President Poskanzer to leave New Paltz for presidency at Carleton College
Steven G. Poskanzer, president of the State University of New York at New Paltz, has announced that he has accepted the presidency of Carleton College, one of the nation’s premier liberal arts colleges, in Northfield, Minnesota. He will begin his new duties on August 2.
Poskanzer is planning to step down at the end of June. SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher will name an interim president and consistent with SUNY policies, the College Council will conduct a national search to replace him.
“It will not be easy for me and my family to leave New Paltz,” Poskanzer said. “In the almost nine years I’ve been privileged to work here, we’ve made enormous strides in improving this College’s academic quality, raising its public stature, and positioning it for future success. In all of this it has been a special honor to build upon the many wise decisions of previous presidents, faculty and administrative leaders. I’m confident that the base we have built together will position New Paltz for greater achievement. I know I will watch with pride and interest from my new home in Minnesota as New Paltz continues to thrive.”
Carlteon, which has about 2,000 students, ranks third among all liberal arts colleges in the number of graduates who earned doctorates over the last 40 years. Said Poskanzer, “I have long admired Carleton and the role it plays in American higher education. I simply could not pass up this unparalleled opportunity.”
"I want to congratulate President Poskanzer on this wonderful opportunity," said SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher. "Steve's leadership has been invaluable, not only to New Paltz, but to the entire State University. His departure will be a tremendous loss to the SUNY family, but we wish him all the best and know that Carleton College will benefit tremendously from Steve's extraordinary skills as a campus president."
The chairman of Carelton College’s Board of Trustees and the presidential search committee co-chair, Jack Eugster, said Poskanzer impressed both the presidential search committee and the members of the Board. “Steven Poskanzer is a rare individual, who combines intellect, wit, and a passion for the liberal arts with an innate ability to win over almost everyone he meets,” Eugster said. “His successes as president at New Paltz and as a teacher-scholar are just the type of experiences the search committee and the Board of Trustees sought for Carleton’s next president.”
President Poskanzer’s tenure at New Paltz was marked by many accomplishments.
Through his leadership, the College’s academic profile grew both statewide and nationally. The percentage of entering freshmen coming from the highest selectivity category doubled from 20 percent to 40 percent. The average high school GPA for freshmen students rose from 87.9 to 91.2. The College’s acceptance rate is an envious 34 percent for freshmen and 36 percent for transfer students. During this time of change New Paltz has maintained its hallmark diversity, with one-quarter of its students coming from traditionally underrepresented groups.
President Poskanzer dramatically improved the public perception of the College, as exemplified by New Paltz’s designation in Newsweek as the “Hottest Small State School” in America in 2008 and a front-page story in The New York Times in 2009 highlighting the growing selectivity and quality of the College and describing it as one of the nation’s most well-regarded public institutions. Consequently, the school’s popularity grew, with freshmen applications jumping from 9,625 in 2001 to 15,500 in 2009, an increase of 61 percent.
During his tenure, student retention rates and graduation rates also spiked significantly. The freshmen-to-sophomore retention rate when he arrived was 83.6 percent. In 2009, it was 88 percent. New Paltz’s four- and six-year graduation rates have also reached new record levels. The four-year rate rose from 30.7 to 48.5 percent. The six-year rate went from 52 to 68.9 percent. This is well above the national average four-year graduation rate for public four-year institutions (29.9 percent) and the six-year rate (54.9 percent) and compares favorably to private colleges, with an average four-year rate of 51 percent and average six-year rate of 64.6 percent.
Poskanzer also improved the quality of student life through new and renovated residence halls, a new Athletic and Wellness Center, an addition to the Student Union (known as “the Aerie”), enhanced school spirit, increased success of the College’s sports teams, and better student services.
He forged partnerships with business and political leaders that helped garner $94 million in state capital funding beyond what the campus was slated to receive. This has led to the biggest investments in physical improvements to the New Paltz campus in decades, including a new science building, renovations of the library and the Old Main Building, and the Aerie. He improved public access to the College and its resources by opening a Welcome Center and establishing the Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach (CRREO), to conduct and publicize research on regional topics; and encourage faculty to build regionally-based service activity into their scholarship and teaching.
He obtained the College’s first-ever federal earmarks totaling $1.1 million and invigorated fund raising at New Paltz, increasing average annual giving by 39 percent.
During President Poskanzer’s leadership, the College increased the number of full-time faculty and drove down the high number of part-time faculty, a weakness that had been identified by SUNY System Administration before his arrival. A decade ago, almost half of New Paltz courses were taught by adjuncts. Today only 30.1 percent of courses are taught by part-time faculty.
Last year, under President Poskanzer’s stewardship, New Paltz planned and implemented a $6 million base budget reduction plan necessitated by a 20 percent cut in state-appropriated funding. Following a broadly consultative process, the College decided to close and suspend targeted programs, including the Nursing Program, and reduced the size of the College’s workforce to bring the budget into balance.
One lasting legacy of his presidency is the purchase by the New Paltz College Foundation of 42 acres of land contiguous to the southern end of the campus, where the College intends to build faculty, staff and student housing. The transaction has increased the size of the campus by over 20 percent and given New Paltz a land bank for the next century.
“The College Council believes that New Paltz has progressed and benefitted tremendously under Steven Poskanzer’s leadership,” said Kenneth Abt, chairman of the New Paltz College Council. “Students, faculty, support staff and the entire community have witnessed a fine public university be recognized as the hottest small state school in the country. The move to Carleton College is a great personal opportunity for Steve, and the College Council will move forward in recommending the next leader for New Paltz in order to continue our progress.”
“New Paltz has been indeed fortunate to have Steven Poskanzer at the helm for nearly a decade, longer than is typical for a campus president,” said Interim Provost of the State University System, Dr. David Lavallee, who served as Provost at New Paltz from 1999-2009. “It is a tribute to the campus, and his leadership, that he has been chosen to lead one of the top ten liberal arts colleges in the nation.”
President Poskanzer was named the seventh President of New Paltz in May 2003. He served as Interim President between October 2001 and May 2003. Before arriving at New Paltz, President Poskanzer was Vice Provost of Academic Affairs at SUNY System Administration. He has a broad range of administrative experience at both public and private universities and colleges (University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, University of Chicago) and is also a scholar of higher education law.
Located in the heart of a dynamic college town, 90 minutes from metropolitan New York City, the State University of New York at New Paltz is a highly selective college of about 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students.
One of the most well-regarded public colleges in the nation, New Paltz delivers an extraordinary number of majors in Business, Liberal Arts, Sciences, Engineering, Fine and Performing Arts and Education.
New Paltz embraces its culture as a community where talented and independent minded people from around the world create close personal links with real scholars and artists who love to teach.