February 23, 2016

Cathleen Sheils Joins SUNY Empire State College as First Executive Director for the Western New York Region

Cathleen Sheils, executive director for SUNY Empire State College's Western New York Region. Photo/ © Cornell University ILR Rachel Philipson
Cathleen Sheils, executive director of the Western New York region. Photo/ © Cornell University ILR Rachel Philipson

(SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Feb. 23, 2016) Cathleen M. Sheils has joined SUNY Empire State College as the executive director for the college’s Western New York region.

Sheils reports to Clayton Steen, the college’s vice president for enrollment management.

As a regional executive director, a new position at the college, she is taking on responsibilities for regional student recruitment and retention programs, as well as day-to-day operational management of the college’s 15 western New York state locations.

Sheils also will play a leadership role in all statewide recruitment and retention efforts.

“Cathy’s accomplishments in attracting new students to the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University, her demonstrated leadership and ability to collaborate across offices and departments and with the faculty, her initiative and creativity, combined with her success, made her the ideal choice to be the first executive director for SUNY Empire State College,” said Steen. “As SUNY Empire transitions to a more efficient and effective statewide administrative structure during the spring, Cathy will play a leading role in student recruitment and retention and in streamlining day-to-day operations, so that the college will be more responsive to student and faculty needs.”

Sheils, 48, began her new role Monday, Feb. 8, and is currently based at the college’s East Syracuse location.

“Joining SUNY Empire State College represents wonderful personal and professional opportunity for me,” said Sheils. “My gratitude goes to President Merodie Hancock, Clayton Steen and the college’s search committee for choosing me for a brand new position at SUNY Empire. I was attracted to the new position because I believe in SUNY Empire’s mission of providing broad access to a high-quality education for the state’s growing population of nontraditional students.

 “Online, face to face and through a blend of both, SUNY Empire’s commitment to supporting degree completion through individualized learning, mentoring by the faculty and flexible learning structures is a great model for contemporary and future higher education across the nation," she said. "The support of my new colleagues throughout the Western New York region and New York state has been outstanding. Through continuing and collaborative efforts, we can attract and retain more students, better support the faculty who develop and teach the curriculum and, in so doing, strengthen the college’s contributions to the SUNY system, businesses and residents throughout the state.”

Once completed later this year, her base of operations will be the college’s new environmentally friendly facility located in the Town of Brighton, which will educate students throughout the region and the state, and serve the greater Rochester and Monroe County communities.

In addition to the new Rochester facility, Sheils will oversee operations of the college’s Alfred, Auburn, Batavia, Binghamton, Buffalo-Cheektowaga, Canandaigua, Corning-Elmira, Fredonia, Ithaca, Lakewood-Jamestown, Lockport, Olean, Syracuse-East Syracuse and Utica locations.

In addition to improving day-to-day operations, SUNY Empire also is in the process of enhancing its academic structure by organizing teaching and learning around the college's 12 undergraduate areas of study, in order to better serve the college's current and future nontraditional student population.

About Cathleen M. Sheils

Most recently, Sheils served as the director of admissions for the New York State School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University.

She reported to the ILR associate dean and worked with the ILR dean, associate deans of other schools, faculty and offices responsible for communications, alumni affairs and development, career and student services to meet the enrollment priorities for ILR, including New York state residents, first-generation to attend college, underrepresented minority and transfer students.

Her accomplishments at ILR include:

  • growing the number of first-year applications to 1,925, an increase of 100 percent
  • increasing the number of applicants who then chose to enroll from 49 to 73 percent
  • expanding the number of underrepresented students who also chose to enroll by 34 percent.

Sheils has served in a variety of roles involving strategic enrollment management, student recruitment and marketing at various schools at Cornell since 2004.

She earned a Master of Professional Studies in Policy Analysis and Management from the New York State College of Human Ecology at Cornell University in 1999 and a Bachelor of Science in Economics in 1989 from the New York State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University.

She also earned an associate degree from SUNY Morrisville.

Sheils’ professional affiliations include the American Marketing Association, the National Association for College Admissions Counseling and the New York State Transfer and Articulation Association.

About SUNY Empire State College

Empire State College, the nontraditional, open college of the SUNY system, educates more than 20,000 students worldwide at eight international sites, more than 35 locations in the state of New York, online, as well as face to face and through a blend of both, at the associate, bachelor’s and master’s levels.

The average age of an undergraduate student at the college is 35 and graduate students’ average age is 40.

Most Empire State College students are working adults. Many are raising families and meeting civic commitments in the communities where they live, while studying part time.

In addition to awarding credit for prior college-level learning, the college pairs each undergraduate student with a faculty mentor who supports that student throughout his or her college career.

Working with their mentors, students design an individual degree program and engage in guided independent study and course work onsite, online or through a combination of both, which provides the flexibility for students to choose where, when and how to learn.

Students have the opportunity to enroll five times during the year.

The college’s 77,000 alumni are active in their communities as entrepreneurs, politicians, business professionals, artists, nonprofit agency employees, teachers, veterans and active military, union members and more.

The college was first established in 1971 by the SUNY Board of Trustees with the encouragement of the late Ernest L. Boyer, chancellor of the SUNY system from 1970 to 1977. Boyer also served as United States commissioner of education during the administration of President Jimmy Carter and then as president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

More information about the college is available at www.esc.edu.


Media contact: David Henahan, director of communications

518-587-2100, ext. 2918