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‘The Power of SUNY’ looks to power state economy

By : Eric Coker

Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher unveiled the State University of New York’s strategic plan to the Binghamton University campus by highlighting what she called “SUNY’s greatest potential.”

“The State University of New York can — and will — be the key driver of economic revitalization and enhanced quality of life across the state of New York,” Zimpher told a standing-room-only crowd at Old Union Hall on April 15.

Zimpher and Carl Hayden, chairman of the SUNY Board of Trustees, discussed the strategic plan for 2010 and beyond during the official “Southern Tier Launch.” The event also featured remarks from President Lois B. DeFleur and her counterparts from SUNY Cortland, Broome Community College and Tompkins Cortland Community College, along with testimonials from students, faculty and alumni from the four schools.

“This is a historic time for New York,” DeFleur said. “Chancellor Zimpher has developed bold ideas for SUNY. They will be pivotal for New York state and its future.”

The strategic plan, also known as “The Power of SUNY,” identifies six “big ideas” that will help SUNY become the economic engine of the state.

• SUNY and the Entrepreneurial Century: Programs such as SUNY StartUP will connect students and faculty with entrepreneurs, helping to create an entrepreneurial mindset that leads to “idea generators and job creators.”

“We will be better at choosing bright ideas and taking them to market,” Zimpher said.

• SUNY and the Seamless Education Pipeline: The SUNY Urban-Rural Teacher Corps will offer real-world experience to teachers, while SUNY Works will strengthen the cooperative partnership between campuses and the business sector.

“This pipeline is in desperate need of repair,” Zimpher said. “Far too many of our young people are dropping out of high school and too many teachers are leaving the classroom. SUNY has the resources and the responsibility to strengthen the pipeline, especially since we prepare the teachers who prepare the students who enter our colleges.”

• SUNY and a Healthier New York: A SUNY Wellness Network will target obesity, smoking cessation and prevention of chronic illness, and SUNY Scale will use an online database to address health-care needs.

SUNY will also work to send its doctors, nurses, midwives and dentists to the right places in the state, Zimpher said.

“We are confident we can increase the supply of health-care professionals and get them to the communities that need them most,” she said.

• SUNY and an Energy-Smart New York: While many of SUNY’s initiatives are already at the “vanguard of research and discovery,” Zimpher said, programs such as SUNY Smart Grid will bring experts together to help make the electricity grid cleaner, more efficient and more affordable.

SUNY also will work to cut system-wide energy consumption by at least 30 percent during the next decade.

“We have an army of 465,000 students who are green thinkers and doers,” Zimpher said. “They will take this way of living as a best practice into their careers and communities.”

• SUNY and the Vibrant Community: A Center for Citizen Learning will focus on service learning and volunteerism, while SUNY Passport will offer free or discounted admission to attractions for students, faculty and staff.

“Our commitment to diversity is to expand our community services to ensure access for all,” Zimpher said.

• SUNY and the World: Global participation must go to the next level, said Zimpher, who cited the importance of initiatives such as OPEN SUNY, which will offer an extensive distance-learning network.

“For SUNY to serve as an economic engine for the revitalization of New York, we must truly be a global educational system,” she said. “We will build our global talent pool to draw more international students to our campuses and send more of our students abroad.”

Hayden saluted Zimpher for visiting all 64 SUNY campuses and allowing people to put their “fingerprints” on the document. But he also questioned a state cut of $424 million during the past two years for a public institution that can help rejuvenate the state economy.

“Is there a reason in the world why an informed set of public officials would not want to utilize the power of the state university in that enterprise?” he asked.

Hayden, Zimpher and DeFleur all urged the state Legislature to approve the Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act that would provide regulatory reform and oversight of tuition policies for SUNY. Zimpher called the strategic plan “the roadmap” and the empowerment act as “the license to drive.”

“Take the regulatory straightjacket off the State University of New York,” Hayden said. “Stop the micromanagement. We need to be free to compete on behalf of our students, state and nation.”

Zimpher will continue to present the plan around the state through April 28 before implementation begins with task forces.

“Together we can show how collective vision becomes collective action,” she said. “We have a big job to do, but we have the talent, we have the energy and we have the strong foundation to be the key driver in New York’s economic revitalization. … That together is ‘The Power of SUNY.’”


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Last Updated: 10/14/08