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Next SUNY Canton president to focus on expanding programs, enrollment

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CANTON — SUNY Canton’s next president has appeared in a comic book, has a collection of more than 8,000 jazz albums and wants to help the college grow into a job-training technological powerhouse.

Zvi Szafran answered questions about his life, work and plans during a visit to the north country Tuesday.

He spent much of his time talking about the importance of technology-focused colleges in the national economy.

“It’s critically important for the economy today and tomorrow for American students to go into STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines,” he said.

He said he hopes to help SUNY Canton become a comprehensive polytechnic institution, combining traditional college courses such as business and communication with a technological edge.

“There are a lot of opportunities that fit in well with our mission,” he said.

Mr. Szafran is a Syracuse native with a doctoral degree in physical inorganic chemistry from the University of South Carolina and a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Worcester (Mass.) Polytechnic Institute. He currently serves as vice president for academic affairs at Southern Polytechnic State University in Marietta, Ga.

His love of comic books and chemistry led him to write a letter complaining about the classic comic character Archie’s habit of frequently blowing up his school’s chemistry lab. Mr. Szafran suggested Archie’s school switch to microchemistry, a less-dangerous and less-wasteful method he helped design. The writers responded to his letter by visiting Merrimack University, where he worked at the time, and writing a story featuring Mr. Szafran and his colleagues.

At SUNY Canton, Mr. Szafran said increasing enrollment will be another top priority. He wants to step up recruitment efforts, both in the United States and in developing countries.

“We need to be casting our net more widely,” he said.

He said there is plenty of room for partnerships with the county’s other three colleges. He does not see SUNY Potsdam and the other colleges as competitors, he said, but as collaborators that each fills a different academic niche.

“You can’t be all things to all people, and we need to keep to our mission,” he said. “We can do a lot of things to amplify each other’s strengths.”

SUNY Canton’s strength, he said, is educating students who have the skills they need to immediately enter the job market.

“They’re ready to hit the ground running; they add value to the companies that hire them right away, and they know how to do things,” he said.

When not working, Mr. Szafran said he likes spending time with his family, traveling, listening to his massive collection of jazz CDs and collecting comic books.

He starts work this summer.

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