2011 State of the University Address

2011 State of the University Address

“2011: A Year of Action”

Thank you Chairman Hayden and President Butts. And thank you to the SUNY Potsdam Frackenpohl Honors Brass Quintet – we wanted you here because you represent our many talented SUNY students!

Governor Cuomo, Lieutenant Governor Duffy, members of the New York State Legislature, Trustees of the State University of New York, Mayor Jennings, SUNY presidents, students, faculty, and staff, distinguished guests and fellow New Yorkers:

Welcome to the 2011 State of the University Address, on behalf of the State University of New York!

This is not a new venue for us; we launched SUNY’s new Strategic Plan—The Power of SUNY—in this very place last April. Now we’re back and intend to convene annually to update the SUNY family, friends and supporters on our progress in moving SUNY to premier status among our nation’s public systems of higher education.

Two weeks ago today, in his first State of the State address, Governor Cuomo issued a call to action to revitalize New York’s economy. He reminded us all of the resilience we have shown as a state, and of the tremendous assets required to move our economy forward. He further noted, and I can’t help but quote: “Higher education will be the key economic driver.” And he went on to say, in case you missed it: “We look to partner with our great SUNY system, especially across upstate New York, in making this a reality.”

Governor: SUNY is up to the challenge and we are well positioned to answer your call. We are absolutely focused on leveraging our mission toward economic recovery and job creation for our great state.


To begin, I want to recognize some of the partners who make SUNY’s success possible. There are so many that I ask you to please hold your gratitude until I have recognized all.

Thank you all for joining us today.

When I first arrived at SUNY in June 2009, I recognized SUNY’s singular opportunity to meet the demands of a changing state and a changing world. SUNY is the largest system of public higher education in the nation. We have 64 campuses with 468,000 students; a current workforce of 88,000, over 20,000 committed retirees; nearly 8000 programs of study; and, 3 million alumni.

But our uniqueness is not just in the numbers. SUNY is home to a vast array of institutional types, diverse missions with a common goal -- to learn, to search, to serve. We are embedded in New York’s 62 counties, within 30 miles of every New Yorker. We have 160,000 on-line enrollments and another 1.2 million students in continuing education. And we stretch beyond the boundaries of our state, enrolling 18,000 out-of-state students and another 19,000 international students. We are an unparalleled network of teachers, students, scholars, entrepreneurs, with vast physical resources. This scale, this diversity, this commitment to common purpose makes us one of New York’s greatest assets.

So it was with this in mind that I immediately set out for that hundred-day tour of our 64 campuses. I now fully understand why Governor Nelson Rockefeller called SUNY his “crowning achievement.”

What I saw was truly an inspiring collection of people and places—rich in talent, commitment, innovation, beauty, collaboration, pride and diversity.

At the same time, I saw challenges:

Just as Governor Cuomo characterized New York, higher education also stands at a crossroads. Less public investment, more demands, and rapidly shifting economic sands require us to be increasingly agile.

And at the same time, these very challenges have only added to SUNY’s importance to the welfare of our state. Our history, our mission, and our relationships with the communities we serve make us equal to the task. And who is more qualified than SUNY to navigate the knowledge and innovation economy and re-imagine the role of public higher education in our state’s economic development?

Today, in answer to this clarion call, my plan is three-fold:

First, I want to tell you about a set of extraordinary accomplishments that SUNY has attained over the past year.
Second, as you will hear today, we are not resting on our laurels. Several years ago, Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great, captured the attention of business and industry and the non-profit world—noting that no entity could truly be great without a clear understanding of how to achieve greatness. You know -- the right people on the bus...the right idea. But something about human nature just isn’t satisfied with “good to great.” So I say OK, have it your way! Together we are moving SUNY from “great” to premier. And today I will give you a clear indication of how a competitive SUNY is seeking to achieve premier status among the world’s great universities.

And third, I will share with you our roadmap for driving New York’s economic recovery. We will leverage our strategic plan, The Power of SUNY, in tandem with Governor Cuomo’s plan for a competitive New York.

