Interim SUNY ESF President Looks to Faculty for Healing & Keep Student Experience Strong

Jul 6, 2018

SUNY ESF will have an interim president for 1-2 years, after Dr. Quentin Wheeler resigned amid tensions with faculty.

The Interim President of SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry is finding the college and its faculty are ready to put the tensions with the past president behind them.  Dr. David Amberg was chosen to spend a year or two repairing some of the damage.  President Quentin Wheeler announced his resignation last March … effective June 30th.  Amberg knows where he has to start bringing the college together.

“It’s very important that as we work on these issues that this become a process that the faculty owns and that they’re very involved in dealing with some of the operational issues.  I’m hoping that personal style that I bring lets us do sort of a reset to bring peace and tranquility to the campus.”

Wheeler announced his resignation in March, concluding the tensions had become a distraction for the campus.
Credit Chris Bolt/WAER News / WAER FM

It was that faculty that voted “No Confidence” in Wheeler, amid hiring controversies, people losing leadership posts, and claims of poor decision-making, for at least two years.  Amberg is hearing from faculty and alumni that they’re ready for change.

“I think that (with) the tension, people are warn our here and they’re ready to move on.  That’s the overwhelming message I’m getting from the faculty, ‘…We’re done fighting; we want to move on.  We’re warn out and we’re ready for a positive change.’”

Through the controversies, often played out publicly, students might have been least affected.  Amberg credits the professors for keeping the teaching mission strong for students.

“It has not impacted them badly and in some ways they dealt with the tension on the campus better than any of the other constituents.  I come from the faculty; I was a scientist at Upstate.  And I know the faculty have undoubtedly been insulating the students from a lot of this.  That would be their sort of nurturing perspective.”

It also doesn’t look like enrollment suffered.  Amberg notes applications were up this past year and ESF is welcoming an incoming class larger than in recent years.  He says the school’s real-world research is still a great experience for students.

Dr. David Amberg (r) alongside SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson.

“And that research is done out in the real world.  ESF has a lot of land holdings, particularly up in the Adirondacks.  And these are the laboratories for the scientists here and that makes the experiences that the students have very unique.  In addition the mission of the college is nothing short of saving the planet, and that’s something I find very appealing.”

Amberg is coming over from SUNY Upstate, where he was Vice President of research.