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James Sunser headshot

Affiliation: Alumnus
Program: Accelerated Ed.D., Higher Education
Dissertation: A Program Evaluation of the Accelerated Business Degree Program at Onondaga Community College
Honors: 2010 Recipient of the Warner School’s Tyll van Geel Award; 2000 Recipient of the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Professional Service
Previous Education: Graduate of Syracuse University, SUNY Brockport, and Onondaga Community College

With parents who never had the chance to go to college, James Sunser ’10 (EdD) grew up to appreciate education as a fundamental piece of the American dream.

“It was important to get an education not only because nobody could take it away from you, but because it allowed you opportunities to do more—and to give back more,” says the newly appointed president of Genesee Community College, effective August 2011, and a recipient of Warner’s Tyll van Geel Award. The honor recognizes a doctoral student in educational leadership who demonstrates the commitment to leadership, decision making and practice demonstrated by van Geel, professor emeritus and a renowned scholar of education law and applied ethical issues in education.

As vice president of continuing and extended learning at Onondaga Community College (OCC), Sunser has helped to create programs that support nontraditional students, including adults and those who have been away from the college scene for awhile. One new initiative, to be implemented in fall 2011, is a three-credit-hour course for adjunct professors. Building on his dissertation at Warner, which centered on applied principles of student success in the community college’s accelerated business degree program, Sunser is designing the course to help adjuncts recognize different learning styles and then identify various ways to teach to those styles.

He hopes the course will evolve into a series leading to certification.

Sunser says the lessons he learned at Warner, particularly how to conduct “good, solid and credible research,” has been instrumental in saving time otherwise spent on questioning bias and challenging strategy.

“The structure of the program exposed me to multiple facets of higher education, administration, and leadership on a much more granular level,” he explains of his decision to attend Warner, where he commuted from Syracuse, N.Y. “Getting into the mechanisms for synthesizing research and using it to guide decisions was really important because we were dealing with scholars and faculty members who valued that.”

While Sunser enjoys setting policies and procedures that help OCC’s overall mission, he makes time to teach graduate and undergraduate business courses as an adjunct professor at Keuka College.

“Sometimes you put in so many hours and get so wrapped up in what you have to do that it’s hard to imagine doing anything else,” he says. “But I just missed working with students and making those connections on a more personal level.”

And that brings him back to his parents.

“Not only did they instill the importance of education, but it became a lifetime commitment for me.”