Saying farewell to Merodie A. Hancock, president of SUNY Empire State College – Part II
By Suzanne Lazar ’16, graduate student, SUNY Empire State College; editor, The Student Connection
August 17, 2017
During Hancock’s run, we saw positive growth in the college with the transition and redirection of how the college guides students within their areas of study. We also saw an increase in events to promote student engagement, and the college launched the beginning of a, now annual, statewide open house to help increase enrollment and retention. In addition to faculty and staff hosting and speaking at the open house events, ESC reached out to current students and alumni to also speak to potential new students and give them a better sense of why ESC is a great college to attend.
When I spoke with Hancock during her final weeks at ESC, I wanted to ask her questions about her experience(s) at ESC and share her genuine responses. One thing I know about our former president, is how open and sincere she is in speaking her mind about college policy, transition and change, and her passion for student success. I’m very fortunate in that I had multiple opportunities to work with her and speak to her, where many students don’t.
On the topic of how the President Hancock made an impact on students, faculty, staff, and the areas they work in, Anastasia Pratt, associate professor and mentor at SUNY Empire State College, had this to say: “In that she has overseen a restructuring of our organization, President Hancock's legacy is immense. How I engage with students and carry out our mission is affected by this new organization of the college, which ties us together by our academic disciplines and lets us interact across geographic divisions.”
Hancock rallied for students to get engaged in events and activities at ESC, she had a vested interest in students and enjoyed every opportunity to she had to speak with them. Jawana Richardson ’16, is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s in the Business Management and Economics program and is a student who has overcome adversity. With encouragement and support from her mentor, faculty and staff at ESC, she pushed through and made great efforts to get the most out of her experience(s) at ESC. Richardson had this to say about Hancock:
“When President Hancock first joined us, I was a new student. I met her while attending the 2013 Student Academic Conference in Albany, NY. It was her first time attending, as well as mine. While I was taking it all in, I happened to run into President Hancock in passing, and struck up a conversation. The quick chat turned into an in-depth conversation about leadership opportunities for our female students. From that day forward, I got very involved in clubs and activities at ESC, and I have always appreciated President Hancock for being approachable, open, forthright, genuine and honest A woman who kept her word and a woman who knows her stuff!”
“I will miss President Hancock, her open-door policy and having access to her as a student. I will miss her presenting me with my medal at my graduation this spring, but I am extremely happy for her success as well as the opportunities that await me in the future.”
“I will be leaving the college stronger and prouder than ever. My initial fears have evolved into triumphs! Thanks a million President Hancock. For all the above reasons, this is why I love “My” Empire State College, and I will always pay forward. all that has been afforded to me.”
Clearly, Hancock has made an impact on students and faculty but the experience serving ESC as president, made an impact on Hancock as well. Hancock stated, “I hope the college keeps changing and growing. The college isn’t afraid to assess ideas and strategies and isn’t afraid to make mistakes as we make changes. Failure can sometimes be seen as good. I hope that constant iterative growth is a legacy I can leave behind.”
Like Richardson, ESC has made a huge impact on students in ways that help them grow, succeed, and create lifelong opportunities. But ESC also impacts faculty and staff in positive ways. Cammie Baker-Clancy, director of graduate outreach & admissions at SUNY Empire State College School for Graduate Studies, said this about some of her most memorable experiences at ESC, “My most memorable experience repeats each year – watching our students graduate! Each ceremony is filled with celebration and pride. You cannot attend a SUNY Empire State College graduation and not be touched and humbled by the amazing accomplishments of our students.”
Graduation is something that Hancock mentioned she would really miss. When asked what she will miss the most, Hancock replied “the students.” She also went on to talk about how much she enjoyed the commencement ceremonies and said this, “I’ll miss standing on stage and looking into the wings at the next student who is getting ready to walk across the stage, then making eye contact as I’m holding the medallion and they approach. Those are moments I will really miss.”
I met Hancock for the first time at the 2014 Student Academic Conference. I learned about the conference when attending an open house in Latham, NY. Danielle Boardman, coordinator of student life, was manning a table at the event and I stopped to see what kind of information was being offered. Boardman had a display with a variety of services and ways for students to get engaged. One event Boardman recommeded I attend was the Student Acadamic Conference. She had an iPad handy for students to register which made it east not to go home an forget. I registered, and two months into my first term as an undergraduate, I attended the conference and began my journey of life changing events.
I finished my undergraduate studies in December 2016 and attended commencement in June 2017. I sat patiently and proudly as I watched Hancock present each student with a medal. I had so many emotions churning when I rose with the row of other graduates and began walking to stage to assemble in line and wait for my name to be called. When the time came, I looked at every person sitting on the stage representing ESC. I saw before me some of the faculty who were part of my educational journey. When I approached President Hancock, she put the medal around my neck and gave me a hug. The moment felt surreal and flashed very quickly. I continued my walk across the stage toward my mentor who was handing Hancock the medals. She also gave me a hug and as I exited the stage, I felt the moment that I had been waiting for, for more than 30 years.
Because of Hancock’s amazing leadership and the incredible support of ESC’s faculty, staff and administration, to say that my experience as a student at SUNY Empire State College changed my life, is a large understatement.
Thank you President Hancock, for serving one of SUNY’s 64 educational institutions and best of luck in your new endeavors.