Opening Remarks and Introduction

Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome.

Before I begin, I would like to thank all of you for being here. I especially thank SUNY Trustee Eunice Lewin, members of our University Council and Foundation Board, and all our friends of Buffalo State.

When Chancellor King asked me to come back to Buffalo State last May, I had a bit of hesitation. But when I realized the significance of the task facing my beloved institution, I had no other answer except “yes.” The 22 years I spent at this wonderful place before retirement were some of the most professionally exhilarating and productive years of my career. I made so many friends and found colleagues that I am still connected with to this day. So, when he asked me to come back for seven months, I said yes. No sweat! And when he later asked me to stay for the remainder of the 2023-24 academic year, I said yes again. And then when he asked me about extending my time beyond the year I said, “Let’s talk.” As you know, that conversation ended in a commitment that I would lead Buffalo State University for two more years until June 2026.

Now the fact of the matter was I was hooked; I was already all in; I was absolutely invested in and committed to leading this institution as we face our challenges head on, continue the progress toward repositioning ourselves to be SUNY’s premier comprehensive institution, and reaffirm our role as Buffalo’s university. That is a lot to do in one year, but in three years I am anticipating that we will make great progress. So, I am honored to continue to serve as your president until June 2026. Colleagues, please know that I am here, ready, and prepared to stand alongside of you as we make very tough decisions, but ones that will definitely chart a brighter future for our beloved Buffalo State University.

I thank the Chancellor and his staff at SUNY for their unwavering commitment to Buffalo State and I look forward to continuing this supportive and collaborative relationship. I also am very appreciative of the shared governance structure of our University Council, College Senate, Foundation Board, Professional Staff Caucus, and our collective bargaining partners. I am just so inspired about how we have worked together to set the path to create a more sustainable, robust, and effective institution.

I am also extremely appreciative of the support of our legislators and our governor for the recently enacted state budget that not only helps us recognize and reward the efforts of our amazing faculty and staff, but also provides much-needed support systems to our students. This historic state investment in public higher education represents the largest two-year allocation of state support in at least five decades. It helps us to create a strong, forward-thinking plan that will help Buffalo State to achieve the goals set out before us.

Thanks to last year’s state budget, SUNY provided Buffalo State with a $5.3 million increase—a 25% boost in direct state tax support. This year, SUNY provided an additional $2.8 million—or nearly 11%—on top of last year’s. This is not only a vote of confidence in a strong, sustainable future for Buffalo State, but also essential to a realistic, forward-looking fiscal sustainability plan.

Update on Financial Sustainability

The purpose of this meeting is to provide an update on the university's financial situation, announce immediate actions, and present our strategic vision for the future.

We began the 2023-24 year with a structural deficit of $16.5 million. The plan we originally submitted to SUNY proposed that we would primarily reduce that deficit through workforce management over the five-year-period starting July 1, 2023. The primary strategy was to achieve this through attrition. In the first 10 months of this plan, we have not seen the level of attrition we anticipated; however, we have experienced some increased revenues that will move us toward our five-year goal. The 12-month rolling hire freeze that was implemented in November 2023 has given us some gains, but not at the level expected. This was partially due to the lag between when the employee leaves the institution and when they come off the payroll. We will be providing a complete financial analysis of Year One of the structural deficit plan after June 30, 2024.

Moving forward, we will continue to focus on attrition and the hiring freeze and we will turn our approach more aggressively to three primary areas: 

  • Increasing and stabilizing enrollment 
  • Reducing our overall operating costs
  • Optimization of our workforce

However, none of this can be accomplished without also leaning more aggressively into our strengths. I invite you to join me on this journey to help overcome our challenges, seize on opportunities, and control our destiny. With the support of elected officials, our state university leadership, our community partners, and our Buffalo State family, we will come roaring back to a university that meets the aspirations and expectations of our students and the needs of our community here and statewide.

Leaning Into Our Strengths: Vision For The Future

Friends, supporters, and colleagues, my strategic vision for Buffalo State University is to be the premier comprehensive university in the SUNY system by 2030. To that end, we must capitalize on our historical strengths and align our efforts with the emerging trends here in Buffalo, Western New York, across New York State, and beyond to make that vision a reality:

