About the President

Headshot of Dr. Sams

Currently serving as the sixth full President in the history of SUNY Old Westbury, Dr. Timothy E. Sams has spent the last 30 years driven by the principles of access, excellence, success, and impact.  His trail of accomplishments attests to his unwavering commitment to delivering on higher education’s promise of using excellence to achieve student transformation and social progress. His impressive career has taken him to an array of selective institutions around the country and the world.  As he moved from learning the fundamentals of building student success programs to innovating new ones as a senior leader, Dr. Sams’ commitment to educational justice by inclusive excellence, praxis, and purpose-driven education has characterized his work of elevating the student experience and transforming liberal arts education. 

Never losing sight of his opportunity program roots as an Upward Bound and an Educational Opportunity Program student in his youth, and Higher Educational Opportunity Program Counselor early in his career, Dr. Sams held fast to the belief that “to whom much is given, much is required.” As he moved toward senior leadership positions, first as Associate Dean of Students at NYU-Abu Dhabi, his approach to student success became even more entrepreneurial in spirit. For the upstart global university, he inaugurated the Student Affairs office that supported students within a residential college framework. Moving to the STEM education space as Vice President for Student Life at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and with a keen interest in STEM success for underrepresented students, he strengthened student support for key populations, increased staff diversity, and oversaw the creation of a STEM bridge program that increased retention rates for underrepresented students. 

As a Senior Vice President for Student Development at Morehouse College, Dr. Sams initiated a residential college program that galvanized the student experience and improved upon educational outcomes. Partnering with faculty leaders, Dr. Sams constructed a holistic learning environment guided by the principle that “learning is everywhere.” Under his leadership at Morehouse, the nation’s first ROTC Center of Excellence and the nation’s second campus-based PrEP program were formed.  These measures, coupled with his efforts to improve operational efficiency, provided for a seamless and comprehensive educational experience, leading Morehouse to raise student satisfaction and success rates, and to send greater numbers of students off to pursue terminal degrees. 

Led by his desire to elevate institutions through strategic change management and an innovative residential college framework, Dr. Sams moved to Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU) as its Vice President for Student Affairs in 2018. In his short time at PVAMU, he increased the number of divisional units by 20%, and improved student support through the creation of the university’s first emergency resource center and LGBTQ+ resource center. Also, he launched the residential college, adding a 550 bed Global Challenges capstone living experience, a second-year experience, a badging program, and enhanced the first-year experience. 

Raised by his paternal grandparents, Dr. Sams grew up on the south side of Syracuse, New York, where he was an avid Boy Scout, basketball player, and student activist. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Sociology from Union College in Schenectady, New York, and Master of Arts degree in Africana Studies from the State University of New York at Albany. He earned his Ph.D. in African American Studies from Temple University. His research and teaching interests are Ancient Egypt, West African Literature, the African American Family and Community, and Pan Africanism. He is a Minority Serving Institute Aspiring Leaders Fellow and recipient of the 2020 Champions for Student Success Award from American Campus Communities.