Letter from the Officer in Charge

This has been a turbulent year. The COVID-19 pandemic has upended our ways of life, our plans, our jobs — nearly everything. In the midst of this historic pandemic, we saw the rise of a powerful movement to confront our nation’s legacy of racial injustice and work toward a fairer and more just future. On top of it all, we entered into one of the most contentious presidential elections in modern history this fall.

In these times, it is more important than ever to hold on to our common ground and do what is right. I’m proud to say the SUNY Empire community has been rallying to support our students, give back to our communities, and take action in the face of adversity.

We stepped up early this year when the pandemic struck — sewing masks, donating computers, volunteering, launching our COVID-19 emergency educational relief fund — to ease the burden on our students, colleagues, friends, and neighbors. We also saw the strength of SUNY Empire’s core commitment to innovation and flexibility as we quickly transitioned to fully remote work and study to help stop the spread.

When protests erupted across the country, and in our own backyards, after the death of George Floyd, our Presidential Task Force to Enhance Diversity and Inclusion quickly organized a series of webinars and discussions to address the movement and continue to drive action within SUNY Empire. We will not shy away from hard questions, and we will insist on modeling the change we wish to see in the world.

And in October, as our community felt the tensions leading up to this year’s general election, we launched the collegewide Reason & Respect initiative to promote civic engagement and respectful, civil discourse in the college community. As an institution of higher education, we are committed to demonstrating the highest ideals of open inquiry and the value of the free exchange of ideas in a democracy.

With all this, SUNY Empire saw plenty of its own changes, which you’ll read about in this issue of Connections. We undertook a comprehensive review of college operations to make improvements across the board and map out a multiyear blueprint for responsible growth, always driven by a focus on student success. Officer in Charge Beth Berlin continued to steer the path on this course during her recent tenure. As SUNY Empire’s officer in charge during this transitional period, I am honored and excited to carry forward this student-centered, sustainable, and innovative vision for the future of SUNY Empire. I hope you’ll join me.

Nathan Gonyea Officer in Charge