SUNYCON 2016: Degrees of Influence - The Forces Shaping the Future of Higher Education

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SUNYCON 2016 Agenda

View SUNYCON 2016 conference plenaries

A Note from the SUNYCON Team:

Central to the conference is the role of the media in shaping the public’s perception of higher education and how their coverage illuminates the sector’s struggles to tell our story. To that end, the panel titles are borrowed from headlines, which are just a sampling of the reporting that drove us to choose this year’s SUNYCON theme. We hope you will let these references inspire your thinking as you prepare to join us.


Thursday, October 27, 2016


Registration and Continental Breakfast


Welcome and Keynote

Location: The Stage

* This session will be webcast

Welcome: H. Carl McCall - Chairman, SUNY Board of Trustees
Introductory Remarks: Nancy Zimpher - Chancellor, The State University of New York

Keynote Speaker: Judy Smith – Founder and CEO of Smith & Co., Crisis Management Expert, and inspiration for the hit TV show Scandal


Morning Break


* This session will be webcast

Morning Plenary Panel

Location: The Stage

Shut Up About Harvard
Ben Casselman for FiveThirtyEight, March 30, 2016

Media depictions of “college” too often focus on elite institutions, overshadowing the experiences of the vast majority of American college students and alumni. How does the persistent media focus on elite institutions distract from the challenges that are most relevant to the future of public higher education?

Moderator: Christine Romans, Chief Business Correspondent, CNN


  • Ben Casselman, Chief Economics Writer, FiveThirtyEight
  • Anne Kress, President, Monroe Community College
  • Rob Franek, Senior Vice President, Publisher, Princeton Review
  • Muriel Howard, President, American Association of State Colleges and Universities

* This session will be webcast

Luncheon Keynote

Location: The Hall

Marc H. MorialPresident & CEO, National Urban League

Moderator: Rehema Ellis, Education Correspondent, NBC News


Strategy Sessions

* This session will be webcast

There's No More Denying Campus Rape Is A Problem
Tyler Kingkade for The Huffington Post, January 20, 2016

Location: The Stage

Public safety issues including sexual assault put a magnifying glass on college campuses, which are in turn held largely responsible for issues that are subsets of larger societal ills. How are institutions improving climate and preparing for when prevention efforts come up short, particularly as related to educating the media?

Moderator: Tyler Kingkade, National News Reporter, BuzzFeed


The Debt Dialogue Must be Turned on its Head
Michelle Singletary for The Washington Post, August 8, 2015

Location: NY Times Conference Center 15th floor

There is such a thing as good debt, but the media’s coverage would indicate that higher ed is in danger of losing that very argument. How can we better represent return on educational investment to students, as well as to society?

Moderator: Keshia Clukey, Education Reporter, POLITICO NY


  • Ken Redd, Director, Research and Policy Analysis, National Association of College and University Business Officers
  • Philip Trostel, Professor, School of Economics, University of Maine
  • Pauline Abernathy, