There is a growing and welcome recognition that in a knowledge economy, institutions of higher education can—and must—be pivotal in generating growth and revitalizing communities.
As Chancellor, I am convinced SUNY can carry out this role for New York in ways that will set a standard for the rest of the nation—while making life better for people across the state.
Our sources of inspiration are powerful and enduring. SUNY represents an expansive re-imagining of one of the great American reforms: the land grant university. Created by acts of Congress and signed into law by Abraham Lincoln, land grant universities leveled the playing field, making it possible for every person and every community to experience higher education’s transformative power. The land grants focused their research on contemporary problems. Their extension services brought the expertise of the university directly into people’s homes and communities in the form of health advice, home economics, and agriculture. By giving demonstrated value to a college education, the land grants convinced ordinary Americans that higher education was the pathway to a better future. Today, SUNY, by virtue of the extraordinary range of our 64 campuses, elevates the land grant concept to a new level.
We believe New York State can be one of the most vital, resilient, and inclusive economies in the global marketplace. And we believe the 64 campuses of SUNY can make that ambition a reality.
SUNY is also animated by the legacies of two legendary New York governors. Thomas E. Dewey saw in SUNY a means to fight the pervasive ethnic and racial discrimination in American higher education. Nelson A. Rockefeller believed that the people of New York deserved campuses that reflected their talents and aspirations, and spearheaded massive construction and infrastructure development. Thanks to them, SUNY is the pride of New York—and a global beacon of access and success.
The magnitude of our potential is breathtaking. The power of SUNY is not confined to one or two dots on the state’s landscape, or to a cluster of institutions. We are literally all over the map, with 64 unique learning environments for every type of student, every stage of life, and every kind of passion. SUNY is truly a universe of knowledge, encompassing every field of human inquiry—disciplines that range from music to mechanics, and perspectives from the molecular to the macroeconomic.
Like the global marketplace, SUNY is “always on”—constantly seeking, generating, analyzing, and sending knowledge back into the world through informed citizens, revitalized communities, and experts who transform entire sectors. Whether it’s a forestry program upstate, a nanotech center in the capital region, a fashion institute in Manhattan, or a marine studies center on the shores of Long Island, SUNY’s reach and impact is without peer. SUNY faculty and alumni are Nobel Laureates, members of the National Academy of Sciences, and Pulitzer Prize winners.
Imagine the competitive advantage for New York State if SUNY institutions joined forces as never before, pooling knowledge, pushing and building on each other’s ideas, and collaborating in ways that deploy our distinctive capabilities to the fullest extent possible.
Imagine the impact if, from this day on, we work toward a common goal: to revitalize New York’s economy and enhance the quality of life for all its citizens.
This Plan is the product of an unprecedented meeting of the minds. It reflects the contributions of many people on SUNY campuses and in SUNY communities: their ideas, their ambitions, and their determination to make our remarkable public system of higher education the driving force of a revitalized New York State. We are preserving our strengths as places of learning, searching, and serving. But at the same time, we are pressing the “reset” button on SUNY – introducing a new way forward, aligning our purpose with New York State’s needs and opportunities, and creating an economic engine capable of propelling a new era of growth.
This is the power of SUNY. We are building on the ideals of the land grant mandate—relevant research, outreach to communities, and access for everyone—and a homegrown passion for possibility. We are leveraging our unrivaled scale and diversity. We are New York’s home advantage.
Today begins the journey of a lifetime—and one I wouldn’t miss for anything. On behalf of the State University of New York, I invite you to join us.
Nancy L. Zimpher