The SUNY board of trustees appointed Dr. Lisa Vollendorf as president of SUNY Empire State College.
She was interim provost and chief academic officer at the University of Northern Colorado. She replaces Dr. Nathan Gonyea, who has served as officer-in-charge at SUNY Empire since December 2020.
Vollendorf, who was selected after an extensive national search, will be SUNY Empire’s sixth president since its founding in 1971.
“I am both honored and excited to join SUNY Empire State College as its next president. I’ve spent my entire career championing the power of higher education to build a more inclusive, equitable society,” she said. “I believe deeply in SUNY Empire’s mission of meeting students where they are to help them achieve their educational dreams. I look forward to working with the SUNY Empire college community to advance the vital work already underway, find new and innovative ways to serve today’s diverse student population, and support the faculty, staff, and alumni at the heart of this amazing institution.”
The search committee included four members of the college council, six faculty representatives, two students, an alumni representative, a campus-related foundation representative, an academic dean, a professional employee, a support staff member, a college senate member, a member of the chancellor’s senior staff, and three non-voting representatives. Consultants from Storbeck Search partnered with the search committee.
John Maggiore, SUNY Empire State College presidential search chair and chairman of the SUNY Empire State College Council, said, “The breadth of Dr. Vollendorf’s administrative skill set, together with the depth of her academic experience and achievement, make her a compelling choice to lead SUNY Empire State College into its next half century of accessible, top-quality, innovative education for motivated adult learners. SUNY Empire is poised for strategic growth.
“Dr. Vollendorf understands the college’s opportunities and challenges, and she has the determination and ability to move us forward in accordance with our mission.”
Gonyea said the appointment of Vollendorf “comes at a critical and opportune time for the college. We are developing new programs and initiatives, and we are leading nontraditional higher education in new and exciting areas at a national level. Dr. Vollendorf’s vast higher-education experience and her enthusiasm for SUNY Empire’s unique place within the SUNY system make her an excellent choice.”
Vollendorf has more than 25 years of experience as an educator and leader. She earned a B.A. in English and Spanish at Colorado State University. After studying abroad in Costa Rica, she pursued a Ph.D. in romance languages at the University of Pennsylvania.
She has held faculty appointments at six public universities: Miami University of Ohio, Wayne State University, California State University at Long Beach, San José State University and Sonoma State University. She also directed the Hispanic Institute at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
In her career, she has been a faculty member, department chair, academic senate chair, dean, and provost.
Vollendorf previously worked for 16 years in the California State University system. During that time, she was a faculty member, department chair, academic senate chair, dean, and provost at three different CSU campuses.
Among her academic leadership highlights, Vollendorf served as dean of humanities and the arts at San José State University from 2012-17, where she led the efforts to revitalize the Hammer Theatre and created a faculty leadership development program. From 2017-20, she served as provost and executive vice president at Sonoma State University. In collaboration with faculty, students, and staff, she helped lead Sonoma State to reach record graduation and retention rates. She helped lead the institution through numerous emergencies before becoming special advisor for academic continuity and operational planning at the California State University Office of the Chancellor in July 2020.
An established scholar with grants from such institutions as the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Mellon Foundation, the Newberry Library, the Huntington Library, and the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, she has published two monographs, six edited books, and 35 chapters and articles.