Open SUNY Earns “Institutional Achievement Award” for National Leadership in Online Education

September 25, 2015

University at Albany Graduate Alicia Fernandez Receives Student Recognition

Albany – The National University Technology Network (NUTN) this week named Open SUNY as the recipient of its 2015 Institutional Achievement Award in recognition of the university system’s national leadership in online education. Launched by SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher in January 2014, Open SUNY now offers more than 400 online-enabled degrees and 12,000 online course sections, and accounts for more than 100,000 online enrollments by students every year.

Open SUNY is one of several evidence-based initiatives and programs being taken to scale across the university system as Chancellor Zimpher implements a Completion Agenda that aims to increase the number of degrees SUNY awards annually from 93,000 to 150,000 by 2020.

“By offering students anytime access to all of SUNY’s online courses and many complete degree programs, Open SUNY brings a quality higher education within reach for many students who otherwise will not complete college,” said Chancellor Zimpher. “Through the Open SUNY student concierge, Center for Online Teaching Excellence (COTE), and engagement of campus leaders to think strategically about online learning, Open SUNY also draws on the capacity of our 64 campuses to connect students and faculty from across the state and around the world. It’s a concept we are taking to scale like no other college, university, or system in the country.”

Alexandra M. Pickett, who leads COTE, was also recognized by the NUTN Advisory Board with its prestigious Nofflet Williams Service Award for her career long leadership in the field of online learning, including her leadership over the past two years in the implementation of the COTE pillars to help scale the number of faculty prepared to teach effectively online. 

Pickett said, “The Open SUNY online learning community is enriched by networking and sharing the experience and expertise of those external to SUNY. My experience on the NUTN Board has been an opportunity to network, share, mentor, and learn from leaders in the online learning community across the nation. I am proud to be recognized by NUTN and thank the NUTN Advisory Board for this award.”

In addition, UAlbany Graduate Alicia Fernandez, who enrolled in Open SUNY courses 30 years after dropping out of college for financial reasons, received the NUTN Online Student Recognition Award. Alicia attributes her return to college in 2010 to the convenience offered by Open SUNY. Four years and 28 online courses later, Alicia is the proud recipient of a B.A. in Communication and Culture from CUNY, and an M.S. in Curriculum Development and Instructional Technology and graduate certificate in Online Teaching (COLT) from the University at Albany.

“As much as these credentials signify accomplishments, they do not convey how online education has changed me,” Alicia said. “Not only did the learning outcomes measure up to bricks and mortar experiences, the asynchronous online setting prompted me to communicate and reflect more deliberately. I was able to revisit and really process the instructor’s and peers’ contributions in the online classroom. My understanding of the content was enhanced by the requirement to produce comments that were based on academic sources, not just mere opinions. Additionally, I was able to reflect on the online repository of course content as I progressed through the course, and this greatly scaffolded my learning.”

Upon reflection of all three awards, Open SUNY Executive Director Kim Scalzo said, “We are proud to receive this national recognition and hope that it will help us attract even more students to Open SUNY in support of our Completion Agenda.”

About Open SUNY
Open SUNY is a system-wide collaboration that opens the door to world-class online-enabled learning opportunities. Open SUNY is not a new degree program or a new school; it’s a seamless way for students to access the courses, degrees, professors, and rich academics of all 64 SUNY campuses flexibly—wherever and whenever they work into a student’s schedule. As part of the program, SUNY delivers its renowned high-quality education with an unprecedented breadth of tools, services, and supports designed to help students be successful.

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, and more than 95 percent of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of any one of SUNY’s 64 colleges and universities. Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, a law school, the country’s oldest school of maritime, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. In total, SUNY serves about 1.4 million students amongst its entire portfolio of credit- and non-credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide are nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2023, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are more than three million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunities, visit

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