QUEENS WEEKLY, AUGUST 16, 2020
Four new Queens CUNY presidents
discuss college in the COVID-19 era
BY JACOB KAYE
The newly appointed presidents
of four CUNY schools in Queens
sat down with Schneps Media last
week to discuss their backgrounds
and the challenges their respective
schools face in the coming months
— and potentially years — as a result
of the COVID-19 crisis.
With a spring semester to learn
from and a summer of planning
under their belt, the presidents see
the challenge as a chance to move
the CUNY system into the future
and to provide opportunities to students
they may have not otherwise
been able to provide.
But prior to being appointed
as college presidents, Dr. Berenecea
Johnson Eanes, the president
of York College; Dr. Christine
Mangino, the president-designate
of Queensborough Community
College; Frank Wu, the president
of Queens College; and Kenneth
Adams, the president-designate of
LaGuardia Community College,
each had interesting careers that
led them to their current roles in
For Dr. Johnson Eanes, becoming
the president of a college had
always been a something she hoped
to do. Years ago, she told a friend
that she would one day hold the
“This has been a dream of mine
for a very long time, for these kinds
of students, at this kind of institution,”
Johnson Eanes said.
The York College president has
spent the past 25 years working in
higher education, most recently
serving as the vice president of student
affairs at Cal State Fullerton.
While Johnson Eanes seemed
to be on the path towards a college
president role, her new colleague,
Wu, said he never saw himself in
his new role.
“In some ways, I’m an improbable
college president,” Wu said.
“It’s not something I ever thought
I’d ever do.”
The Queens College president
began his career as a lawyer but
soon decided he was more passionate
about teaching and learning.
He became a professor at Howard
University, then joined the board of
trustees at Gallaudet University, a
school for the deaf and hard of hearing.
He also served as the dean of
the law school at Wayne State and
the chancellor of the University of
California Hastings College of the
Dr. Christine Mangino, Kenneth Adams, Frank Wu and Dr. Berenecea Johnson Eanes were all recently appointed as presidents of CUNY colleges in
Queens. Photo via YouTube/Schneps Media
But when the opportunity to
serve as Queens College’s president
came along, Wu knew what to do.
“I didn’t want to be a college
president,” Wu said. “I wanted to
be the college president of Queens
College, because of the diversity
and the mission.”
Like Johnson Eanes and Wu,
Dr. Mangino had long had a passion
Originally getting a degree in
hotel management, Mangino went
back to school to earn a degree in
elementary education and English.
From there, the soon-to-be president
of Queensborough Community
College spent 16 years with Hostos
Community College, serving in
various roles, including as the vice
president of academic affairs.
In her new role, Mangino sees
an institution that carries on her
“Queensborough excited me
because they have the same passion
for academics,” Mangino said.
“We’re going to do some really exciting
Kenneth Adams, who will soon
begin to serve as LaGuardia Community
College’s president, has
spent a majority of his career focused
on economic development,
which isn’t the “traditional background”
of a college president.
However, when serving as the
commissioner of the New York State
Department of Economic Development,
Adams worked closely with
the presidents of CUNY and SUNY
schools. He saw that state and city
schools were serving an incredibly
valuable economic role for both its
students and its community.
“I had this obsession with CUNY
as a real driver of economic mobility
and opportunity,” Adams said.
Adams left the Cuomo administration
to work as the dean of workforce
and economic development at
Bronx Community College, where
he’ll continue to work until taking
a seat at the top of LaGuardia Community
College in August.
But becoming the leader of a major
institution during the COVID-19
crisis will have its challenges.
“I don’t think anyone planned it
quite this way,” Adams said.
The COVID-19 transition
For all four presidents, the focus
of the fall will be providing a quality
education and a vibrant student
life through an online platform.
The vast majority of classes
will be exclusively online at CUNY
colleges, with handful of courses
taught in a hybrid format, with
most instruction online and some
instruction taught in person.
LaGuardia Community College’s
nursing program is one of its
largest academic programs. Students
enrolled in the program require
access to equipment that can
only be utilized in person.
“We have occupational training
programs where we do as much as
we can online, but at the end of the
day, some of the instruction has to
be in-person because of equipment
and access to labs,” Adams said.
But for all four presidents, the
challenges of running a school online
stretches beyond instruction.
“The spring semester was really
about survival, but now we
need to make sure that students
have a connection to the college,
the faculty, and are able to create
friendships with other students,”
At Queens College, Wu and his
team found a way to replicate the
fanfare of the first day of school by
purchasing virtual confetti for 99
cents — a cheaper alternative to the
confetti gun the school typically
uses to welcome its students.
Johnson Eanes said her school
will focus on the trauma her students
and faculty face.
“First and foremost, we have to
acknowledge the amount of grief
and trauma,” she said.
Despite the hardships of being
forced to change the way in which
college instruction is taught, Wu,
Adams, Mangino and Johnson
Eanes see the challenge as a great
“There is nowhere but forward.
We can’t go back,” Johnson Eanes
said. “I think we have a fantastic
opportunity at York and we’re