Cohen has change of heart

Cohen fields questions from crowd about what he brings to the presidency.

Rachel Doktor/The Record

Cohen fields questions from crowd about what he brings to the presidency.

Interim President Howard Cohen on Thursday presented his intention to become the permanent institutional president of SUNY Buffalo State to the campus community.

Cohen is one of five finalists being considered for the position, something he did not foresee when he took over on an interim basis in the fall following the death of Aaron Podolefsky.

Cohen said he knew nothing about Buffalo State when he first received a call from Muriel Howard about becoming the interim president, and only had one week to make a decision about accepting the position.

He said, at the time, he thought it would be a good thing to do for a year.

“I came as interim, and I came with the intention of staying for one year,” Cohen said. “I learned some things about Buffalo State, and I learned some things about me.”

As interim president, Cohen said he learned that he still has the energy and enthusiasm to be president, and that he doesn’t have to be in the classroom to do something fulfilling for the rest of his career.

“Clearly I didn’t know what I was getting in to,” Cohen said.

Cohen said that with a little persuasion, self-reflection, and support from his wife, he agreed to be a candidate.

“It has a lot going for it,” Cohen said. “Including a lot of people that I have come to like very much.”

Cohen said he thinks Buffalo is a great place to live, and he has an appreciation for regional campuses.

“There is an incredible range of things we have to offer here, but all of this needs to be transformational,” Cohen said. “We need to be able to convincingly show that an education here is a deeper, richer learning experience than students might get at another college.”

Meghan Pereira, senior instructional designer at Buffalo State, asked Cohen for his thoughts on Open SUNY.

Cohen said he thinks Open SUNY is partly a marketing opportunity, and partly a way to share services between SUNY campuses.

“I think each campus is going to have to figure out where its strengths are in online learning,” Cohen said.

Cohen said hybrid learning, a combination of online and in-classroom work, is really effective. He said that Buffalo State could develop some hybrid programs that reach markets that aren’t being reached by current academic programs.

Some programs are really amendable to being fully online, he said, but for students to study fully online, it’s necessary for students to have some experience in face-to-face courses.

Cohen also addressed the length of time it takes for students to graduate, and what could be done to help students pay for their education.

“When you’ve got students who are working through school, students who are juggling family responsibilities as well as their education,” Cohen said, “I think four years is sometimes an unrealistic standard.”

Cohen said that he would like to focus on reducing obstacles for students to “persistently pursue” their education. He said more flexible class scheduling, better advisement and paid internships could all be something attainable that would help students.

“Internships that are paid might actually extend a student’s time,” Cohen said, “but nevertheless make their graduation without debt more likely.”

The fourth presidential finalist was scheduled to present to campus today but Buffalo State announced early this week that visit would be rescheduled for May 13.

As a result, the next candidate will tour May 12 before the visits conclude with the rescheduled date.


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Twitter: @andrewmanzella