Heidi Macpherson

Heidi Macpherson

Heidi Macpherson

President, SUNY Brockport

Years in current role: 6

What do you enjoy most about your role?

Every day is different, which means every day is engaging. My favorite part of my job is being able to help someone take a nascent idea and make it a reality. As a professor, I had the opportunity to impact a few classrooms of students at a time, perhaps 100-150 students a semester. As a president, I have the opportunity to help to transform the lives of many more young and not so young people through supporting and championing the ideas of others. Working in partnership means we can ensure a focus on student success, faculty support, and professional development for all. While I miss teaching very much, one way I can I keep connected to my prior life as an academic is through mentoring individuals, on or off campus. So that offers me the best of both worlds.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve dealt with over the past year?

Without a doubt, it’s been how to open the campus safely and keep it open despite a worldwide pandemic. I’m fortunate to have an exceptionally strong team working behind the scenes on the logistics of testing, quarantining, and event management. The challenge is trying to keep everything going while recognizing that everything is also different, and individuals and teams are under stress in ways that they hadn’t been before. To me it comes back to giving grace and being kind — and knowing that we have to put human beings at the center of our focus. Teamwork matters, and makes a difference. I will probably never be able to express enough gratitude to all of the individuals who kept the campus running. We learned a lot and we are stronger for it.

What do you see as the biggest changes in the higher education industry in the next 3-5 years?

I think we will continue to see differentiation within and between institutions, in relation to how they are serving students and what kinds of students they are marketing themselves toward and attracting. Changing demographics mean that we will need to find more ways to support students who are not looking for a residential experience, for example. How can we do a better job of engaging students who commute, who are part time, who combine studying with having a family or a job? I see an increase in degree completion programs tailored to students who have some higher education but not a degree, as well as graduate programs to support career aspirations. The more avenues we offer as on-ramps to higher education, the better we will serve our region and the state.

What community organizations do you support as a volunteer and why?

I’m on the board of directors for the United Way of Greater Rochester & the Finger Lakes, Willow Domestic Violence Center and Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce. I recently finished my term as a member of the YWCA board, where I was chair of the nominating committee, continuing our efforts on diversifying our board. I am one of the SUNY Brockport reps on the Roc the Future Board of Conveners, a consortium focused on PreK-12 educational attainment as well as college and career readiness. I volunteer my time at these organizations because they make a difference in the lives of members of our community. I’m also a Rochester Rotary Club Member and chair of the Membership Evaluation Committee, and past president of RAC Area Presidents Network, plus I volunteer at Morgan Manning House events.

What college class that you haven’t taken would you be most interested in taking and why?

Although I have no apparent talent in this area, I would love to take a painting class. I see the work that our students produce in their annual exhibitions, and I know that we have fantastic professors who nurture their creativity and their craft. I’d love to learn from them about how to see the world and what can be created with concentrated effort and good support.