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Rutgers University-Newark Chancellor Dr. Nancy Cantor to Become President of CUNY's Hunter College

Rutgers University-Newark chancellor and social psychologist Dr. Nancy E. Cantor will soon embark on a new journey to lead Hunter College, the largest college in the City University of New York (CUNY) system.Dr. Nancy CantorDr. Nancy CantorRutgers University - Newark

The seasoned higher education leader will become Hunter’s 14th president this summer, adding yet another leadership position onto her already impressive resume. 

“My term here at Rutgers-Newark is coming to an end,” Cantor told Diverse in an interview on Wednesday. “And Hunter has always been just a real beacon of all the things I believe insocial mobility, scholarship that really addresses pressing issues in the world, and a very clear footprint in the city of New York.”

This will be Cantor’s fourth stint as the leader of a higher ed institution. Before her time at Rutgers-Newark, she led Syracuse University as chancellor and president for more than nine years and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as chancellor for three.

She blazed trails at all three by becoming the first woman to serve as chancellor at each of them.

Throughout her long and storied career in higher education, Cantor has served as a department chair at Princeton University and has been a provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of Michigan.

When it was announced that Rutgers president, Dr. Jonathan Holloway declined to renew Cantor's contract when it expires this summer, the decision was met with fierce criticism from faculty, students and city officials, most notably Newark's Mayor Ras Baraka who said that he was "deeply disheartened and disturbed," by Holloway's decision. 

Cantor is gifted with the skills to bring people together, whether it be academicians, community members, industry professionals, or legislators, said Dr. Timothy Eatman, inaugural dean of Rutgers-Newark’s Honors Living-Learning Community (HLLC). The HLLC is but one of the efforts that Cantor helped to create. 

“This is a magnanimous opportunity for Hunter College,” Eatman said. “Nancy is such a consummate leader, dedicated to the most powerful uses of the academy, the ivory tower, imaginable. She really is a distinguished international leader."

Eatman first met Cantor at the University of Michigan and the two worked closely across the years, first at Syracuse and he later followed her to Rutgers-Newark.  He said that her departure from Rutgers-Newark is bittersweet, adding that the school and the city of Newark is losing a phenomenal leader.

"But in the tradition of what she has taught me personally and modeled, leadership means that your legacy and your impact has to breathe,” Eatman said. “I believe that the things that Chancellor Cantor has been able to do here is to enable that kind of breathing and resilience. And I believe that Newark is up to the task of carrying the ball forward."

Growing up in New York City, Cantor said that she always felt connected to the City University of New York. Both of her parents are CUNY alums. Her father graduated from The City College of New York and her mother graduated from Hunter. 

“So, this is in my family, if you will,” Cantor said. “I've always seen Hunter – and CUNY writ large – as places that really care about the public good, and that's why I do the job I do.”

Once she takes the helm at Hunter College, she said that she plans to work closely with the Manhattan school’s staff and shared governance group to think about how to work towards some of the ideals she’s championed throughout her career: student success, collaboration with the community, equity, and “a sustainable, just society."

Additionally, Cantor said that she plans to look at how Hunter can collaborate with other CUNY schools in the system. 

"I believe firmly that it isn't about the individual's achievement. It's about the collaborative team that is in operation,” she said. “So, everything that I would say I'm proud of or excited about here, is very much a collaboration between not only the university but the city [and] community partnerships."

She said that she's proud of the work that she's done with the faculty in working with the community to create the Center for Law, Inequality, and Metropolitan Equity and the Newark Public Safety Collaborative.

"We have amazing work going on that I think will continue because there's so much collaborative effort in Newark to really create social justice, racial equity, and economic prosperity," she said.

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