SUNY Board of Trustees Appoints Dr. Milagros “Milly” Peña to Lead Top Rated Purchase College as New President

May 29, 2020

Distinguished Sociologist with More than 20 Years of Higher Education Leadership Experience to Lead Purchase College

Albany – The State University of New York Board of Trustees voted unanimously today to name Milagros "Milly" Peña, Ph.D., currently Dean of the College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences at the University of California, Riverside and a renowned sociologist, as the new president of Purchase College.

Dr. Peña's appointment was announced officially by SUNY Board of Trustees Chairman Merryl H. Tisch and SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson, following a SUNY Board meeting. Dr. Peña will become the sixth president of Purchase College.

"One our highest priorities is to equip our campuses with strong, proven leaders, with exemplary track records who possess the deepest commitment to education necessary to deliver the world-class education our students deserve and expect," said SUNY Chairman Tisch. "These characteristics define Dr. Peña, who now joins one of the crown jewels of our campuses as the newest President of Purchase College and I am confident she will bring all her talents to inspire and guide our entire campus community to new heights."

"We are so pleased to welcome Dr. Peña to the SUNY family, and I'm confident she will further elevate one of the nation's premier and most ethnically diverse liberal arts colleges at this historic moment," said SUNY Chancellor Johnson. "Dr. Peña has spent her career attracting and retaining diverse faculty members to more accurately reflect student demographics. She also has aggressively pursued and promoted cross-disciplinary scholarship and stressed the importance of higher education institutions as community pillars. These tenets are central to both the core mission of Purchase and my broader vision for the entire SUNY system."

Chancellor Johnson noted that Dr. Peña is an accomplished author and editor who has published five books, one of which won a Distinguished Book Award from the Latino/a Section of the American Sociological Association. She also was the first in her family not only to graduate from college, but to receive a high school diploma, having grown up in Manhattan as the daughter of Dominican immigrants who did not have the opportunity to finish grade school. She has a deep and personal understanding of the power and importance of education as well as the arts, making her a perfect fit to lead Purchase in its next chapter.

A renowned liberal arts college with superb professional conservatory and studio programs in the performing and visual arts, Purchase College provides a distinctive learning environment. The campus is a top national liberal arts college according to U.S. News & Annual Report and is regarded as one of the most ethnically diverse and LGBTQ-friendly colleges. As an educational institution, cultural and artistic center, community resource, and gateway to opportunity, Purchase College is committed to enriching the lives of the public it serves.

Chancellor Johnson thanked interim President Dennis Craig for his leadership of Purchase since August 2019 after longtime President Thomas Schwarz stepped down and an expansive search for a new president began.

"Interim President Craig continues to lead Purchase College through uncertain times as the situation with COVID-19 and its impact on higher education evolves," Chancellor Johnson said. "His crisis leadership was crucial as study abroad students were swiftly returned home in March and faculty shifted to a distance learning model that maintained the high level of education students have come to expect."

As chief executive for Purchase College, Dr. Peña will also oversee the Neuberger Museum of Art and the Performing Arts Center. One of the largest university museums in the nation, the Neuberger is celebrated internationally for its commitment to the art of our time. An invaluable laboratory and resource, the Performing Arts Center provides models of excellence for students in the study and performance of theatre, dance, and music that are unsurpassed on any other East Coast campus.

Peña said, "It is an honor for me to be chosen for this position. I thank Chairwoman Merryl Tisch and all the members of the SUNY Board of Trustees, Chancellor Kristina Johnson, members of the Purchase search committee, particularly Dennis Glazer, chair of the search committee and Purchase Council and the entire Purchase College community for the trust they have given me to serve as their next president. I was drawn to Purchase for its distinctive strength in the liberal arts and the arts and the diverse and inclusive community that values individuality and fully embraces the motto ‘think wide open.' Purchase College is everything a liberal arts education can offer—where excellence and exploration are encouraged as one journeys to fulfill one's potential. I am proud to be able to join my colleagues at Purchase College in joining in that journey."

Dennis E. Glazer, Chairman of Purchase College Council, said, "After a nationwide search, our Purchase College Community is absolutely delighted to welcome Dr. Milly Peña as our new College President. Milly is an exceptional scholar, a proven academic leader, and a truly spectacular individual with all the experience necessary to be highly successful as our new President. We could not be more pleased, and we thank Chancellor Kristina Johnson, SUNY Board Chairman Merryl Tisch, and the entire Board of Trustees for this exceptional appointment."

Dr. Peña has served as Dean of the College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences at UC Riverside since 2015. There, she leads strategic planning for academic programs and initiatives across 20 departments, serving and supporting more than 11,000 students and more than 300 teaching and research faculty. She is responsible for the College's $105 million annual budget and is involved in development efforts at the University. Additionally, she oversees UCR Arts, which includes the California Museum of Photography, the Sweeney Art Gallery, and the Culver Center for the Arts.

During her tenure at UC Riverside, Dr. Peña has demonstrated her commitments to equity, diversity, inclusion, and community engagement. She led efforts to increase the hiring of diverse faculty, and she supported initiatives designed to connect faculty across departmental boundaries as a method of increasing faculty retention. A participant in Leadership Riverside, a program sponsored by the Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce, and an active proponent of UCR Arts, Dr. Peña brings her campus and surrounding communities together.

Dr. Peña also led a major fundraising campaign "Living the Promise" for UC Riverside with a long-term campaign goal for her College of $45 million. It was at $26 million when she began five years ago, and it quickly reached $52 million. Campaign gifts help students, support faculty and their research and creative activities, build new infrastructure around campus, and fund endowed chairs, research, and university programs.

Before joining UC Riverside, Dr. Peña spent 16 years at the University of Florida, ultimately serving as the Associate Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. An interdisciplinary scholar by training, her academic work bridges sociology, anthropology, ethnic studies, and women's studies, among other disciplines. Dr. Peña has published five books as either author or editor as well as numerous chapters and articles in other scholarly publications. She has received several awards for her scholarship, including a Distinguished Book Award from the Latino/a Section of the American Sociological Association.

Dr. Peña is a first-generation college student who was raised in New York City. She earned her bachelor's degree at Iona College, a master's degree from Union Theological Seminary, and a master's degree and Ph.D. in Sociology from Stony Brook University.

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, and more than 95 percent of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of any one of SUNY's 64 colleges and universities. Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, a law school, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. In total, SUNY serves about 1.3 million students amongst its entire portfolio of credit- and non-credit bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide are nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2021, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are more than three million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunity, visit

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