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2010 Spring Issue 3 (April 23, 2010)

Steven Poskanzer named next president

April 23, 2010
By Emily Howell and Vivyan Tran

Steven G. Poskanzer will become Carleton's next president, effective August 2, 2010.  Currently, Poskanzer serves as the president of State University of New York (SUNY) at New Paltz.  President Robert A. Oden Jr. announced his retirement this past September, after serving as Carleton's president for eight years.

“I am thrilled,” Poskanzer said, “as is my family.”

He has worked for the SUNY system for the past 12 years, during which time he was president for nine years.  Previous to his positions in the SUNY system, Poskanzer worked at University of Chicago and University of Pennsylvania.

Originally from Central New York, Poskanzer attended Princeton as an undergraduate, where he studied International Relations with a concentration in African Studies.  He subsequently received his J.D. from Harvard Law School, after which he launched his career into higher education.

“My career has been atypical,” Poskanzer said, “in that I've worked at both public and private institutions.”  Working in one sector has given him insight into the other, he said.  As the next president of Carleton, he hopes to bring a unique perspective from his previous experience at public institutions.

At public colleges and universities, “there is a commitment to access, to a diverse student body and faculty.  A college is seen as a treasure for the region, as a goal for students to aspire to,” Poskanzer said.  As the president of a public institution, one is also “required to be creative in tapping into revenue sources, rather than just tuition.”

Under Poskanzer, annual giving at SUNY - New Paltz increased by 39 percent.  The institution also garnered $94 million in capital appropriations under his watch, allowing the school to build a new science center, renovate their library and build a new student center.
Poskanzer was originally unaware that Carleton was searching for a new president - he only applied after learning via email that he had been nominated for the position.  Poskanzer points to Carleton's reputation for excellence in his decision to pursue the opportunity.

Poskanzer said that he was drawn to Carleton because of its commitment to excellence as well as the school's desire for improvement. “You can't work in higher education without knowing how extraordinary Carleton is,” he said.

Jack Eugster '67, Chairman of the Board of Trustees and presidential search committee co-chair, is very happy with committee's decision. “We could not find anyone who said [Poskanzer] did not do his job well,” Eugster said.  “Early on in the process, he became a favorite,” and by the end of the process, everyone on the committee enthusiastically endorsed the choice.

The presidential search committee worked tirelessly to make sure that the candidate they chose was the right choice for Carleton.

The process began after Oden announced his retirement last September.  The committee was comprised of students, staff, trustees and alumni.  Catherine James Paglia '74 is also on the Board of Trustees and serves as the other search committee co-chair.  Students on the committee are McKay Duer '10, Chase Kimball '10, Arpita Bhattacharyya '10 and Kristen Vellinger '12.  Staff members include Associate Vice President for External Relations Joe Hargis, Professor of economics, Michael Hamesath, Vice President of Admissions Daniel Lugo, Professor of English and American studies Elizabeth McKinsey, presidential search committee secretary Dee Menning, Associate Professor of history Sussanah Ottoway, Associate Professor of physics and astronomy Arjendu Pattanayak and library assistant in the Loan Services Department Lois Perkins.  Trustees on the committee are Marilyn McCoy, Caesar F. Sweitzer and Wallace Weitz.  Alumni on the committee are Hazel Roberts Donald and Derek Fried.

After gathering the opinions of students and staff concerning what qualities the next president should have, the committee began searching for the candidate that best exemplified the qualities of “energy, intelligence, and the ability to make people feel good,” Eugster said.

Of Poskanzer, Eugster said that the committee was “thrilled by his scholarly ability, his desire to teach, and success as a president.”

One of Poskanzer's goals for Carleton is to make sure the school celebrates the strength of diversity and its global character. “I want to make certain that all students regardless of background are graduating at the same rate,” said Poskanzer. Another goal is to build up Carleton's reputation nationally as well as to continue fundraising and bolstering Carleton's capital.

He is also excited to immerse himself into the Carleton culture.

“I definitely want to see Schiller,” said Poskanzer. “And I think the Silent Dance Party is very cool.” In addition, during the interview process Poskanzer made a promise that he may come to regret: “I love hockey, so I promised to play broomball,” he said. “You can skate with just shoes on, right?”

Poskanzer also hopes to have the opportunity to continue teaching at Carleton in subjects such as education, law and academic freedom.

Impressed by the Carleton students he has met so far from the search process, he said, “I was blown away with how bright and multidimensional their interests were. Carls defy expectations.”

Poskanzer said that his own undergraduate experience in a liberal arts environment allowed him to take courses in fields that he knew nothing about. The value of a liberal arts education, he explained, is the ability to think and communicate critically. “I reached a point in my education where I realized I had the ability to make leaps across disciplines,” he said.

Poskanzer's enthusiasm for higher education stems from his family's history. “My grandfather was a penniless immigrant from Lithuania who had two sons who are PhD college professors,” he explained. “Every opportunity we ever had comes back to the power of education, especially higher education. There is no calling more noble.”

Poskanzer said he and his family, his wife Dr. Jane Nofer Poskanzer and their two children, Jill and Craig, are excited for their move to Minnesota. Poskanzer will be in Sayles at 3 p.m. on Friday, April 23 to meet the Carleton community.

“I am ready to steep myself in the culture of Carleton, listen carefully and learn what makes people so proud to be Carls,” Poskanzer said.

Comments

  • April 24 2010 at 8:02 am
    Lilly Shields '05
    Although his tenure doesn't begin until the end of summer, I hope that Mr. Ponskanzer will be able to meet alums during reunion in June. I was sad, though not surprised, to hear of President Oden's retirement. These are some big shoes to fill! I want to meet the guy who is going to try. I can see from his CV that other than a couple years in Chicago, which barely count, he has no connection to the midwest. Does he really understand the culture that he's diving into? Beyond the midwestern culture, does he really understand (and embrace!) the oddball student culture? More power to you, Mr. Ponskanzer, if you will come out for broomball. President Oden endeared himself to the students with his kookey stories and his willingness to get out there and immerse himself in campus life. I recommend that you do the same if you want to be embraced by the Carleton community. Best of luck and I hope I get a chance to hear you speak in June! Lilly Shields '05

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