SUNY’s Top 10 of 2010

So as promised, here’s a snapshot of some of the most dynamic accomplishments SUNY achieved this past year; in short, SUNY’s Top 10 in 2010. So you’ll have to keep track—I don’t have time to add much detail or even personally recognize the extraordinary members of the SUNY family who made these achievements possible.

1. Without question, at the top of our list is our strategic plan. After a 64-campus tour, 10 statewide town hall meetings, and input from more than 1000 stakeholders from across the state – we launched The Power of SUNY, our plan to revitalize the state’s economy and enhance the quality of life for all New Yorkers.

2. With leadership from SUNY’s Research Foundation, we have created a network of regional tech transfer hubs. They are helping us translate SUNY research into marketable products and services, finding new ways to make our investments in brainpower return benefits to the people of New York State. How is this helping New Yorkers? Let me count the ways:

3. SUNY REACH is leveraging the impact of our combined academic health centers and the College of Optometry—to attack cancer, infectious disease, disorders of the nervous system, and diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

4. The College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering at the University at Albany has sparked an economic revolution in this region like none other. I am proud to say that multiple SUNY campuses— including local community colleges— are a part of this growing innovation cluster.

5. As we work toward an Energy-Smart New York, SUNY is building capacity in the area of clean energy. With our combined campus resources, we are making New York the go-to state for the clean energy economy.

6. Our outstanding faculty have received countless awards and honors – academy memberships, achievement awards and presidential medals. You name it, we have received it.

7. And one more entry about our superb faculty: who, along with their partners, brought almost a billion dollars in grants for sponsored research this year. All told, 8,200 faculty and students are participating in these grants.

8. We continue our efforts to help seal the leaking education pipeline: with support from the Gates Foundation, SUNY is creating 8 Early College High Schools, designed to increase college completion rates among disadvantaged students. And we secured another $800,000 from the Lumina Foundation to secure adult degree completion along with paid work experiences.

9. A total of 11 SUNY campuses are listed in the “Top 100 Best Values in Public Colleges,” as noted by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. This is the highest number of campuses named from any state in the nation.

10. And number 10 – sort of a grand finale:

So that’s the good news. It’s been an amazing year, and I’ve only just scratched the surface.

We pledge to deliver a more Competitive SUNY

While these are amazing accomplishments, we will deliver an even more competitive SUNY to New York going forward. SUNY has the capacity to grow excellence in teaching and learning; to enhance its commitment to research, inquiry and innovation; and to extend its service to the betterment of New York.

First, we must break the mold around student mobility. Early last year, our SUNY Board of Trustees passed a series of resolutions to make transfer more seamless; to ensure that any SUNY student who completed the gen ed requirements would be guaranteed successful transfer to another SUNY school. And by this time next year we will announce that students can also carry up to five courses in their major to another SUNY campus, an unprecedented accomplishment for any institution nationally.

Second, making SUNY more competitive will require ongoing commitment to student access and success. SUNY has joined a national consortium that has pledged to cut by half the tragic gaps in college attendance and graduation for low-income and minority students. In this endeavor, SUNY campuses received high marks, most notably Stony Brook, whose success earned them a featured spot on the PBS News Hour. While access will continue to be the highest priority for SUNY and this state, we must be equally committed to degree completion. You will hear it more often: access and completion.

Third, on-line courses will become a standard of instructional efficiency and will reduce what we call the time to graduation. No matter how carefully students and their advisors plan a course of study, circumstances often present obstacles. So we will coordinate our online offerings to make sure core requirements for the most popular majors will be readily available.

So these three steps—mobility, access and completion and online learning— clearly place students first.

Fourth, we have created the SUNY Global Center in New York City to coordinate our extensive international portfolio. This new umbrella will support our commitment to cultivating an international mindset across our learning landscape. Now, through a new partnership, we will be able to map our activities, that of other universities, and, ultimately, New York business activity around the globe.

Fifth, we must re-form the way SUNY manages program growth and delivery. SUNY is committed to system-wide enrollment management that will: meet the state’s needs for highly educated entrepreneurs and professionals; provide programs that develop critical thinking, communication and analytic skills; meet the technology and innovation needs of the future; and better coordinate program offerings across SUNY.

