a holistic understanding of Empire State College – its history and culture, core values and purpose, programs and outreach, structure and organization, finances, funding, policies and the substantive issues critical to the college and its place in the State University of New York system
- comprehend Empire State College across its centers, units and programs, faculty, support and professional staff, administration and students; visit all the centers and get to know employees and students outside the Saratoga Springs offices; understand the daily lives of faculty, administrators, support and professional staff
- understand the special nature of a student-centered college within SUNY’s campus-based environment
- inspire the confidence and trust of employees and the members of the Foundation Board, the College Council and the SUNY Board of Trustees so as to enlist their support for an ambitious agenda already underway propelling the college forward; reach out to peers across the country and internationally and maintain or establish positive relationships with them
- focus on current facilities projects, keep them moving forward, sustain state and other support for them, and see them through to conclusion
- in collaboration with appropriate members of the college community, hone and amplify Empire State College’s message and reputation in the fields of adult and higher education
- cultivate a collegial and team-oriented working environment across centers and programs, ensuring collaborative relationships, open lines of communication and an environment of the highest integrity
- refine recent articulation of a vision for the college and expand support from internal and external constituencies
- continue the college’s diversity initiative to recruit and retain a diverse group of employees, increase diversity among the student body and enhance the diversity of the college’s curriculum
- enhance the college’s commitment to sustainability in daily operations and academic pursuits.
Ideally, the president should have the following experiences and qualifications:
- a demonstrated commitment to higher education, especially adult education and student-centered modes of learning
- at least 10 years of proven senior-level managerial and strategic planning experience with commensurate fiscal responsibilities, preferably in a higher education institution or as an executive in a regional or national organization
- capacity to assess, analyze and redesign organizational structures
- proven problem-solving abilities and experience in the public, nonprofit or private sector
- ability to relate to and interact with the business sector, organized labor and government agencies that look to Empire State College as a major provider of learning opportunities and degrees for their constituents
- significant experience as an active listener and consensus builder
- ability to balance diverse agendas and points of view, while maintaining a sense of common purpose;
- demonstrated judiciousness in understanding, assessing and addressing differences throughout the institution
- experience working with a board and other volunteers
- knowledge and experience to guide the college community from overall strategy to day-to-day practicalities
- experience with a unionized environment
- experience working with governance issues as they relate to serving as a chief executive of a single organization, as well as experience that would be compatible with collaborating with colleagues within the SUNY system
- demonstrated success in framing the vision and concepts for generating funding from government, foundations and corporations as well as individuals; familiarity with pursuing and securing grants from public and private funders
- a record of success setting priorities for stakeholders and for an organization as a whole; and balancing internal management with external presence and relationships
- experience leading an organization through rapid and successful change
- acumen in both finance and fundraising
- outstanding communication skills with the ability to connect to people with passion and clarity both in writing and verbally, as both the internal leader of and as the external face of the college; comfortable with both formal and extemporaneous presentations
- a terminal degree and significant teaching experience at the college level are highly desirable.
The successful candidate will have an unquestionably high level of integrity, as well as be:
- committed to Empire State College’s mission and goals
- someone who will embrace the college’s public mission and the integral role it plays in higher education in the state of New York and nationally; comfortable with the president’s role as a high-level public servant
- an inspiring, passionate and confident leader who can affect change where it is needed; a person who values effective management and administration, and has the ability to delegate with a focus on accountability; one who fosters the support, confidence and participation of all levels of faculty, staff and administration; an individual whose decision making is data-driven
- a person of personal authority and credibility who is organized, creative, strategic, politically aware and financially astute; a consensus builder who can bend when necessary yet be firm and decisive when needed; an individual able to command respect within Empire State College and among peers in higher education
- a catalyst and risk taker who is able to conceptualize and express ideas, and anticipate and act on events that will advance Empire State College’s mission in the state, country and worldwide
- a person exhibiting outstanding human qualities such as veracity, reliability, leadership, loyalty, dedication and perseverance as well as someone with strong interpersonal skills, combined with good judgment, diplomacy and trust
- an individual who is committed to and embraces diversity of all kinds
- innovative; able to envision the college from the broadest of perspectives, map out its future growth yet assess and act quickly on opportunities as they arise
- an individual who is astute, focused, strategic and intellectually rigorous, entrepreneurial and tech-savvy
- a leader-manager who shares information, listens well and respects the abilities of others and is able to engage individuals at all levels in a variety of settings
- emotionally mature with a sense of humor and the diplomatic skill to work with a group of diverse personalities; decisive and resourceful, with the organizational sensitivity to gain the support and confidence of the entire Empire State College community
- energetic and hardworking; willing and able to travel frequently.
The administrative offices of Empire State College are located in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., a small city with a vibrant atmosphere. Picturesque tree-lined streets with rows of gracious old-style Victorian houses and the restored spa areas highlight the town’s colorful history. Numerous museums, sidewalk cafes, bookstores and boutiques, as well as a major commerce/shopping district on the outskirts of town, a performing arts center nestled in a beautiful state park and the world-famous thoroughbred race course make for an attractive quality of life. The Saratoga and Adirondacks regions host an array of fine dining establishments and bistros, lakes and forests, family fun parks, festivals, historic sites and museums. Albany, the state’s capital, is a 30-minute drive south, and New York City, Boston and Montreal are each within a 3.5-hour drive. The area is family friendly, and there are many options for housing from urban brownstones to rural farmland. The president will be expected to travel widely to visit and consult with faculty and staff at college locations across the state, and consult with higher education leaders nationally and internationally.
Interested candidates should submit a cover letter and resume or curriculum vitae to RPA Inc. at email@example.com.
For a confidential discussion or to make a nomination, please call Kate Nolde, associate vice president, or Dr. Jim Heffernan, senior consultant, at 800-992-9277. The first review of candidates will begin on Dec. 13, 2012. Applications will be accepted until the position is filled.
Empire State College supports all efforts to enrich its community through a steadfast commitment to excellence through diversity. Empire State College is an AA/EEO/IRCA/ADA employer.