From the President, re: Leadership Transition

March 3, 2023

Dear Students and Colleagues,

In 2016, I arrived at Southern filled with excitement and hope for the future, and not a day has gone by since in which I haven’t felt enormous pride to serve as this university’s president.

During the past seven years, you have welcomed me and my family, and have helped me imbed myself at Southern and in New Haven. I have a sense of belonging here that exceeded my already optimistic expectations, and I’m proud of the ways in which we’ve worked together to reaffirm Southern’s strengths as an institution, both in and of the community. Southern is my home away from home.

It is for these reasons that my message today is especially difficult to deliver. But I write to inform you that at the conclusion of the spring 2023 semester, I will be stepping down from my role as Southern Connecticut State University’s 12th president.

As I addressed in February, I was selected as one of three candidates to interview for the presidency at Stockton University, a public institution near my family home in New Jersey. This morning, that discussion concluded with Stockton’s Board of Trustees electing me to serve as the university’s 6th president, effective July 1.

While the decision to leave Southern has been difficult to make, in particular as we continue to transition through these post-pandemic years, it is one that Bil and I believe is best for our family. We will return to the place where I grew up, and where my father and many of our shared loved ones still reside. Stockton is also my mother’s alma mater. Mom, like many of our graduates here at Southern, was a non-traditional student -- an RN who received her BSN in 1977. Though she is no longer here with us, it brings me and my family great joy to be able to honor her memory in this special way.

I want to stress that my decision does not reflect a change in my affinity for this university. Southern is an extraordinary institution. Seven years ago when I first visited, I was enamored by the students, the community, the beautiful campus and this amazing city of New Haven. I vividly remember meeting with students, faculty, staff, alums, and friends of the university. I was told then that Southern was a special place where relationships and community mattered. That is no less true today.

I will always have a deep affection for all that is Southern: its historic mission of access and affordability, its unique ability to transform lives through the power of education and the caring compassion of its community – never more clearly evidenced than during the challenges of the pandemic.

I am particularly proud of the productive relationships that we have built with our neighbors in New Haven and beyond, the growing recognition of our distinctive excellence in a range of academic disciplines, and how we have extended a commitment to social justice and anti-racism throughout our institution, providing an example for our students to make positive change when they enter society.

This semester has been particularly eventful – a throwback to the pre-COVID years – and filled with notable achievements as a result. I will have more to share on this topic in my Spring Town Hall in April.

As you know, there are also hurdles to be overcome and I understand that for some, the news of my pending departure will bring uncertainty about what the immediate future may hold. But this remains a critical time for our university, with pressing challenges and new opportunities that demand our attention and action. Our community cannot hesitate to proceed in this important work together, and I urge all of you to contribute to the strategic planning process that will help define Southern for the next three to five years.

Soon, CSCU System President Cheng will announce the appointment of an Interim President for Southern. Know that I will work closely with whoever is appointed to ensure a smooth transition. I have the utmost confidence in those who will guide Southern in the coming months. We have talent and smarts in our leadership team, in the broader SCSU community, and throughout the CSCU system.

I will be here through the end of the semester, and so we will save goodbyes, thank yous and recognitions for a later date. But know that Bil and I will forever be grateful for the friends we have made, the relationships we have formed, and for the many students whose lives we had the honor to touch. Southern is and will remain strong – because of each and every one of you.

Thank you! And… GO OWLS!


Joe Bertolino