Previously published in The Campus
The Long Process, The Moments Before, and The Big Picture Ahead
“It’s not a day-to-day change; it’s a big picture change,” shares Vincent Boudreau, the recently elected 13th president of The City College of New York, while sitting in his office. Before December 4, his door read “Interim President,” yet now, room 300 in the Wille Administration Building simply displays, “President.”
The road to find a new leader for the City University of New York’s flagship college has been comprised of turns, speed bumps, and stop signs.
On October 7, 2016, the 12th president of CCNY, Lisa S. Coico, abruptly resigned amid allegations of mishandling college funds for personal usage. The helm was temporarily held by Mary Driscoll, Interim Provost, and was quickly passed to Vincent Boudreau.
During his time as interim, he has helped open the first food pantry on campus, launched WeAreOneCCNY, and actively denounced the executive order about DACA, amongst other things. More than a year later, on October 20, 2017, The New York Times reported that “Leader of City College of New York Will Shed Interim Status.”
Said article sparked conversations on campus, in Harlem, and across academic sectors. Less than 48 hours after, multiple prominent political, religious, and community leaders from Harlem spoke out in an email to The Times. They openly critiqued their lack of involvement in the selection process and asserted that Dr. Boudreau had made “no substantial effort to forge nurturing and meaningful bonds with the surrounding community.”
In those following weeks, before his appointment on December 4, Boudreau explains that he stepped off Convent Avenue and stepped into “a back room” in Harlem with congressmen to talk politics and the innovative things happening at City College.
“It has been a fantastic six weeks. Lots of people on this campus have been saying, ‘I’m really sorry you have to go through it; it seems so unfair.’ I take a totally different perspective, that I have, again, been making the shift from an internal president to a president [that] should be operating in the city, and what a great opportunity,” Boudreau maintains. He further notes, “My most important reflection on those six weeks is that I am in so much better a position now than I would have been otherwise, and that means the college is in a better position.”
After the aforementioned year long process, James B. Milliken, the chancellor of CUNY, who is scheduled to step down at the end of the academic year due to health complications, voiced appreciation for Dr. Boudreau’s service to CCNY at a Board of Trustees meeting and pointed enthusiastically to the subsequent years as president.
“With the board’s support, I look forward to his leadership with great enthusiasm, expectation, and confidence,” Milliken said. The question may now be reasonably asked, what are President Boudreau’s plans for the university he has dedicated 26 years of his life to? As with most recently-appointed leaders, Boudreau has both small and large goals for the future. He unpacks, “The biggest project is a framework shift for the institution.”
This shift, he tells, has to do with marketing City College as an epicenter for upward mobility – a cornerstone for students, researchers, and professors to learn, study, and teach on the important phenomena.
CUNY, and CCNY specifically, are consistently ranked in the top 5 colleges across the US that move low-income students into socially and economically higher positions.
Boudreau agrees that CCNY has advertised itself as a place that “educates a certain demographic and does it in a certain way that renders higher education accessible and affordable [for] young people whom it may not have been affordable or accessible.” However, he holds that, “What we haven’t done is say, to potential donors, alumni, policymakers, recruiters, [and] jobs, that City College is for social mobility.”
Additionally, Boudreau yearns there to be a local, national, and global understanding that social mobility can be found in every sector of CCNY. “It happens in the disciplines that you may not imagine it to happen in; it happens in engineering, it happens in the sciences, our technical fields as well as our social fields and the humanities.” He challenges CCNY to establish “the reputation of this place as a campus that is committed to these issues in important ways as an activist campus.”
Overall, Boudreau values the historical impact that CCNY represents in the larger educational history of the US. “This institution is the place, where as a society and as a people, we decided that this is what education should be for everybody, and it should be open, it should be acceptable, and whatever else is happening in the country, we have continued to do that,” he recounts, “it’s the greatest honor of my life.”
After the door label had been changed, his twitter bio updated, and his title solidified, Boudreau expressed, “It felt great, it’s funny, I’m still a bit in a fog.”
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