With the historic appointment in May of Milagros Peña as the first Hispanic woman to serve as president of Purchase College, its’ safe to say a lot of changes are afoot at the college. However according to Peña, who is also an acclaimed author, many of these changes are actually in keeping with the ongoing principles, beliefs, and legacy of Purchase — and that includes the institution’s approach to area business.
“I see myself working with colleagues at Purchase to really leverage our strength so we can aspire to be bold educators, learners, and researchers,” explains Peña, “and to really have Purchase become embedded and recognized for its engagement in the community and for supporting the development of future leaders that are going to operate within these various communities.”
Peña adds that many of these future leaders will most likely do so in the state of New York, noting that 83% of Purchase’s student body hails from the state.
The pandemic has only put Purchase’s social role into sharper relief for the incoming president. “One of the things that really got highlighted during the crisis was just how important SUNY is to the state…and the system being supportive to the needs of the local community,” she says. “So, what I envision is for Purchase College to partner with businesses to talk about ways in which the partnership between businesses and local educational institutions are [vital to emerging] from this crisis. Part of this is the idea of building healthy communities, and those healthy communities really depend on a relationship between education and businesses.”
Peña hopes that the school’s graduates, and especially those studying health, will act as the lynchpins for this new relationship. “So what does it mean to be a liberal arts-educated health professional? It means you have a cultural confidence that involves a knowledge of history and a knowledge of the social sciences, but also being able to know how you can use the arts and performing arts as part of healing,” she explains.
“[This also means] bringing in the business community to articulate programming that really highlights the ways in which they have responded to COVID and where we can partner together to help our communities heal, not only in terms of the financial aspect, but the spiritual as well,” adds Peña. “I constantly ask myself how an institution like Purchase, which is considered one of the gems of the SUNY system, can also be of service and engaged within the larger Westchester community.”