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SUNY sets out to revitalize state's economy

10-year strategic plan is unveiled

SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher unveils the The Power of SUNY, a plan aimed at revitalizing New York state’s economy and improving the quality of life for its citizens. Photo by Emily Claire Atkin, The Legislative Gazette.
April 19, 2010
The State University of New York is on its way to becoming part of the revitalization of New York's economy and has unveiled a plan that could make it possible: The Power of SUNY.

SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, along with SUNY Board of Trustees Chairman Carl Hayden, master of ceremonies Deborah Stanley, President of SUNY Oswego; Ken O'Brien, president of the University Faculty Senate; and Secretary of the SUNY Student Assembly, Julie Gondar, unveiled the plan at the Egg at the Empire State Plaza last Wednesday.

The strategic plan is meant to guide the institution for the next 10 years.

Gov. David A. Paterson also attended the event and showed both support and enthusiasm for what he says will be the driving engine, in not only revitalizing the economy, but improving the quality of life across New York.

"Today we are celebrating the power of SUNY," said Paterson. "This great vision, the six big ideas, the 18 initiatives that are being offered…really are going to demonstrate that there is a new concept on how SUNY interacts with the government and it enlightens us to one of the big changes in our economies."

The Power of SUNY, is the culmination of information and ideas gathered at seven statewide conversations where discussions about various themes were presented and debated.

The six big ideas of the plan or the "six big hairy audacious ideas" as Zimpher and Hayden prefer to call them, are: SUNY and the Entrepreneur Century, SUNY and the Seamless Education Pipeline, SUNY and a Healthier New York, SUNY and an Energy-Smart New York, SUNY and the Vibrant Community, and SUNY and the World.

"This is the real deal," said Zimpher. "Our primary goal is to be the economic engine of the state. Get better at improving New York's economy and the quality of life of its citizens.

"This is a time where New York needs a plan, and we think SUNY is part of the solution," said Zimpher.

The six "big ideas" all are aimed at bringing SUNY's 64 campuses together to share resources and information that will bring SUNY to its full potential.

"New York will be the absolute beneficiary," said Stanley. "We are the catalyst. We bring the power of education. We move research to our communities. We can bring all people and all of the ideas together under this plan."

"It is bold. It is visionary. It is a statement of who we are and a statement of our values," said Hayden. "This is a roadmap for change. This is the only institution in the state of New York that can revitalize the economy."

One of the ideas mentioned by almost all the speakers was the education pipeline. The power of SUNY will work to ensure the education pipeline is not broken at any stage of a student's career.

"We prepare the teachers that prepare the students who then come into our schools," said Zimpher.

Hayden stressed that the strategic plan does not seek funding, but does ask for the freedom needed to be able to quickly and swiftly implement it.

"What we ask for is to let us unleash the power of SUNY," said Hayden.

All the speakers, including Paterson, said the Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act is what SUNY needs to freely implement the strategic plan.

"SUNY and our government have to be on the cutting edge of what will be the opportunity that can be created for our society so that people are able to work in areas that are exciting, receive the salaries they need for their families, and also to help our state regain its national leadership in terms of innovation, in terms of economic development, and really in terms of quality of life," said Paterson. "This is why I have introduced the Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act."

"We feel that the autonomy of the university is as important as the advancement of government. We micromanage from Albany everything that involves SUNY…We should be micromanaging Albany rather than SUNY," said Paterson.

Zimpher said the plan is going to be implemented with or without the enactment of the proposed higher education reform act, but the legislation would make things happen quicker.

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