SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher unveiled the SUNY strategic plan at Monroe Community College on Tuesday as part of a launch series designed to generate enthusiasm for the system's future.
Representatives from SUNY institutions throughout the greater Rochester region joined alumni, legislators and business leaders to applaud Zimpher's plans to make the 64 campuses in the system green, globalized and of economic value to the state.
The plan also calls for initiatives that will increase accessibility to internship and service learning opportunities, revitalize and expand teacher preparation programs and create health care education programs that will expand health care talent and access to all areas of the state.
The initiatives are categorized under six "ideas," which are not directly related to the "Six Big Ideas" that President Christopher Dahl commissioned for Geneseo last year.
"Everything we do must place students at the center of our universe," Zimpher said at the event. She said that conservative estimates place the economic contribution of SUNY to the state of New York at $27.5 billion.
Zimpher and others at the event expressed support for the Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act, a bill supported by Gov. David Paterson that would grant increased financial flexibility to SUNY campuses. Zimpher described the bill as "the most comprehensive piece of legislation introduced in the state of New York since [former Gov. Nelson] Rockefeller first envisioned the SUNY system." The bill has been stalled alongside the state budget, which is now four weeks overdue.
MCC President Anne Kress hosted the event, which featured testimony that represented regional colleges, corporations and agencies. Heather Lyon, a student at Finger Lakes Community College, attested to how FLCC's paralegal program is giving her the chance to pursue her dream of becoming an attorney. Lyndon Villone, a military veteran and current student at MCC, spoke about the opportunities made available to him through the college's "2+2" programs.
Michael Doyle, regional vice president of Entercom Communications Corp, graduated from SUNY Brockport in 1980 and reminded the audience to, "Never forget the true mission of the SUNY system: Helping people like myself to a great and affordable education."
Duffy Palmer, deputy secretary of education for New York State, earned teaching certificates from five different SUNY institutions and said that the affordability of SUNY opened up doors that would have otherwise been closed to him because of economic disadvantages.
Dahl was the final speaker of the afternoon; he addressed the potential for SUNY and its graduates to bring economic development to the Rochester region and the entire state, citing 1964 alum Greg O'Connell's work revitalizing the Red Hook area of Brooklyn and, more recently, Mount Morris.