A new president has been chosen to the lead the University at Albany.
The new president of the SUNY campus is a native of Puerto Rico. Introduced in Albany Wednesday, 58-year old Dr. Havidán Rodríguez lived in the Bronx from age 5 to 15. He credits his single mom, who was a taxi driver in Manhattan, with showing him the value of education. "I am truly honored and humbled to have been selected as the 20th president at the University at Albany. It also with a great deal of pride and enthusiasm that I welcome the opportunity to serve in the premier university system of the State University of New York. I certainly ascribe very strongly to SUNY's five priority areas: access, completion, success, inquiry and engagement. These need to be the driving force of everything that we do throughout the SUNY system."
Rodríguez, the founding provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, wants the Albany community to know he's planning for the long haul. "The focus is to really become an integral part of this community, to provide the stability that it needs in terms of its leadership, to build a strong leadership team that will work together to move the institution in the right direction. So my wife Rosie and I are moving to Albany. We're gonna settle our roots here and we're gonna become an integral part of this community. To work together with the internal community, faculty staff and students, the external community, alumni and members of the community and really make this a stronger and greater institution."
Rodríguez has his work cut out for him. Talking to the press following his debut at the Board of Trustees ceremony, an Albany Student Press reporter cited tensions on campus in the wake of last year’s CDTA bus incident as he quizzed Rodríguez about the new president's plan to address racism. "Developing a campus climate that is welcoming, where students, faculty, staff and external folks feel and are welcome, is going to be critically important. So we need to establish those conversations. And sometimes these are difficult and complex conversations. But we need to have those conversations, because diversity is key to whatever we do, and as I said to the board, the issues of diversity, inclusion and excellence are going to be factors that are gonna drive the decision-making process at our university because they're critically important, not only at Albany, not only in the state of New York, but throughout the country."
Rodríguez, who takes UAlbany's reins in mid-September, will receive a salary of $525,000 per year, with a $60,000 housing allowance. He succeeds Robert Jones, who left a year ago to take on dual positions of Chancellor of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Vice President of the University of Illinois System. Former provost and vice chancellor James Stellar has been serving as interim president.
Like at many other campuses, UAlbany’s top job has seen its share of turnover. Rodríguez will be the ninth president or interim president in 20 years.