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Next SUNY Potsdam president visits campus

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POTSDAM — SUNY Potsdam’s next president will continue the college’s focus on balancing the budget and reversing a dip in enrollment.

Kristin G. Esterberg met with faculty, staff and students and attended several campus events over the last few days. It was her first visit to the campus since being appointed earlier this month.

“I’m glad to be back on campus, to see faculty and meet students and be at the grand opening of the Performing Arts Center,” she said.

Discussions with faculty confirmed what she already knew: enrollment and budget worries continue to be primary concerns.

“You need to take that liberal arts education and provide some skills and some experience that can be applied to the workforce,” she said.

The challenge of enrollment is not just about attracting new students, she said, but making sure the students already enrolled have the support they need to stay and finish their degree.

In many cases students leave because they don’t have the money to continue their education. Other times it is because they need extra academic help, such as tutoring, to pass their classes.

By finding and helping the most vulnerable students, the college can encourage them to finish their education.

At Salem State University in Massachusetts, where Ms. Esterberg served as academic vice president, she helped oversee efforts to help students in need. Those efforts raised retention rates 5 percent, she said.

Ms. Esterberg also gave her take on the role of a modern liberal-arts institution, preparing students with the general skills they need to adapt and succeed in a variety of situations.

“Students nowadays aren’t going to have just one job. They’re going to have many jobs,” she said.

A liberal-arts education that encourages entrepreneurship will give students the nimbleness they need to adapt to an ever-changing job market.

When asked how she planned to make her mark on the college’s esteemed arts programs, Ms. Esterberg said she wants to unite all of the college’s academic areas, not just the arts and music for which it is already known.

“Certainly the arts are the crown jewel of this campus, but I’ve been hearing very interesting things about what faculty in other areas are doing,” she said.

Uniting science and the arts may be the future of SUNY Potsdam, she said.

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