Over the valley and through the woods. Literally. New SUNY chancellor Dr. Nancy Zimpher paid a visit to the SUNY Fredonia campus on Day 78 of her 100-day tour of all 64 SUNY campuses.
Zimpher, the 12th chancellor and first woman to hold the post, spoke during a press conference at the president's house on the SUNY Fredonia campus Monday morning.
"Job one as chancellor is to work in partnership with the campus presidents," Zimpher said, referring to SUNY Fredonia President Dennis Hefner. "Even though this is a big number, the 53rd campus visit, believe me it is going to be remembered as a campus that has vitality, that has a real focus, has incredible accomplishments in terms of recruiting students, admitting students and graduating students, which of course is Dennis's job number one.I'm here to support President Hefner who is here to support the students who come to Fredonia to plan their future."
The tour is twofold, according to Zimpher. One, as a meet and greet and two, as a chance to develop a strategic planning process by working in collaboration with students, faculty, presidents, alumni, benefactors, administrators, and private- and public-sector partners.
"On this 64-campus visit there is a method to my madness. This is phase one of a strategic planning process. I was charged by the board of trustees to develop a vision of SUNY going forward that would cast a frame over the next decade," she said. "What are our strengths, how can we be a leader in the state of New York, how can we contribute to New York's economic revitalization and quality of life? I am, along with a lot of help, recording the issues raised by the many people I'm talking with and we'll capture that and take those themes to the board of trustees and by mid-September have whittled those down to eight or ten themes and then we'll discuss those at regional to state-wide audiences and then we'll submit the vision in the spring."
Along the way, and during her SUNY Fredonia conference, she has had to tackle concerns over continued budget cuts from the state on the SUNY system and how it is affecting the continued growth of campuses statewide.
"The demand for what SUNY offers is growing exponentially. We're seeing it at Fredonia and across our four year baccalaureate institutions and across our community colleges and in that context we need more nurses with PH.D's because they teach our nurses, we need more faculty. In a way we have been victims of our own success," she said. "We have tried to keep pace with the demand by admitting more students then we're actually budgeted for and I'm pretty confident that the state of New York would like us to continue to do that. The challenge is we simply can not continue to do that if we are not at the same time growing our faculty, growing our laboratory resources, our residence halls and keeping up with our commitments to the communities."
When asked how potential budget cuts, even the possibility of mid-year cuts may affect the strategic planning process, Zimpher said the challenge on everyone's mind is SUNY's opportunity.
"I have heard it said that people perceive SUNY as an economic engine for New York, or 'the' economic engine for New York. Can we set our sights on a target of job creations? Look at this technology incubator opening this Fall in the city of Dunkirk, this is a huge incubator for new jobs. I think our vision will express a target for new jobs. Look at what we do in the development of highly skilled workers. Are goal is to match the industry sectors in this region with the graduates we produce and make sure we have enough skilled workers to serve those jobs," she said. "Yes, these are tough times but SUNY is incredibly situated to be a servant of those needs and fulfilling the demands for quality of life in New York. People want to live, work, raise their children and continue their education in this beautiful state."
Chancellor Zimpher has joined the SUNY system following nearly six years of serving as President of the University of Cincinnati. Previously, she served as Chancellor and a member of the School of Education faculty within the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (1998- 2003). Before that she was Executive Dean of the Professional Colleges and Dean of the College of Education at The Ohio State University, from which she holds a bachelor's degree in English Education and Speech, a master's degree in English Literature, and a Ph.D. in Teacher Education and Higher Education Administration.
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