SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher visited Geneseo on Monday to speak about leadership at a Geneseo Opportunities for Leadership Development workshop.
"Action trumps everything," Zimpher said. "You have to act your way into vision before you fully understand where vision leads. In institutional planning we spend way too much time getting the plan perfectly right before we start acting our way into the plan. That's how we find out that some of it's going to work and, quite frankly, some of it is not."
Before joining SUNY, Zimpher served as chancellor of University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, and as president of the University of Cincinnati where she initiated the Milwaukee Idea and UC|21, respectively.As chancellor of the SUNY system, Zimpher has been working on "The Power of SUNY," a plan focusing on six big ideas to turn SUNY into a powerhouse that can revitalize both the economy and the quality of life in New York.
"To be an economic engine is such a big idea that to realize this idea requires that we break it into parts," she said.
The six ideas revolve around entrepreneurship, the education pipeline, health affairs, energy and sustainability, vibrant communities and globalization.
"If you commit to do something, you have to be able to measure or assess the impact of that which you have committed to do," Zimpher said. "SUNY is not only going to commit itself to share information about those statistics that have always mattered to higher education … we are also going to commit ourselves to moving the public good, to improving the social condition."
Zimpher said that the population is generally unaware of the impact SUNY actually has on the state.
"I think we are underexposed and underappreciated," Zimpher said. "The wisdom behind 'The Power of SUNY' is that we are this collectivity. We are capable of working horizontally across institutions … without us, this state will never prosper."
At the end of September, SUNY received an $800,000 grant from the Lumina Foundation, and much of that money will go toward the "Power of SUNY."
"There's a lot of money floating around this notion of the education pipeline from cradle through careers," Zimpher said.
For SUNY, that means inviting back adults who never completed their education. By 2014, an additional 2,000 adults are expected to graduate with SUNY degrees.
"The U.S. Department of Education has just invested in a couple of these cradle-to-career partnerships which we hope to grow in Harlem and in Buffalo," Zimpher said. "The [federal government is] investing in this pipeline and we stand to gain."
"The Power of SUNY" stands to gain momentum even as the Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act comes to a halt. The Empowerment Act aimed to increase cost-effectiveness by building partnerships between SUNY institutions and private businesses to create new streams of revenue.
Ultimately the goal was to eliminate overregulation. The act failed to pass over the summer, but Zimpher said she has faith that it will return.
"It will live again next year," she said. "Probably under different terminology … but the tenants of empowerment - they'll be back. We learned a lot this year and found some things that we'll want to do differently and better. Empowerment is critical to our success as a system and we're not going to let it go."