“May you live in interesting times…”
Believed to have originated centuries ago as a Chinese proverb, this saying certainly applies to us here in the 21st century. These times include a revolution in higher education – a call to arms – with the epicenter in the United States. And Lehman College is preparing to meet that revolution head-on.
Challenges to U.S. higher education have never been greater. They include decreasing local, state, and federal support; rapidly evolving student demographics; growing attainment gaps in underserved populations; massive changes in technology; greater accountability expectations from accreditors, policymakers, and the public; and stiffer, relentless competition for students among public, private, and for-profit institutions.
Lehman College and The City University of New York are not exempt from these challenges—and we must prepare for the changes yet to come. That is why we are redefining what a Lehman College education means for the students we serve and for the evolution of our institution.
This challenge is not new to us. In fact, it is the ongoing implementation of the College’s Strategic Plan: Achieving the Vision. Reflecting on our mission, vision, and strategic plan, and the need to think creatively about our common future, I convened a task force last fall to begin the process of prioritizing academic and administrative programs. The group unanimously agreed there is a compelling need for Lehman to engage in such a review to emerge as a stronger, more innovative, and more competitive institution while also affirming our core mission and values.
Through a transparent and inclusive evaluation process, Lehman College is examining all academic and administrative programs and services, focusing on their efficiency, effectiveness, and centrality to the College’s mission. Faculty and staff from across the disciplines and departments are involved in a year-long exercise that will guide the strategic allocation of existing and new resources – with a focus on how they contribute to student success and to Lehman’s identity.
We are also focusing on the distinguishing features of an institution of higher education. Our identity. Our “brand,” if you will. We have begun to develop of a unique “positioning statement” for the College — who we are, who we want to be, where we need go in the future. The result is to be an identity that differentiates Lehman College from other CUNY senior colleges, and from public and private colleges across the region.
To arrive there, we are tapping into the great well of knowledge that resides within the Lehman, Bronx, and New York communities – gathering the ideas and thoughts of students, faculty, staff, school counselors, and leaders from across our community. With the help of a highly regarded expert in global branding and strategic communications, these groups will help mold a branding and positioning statement.
None of this is easy, but it is absolutely necessary. The challenges we face are complex. Lehman College’s future as an institution that thrives in the 21st century depends on these contributions as we strive to bring our vision to fruition.
I look forward to the participation of our faculty, staff, students, and members of our community as we move these important processes forward, and draw a roadmap to the future of Lehman College.
Ricardo R. Fernández