  • Through our 150-plus-year history we have excelled in the areas of access to education from K through 16. Our alumni are the teachers of Western New York that educated and helped create the middle class of Buffalo over a century ago. Today there is a new challenge as we face a pending teacher shortage in the coming years with anticipated mass retirements in urban, suburban, and rural school districts across the state. We will rise to the challenge again and expand our role as a leader with the creation of new teacher education pipelines. We will build on some of our recent successes, including the Majority Leader Crystal People-Stokes’ My Brother’s Keeper Initiative and our Urban Teacher Academy.
  • Our science, innovation, and technology infrastructure is unmatched among our SUNY peers. We are primed to create hubs that will develop the workforce needed to realize the vision of the nationally designated technology corridor spearheaded by Senator Schumer and spanning from Syracuse, Rochester, and here in Western New York. Our unique programs focused on applied learning across our STEM offerings will make us a leader in this effort.
  • We are in the epicenter of arts, culture, and tourism with Buffalo State’s Burchfield Penney Art Center, the expanded AKG Art Museum, the Buffalo History Museum, the Richardson Olmsted Campus with its Lipsey Architecture Center Buffalo, and so much more on and surrounding our campus. With our long history of Art education, art and design, art conservation,and hospitality, we are perfectly positioned to leverage these historic investments.  
  • Furthermore, I can see us reviving an educational pipeline with the University at Buffalo that has Buffalo State preparing bachelor’s and master’s students to seamlessly move into Ph.D. programs at UB. This was once a thriving enterprise with our joint Exceptional Education Departments.
  • Finally, the creation of our very first Doctorate for Creative Studies is under review at SUNY for implementation. As you all know Buffalo State is the pioneering academic program in the field of creativity education. The term brainstorming has its origins here, and we have taught creativity, creative problem-solving, and change leadership for more than half a century. The formation of this first doctoral program and the opening of the Center for Applied Imagination in Butler Library will once again put us on top of the field of creativity not just in SUNY or New York State, but in the world, and will carry our tradition in this work into the 21st century and beyond.

This is the kind of thinking and action that will ensure Buffalo State’s long-term financial viability, keep us in control of our destiny, and allow us to reimagine and invest in our future. Buffalo State is not going anywhere and will remain one of the best options for post-secondary students in Western New York and beyond.

Increasing and Stabilizing Enrollment

As you know, our enrollment has declined by 42% over the last decade. Attending to our enrollment issues will require several approaches to implement a holistic plan. 


Students from Western New York continue to represent the largest percentage of our overall enrollment. We will continue to focus on intensive recruitment in this area through a coordinated variety of approaches and initiatives, some of which include of outreach to local K through 12 schools in the areas of:

  • High school recruiting visits and events;
  • Dual enrollment and dual credit programs;
  • Early Middle College agreement with the Buffalo Public Schools; and 
  • Hosting Leonardo Da Vinci High School on our campus beginning in 2026.

However, we are all aware that Buffalo State cannot survive solely as a regional institution. With assistance from SUNY, we can expand our outreach into the New York City area. Increasing our enrollment is key to the long-term success of this plan, and we will be utilizing the generous funds from the Buffalo State Foundation for scholarships and grants that will help us attract students from the entire state and beyond. There are also funds made possible by our Foundation to support student needs for books and other college expenses.

I have charged our Future Forward Committee with the task to identify possible cohorts of students such as veterans, adults returning to college, and individuals aging out of foster care, to determine both their fit for Buffalo State and what financial, social, emotional, and academic needs would be necessary to bring these groups into our campus and ensure they are successful. This information will be useful as we look to areas that will aid in enrollment growth.


Retention will be also be a significant part of the enrollment strategy for the campus community. Our retention efforts will continue to be energetic through our current Educational Opportunity Program, Roar 2 Success, All College Honors, and Say Yes programs and our academic departments. Also, the academic advising structure is being revised to be more holistic, robust, and reach more students. Wrap-around services in our Health Center and programming in the Student Affairs area are also being expanded. Some of this is possible due to funding from SUNY for mental health and food insecurities support, and additional funding to hire student workers on campus. Also, we are grateful to SUNY for our newest support program, Access to College Education (ACE), at Buffalo State. This has been a proven model for student success at other higher education institutions when implemented and we are excited to be one of SUNY’s campuses to bring the ACE program online for our students.   

Additionally, I have charged the talented individuals in the Professional Staff Caucus with the task of identifying and recommending to me our best retention initiatives; areas where there is a need to create and enhance our efforts; as well as areas where there is a need to eliminate efforts that are no longer serving our students. These recommendations will be used to further strengthen our overall enrollment strategies.

Recruitment and retention

We are reviewing our current academic offerings under the leadership of our provost, with deans, department chairs, and faculty in some areas to determine which majors, programs, concentrations, and certificates no longer serve the needs of our current and future students. We are also looking at programs that have potential to attract students but may need some reorganization, and possible collaborations to deliver the desired learning outcomes. Finally, we will take advantage of the emerging needs of the community, region, and state to determine where the academic strengths of our university and the capacity for new programming will align. So, through internal collaborations and consolidations, grants, private funding, and community partnerships we will be able to offer a first-class compilation of educational offerings. One such example is found in the master’s program for Applied Behavior Analysis. Our School of Education’s Exceptional Education Department identified a pressing need in our community and recognized that there was only one regional competitive program charging private school tuition. Rather than go it alone, we launched our program in partnership with the Summit Center and through a private grant from the Children’s Guild Foundation. This innovative program and approach have grown from zero to 29 students in just two years. This is just one example of how we can meet the needs of our community and create new enrollment growth opportunities.

