BY JAMES MILLIKEN, CHANCELLOR OF THE CITY UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK
We have just gone through the commencement season, which is a time of hope and promise at universities, but at The City University of New York it has very special meaning. We are the largest urban public university system in the country and we serve a unique population in this very cosmopolitan city of ours. About 40 percent of our students are the first in their families to attend college, and nearly 40 percent are immigrants. So when those thousands of students receive their diplomas at CUNY they are being handed the keys to opportunity and the middle class. It is the kind of advancement that affects not just those individual graduates, but entire families, entire generations.
CUNY has fulfilled this dream for nearly 170 years, providing an affordable, high quality education for students who may have grown up without many advantages but are bursting with talent and drive. They want to succeed, and CUNY gives them the tools. That has always been a challenging but very worthwhile mission.
Just consider the City College student Orubba Almansouri. She grew up in Yemen, then emigrated with her family to Brooklyn. Traditionally, in her tribe, women attended, as she says, “the University of Kitchen.” But she struggled to persuade her father how much education meant to her and, finally, she was given permission to attend City College. Not only did she just graduate as Salutatorian of her class, a wonderful achievement, she has persuaded her family to allow its other young women to obtain an education. In her commencement speech she told her story and it was lovely to hear her express her thanks, in Arabic, to her mother, who speaks no English. It was a powerful moment, filled with passion and dreams, that defined exactly the kinds of students we educate and what CUNY contributes to New York.
That experience is just one reason why I believe we are in a time of great promise for the entire CUNY system. Graduation rates are rising and we are instituting programs to get them higher still. Students and faculty are winning numerous prestigious awards. We recently announced the appointment of two new college Presidents and a new Dean at our law school, which was ranked the number one public interest law program in the nation. We are developing a new strategic framework that will provide a blueprint for future improvements.
CUNY graduates make New York City the most exciting and prosperous city in the country. They play leadership roles in government, the arts, business, finance and education. Our communities and families depend on the university as a gateway to satisfying careers. I hope all of New Yorkers will join me in supporting the CUNY dream machine and helping ensure that it runs smoothly for the next generation.