INSIDE BINGHAMTON UNIVERSITY
New chancellor visits campus
By : Eric Coker
Visiting Binghamton University will help lay the groundwork for developing a strategic plan for the State University of New York, new Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher told campus and community leaders June 6.
“I want to leave no doubt in your minds,” Zimpher said at the Binghamton University Forum’s annual dinner. “This institution has realized tremendous success. I will do everything in my power to support this great university.”
Zimpher concluded her first week on the job with a daylong visit to Binghamton. She toured the campus with President Lois B. DeFleur; spoke with administrators, faculty and staff members and students at a luncheon at the Anderson Center Reception Room; and met campus and community leaders at the Forum dinner in the Appalachian Collegiate Center.
The chancellor, who comes to SUNY after a six-year tenure as the president of the University of Cincinnati, began her summer tour of the 64 SUNY campuses on June 3. Binghamton University’s outpouring of support on a weekend day impressed Zimpher.
“I think you’ll be the only campus that hosts us on a Saturday with faculty, staff, students and representatives from the University Council coming together in midday to share with me your extraordinary agenda,” she said. “The opportunity to be at the Binghamton University Forum is really over the top.”
The summer tour provides Zimpher the opportunity to meet campus leaders, listen to various constituencies and discover the “strengths and challenges” of each institution.
“There is a method to our madness,” she said. “We want to declare this the first phase in a comprehensive strategic plan.”
The campus visits are the first step in the plan’s development. Zimpher will then bring a group of presidents, faculty, students, donors, alumni and elected officials to Albany several times from October to March to help craft the vision for the five- to-10-year future of SUNY. The chancellor expects to have the strategic plan completed by spring 2010.
Zimpher stressed the importance of a collaborative project.
“What you have brought to the equation is an incredibly strong university composed of many outstanding leaders and the finest students I could ever imagine,” she said. “What I bring to the equation is a personal commitment to vision.”
Zimpher added that she is a “strong believer that vision is derived at the hands of many.”
“Lois and I have enough experience that if you sequester us in a room by ourselves, we could (write a plan), but it’s much more important that we do it together.”
The chancellor’s commitment to communication goes beyond the campus visits. Faculty, staff, students, alumni and others can offer suggestions about SUNY’s future at http://www.suny.edu/chancellor/shareyourideas.cfm.
“Our role as leaders is to tirelessly and constantly tell the story of the greatness of Binghamton University and the State University of New York,” she said. The plan that develops from these stories will “ultimately convince the state that we are not only aspiring to be the finest university system in the country and a model for the world, but we are in fact the answer to the economic recovery for the state of New York.”
While introducing Zimpher at the Forum dinner, DeFleur touted the University’s economic development efforts such as expanded research that has produced start-up companies and a growing number of patents.
DeFleur also highlighted the University Philanthropy Incubator, a program that teaches Master of Public Administration and Master of Social Work students about philanthropy. The student incubator awarded more than $12,000 to four area agencies in May.
“That’s the kind of creativity we’re doing with our students to offer them new and different ways of learning,” DeFleur said.
“We still have an ambitious agenda,” she said. “I know that with Chancellor Zimpher’s help, vitality and commitment to higher education, we will be able to do more things and eventually have more funding.”
During her campus tour with DeFleur, Zimpher placed flowers in the Memorial Courtyard for the victims of the April shootings at the American Civic Association. Zimpher told Forum guests that the healing process is an example of the importance of a strong campus-community connection.
“I often say that great cities need great universities, but what I want you to hear is that great universities need great cities,” she said. “It is a very reciprocal relationship. We feed on each other’s commitment and excellence.
“It is that reciprocal relationship that gave you the strength in April and allowed you to recover and probably be even stronger. … You should be proud of your response to that tragedy. It truly inspired me and I can’t think of anything more special than to be able to honor the memory of those who died.”
Zimpher said she is looking forward to returning to Binghamton, noting that she wants to attend a basketball game and an Anderson Center performance.
“I feel already like an honorary Binghamton Bearcat,” she said.