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Denise A. Battles

President, SUNY Geneseo

Years in current role: 6.5

What was your biggest success in 2021?

As SUNY Geneseo’s President, my sense of “success” is inextricably tied to that of the wonderful College I am privileged to serve. I am delighted that our campus was able to offer a high-quality in-person educational experience for our students in 2021. Despite the need for health- and safety-driven modifications, our students were thrilled to be on our campus and in our broader community, and I am grateful that my hardworking and talented colleagues made such a rich experience possible for them.

What are your expectations for 2022?

The 2020 decade has had an inauspicious start, with the pandemic’s impacts extending to so much of our professional and personal lives. My sincerest hope for 2022 is that we will make a firm and sustained shift from a pandemic to a more readily managed endemic. Accordingly, I look forward to once again celebrating at SUNY Geneseo an in-person May commencement (my favorite campus experience!), followed by enjoying a well-attended and engaging Alumni Reunion in June, and then in August welcoming the Class of 2026 to our campus for a far more typical collegiate experience.

What is your biggest takeaway from dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic?

I am awed by the community-mindedness and resilience of SUNY Geneseo employees and students in responding to the pandemic. Our tight-knit residential campus prizes strong relationships and prioritizes individualized learning, engagement, and mentoring. My faculty and staff colleagues repeatedly have gone above and beyond to ensure that these important aspects of a Geneseo education continue to be available to our students, even if in modified forms due to health and safety considerations. On our students’ part, I regularly receive praise from Village residents about their high level of regard for the safety and well-being of those in the broader community.

What is your favorite thing about the Rochester community?

I love the distinctive blend of a vibrant, diverse city that features the best in arts and culture while also offering ready access to spectacular natural venues. The cultural amenities available in the community and its surroundings, especially those available on the SUNY Geneseo campus, feed my passion for the liberal arts. As a geologist I am drawn to the outdoors, and my husband, dog and I particularly enjoy hiking and otherwise exploring the many interesting natural sites in the greater Rochester region.

If time were no issue, what would you do to help the community that you aren’t already doing?

My passion for education, and especially that which is centered on the arts and sciences, drew me to academia originally. If I had more discretionary time, I would love to volunteer in sites like museums and state parks to support educational enrichment activities for their visitors. While it’s still a way off, I have every expectation that I will engage in such activities in my (semi-) retirement!

This profile is part of Rochester Business Journal's Power 100 list for 2022. Information used in this profile was sourced from the honoree. View the full list at


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