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SUNY Potsdam’s next president shares plans of academic accessibility, new partnerships

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SUNY Potsdam’s next president said she wants to lower barriers to education and provide more opportunities to students.

Kristin G. Esterberg is a sociologist by education, with doctoral degree and a master’s degree in sociology from Cornell University, Ithaca. She earned her bachelor’s degree in philosophy and political science at Boston University.

At first, she said, she thought she would use those skills to research and write.

“I’ve loved to write all my life, and I thought that would be my mark,” she said.

Instead she discovered a love of teaching, and worked her way up through the ranks of academic administration, eventually becoming provost and academic vice president at Salem State University, Salem, Mass.

As an administrator, she has learned to streamline academic programs. At Salem State, she said, general education requirements used to be outdated and cumbersome, keeping students from graduating. It is important to make education accessible to all.

“I loved being able to lift some of those barriers,” she said.

When she arrives in Potsdam this summer, she plans to take a “sociologist’s approach” to her first week, listening to and learning from faculty, staff, students, alumni and community members.

She also plans to take a close look at the college’s finances.

“Closing the budget gap is the first priority,” she said.

Beyond that, Ms. Esterberg said, she is interested in attracting and catering to an ever-more-diverse student body.

She said she is interested in partnering with industries and startups, and working with students to create an entrepreneurial spirit.

She wants to look at ways to combine SUNY Potsdam’s traditional liberal arts focus with scientific and technological fields.

“I think there are some really amazing opportunities to look at science and technology combined with the arts,” she said.

To do this, Ms. Esterberg said, she is interested in pursuing partnerships with the area’s other colleges.

“I would be very excited to work with SUNY Canton on that, and to work with all four campuses in the area,” she said.

At Salem State, she helped create partnerships between numerous colleges, both public and private, as well as partnerships with local businesses.

SUNY Potsdam’s mission matches well with her experience, she said.

“It was very much in line with the work I’ve done all my life,” she said.

Ms. Esterberg will be the college’s 16th president. She says she wants to help SUNY Potsdam innovate and thrive in its third century. The school celebrates its bicentennial in 2016.

She will live in the campus presidential home with her spouse, Sue Bergmeier. Their eldest daughter, Katie, is a freshman at St. Lawrence University, Canton, and their younger daughter, Qiong Qiong, will live with them in Potsdam.

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