Genesee Community College's Board of Trustees this evening voted unanimously to select Dr. James M. Sunser as Genesee's 4th president. Dr. Sunser's appointment is subject to approval by the State University of New York Board of Trustees.
Dr. Sunser currently serves as Vice President for Continuing and Extended Learning at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse, NY. In his current position, he oversees a wide variety of educational programs serving non-traditional students, distance learners, high school students, and employees of hundreds of area business organizations.
Dr. Sunser has spent much of his educational career at Onondaga. Prior to his appointment as Vice President for Continuing and Extended Learning in 2004, he served that College as Vice President for Finance (1996-2004) and Bursar (1989-1996). He also served as Associate Bursar of Syracuse University (1985-1989).
A native of Syracuse, Dr. Sunser graduated from Onondaga Community College in 1984 with the A.A.S. degree. He holds a B.S. degree from Syracuse University (1989), a M.S. degree from SUNY College at Brockport (1999), a Certificate of Advanced Study from the University of Rochester (2010), and an Ed.D. degree from the University of Rochester (2010).
Dr. Sunser was instrumental in a number of initiatives at Onondaga, including the construction of the Whitney Applied Technology Center, residence halls for 600 students, creation of a Center for Workforce Development, and development of new degree programs in Nuclear Technology, Sustainability, and Overhead Lineman Studies. He is a recipient of the State University of New York Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Professional Service (2000). Since 2004, he has served as a member of the adjunct faculty of Keuka College.
Dr. Sunser is a well-known volunteer in the Syracuse-area community. Among his many volunteer commitments are service with the YMCA of Greater Syracuse's Education Advisory Board; Syracuse City School District's Construction Advisory Council; Education Committee of Central New York Works; American Red Cross; and Onondaga Stop DWI.
Board of Trustees Chair Charles R. Ruffino said that he anticipates Dr. Sunser beginning his duties at Genesee August 1, 2011. He will take over from Dr. Stuart Steiner, who is retiring after 44 years of service to Genesee, including 36 years as president. Dr. Sunser's salary will be $177,832.
The Board's appointment of Dr. Sunser concludes a national search for Genesee's 4th president. The search was guided by an eleven-member search committee comprised of college and community representatives. The search committee reviewed the backgrounds of 42 candidates.
As president of Genesee, Dr. Sunser will lead a college that has achieved national acclaim for excellence and innovation. Genesee now offers 65 degree and certificate programs, which served 7,365 students last fall. The College expanded its nursing program over the last two years, and recently added innovative new degree programs in Veterinary Technology and Polysomnographic Technology. Last year, more than 12,000 employees of area business firms and community residents participated in a wide variety of non-credit professional and personal training programs. Last year, The Chronicle of Higher Education named Genesee one of the nation's "Great Colleges to Work For."
Mr. Ruffino said that the Board of Trustees believes Dr. Sunser's background and professional skills make him an "ideal fit" for Genesee Community College. "Jim blends outstanding academic leadership with deep experience in higher education finance," Mr. Ruffino said. "More important, Jim has demonstrated a passionate commitment to students and an excellent ability to work with faculty, staff, and community residents from a wide variety of backgrounds. Over the course of his career, he has inspired the people around him and fostered a wonderful sense of teamwork in the positions he has held."
Dr. Sunser, 51, is a native of Syracuse. He and his wife, Roseann, a teacher, currently reside in Clay, a Syracuse suburb. The Sunser's are parents of three children: Ryan, 23; Sean, 20; and Casey, 17. His hobbies include reading, especially books on leadership and history, golf, basketball and spending time with family and friends. The Sunser's plan to relocate to Genesee County this summer.
Dr. Sunser called his pending appointment to the Genesee Community College presidency "humbling and astonishing." Said Dr. Sunser: "My parents never had the opportunity to attend college, but it was important to them that my sisters and I had that chance." He never dreamed as a young man that he would achieve a position of leadership in a college, much less serve as a college president: "My father was a very smart man and loved to learn. Even though he didn't have a great deal of formal education, he was passionate about the importance of learning, and he urged me to get as much education as I could, and do as much good for other people as I could."
His family had limited financial resources, so he enrolled at a community college (Onondaga) working throughout his time in college. "A community college made all the difference in the world to me," he said. "My community college education gave me confidence, and opened up a world of opportunities."
His father, Carl "Sonny" Sunser, passed away in 1995 at 64 years of age. "He would be very proud," Dr. Sunser said.
Dr. Sunser said he enjoyed his positions at Onondaga Community College and, until recently, had never thought about serving as a community college president: "But Dr. Sydow [Dr. Debbie Sydow, President of Onondaga Community College] encouraged me to take on challenging new projects at OCC and grow professionally. She told me that I could do a world of good for students as a community college president, and encouraged me to seek a position of leadership."
Dr. Sunser said that his personal and professional commitment to students will guide him in his new role. "I know firsthand how community colleges make life-changing differences to the people we serve. Making education possible is not a job. It is a vocation. I can think of no better way to spend my life, and I am humbled and honored to join with the trustees, faculty, staff, and many supporters of Genesee Community College in bringing the gift of learning to our students and our communities."
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