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July 14, 2009

SUNY’s leader lays out goals in visit to Oneonta

Student leader asks chancellor how she’ll help keep down costs


By Denise Richardson

Staff Writer

ONEONTA _ The new SUNY chancellor stopped in Oneonta on Monday to learn about the campus, meet constituents and gather ideas for a strategic plan for the State University of New York system.

Nancy Zimpher said SUNY Oneonta marked her 25th campus visit since she started as chancellor June 1. In this region, she has visited Binghamton University but not the campuses in Delhi, Cobleskill or Morrisville.

Zimpher said Monday that when she announced the tour in February, she didn’t realize the state’s size and diversity, and the visits are key to developing a strategic plan.

Her Oneonta visit included meetings with the college president, the College Council and the STEM Leadership Council.

She also spoke at a session open to the campus and local community, and addressed elected, community, business and student leaders during a luncheon.

SUNY Oneonta enrolls about 5,875 full- and part-time undergraduate and graduate students.

Some student leaders at SUNY Oneonta welcomed Zimpher’s visit to the campus as a way for her to manage directly instead of from Albany headquarters.

Juliette Price, editor of the college’s State Times newspaper, said she is paying her way through college. She asked the chancellor to name three ways to help students meet costs.

Zimpher replied that the top priority is for SUNY is help the state increase its revenue base. SUNY also must seek more scholarship programs and paying internships to help students, she said.

SUNY tuition is $4,970 as of this fall.

Price said looking the chancellor in the eyes and hearing her answers is ``the definition of accountability.’’ The chancellor’s approach is ``inspirationally realistic,’’ Price said, and ``she’s a breath of fresh air.’’

Legislature “a good partner”

The future of SUNY depends on creating plans, ``wading into new relationships’’ and reviewing progress to see if goals are met, Zimpher said.

The state Legislature is ``a good partner,’’ she added, and, ``we have to help the Legislature help us.’’

Zimpher said the plan will also address SUNY’s image. Campuses within the system are more successful at marketing than the system itself, she said.

``Our higher-education system is a wonderful one,’’ she said. ``We need to better communicate it.’’

With a growing number of applications, the SUNY system may be losing students who aren’t accepted into their first-choice program because they don’t know about programs at other campuses that might interest them, Zimpher said.

``Why SUNY? Because you can be anybody you want to be if you go to SUNY,’’ she said.

The SUNY system enrolls 440,000 students at its 64 campuses and has 2.4 million alumni. For every state dollar received, according to SUNY’s website, $8 in total spending in New York state is generated.

The 2008-09 all-funds budget of $10.7 billion, which includes $3.7 billion in state support, equals an estimated $29.6 billion of economic impact.

Zimpher said that after Labor Day, a committee of a couple of hundred members representing faculty, college foundation boards, community leaders and others will be formed to work on a strategic plan. Town-hall-style meetings will be scheduled, and a plan will be ready in the spring.

SUNY Oneonta President Nancy Kleniewski reviewed Zimpher’s background during welcoming remarks Monday.

In February, the SUNY Board of Trustees voted unanimously to name Zimpher the 12th chancellor of SUNY at a salary of $545,000.

She is the first woman to be named chancellor in the 60-year history of SUNY, the largest comprehensive system of public higher education in the country.

Zimpher most recently was president of the University of Cincinnati, an urban research university with more than 37,000 students, 16 colleges, an academic medical and research center and an annual budget of $1 billion.

She previously was chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Strategic-plan goals outlined

During her visit Monday, Zimpher said:

 The strategic plan will consider the cost and affordability of attending a SUNY school.

 The SUNY system can boost collaborations with private businesses and industries, the state Education Department, public school districts and other entities and sectors.

 SUNY needs to negotiate relations with the Education Department for a program that will provide clinical teaching experiences to students and also credit veteran teachers who mentor students.

 She would like to see SUNY library resources accessible in homes statewide.

Part of the strategic plan and other initiative must be documenting ``the engagement’’ of faculty, staff and students. SUNY Oneonta already is investing in hours of ``good works’’ in the community, she said, and those efforts must be focused and evidence of outcomes must be recorded.

Zimpher said she couldn’t address the issue of workloads Monday but noted that SUNY could provide the support system for documenting ``good works.’’

Impressions of Oneonta

After a tour of the campus and a morning of meetings, Zimpher said, her impressions were that SUNY Oneonta has ``an incredible’’ relationship with its community.

Its unique programs, she added, include the Cooperstown Graduate Program in museum studies, online dietetics and music industry.

Nancy Scanlon, co-owner of Sport Tech in Oneonta, asked Zimpher during her public address Monday in the Morris Conference Center what SUNY could do to encourage its ``wonderful grads’’ to live and work in the state.

Students may feel a pull to move away and explore options elsewhere, Zimpher said, but New York can create incentives for student who stay or returning to the state.

``We can also be a `come-back state,’’’ Zimpher said.

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Denise Richardson can be reached at 432-1000 or (800) 721-1000, ext. 213, or at drichardson@thedailystar.com.