CANTON — Zvi Szafran is an idea man, and it’s not difficult to see why. Just ask him about SUNY Canton’s future, and he will expound on all the possibilities he is dreaming of for the institution he now leads. Now president of the college, Mr. Szafran is brimming with ideas for new and existing programs, bringing 33 years of experience in higher education to St. Lawrence County.
A native of Syracuse, Mr. Szafran, 59 — who returns to New York with his wife, Jill, and son, Mark — said taking the position was a nice opportunity.
He comes to the north country after serving as vice president for academic affairs at Southern Polytechnic State University in Marietta, Ga.
While there, he said he was instrumental in helping the school successfully partner with the Georgia Institute of Technology to develop several engineering programs something he said other universities in the state had for years failed to do.
“We found a way to work together successfully, and offer a program that they could support,” he said.
He said he hopes to bring this ability to recognize and improve on a college’s strengths to SUNY Canton, working with faculty to expand college programs and build on the decisions of the past.
“I’m not a person who wants to come in and change everything that already exists,” he said. “What already exists is very good.”
According to Mr. Szafran, what exists is a faculty focus on student success from freshman year to graduation, something he wants to strengthen.
“It’s great to be in a place where it’s all about the students,” he said.
In a nod to the college’s history in agriculture and technology, Mr. Szafran said he intends to create modern programs in agricultural management and engineering and hopes to work with faculty to bring back programs in hospitality management, believing there is untapped potential for tourism in St. Lawrence County.
“It’s a beautiful region up here, and we’re not the tourist draw that we ought to be,” Mr. Szafran said.
Looking toward the future, he said he hopes to develop a program in robotics and broaden Canton’s computing program to include computer game design and cybersecurity. He also would like to expand the college’s newly accredited four-year programs in engineering technology and nursing.
Mr. Szafran also said he hopes to attract more female students to the college for problem-solving degree programs such as engineering.
“Traditionally there aren’t a lot of women who go into engineering technology, and that’s a shame. It’s a great field,” he said. “We’d like to get the word out that this is a very good area for women.”
Hoping to close soon on a house in Canton, Mr. Szafran said he is looking forward to participating in a small-town spirit of cooperation, something he feels he has found in the north country. He recently met with Clarkson University President Anthony G. Collins and SUNY Potsdam President Kristin G. Esterberg and plans to meet Thursday with St. Lawrence University President William L. Fox.