We have identified 37 degree programs, certification titles, concentrations, minors and certificates to be deactivated and or discontinued. To date, 27 of those have been vetted through our university processes and have either completed or are in review at the SUNY and State levels. An additional 10 programs are under review for deactivation by Spring 2025.

As I mentioned earlier, this process has been undertaken collaboratively through our shared governance partners and will be implemented in a transparent fashion. That is the culture we enjoy here at Buffalo State and it will be key to successfully implementing this plan. The 34 students (0.6% of the student population) who are already enrolled in these offerings will be able to complete the programs over the next two to three years using existing faculty. However, no new students will be admitted to these areas.

To further explain our thinking and process let me use two examples. 

  • For students who are interested in studying languages that are discontinued, they can do so through the SUNY online foreign language consortium and the credit will apply to their Buffalo State degree.
  • We are also exploring the possibilities of working with our Small Development Business Center, our Continuing Professional Studies Department and collaborating with community partners to learn how some of the deactivated/discontinued programs can be offered as community learning activities as a fee-based enterprise. 

Reducing Our Overall Operating Costs

We must aggressively address reduce our overall operating costs. I mentioned earlier that this must be a university-wide project. The example of looking at departments that may be over-subscribed with personnel to fill vacancies in departments that are understaffed needs to be more broadly and widely investigated and implemented. And consolidation of departments to achieve both efficiencies and salary savings can be of great benefit. Our Facilities, Custodial, and Grounds personnel leaders have presented a proposal that provides minimum staffing levels needed to maintain our buildings and grounds. This is especially helpful to manage the workforce in this high turnover area.

We are reviewing our personnel structures to determine how to optimize our current workforce of talent to best serve our students. Now this does not focus solely on Academic Affairs. Yes, we know our faculty delivers our core enterprise, but there is also a host of additional staff needed to provide the support that our students need to succeed. So, this is an all-institution endeavor. We are leaving no stone unturned, and we are looking at how we can best develop and maximize the workforce that we will need for the future while keeping a close eye on overall operating expenses. For example, we have been able to reassign a financial aid staff member who has extensive skills and comparable expertise to student accounts where there was a need to fill a recently vacated position. I want to publicly thank Stephanie Kindzia for agreeing to support the university in this important way. Now you may say this is only one position and you would be correct. But please know that we are considering each position and each individual as decisions are made. After all, this is not just an exercise in numbers. We can’t succeed without adding humanity and respect to our decisions.

Optimization Of Our Workforce

The task we face with our structural deficit is to balance our workforce and to increase and stabilize our enrollment, because while enrollment declined our workforce did not adjust to the new reality. We must carefully address each of the areas simultaneously (increasing enrollment as we create the workforce needed to serve our students). As mentioned earlier, our plan to address the deficit cannot be achieved through attrition alone. We agree with the Budget and Staff Allocation Committee of the Senate (BSAC) recommendation that in addition to attrition we must proactively reduce workforce in our administration, instruction, and other non-instruction areas.  For these reasons:

  • The 12-month rolling hiring freeze will be continued. 
    • 20% of the salary savings can be used to backfill the position for the first year.
    • The rehire rate is 40%, so we are expecting supervisors to look at the duties and functions of the personnel in their area carefully before moving forward with a hire after the 12-month period.  
  • Our phased retirement program will also continue. I would like to thank the UUP leadership at Buffalo State for their willingness to conduct workshops on the phased retirement plan for their members. We cannot build for a successful future without our partners in labor and I appreciate them being part of this discussion.

After extensive review and consultation with our BSAC, SUNY and our Foundation Board, I am pleased to announce that Buffalo State will be implementing a Voluntary Separation Program (VSP). This recommendation, that came from BSAC, is being fully funded by the Foundation. I want to express my thanks to BSAC for their thoroughly thoughtful recommendations, and our tremendous appreciation and gratitude goes to the Buffalo State Foundation Board for providing the support needed to launch this program. The VSP will be open to all full-time, retirement-eligible SUNY Buffalo State employees.


Rest assured that Buffalo State University is committed to ensuring its financial sustainability while maintaining high-quality educational experiences for its students. I am confident in the university's ability to overcome its current challenges and achieve its strategic vision.

Again, I express gratitude to New York State Executive and Legislative branches and SUNY for their support. I also send appreciation and gratitude to our University Council, Foundation Board, Senate, Professional Staff Caucus, and the entire Buffalo State Family for your grit, commitment, and belief in this institution. We unequivocally believe in Buffalo State! 

Thank you all for joining us today. Please enjoy the rest of your afternoon.

Onward and upward!