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Dr. Milagros Peña Named Next President

The SUNY Board of Trustees announced today that Dr. Milagros “Milly” Peña will become the sixth president of Purchase College.

Purchase College welcomes Milly Peña, PhD, a distinguished sociologist with more than 20 years of higher education leadership experience.

The State University of New York Board of Trustees voted unanimously today to name Milagros “Milly” Peña, PhD, currently Dean of the College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences at the University of California, Riverside, and a renowned sociologist, as our new president.

SUNY Board of Trustees Chairman Merryl H. Tisch and SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson officially announced Peña’s appointment as the sixth president of Purchase College.

“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,” says 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.

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

“I’d like to thank the search committee for their dedication and diligence as they undertook the monumental task of finding an innovative leader who is committed to leading and inspiring our students, faculty, and staff,” says Craig. “I look forward to working with Dr. Peña on the many new challenges in the year ahead and to introducing her to our campus community in the coming months.”

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,” says Peña. “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.”

More About Milagros Peña

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 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 PhD in sociology from Stony Brook University.