SUNY's New Era of Opportunity Starts Now

This is why you should join us

Last month, I was honored to be appointed by the SUNY Board of Trustees as the 15th Chancellor of the State University of New York. It is a tremendous privilege and responsibility to lead this 64-campus system as we fulfill Gov. Kathy Hochul's vision of making SUNY the best system of public higher education in the nation.

I would not be here today without public education. Just one generation after my great-grandfather was enslaved in Maryland, my grandmother graduated from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. My parents were public school educators in New York City. I lost them both by the time I was 12, and that could have been the end for me — many young men in similar circumstances too often fall through the cracks. But New York City public schools became my refuge, and my amazing teachers provided the safety, support, and opportunity I needed to succeed.

I went on to college, became a lifelong educator — from teaching high school social studies to serving as U.S. Secretary of Education for President Barack Obama — and devoted my career to advancing education so that others may benefit as I did. As Chancellor of the State University of New York, this passion will guide my work as we face the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

For nearly 75 years, SUNY has powered New York and empowered New Yorkers. But there is work to be done to ensure we meet the evolving needs of learners, our communities, and New York State in the years to come.

Student success must be at the center. We need to ensure that all New York students — whether they are graduating high school seniors, among the nearly two million New Yorkers with some college and no degree, or college graduates seeking to upskill for career advancement — can find the right place for themselves at SUNY. But getting in the door is not enough. To ensure our students thrive, graduate, and become lifelong learners, SUNY will invest in proven student support programs, with a focus on addressing equity gaps.

While the past few years have shone a spotlight on the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in higher education, we know that our numbers still lag behind our rhetoric, both at SUNY and across the country. We will ensure that equity and justice run through every decision we make, from the chancellor's office to every SUNY faculty and staff office at every campus. We know that excellence and equity go hand in hand.

At SUNY's research institutions, faculty and students are producing breakthroughs and knowledge that make the world a better place, from a world-leading COVID-19 test to next-gen battery technology. They deserve to be regarded in the same breath as the country's best known public research universities. I am eager to work with colleagues across the system to attract top-tier, diverse faculty to our campuses and pursue investments in SUNY research and scholarship that advances the human condition.

We are fortunate that Hochul recognizes the importance of SUNY as an engine of economic development for the state and economic mobility for its people. In the coming months and years, we will deepen our ties with our government partners at the local, state, and federal level, as well as our business partners to align SUNY's programs with regional workforce demands. From skilled trades and the creative economy to preparing the next generation of high-tech workers to power New York's semiconductor and renewable energy sectors, SUNY will lead the way in bridging higher education with in-demand jobs.

Students are ready for a high-quality, relevant education that meets their needs without putting them in lifelong debt, and SUNY is here to provide it. While SUNY is already among the most affordable college options across the country and will remain so, we will continue to advocate for increased federal investment in public higher education and we will work to make the financial aid process easier to navigate for students and families. From fulfilling Hochul's pledge to provide affordable, quality childcare on every campus to tackling food and housing insecurity for economically vulnerable students, we will strive to remove barriers to student success.

All of these priorities will rely on broad input and collaboration. Starting this week, I will be meeting with leaders, faculty, staff, and, most importantly, students across our 64 campuses, as well as alumni, community stakeholders, and employer partners. I will be listening, and learning, as we embark on this audacious, transformative journey together.

SUNY has a bright future ahead. I hope you will join us as we make it the best system of public higher education in the United States.

John B. King Jr.
Chancellor, The State University of New York

Originally published by USA Today Network