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Inside Focus: Meet New SUNY Cobleskill President Doctor Marion Terenzio

Written By Michael on 7/31/15 | 7/31/15

By Timothy Knight

COBLESKILL - After serving for years as a revolving door, the presidency of SUNY Cobleskill has a new full time occupant.

Taking charge as the rural university's first non-temporary president in four years on July 1st, Doctor Marion Terenzio steps into her new role with an eagerness to build on the successes of the campus while utilizing her experience from multiple disciplines to chart the college's best possible course moving forward as SUNY Cobleskill's twelfth president.

Although Doctor Terenzio has received one baccalaureate degree, two master's, and one doctorate in the fields of music therapy and community psychology, she said that she truly "began my education when I started playing the organ at the age of five." There, she added, is when she learned how to coordinate her mind and body in educational study.

Education being the "largest social movement in which a society can be engaged that builds...at the community and individual levels," according to the new president.

An educator long before entering the administrative portion of academia, Terenzio's background never quite matched the main stream. Her educational path took her down both the roads of theory and action, where on one hand she became a professor at the age of twenty-four, while also working as a music therapist, which she credited for teaching her how to learn from others.

Describing her experience of working as a music therapist with children with disabilities as "the most profound educational experience of my life that shaped me," Dr. Terenzio said that she learned the power of diversity and that it has become one of her strongest influences.

Just weeks into her position, the new president admitted that "if you ever asked me if I waned to be a college president: it was never on my radar."

Doctor Terenzio would go on to state that her resume has always been outside of the norm of academia.

However, so has SUNY Cobleskill's string of tumultuous years following the failed presidency of Don Zingale, who was disgraced by the State University Faculty Senate Visitation Team in 2011 for having issues with personal interaction, ineffective communication, and inconsistent management. Following Zingale's departure, the college has had a series of acting and temporary heads.

Launching an exhaustive search process that lasted several months, the university selected Terenzio earlier this year to replace acting president Doctor Debra Thatcher.

Although she believed her resume to be out of the norm, Terenzio's experience as Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty at Bloomfield College caught SUNY Cobleskill's attention, and thus far, so has SUNY Cobleskill for its new president.

Commenting, "I'm not here to change SUNY Cobleskill but to enhance what's already here," Dr. Terenzio described the college's academic offering as unique for its applied learning in liberal arts and the hands on experience that is agricultural technology.

One of Terenzio's biggest goals during her presidency "is to help bring SUNY Cobleskill forward to the community," where the college can, "become a very good neighbor and partner."

Identifying potential avenues of connecting with the community such as by helping a business through the Start Up New York program, engaging with area school districts, or inviting residents on campus for open houses, the community oriented president emphasized that, "I want to get to know the people."

Particularly the student body.

Seeing her job as not just to lead, but to be a symbolic presence for the students, Doctor Terenzio wants to "be there as a mentor and role model" because "we're here together to enhance their future."

Together with a diverse faculty that Dr. Terenzio describes as exceptional due to the success stories of students who have passed through their classrooms. Commenting that the faculty's love for SUNY Cobleskill "speaks volumes," the president stated, "the faculty are the front-line educators of youth."

Just a few short months away from the college's centennial, Doctor Terenzio has stepped into her position with a college on the verge of both marking a significant historical milestone and of turning the corner from a series of recent administrative lows.

Concluding that "It's not just the faculty, but the entire institution of faculty and staff," President Terenzio remarked that they have already shown her, "their extreme willingness to do what it takes."
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