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Empire State College Inaugurates New President

Lucas Willard

In Saratoga Springs, officials from the State University of New York gathered to attend the inauguration of the fourth president of Empire State College.

At a ceremony held during SUNY’s annual All College Conference at the Saratoga Springs City Center, Dr. Merodie Hancock was officially inaugurated as the fourth president of Empire State College.

Hancock was asked how she felt being the first woman to head the Empire State College network.

"It's exciting," said Hancock. "I'll quote the chancellor who made a comment a luncheon I was in saying, 'when it no longer matters people will stop talking about it.' And I think the fact that people notice it means it still matters, and it's exciting."

The theme of the inauguration was “re-emergence,” a nod to the re-emergence of nontraditional students in today’s scholastic environment.

Empire State College operates through more than 35 locations throughout New York, and also hosts online programs. According to the school, the average age of an undergraduate student enrolled in an Empire State College program is 35. Graduate students average age 40.

Before being appointed to her position by the Empire State College board last May, Hancock served as Vice President of Central Michigan University Global Campus.

Hancock said she enjoys working with non-traditional students. She said the job requires a different kind of leadership role than does a traditional two- or four-year college, working to adapt and coordinate with a blue collar population, single parents, members of the  military, and others with atypical schedules and needs. Hancock said she enjoys meeting those challenges.

"In my mind it keeps it fun, it keeps it very dynamic. There are no easy answers, and you end up getting a very high-energy, incredibly intelligent group of people that want to be here," said Hancock.

The celebration for Hancock was marked earlier in the day by United Way Worldwide CEO and President Brian Gallagher’s deliverance of the 2014 Boyer Lecture, named after Ernest Boyer, SUNY Chancellor from 1970 to 1977.

SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher reflected on Gallagher’s Lecture,“Transformational Leadership: Succeeding in a Complex World,” in speaking about the mission of Empire State College.

"The notion was that an adult learner, or learner who is not in the demographic than when we probably think about college, is probably smart enough to know what they need. They may not know how to get it, they may not have the content, but they know what they want to become," said Zimpher. "So this notion that you with your mentor can craft the curriculum, and then we'll put the parts and pieces together to create a degree or certificate is what Ernie Boyer had in mind, and that's what we're seeing today at Empire State."

Hancock’s address focused on advocating for additional state resources to enhance virtual and online learning, accelerating degree completion, streamlining administrative functions, and upgrading video conference facilities to bring together public and private sectors, and bring learning beyond New York.

Attendees also included SUNY Chairman of the Board Carl McCall, faculty, staff, students, and visiting scholars and dignitaries.

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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