In front of faculty, staff and students, SUNY Fredonia President Dennis Hefner outlined the strategic plan that will guide the State University of New York for the next five years.
It's called "The Power of SUNY." The plan identifies the core values of SUNY and focuses resources and energy on six areas, which officials hope will foster future growth and development across New York state.
"We see 'The Power of SUNY' as a testament to what public higher education can do for the State of New York," said SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, in a press release. "This strategic plan will enable the State University to drive New York's economy through our size, scale and the capacity of the system as a whole."
SUNY Fredonia President Dennis Hefner delivers a presentation on the State University of New York’s new strategic plan, known as “The Power of SUNY.”
"There are two sentences in the plan that I was particularly taken by," Hefner said, "so I thought I would start by sharing those with you. One of the sentences reads, 'Preserving our strengths as places of learning, searching, and serving.' The plan truly does want to build on what SUNY already has.
"The second sentence that struck me, 'Introducing a new way forward, one that will align our purpose - meaning SUNY's purpose - with New York state's needs and opportunities.'"
Zimpher was not able to make it to the Fredonia campus Friday, so Hefner took on the duty of showcasing the new plan and explaining what it will mean to the state and SUNY Fredonia.
The five core values of SUNY were identified as student-centeredness, community engagement, diversity, integrity and collaboration.
The focus areas include research and innovation, a seamless education pipeline, a healthier New York, an energy-smart New York, a vibrant community and the world.
"We need to make sure that SUNY is a vehicle that is helpful to the state," Hefner said, "and will help move things forward, economically and culturally, educationally and in any other way our campus can make a difference."
Hefner said SUNY Fredonia is already strong in most of the focus areas.
By encouraging research and innovation, SUNY hopes to foster entrepreneurship and revitalize the economy across the state. With the opening of the business incubator in Dunkirk, SUNY Fredonia is already making strides in this area, Hefner said.
"We will cultivate entrepreneurial thinking across our entire learning," the plan reads, "helping new and existing businesses innovate, prosper and grow."
In constructing a seamless education, barriers to educational opportunity will be leveled, helping more people over the hurdles of college entrance. Here, energy and resources will also be focused on ensuring New York has an educated workforce.
"SUNY will seek ways to minimize attrition throughout the 'cradle to career' pipeline, with a particular focus on developing highly effective teachers, Targeting our resources wisely, we will make a huge impact on the individual and collective prospects of New Yorkers," according to the plan.
As part of its "healthier New York" initiative, SUNY hopes to serve as a solution to the health and medical problems that individuals face not only in this state, but across the country. The university system hopes to combat spiraling health care costs and make health care more accessible, leading to a "healthier New York."
Fredonia State has also made progress in the energy-smart sector. Along with their sustainability efforts, the contractors abide by LEED standards in their campus construction projects.
"The fifth area is having a vibrant community," Hefner said. "Certainly part of this is in terms of serving some of the cultural needs of the community. Our campus is a leader in that area... We are are also involved in a number of (community) partnership programs... Many of our academic programs are involved in providing community service."
Finally, with the ever-changing global economy, SUNY hopes to connect its students to the outside world.
"We will nurture a culturally fluent, cross-national mindset and put it to work improving New York's global competitiveness," the plan says.
Hefner noted Fredonia's success in this area, with 134 international students enrolled at the university and about 290 Fredonia students studying abroad.
With eyes set firmly on the future, SUNY Fredonia plans to release its own campus strategic plan in the next academic year.
"For our campus next year," Hefner said, "we are going to put together a brand new strategic plan for our campus that will align our goals with the (SUNY) system goals, which are aligned with the state's goals."
Hefner coupled his discussion of "The Power of SUNY" strategic plan with a presentation on the Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act.
"Now, one aspect that I need to mention is the fact that in order to make this plan happen - and the chancellor has been saying this all week long as she goes across the state - we do need to have some areas of flexibility for our campuses and our system," Hefner said, referring to the higher-ed empowerment act.
If passed, the legislation comes with no cost to state tax dollars. It's a measure that will make for a more viable and sustainable SUNY system, Hefner said. Individual campuses and the system as a whole will be able to conduct advance planning to help shore up their budgets.
There are provisions in the bill that would move tuition decisions out of the political process, leaving them up to the SUNY Board of Trustees. A tuition-increase cap would also be established.
Other changes that would come with passage of the legislation: an elimination of the "tax on tuition" and putting SUNY funding into a different part of the state budget that would prevent Albany from making mid-year cuts. It would also eliminate some unnecessary bureaucracy, Hefner said.