SUNY-ESF president should enhance relationship with Syverud, SU to create legacy

The new president of the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry has a lot to live up to.

After a search process that lasted about a year, Quentin Wheeler will assume the role as president of ESF starting Jan. 2. His tenure will follow that of current President Cornelius Murphy, who accumulated a long list of accomplishments in his 13 years with ESF.

During his time as president, Murphy improved the overall ranking of ESF, as well as the quantity and quality of ESF students. He also crafted a relationship with Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner and expanded ESF’s campus, despite a strain on the state budget. Most notably, though, Murphy broke barriers between Syracuse University and ESF by playing an integral role in allowing students from each school to take courses across campuses.

To ensure an effective tenure, Wheeler should build off the initiatives Murphy has already started, specifically the physical expansion of ESF and its relationship with SU.

The university’s future leader should consider the physical identity of ESF, which is exemplified by the several facilities that were built under Murphy, including the school’s first residence hall and the Gateway Center.

These facilities have already allowed ESF to expand its research opportunities. Recently, ESF received a joint $2 million grant from the National Institute of Health to improve its biomedical research, proving its significance to the community beyond the Hill.

By continuing to expand these facilities, the campus will create an identity and community to which ESF students can belong.

The relationship between ESF and SU is significant, and something Murphy has already worked to build. This relationship can be furthered by an alliance between the universities’ newest leaders: Wheeler and SU Chancellor-designate Kent Syverud.

Wheeler begins his tenure at the same time as Syverud. As the two transition into their new roles this January, they could form a connection with each other and between their respective universities.

A current example of the SU-ESF relationship is the cross listing of courses from each school. Wheeler and Syverud should work together to implement other efforts to connect the two campuses.

Wheeler’s tenure follows Murphy’s highly successful one. But if Wheeler continues the momentum started by Murphy and creates a budding alliance with Syverud, he could leave his own lasting legacy.

  • ESF/SU alum

    Your comment that Murphy “broke barriers”…”allowing students from each school to take courses across campuses” is ludicrous. Until sometime in the late 1970 or possibly 1980’s College of Forestry and then ESF students received degrees from SU as well as from SUNY. They took virtually all of their general education type course at SU along with math, physics, and much or their early chemistry courses, except organic. Under Murphy they are now allowed 16 credits total at SU and I have no knowledge of the arrangement for SU students at ESF. As to buildings, the money which allowed the Baker lab reconstruction was actually raised in the Whaley administration and the need for dormitories was driven by SU’s refusal to guarantee spaces for entering ESF students. The $2M grant was actually for equipment, a new NMR spectrometer, not research per se and the lead institution was Upstate, largely because that made the most sense from a funding viewpoint. That was a great example of the good things that come from institutional collaboration, and, by teh way, SU was also a co-PI on the successful proposal that will bring the new instrument to ESF.
    The simple fact is that the early history of ESF/SU collaboration is far more positive than the current state and that sad fact is probably to the mutual detriment of both. The need to reverse that trend is real and will benefit both.Hopefully both Syverud and Wheeler will recognize the truth of Ben Franklin’s statement that ‘we must all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately. An ESF/SU alum who remembers the good old days when the two collaborated rather than competed.

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