Geneseo seeks a new president as Christopher C. Dahl retired last year after leading the College for 18 years. Dahl strengthened Geneseo’s position as one of the nation’s most distinguished public liberal arts colleges. These efforts continue under the leadership of interim president Carol Long. The next president will be expected to reinforce the College’s current strengths and lead the community to reach for and grasp ambitious goals and initiatives that will define its future.
In the coming years, the president will lead the College in a planning process designed to identify the considerable challenges faced by public institutions and the residential, liberal arts model of education to develop effective responses. These challenges take the form, among other things, of decreasing state funding; rapidly evolving demographics; a daunting cost structure, particularly in financially stressed times; fundamental changes in the ways students study, learn, and access information; a wide variation in the kind of experiences students have had – and not had – when they arrive on campus; unsustainable discounting practices among competing institutions and the increasing emphasis on higher education that favors job training over the more subtle enduring virtues of the liberal arts experience.
These challenges are not unique to Geneseo, but the solutions will be. The College seeks in its next president a person who is energized by these challenges and the many others that will emerge. It seeks a person who will vigorously and rigorously engage the College community in charting a dynamic future for itself. He or she will need the ability to lead and the courage to ask the College community to look critically at itself in the context of a rapidly changing world.
Specifically, the new president will address the following major challenges during the first years of his or her tenure:
The president will join the College at a critical juncture. While it enjoys the stability that comes with a stellar reputation in the state and long-term leadership, the president will work with the entire College community to create a vision for the College’s future and a strategic plan to guide critical decisions and realize that vision. The president will be creative, inclusive and practical as s/he protects and enhances the quality of liberal arts education and transformational learning opportunities for which Geneseo is known.
The president will lead the Geneseo community in the continued re-envisioning of Geneseo in response to the aforementioned challenges, remaining student-focused, finding creative ways to generate resources, working collaboratively with the SUNY system and leveraging the entrepreneurial spirit of faculty, students and staff. S/he will champion the case for the relevance and broad application of a liberal arts education to a job-market sensitive population, and foster the continued growth of internationalism and diversity that will help position Geneseo for long-term success and growth. In promoting a culture of responsibility and excitement about Geneseo’s direction as a liberal arts institution in the 21st century, the president will defend the College’s historic core values and inspire the contributions necessary to realize the aspirations of the institution and its students.
Geneseo’s shared vision of reinvigorated liberal arts for the 21st century will help define that brand and set it apart from peers. It is important to increase the College’s brand awareness by continuing to call public attention to the academic caliber of Geneseo’s students and their success following Geneseo, as well as the distinction of its faculty. The president will be the College’s enthusiastic chief advocate and spokesperson internally and externally. The new president will work to broadcast the institution’s brand and build upon its strengths to enhance the reputation of the College, both within and outside New York State.
Geneseo has historically enjoyed a reputation in New York as the “state honors college,” easily filling its freshman classes with students who are impressive on every dimension. In recent years, the College has faced increased competition from certain other institutions that offer modestly better financial aid packages. The new president, working closely with the Vice President for Enrollment Management and the faculty, will lead a process to assess points of opportunity in both recruitment and financial aid. S/he will articulate the value of the Geneseo education over its cost-cutting competitors. As the number of high school graduates in the state decreases, the admissions strategy will also include the recruitment of and support for more out-of-state students, international, and transfer students who will add diversity and strengthen the College financially.
Diversity stands as one of Geneseo's core institutional values, framing the College's sense of community and fostering respect and appreciation for the broad spectrum of backgrounds, beliefs, talents, interests and life choices of students, faculty and staff. Diversity supports the College's central mission as a center of excellence in undergraduate liberal arts education, providing dynamic frameworks for teaching and learning as well as new collaborations across disciplines, across campus, nationally and globally. The College has made strides in improving the diversity of students, faculty and staff and provides several activities and initiatives to encourage diversity – including the President’s Commission on Diversity and Community. As an academic and administrative leader, the president will build on these efforts to foster the recruitment, success and retention of diverse students, faculty and staff and encourage the continued engagement and understanding of diversity and cultural competence throughout the College.
The president will work diligently with elected and appointed public officials in a wide variety of public bodies at all levels of government to advocate for the College’s economic needs.
The president will provide strong leadership for the Geneseo Foundation to strengthen annual giving, prepare for future capital campaigns, and develop an effective strategy to continue to increase the endowment. Building on the recent campaign’s positive momentum and the strong sense of pride and loyalty that emerges from the Geneseo experience, s/he will work closely with the College’s Vice President for College Advancement in a persistent, coordinated effort to build relationships, engage alumni and friends, and communicate the impact that supporting the College will have. The president will also raise funds from institutional donors, and generate corporate sponsorship through partnerships with businesses, foundations, nonprofit and other civic and public-sector enterprises.
Other potential areas for resource development include growing income from tuition and fees by building a consensus on the optimal level of student enrollment; exploring digital initiatives to support new opportunities as they arise; expanding grant-funded research and partnerships with government and other funders; and placing an increased focus on the College’s global programs. The president will also foster an entrepreneurial culture in which people are encouraged to pursue opportunities for resources that will advance the College’s mission.
While SUNY Geneseo is positioned to continue its healthy financial condition, there are challenges in maintaining financial health. As funding for public universities across the country has decreased, New York State is not unique in its budgetary challenges. State appropriations have not kept pace with inflationary pressures resulting in increasing tuition rates and budget cuts.
The president, working closely with the Vice President for Finance, will be responsible for leading the development and prudent execution of the College’s operating budget and for working to ensure financial stability. To retain and strengthen its position as a leading institution of higher education, Geneseo must identify the core values on which it cannot compromise and identify the opportunities that it must seize in order to move ahead. This will necessitate systematically making strategic choices, managing budgets with great care, and allocating resources to their best and highest use.
Geneseo has woven itself into the fabric of the surrounding community, creating partnerships, research opportunities and services that have been mutually beneficial. It is critical for the new president to be a visible and collegial leader to students, faculty and staff as well the community that takes enormous pride in being the home of an exceptional public liberal arts college. The president will understand and continue the focus that has been placed on issues regarding economic development, not only for the College but also for the continued economic health of the community in which SUNY Geneseo resides.