The Inauguration of SUNY New Paltz President Darrell P. Wheeler concluded on Friday, April 21, with an engaging panel discussion and awards ceremony recognizing community partners for their work alongside the University to serve the Hudson Valley region and beyond.
Moderated by President Wheeler, the discussion addressed the important role public higher education has in supporting and serving society both locally and globally, and why maintaining relationships with community partnerships is critical to elevating the stewardship of a higher education institution.
“We know not only in New Paltz, but in the state of New York and the country, we have issues that can only be resolved by the hands, the hearts, and the actions of people in collaboration,” said President Wheeler. “If we do this right as a partner as SUNY New Paltz, we can become a model for community and higher education collaboration for the country, if not the world.”
The panelists came from the arts, government, business, and K-12 education, but all share a common belief that the Ulster County region is a place for students and faculty alike to learn, thrive, live and give back locally and globally.
“I live in Rosendale, and we have many faculty that have lived there, we have many students that have lived there or come settle there after college,” said Ulster County Executive Jen Metzger. “That strengthens and enriches our community, our civic organizations and local governments when they volunteer on commissions and boards. We have arts and cultural experiences and events in Rosendale that are enriched by the University and by your faculty or students. The people that you’re bringing make a huge impact on our communities.”
“We’re the beacon,” added Michael Esposito founder of DenTen Insurance Services and New Paltz Connective. “We are the place that people come to seek higher education, to start a family, and to establish roots because of institutions like SUNY New Paltz.”
The panel discussion set the stage for envisioning a future where the University can expand their influence to work towards solutions addressing the global crises of social unrest, climate change, youth mental health and more.
“Our priority in liberal arts education is to increase opportunities or create opportunities for our students and for all of us to relearn and reimagine how we think about civic responsibilities,” said Isabel Nazario, co-director of the West Strand Art Gallery and advisory board member of the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art.
“The University can be the convener of individuals who are in influential roles so that we can have this type of dialogue,” said Eric Jay Rosser, superintendent of Poughkeepsie City Central Schools, “but then we have put things in action so that we can then be there for our community.”
Following the conversation, New Paltz presented Regional Impact Awards to 10 community partners, local organizations that have worked alongside SUNY New Paltz in serving students and the greater region through economic, government, social, arts, cultural, environmental, educational impacts and more.
Concurrent with the panel and awards recognition was the culmination of a weeklong Inauguration collection drive hosted by The New Paltz Rotary Club and the University’s Alpha Phi Omega Co-Ed Service Fraternity for the local nonprofit Family of New Paltz. As a result, dozens of hygiene packs were donated to the organization.
In concluding the panel and the three-day Inauguration program, President Wheeler delivered a call to action for service and collaboration to enact the vision of a brighter future for the region and beyond.
“We have a responsibility to vision a solution and act on that,” said President Wheeler. “Right now is a time for each and every one of us to find a way. It is my hope that the State University of New York New Paltz becomes a critical partner and contributor to doing that work.