Chancellor Malatras Appoints Dr. John Graham as SUNY’s First Student Advocate

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From the State University of New York:

Albany, NY – State University of New York Chancellor Jim Malatras announced today the appointment of Dr. John Graham as SUNY’s first Student Advocate, a senior position designed to elevate and lead the Chancellor’s more student-centric priorities for his administration. Dr. Graham, who has overseen the student affairs and university life department at SUNY system, will now report directly to Chancellor Malatras. His appointment is effective immediately.

“The new role of Student Advocate was formed, in large part, directly from our students to have a person they could go to who would deliver their concerns and suggestions to me, our leadership team, and the SUNY Board of Trustees—and Dr. John Graham has my trust and full authority to be their person on the ground,” said Chancellor Malatras. “Dr. Graham and I have spoken at length about the strategy we want to put in place—one that focuses first and foremost on our students’ safety and wellbeing—to maximize their opportunity to earn their degree, which has been made more challenging by COVID-19. We will be the student-centric SUNY administration and I look forward to working with Dr. Graham to ensure our student’s needs are met with swift action and all resources possible.”

One immediate priority for Dr. Graham will be to appoint a Student Voices Action Committee representing every sector of SUNY including university centers, comprehensives, technical campuses, and community colleges to advise on emerging and critical issues facing students. Working alongside the Student Assembly, this process will take effect immediately and will include students from varied backgrounds to match the diversity across SUNY.

SUNY Board of Trustee Eunice Lewin, who co-chairs the Student Life Committee, said, “Today our SUNY students are faced with immense challenges every day and we must continue to work tirelessly to create new opportunities to solicit valuable feedback, with a holistic approach that leads to real change. With our existing Board of Trustees Student Roundtable and now with SUNY’s Student Voices Action Committee, we are expanding our commitment to students with even more representation from students across our state. I applaud Chancellor Malatras for appointing John Graham to lead this new student focused effort to ensure that we hear directly from our students as frequently as possible and bring about the meaningful changes they care deeply about.”

As Student Advocate, Dr. Graham will oversee: Student Mental Health and Wellness, Disability Services, Veterans and Military Affairs, Childcare Services, Substance Abuse Services, Chancellor’s Student Excellence Awards, and the Student Assembly—the student elective governance body. He will also be the liaison with campus professional groups including Chief Student Affairs Officers, Counseling Services, Residence Life, Greek Life, Athletics, Student Conduct, and College Union and Campus Activities Professionals.

In particular, given Chancellor Malatras’ directive to increase diversity and access, Dr. Graham will also oversee diversity and post-traditional students, specifically SUNY’s Educational Opportunity and Educational Opportunity Center programs.

Dr. Graham said, “It is an absolute honor for me to be appointed as SUNY Student Advocate. This role is critical to advancing the mission of our comprehensive system where students are the priority and the core responsibility of our collective efforts. The Chancellor himself is a student advocate, and to recognize the importance of this work in a COVID-19 climate cannot be overstated. Many students and their families are confronting unimaginable challenges. The implementation of support and resources will require renewed imagination while working with and through a wide range of stakeholders that includes campus leaders, chief student affairs officers, residence life professionals, and other colleagues across SUNY.”

Student assembly presidents commented on the new role and the Student Voices Action Committee:

Fashion Institute of Technology Student Government Association President Sallie Haas said, “The FIT Student Government Association is looking forward to the establishment of the Student Advocate position, which will serve as a much-needed line of communication between students from all 64 campuses and SUNY administration. We believe this initiative will lead to a better student experience and a stronger SUNY system.”

SUNY Geneseo Student Association President Kaitlyn Bertleff said, “The combination of social movements, the growing momentum of young activism, and the ongoing pandemic has demonstrated like never before the need of connection and collaboration in effective leadership. The new Student Advocate role, a position whose purpose is rooted entirely in facilitating this connection and contact gives rise to the amplification of the student voice within SUNY in a way that’s relevant to our needs, well being, and success not only as students, but people. SUNY is an impressive system built to shape the futures of 1.4 million students—this position, as well as the new student advisory group, are the additions we need to meaningfully continue that vision while putting students at the focus.”

Stony Brook University Undergraduate Student Government President Shaheer Khan said, “It is reassuring for the students that a new student-oriented position has been created by Chancellor Malatras to facilitate an easy line of communication between SUNY students and SUNY administration. As a student leader at Stony Brook University, the distance from Stony Brook to Albany sometimes creates difficulty in maintaining effective communication with the SUNY System administration.  I look forward to seeing how the new Student Advocate role will increase constructive and collaborative interactions between the students and the system.” 

SUNY ESF Undergraduate Student Association President Lexi Chipules said, “I am very excited to hear about the new role. The student voice being heard is absolutely crucial, so I’m glad a role has been created just for that. We are looking forward to it being a true and effective outlet for students that will work in concert with the SUNY Student Assembly.”

About Dr. John Graham

As Student Advocate and Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Dr. Graham will provide a vital, creative, and adaptable vision and leadership for student affairs in support of the development, improvement, of student services. He will analyze issues and use foresight to recommend vital courses of action and advising on policies in matters dealing with students while also serving as the Chancellors principal representative within the University community.

Previously, Dr. Graham led SUNY Provost’s office for Student Affairs and University Life to provide system-wide leadership in furthering SUNY System Administration’s academic priorities and campus efforts to improve access, retention, and success of all SUNY students. He will continue to be the principal spokesperson for SUNY initiatives and efforts related to student life including policy development, review and consultation with SUNY Administration partners, campus leaders, and Chief Student Affairs Officers. This includes collaboration with the Student Life Committee for the Board of Trustees. Dr. Graham will also continue to facilitate the coordination and sustainability of the Systemwide Student Mental Health and Wellness Task Force and the Food Insecurity Task Force to ensure a safe living and learning community for all students. Dr. Graham serves on the Steering Committee of the SUNY COVID-19 Re-Opening Task Force and Chairs the Student Wellness Working Group and the SUNY System Athletics Working Group.

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