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Hofstra University appoints first woman president

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After a yearlong search with 270 candidates, the Hofstra University Board of Trustees has unanimously selected Susan Poser as its ninth president — making her the first woman to fill the role.

Stuart Rabinowitz, who has been the university’s president for the past 20 years, announced his retirement at the end of last January. In search for his successor, the university formed a committee of 13 members, including representatives from the Board of Trustees, university faculty and Student Government Association.  

“In Dr. Poser, we have found a higher education leader of exceptional experience, a collaborative and visionary person, and a scholar of great depth and intellect,” said Board Chair Donald Schaeffer, who made the announcement on Dec. 9.

Poser, who will begin her tenure on Aug. 1, is now provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Illinois Chicago. She recently spoke to the Herald about her experience in education, goals in her first year as president and plans for a post-pandemic Hofstra.

“I was really amazed by what’s going on at Hofstra,” Poser said. “It’s also incredibly well-managed financially and in a really great place coming out of the pandemic.”

Poser lauded the advancements Hofstra made during Stuart Rabinowitz tenure, including the university’s partnership with Northwell Health to create the Zucker School of Medicine and Hofstra Northwell School of Nursing and Physician Assistant Studies.

Analogous in Poser’s leadership was UIC’s acquisition of the John Marshall Law School, which established the first and only public law school in Chicago.

What also stands out to Poser about Hofstra is its commitment to liberal arts and the humanities.

“Students need to be encouraged to pursue a liberal arts education and also need to know that they could get a job with it,” she said, adding that Hofstra provides this to students through internship opportunities, five-year graduate programs and experiential learning.

Before her role at UIC, Poser was the dean of the University of Nebraska College of Law from 2010 to 2016 and the associate to the university’s chancellor for three years before that.

Poser grew up in Manhattan and majored in classics at Swarthmore College, graduating with honors. She earned her law degree and doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley. Before starting her academic career, Poser clerked for the Honorable Dolores Sloviter, the chief judge of the U.S. Court Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia. She also served as the Zicklin Fellow in Ethics at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

“I have had the privilege to work with the Hofstra University community . . . for many years and know that under her leadership, Hofstra University will flourish for years to come,” Rabinowitz said.

Asked about her immediate goals as president, Poser said, “I know it’s cliché, but the first thing I want to do is meet a whole lot of people and listen to them and get a real feel for what everyone think of the university, how things are going there and how things should go moving forward,” she said.

One of Poser’s main priorities as an educator is to embrace diversity and foster “a culture of inclusion,” she said. This is evident in the actions she has taken during her tenure at UIC, where no race or ethnicity makes up 50 percent of the student population.

“I think we’ve learned that we’re very adaptable and resilient,” Poser said when asked what teachers and students could take away from the pandemic.

Educators were forced to learn how to teach online and, Poser said, could benefit by incorporating these new teaching methods and virtual programs into their courses after the pandemic.