University at Albany

Zimpher Articulates SUNY's Leadership Role in New York’s Resurgence

March 2, 2010 audio Listen to Webcast
SUNY   Chancellor Nancy Zimpher Speaks at Rockefeller College

SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher discusses the expanding role for SUNY in New York State at UAlbany's Rockefeller College. (Photo Mark Schmidt)

The State University of New York system is busily creating a new roadmap that will aid the growth of New York State in profound ways — but, said Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, SUNY needs a state "driver's license" of flexibility and stability to make it happen.

The Chancellor discussed SUNY’s 2010 Strategic Plan as a special guest of the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy's Policy Conversation series on Tuesday in Milne Hall. The title of her talk was "Leading Boldly in Perilous Times."

Unveiling a "five-way orientation toward leading boldly," Zimpher said that SUNY must become an active partner with New York's cities and other communities that will "seal the leaky educational pipeline" extending from the births to the careers of residents. Because of these failings, she said, only 50 percent of the state's high school graduates complete college in six years or less. That, in turn, impacts the potential of the state’s economic resurgence.

The necessary "driver's license" SUNY will need, she said, is passage by the Legislature of Governor Paterson's proposed Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act. By providing individual campuses with financial flexibility and reducing state regulations, the Act “unshackles SUNY," said Zimpher. "It is the most compelling legislative effort in the history of the State University of New York."

Zimpher stressed SUNY’s great desire to be "a major force for economic revitalization and increased quality of life for New York’s communities." This, she said, was a key part of her 95-day, 7,361-mile, 64-campus tour in 2009. "We must have total commitment of a community’s leaders" to address the poor graduation rates that cause billions of dollars in lost income and increased poverty each year.

"The great opportunity for SUNY is that we’re in every community in New York," she said. "We interact with the leaders from every area and touch every aspect of their communities, and we can work together to solve our problems."

Zimpher said she envisions an expanding role for SUNY as "New York’s think tank," leading the way to innovative public policy and economic growth, and as a "client-centered organization" focusing on the enhancement of education for all New Yorkers. "We are going to be an even greater asset for the State of New York," she said, "and the State of New York is going to value public higher education as it never has before."