To make these reforms a reality, and, in partnership with the Governor and the New York State Legislature, together we will find creative ways to grow SUNY; and give New York a clear return on its educational investment.
To achieve this in the face of our economic crisis is a daunting task. I am advocating for a new approach, one that finds innovative strategies to raise revenues from alternative sources.

Regulatory Reform: First, SUNY must have regulatory relief from the state to allow our 64 campuses to enter into public-private partnerships that advance our core mission and values, protect collective bargaining rights and advance the interests of the private sector while generating revenue and creating jobs. While we’re at it, we also need to cut the red tape surrounding the procurement of goods and services.

Tuition Policy: With regard to tuition policy, to its credit, New York has done an outstanding job of limiting reliance on tuition to support SUNY’s operations. At $4,970 per year at our four-year institutions, SUNY’s tuition is among the lowest in the nation. Thanks to the State’s Tuition Assistance Program—TAP—any New York State resident who seeks a SUNY education will not be denied because of diminished financial means.

I want to be absolutely clear about our position on Tuition Policy: SUNY is committed to a fair, responsible and predictable tuition policy that maintains access to a quality higher education experience.

So I ask all of you today to join me in establishing a five year tuition plan, beginning in the 2012 academic year that recognizes the reality of our tuition environment, is based upon fact and again, above all else, is fair, responsible and predictable.

In return, we at SUNY must commit ourselves to be held accountable for how we use our resources. Together, we must embrace a spirit of understanding and cooperation that will allow SUNY to leverage its size and diversity in service to its students, faculty, staff, and all New Yorkers.

I have already described our commitment to strategic enrollment planning, to increased access and degree completion, seamless transfer and online efficiencies, and global reach. In addition, we will:

Implement Performance-based resource allocation – Beginning with our fiscal year 2012, SUNY will distribute state support among campuses based on performance in critical areas like research expenditures and awards, student course completion, retention and degree completion, diversity of students and faculty, and degree programs that address workforce shortages and the needs of emerging industries. Thanks to the leadership of our campus presidents, we are currently deciding how this new formula will work.

Second, we will streamline operations through shared services – Beginning now, we must address the inefficiencies associated with 64 campuses replicating 64 sets of activities by consolidating backroom operations and administrative infrastructure as well as eliminating unsustainable financial models, and we must do all of this without compromising student access.

But to do all of this, we must build our SUNY base.

Building Our SUNY Base: Over the course of the past year, a number of political advisors have asked me, “who are your champions?” This answer is this: we have an incredible untapped resource at SUNY. For instance, picture every person in every upstate community – all three million of them, from Buffalo and Rochester to Syracuse and Albany – standing together in support of one cause.

Now imagine that those three million people are our SUNY graduates spread instead throughout the world. They are doctors and lawyers, famous actors and singers. They hold national and international public office. They grow our food and they teach future generations of our citizens.

We want our graduates to know that this is the SUNY network – people who are proud of the education they received from SUNY – at one or multiple SUNY campuses.

These are our SUNY alumni, and we pledge to find each and every one of you and mobilize the entire group to support the university that provided the pathway to their success—and quite frankly, to help us advocate for policy reforms. Not only will our alumni benefit from a new SUNY network – over time we hope that our graduates will eventually become our donors -- donors who know what an amazing value proposition SUNY is for our students, our communities and our state.

And that’s why, in the coming years, we will work to double our fundraising. Our largest campuses will embark on multi-million or even billion dollar campaigns, to partner with the State of New York and to take the State University of New York from great to premier.

We will strive for a Competitive New York.

Throughout my remarks I have sought to draw the connection between a competitive SUNY and a competitive New York; that our fates are truly interconnected and reciprocal. [SLIDE 30] It could be said, “As SUNY goes, so goes New York; as New York goes, so goes SUNY.” This is the essence of The Power of SUNY, our strategic roadmap for the decade ahead.

To realize the Governor’s call to be New York’s economic engine, we must be committed to SUNY’s capacity to innovate and expand our tech transfer. We must be anchors in our local communities; in many cases our communities’ largest employer, consumer of goods and services and a massive source of construction and jobs.

