Oct. 12—We were encouraged by our interview last week with Alberto J. F. Cardelle, the new president at SUNY Oneonta.
His sheer practicality was the first think that caught our attention.
Cardelle said his first goal is to "be able to complete this academic year safely." That's a very fine place to start.
The lack of bad health news from the campus has been a refreshing change from last fall, when SUNY Oneonta was home to the SUNY system's worst COVID-19 outbreak, with more than 700 students infected. The campus was closed for the remainder of the semester and President Barbara Jean Morris resigned amid the fallout.
The campus community — far more vaccinated than the community at large — has been a leader in keeping COVID at bay. Cases there are rare.
While much of the work to achieve that goal had been done before his arrival, we are nonetheless glad to see a president with a background in health take charge of the college.
Cardelle said the first part of his career was in international public health, working for the World Health Organization and United Nations. He worked for 10 years in 20 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, and spent a majority of that time in Guatemala and Nicaragua educating and studying communicable diseases and child health.
Cardelle, who grew up in Miami, Florida, said he became interested in public health after hearing a lecture from a doctor working in public health while attending Tulane University in New Orleans. He was studying biology and pre-med, but said he was enjoying political science and economic courses he was taking as much as the science courses. He said the public health degree at Tulane was under the Latin American studies major, so he switched majors and got a degree in biology and Latin American studies.
This is a not a guy who is going to fail to take communicable diseases seriously.
Other goals, Cardelle said, are to "promote the strong programs SUNY Oneonta offers," and third to "rebuild bridges with the community."
Members of the community will be glad to hear that, we think. Those bridges are in need of rebuilding.
We like how Cardelle has made a point of meeting the community without a crisis forcing him to. He has introduced himself to the Oneonta Common Council and ran the 5K race in the recent Pit Run.
He said he wants to see SUNY Oneonta as an anchor institution in the community.
"We have 900 employees and over 5,000 students," he said. "We cannot not use that human capital to go beyond the campus. As a public higher education facility, it is our responsibility."
We like the attitude and promise Cardelle has shown thus far. We look forward to seeing how his goals and ideas manifest themselves in the coming days.
SUNY Oneonta is, indeed, an anchor institution here. Its impacts, good and bad, reverberate throughout community life. It seems Cardelle takes seriously the responsibility that comes with that role.