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Campus to build regional ties with center

Headshot of Gerald Benjamin
Gerald Benjamin

The college has announced its plan to open a new Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach (CRREO), which will be directed by Gerald Benjamin, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Benjamin, who will remain dean until May 2008, said the center is under development and a number of programs are in the works, including a conference for local government officials to be held in October.

In order to raise the level of the campus's engagement within communities, government and businesses across the Hudson Valley, the center will assemble existing intellectual resources from across the academic units of the college and focus these efforts in service to the region and New York state.

"Public service must be at the core of the mission of any great public university," said Benjamin.

The center's mission includes, but will not be limited to: conducting research on regional topics; encouraging faculty to build regionally based service activity into their scholarship and teaching; creation and direction of institutes focused on specific topics of regional interest; leading the college's academic outreach to local governments, non-profits and forprofit organizations; creating training programs for newly elected regional officials; and continuing the college's mission to offer its curriculum online and at other sites in the region.

Winters and Kathleen Kraus
Helise Winters (left) has been named dean of Regional Education under the umbrella of the new Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach. She is seen here with Kathleen Kraus, former dean of Continuing and Professional Education, at Kraus's Aug. 29 retirement party.

Benjamin said that in the coming year he is looking to create a staff structure for the center that will include a deputy director. He has also been in talks with the deans on campus about the creation of a faculty committee that will work with the center to meet the research needs of the regional community.

The Regional Education division of the center will be under the direction of a new dean, Helise Winters, who served as associate dean of Continuing and Professional Education for nine years. She succeeds Kathleen Kraus, who retired Aug. 17.

Winters said that for many years New Paltz has been performing community outreach in the region through its graduate programs and advising, summer session, alliances with teacher centers, extension and distance learning, doctoral program and the Language Immersion Institute.

Provost David Lavallee said that the new center provides faculty with a venue to explore research and projects related to serving the communities surrounding the college and throughout the state.

In order to effectively direct the center, Benjamin, who is known throughout New York state as an expert on state and local government, will assume additional titles of CRREO Director and Associate Vice President for Regional Engagement.

"This role is a natural fit for Dean Benjamin," said Lavallee. "It provides him with the opportunity, time and resources to devote himself to the research and outreach areas he is interested in."

In addition to being named by the SUNY trustees in 2002 as Distinguished Professor of the University in Political Science, Benjamin was an elected member of the Ulster County Legislature from 1981 to 1993 and during that time served as both majority leader and chairman. He has also been involved in major efforts to reform state and local government He chaired the commission that proposed the first charter for Ulster County, N.Y., adopted by popular vote in November 2006. Benjamin was appointed to Governor Eliot Spitzer's Commission on Local Government Efficiency in 2007.

Next year, when he steps down as dean it will end a successful 12-year run in the position. A search for his successor is underway.

Benjamin said, "I am excited to be called upon to provide leadership for this new SUNY New Paltz initiative."