For every million dollars in investment in SUNY, we calculate that we can deliver 20 jobs. More millions, more jobs.

Also, we estimate SUNY has the capacity to create nearly 20,000 construction and construction industry jobs and another 20,000 spinoff jobs through partnerships.

I guess that summarizes it: jobs, jobs, jobs and jobs.

We know this is possible – if we all work together to truly maximize SUNY’s impact.

Over the coming months and years, you will be hearing a great deal more about our “Big Ideas” in the life sciences and biomedical research; breakthroughs in renewable energy and designing New York’s “SmartGrid”. But the pathway to innovation and entrepreneurship; the pathway to small and large business development; and the pathway to our civic, arts and cultural welfare must be a sound educational foundation.

That is why I have engaged so much of my own academic and personal energies in the education pipeline: the opportunity and the expectation that everyone will have access to a high quality education. But New York’s data belie our challenge; for every 100 ninth graders in this state, only 19 will make it to the academic finish line—a baccalaureate degree. Together we have the power to turn this condition on its head.

According to CEOs for Cities, for every one percent increase in New York’s college graduation rate, each year, the people of New York will earn an additional $17.5 billion—income to drive New York.

We are redesigning the way we prepare teachers at SUNY, to provide them with the clinical and practice-based skills they need to improve student learning. Our pledge to the 5000 teachers we prepare each year? You will be the best-prepared teachers in the nation—highly effective in the classroom, leaders among your peers, and committed to a lifetime of service to the learners of New York.

We have made no small plans. Working across this state, and through our campus presidents, we have begun to co-convene broad-based community partnerships of educators, business leaders, social service agencies and philanthropists. These partnerships will collectively intervene to seal the leaks in the education pipeline – by delivering evidence-based solutions to our educational challenges, once and for all closing the achievement gap in New York. Now that’s a competitive New York: Every child succeeds, no exceptions.

I want to close my remarks as I began, with a pledge to Governor Cuomo, our legislative leaders and the people of this great Empire State: we accept your challenge to be the economic engine for the State of New York.

We have spent months designing a strategic plan riveted on our role in the economic recovery for the state, and the enhanced quality of life of its citizenry.

We have called to this task an army of recruits from SUNY’s broad and talented cast of faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends.

We have designed steps and strategies to meet our bold and ambitious plan. We are implementing even as we speak, and in May of this year, we will share with you the metrics by which you can track our progress and hold us accountable.

And we have laid out not only a roadmap for success but also the license to drive: a plan to unshackle SUNY from over-regulation, and we have set the table to give New York a return on its educational investment.

And today, we announce that we are organizing ourselves as key players in the Governor’s and Lieutenant Governor’s Regional Economic Development Plan.

We are convening our campuses in each of New York’s ten economic development regions, to support this agenda. And we are committed to delivering the expertise needed to grow our regional capacity.

Governor: SUNY is up to the challenge and we are well-positioned to answer your call.

During some of the darkest days of this Great Recession, two New York Times writers had an “a-ha” moment.

“So maybe I was wrong,” wrote columnist Nicholas Kristof. “I used to consider health care our greatest national shame….Yet I’m coming to think that our number one priority actually must be education.”

And then, in the New York Times Magazine article called “The Big Fix,” David Leonhardt argues:

“More educated people are healthier, live longer and, of course, make more money. Countries that educate more of their citizens tend to grow faster than similar countries that do not. The same is true of states and regions within this country. Crucially, the income gains tend to come after the education gains.

There really is no mystery about how education would be the lifeblood of economic growth. On the most basic level, education helps people figure out how to make objects and accomplish tasks more efficiently. It allows companies to make complex products that the rest of the world wants to buy and thus creates high-wage jobs.

It helps a society leverage every other investment it makes, be it medicine, transportation or alternative energy. Education – educating more people and educating them better appears to be the best single bet a society can make.”

This fundamental recognition of the power of education to transform our society, our economy and our future—this, my friends, is The Power of SUNY.

Thank you all very much!

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