A Woman Of Action — And Reason

President Karen L. Gould stops to chat at a Student Club Fair on campus.
There's a new president at Brooklyn College: Karen L. Gouldis the ninth president and first woman to lead the college in its 80-year history. An expert on French-Canadian literature, Gould previously served as the provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at California State University, Long Beach, where she oversaw 31,000 undergraduates and 7,000 graduate students in eight academic colleges. At Brooklyn, she's managing a much smaller, but equally diverse group of more than 13,000 undergraduate and 3,700 graduate students. Gould, who grew up in San Francisco, earned her bachelor's degree from Occidental College and her doctorate in Romance languages from the University of Oregon.

What are your impressions of Brooklyn College students and faculty?

Our students are engaged, thoughtful and serious. I have had the wonderful opportunity to meet with Brooklyn College alumni and see the results of our strong tradition of academic excellence and affordability. We have a distinguished faculty, many of whom are recognized nationally and internationally, and we need to continue to promote the accomplishments of our professors and make sure the public understands how much they are accomplishing across many disciplines.

You have said you want to reach a broader audience to get the word out about the school. How do you plan to build the Brooklyn College brand?

We are seeking some advice from a marketing consultant and we're also doing a number of surveys with our students, faculty and alumni to more clearly understand their perceptions of what the institution is and what it offers. We will have a summary of all of this as we determine how best to improve upon our brand and effectively communicate where we're headed.

The college will be launching a five-year strategic plan in the fall. What are some of its key initiatives, and how are you preparing for it?

Currently, we have a presidential task force on retention and graduation success which will be preparing a May report. We are also engaged in a facilities master planning process during which we are looking at the grounds and buildings of our institution with architects and planners, so that we can fully comprehend how best to organize future growth and academic needs in order to position our departments to serve our students and faculty most effectively. We also have two sustainability task forces underway, and we will be planning soon the creation of the new school of business and considering plans for schools in the sciences, creative arts, and humanities and social sciences.

What are the challenges facing the college during these tough economic times?

We know that New York State is struggling with its budgetary situation, which requires fiscal constraint and very careful strategic planning. We have to be very careful about the pathways that we select for investment and make sure that we are investing in those areas that truly respond to student need and student opportunity.

How are you planning to accommodate the growing enrollment?

Our first-choice freshmen applications are up 40 percent over last year. I think that our new West Quad Center is helping, with added emphasis on one-stop shopping for student services and wonderful athletic services. We will have, for the first time in Brooklyn College history, a student residence hall next fall with 240 beds. Our transfer applications for this coming year are also up 120 percent. This application spike shows how many students are recognizing that a baccalaureate degree is absolutely essential. We will do everything we can to help our students reach their goals and graduate from Brooklyn College in a timely fashion.

Is it exciting to be in New York City?

Absolutely! It truly has become our home. My husband and I love it, and we find it very dynamic. Like Los Angeles, it has many ethnic groups, great cultural diversity and a lot of activities, which we thoroughly enjoy.

What are some of your favorite things to do in the city?

Shopping in Park Slope, running in Prospect Park, walking anywhere in Manhattan . . .walking our dog in our neighborhood, and enjoying many terrific Brooklyn restaurants and cultural events.