SUNY Canton Names New VP for Strategic Relations and Communications


Lenore VanderZee, Ph.D., has been appointed as SUNY Canton’s first Vice President for Strategic Relations and Communications. She has served in various leadership roles at the college since 2013.

According to SUNY Canton President Zvi Szafran, the new position reflects the expansion of VanderZee's duties involving economic development and entrepreneurship.

Lenore VanderZee

"SUNY Canton places great importance on entrepreneurship and economic development as key elements of its mission," Szafran said. " Lenore's vision and resourcefulness will be essential as we continue to drive our mission forward."

Over the past several years, VanderZee helped secure more than $6 million to aid in the creation of the college's new Entrepreneurship Centers. One of the locations will evolve with the Midtown Plaza redevelopment project, and the other will operate on campus. These centers will engage community members – as well as SUNY Canton’s students, faculty, and staff – in starting and growing successful businesses, creating new workforce opportunities, and fostering collaboration that will lead to sustainable economic growth.

VanderZee joined SUNY Canton as an adjunct instructor teaching Contemporary Global Issues, American Government and Politics, and Middle East History and Politics. She was appointed chief of staff in 2013 and has since served as Executive Director of University Relations and, most recently, Executive Director of Strategic Initiatives and Legislative Affairs.

Among her other responsibilities, VanderZee oversees the Office of Public Relations and Small Business Development Center (SBDC) operations in Canton and Plattsburgh. She also serves on seven local boards, including the Canton-Potsdam Hospital Board of Directors, the University Economic Development Association, and the St. Lawrence County and Canton Chambers of Commerce.

“It is a privilege to serve alongside my exceptional colleagues at SUNY Canton in this new role,” VanderZee said. “I am thrilled to expand my work in economic development, communications, and government relations at an institution and in a community I love.”

VanderZee was named an emerging leader in 2015 by Northern New York Business Magazine. She received the President's Meritorious Service Award in 2021 for her service and accomplishments during the COVID-19 pandemic, and also received the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce Day Award in 2022.

She earned her doctorate in Political Science and Peace Studies from the University of Notre Dame in 2017. She previously earned a J.D. and an LL.M. in International Human Rights Law from Notre Dame Law School and completed her undergraduate work at Calvin University.

VanderZee lives in Canton with her husband, Sean T. O’Brien, an associate professor of English and Humanities at the college. They have two sons, Ciaran and Finn.

About SUNY Canton

As Northern New York's premier college for career-driven bachelor's degrees, associate degrees and professional certificate programs, SUNY Canton delivers quality hands-on programs in engineering technology, management, and healthcare fields. It is home to the Center for Criminal Justice, Intelligence and Cybersecurity. Faculty members are noted for their professional real-world experience in addition to outstanding academic credentials. As SUNY's leader in online education, SUNY Canton OnLine offers hundreds of flexible and convenient courses as well as 23 online degree programs. The SUNY Canton Kangaroos 15 traditional athletic teams compete at the NCAA Division III level as part of the North Atlantic Conference. SUNY Canton also features varsity esports and cheerleading.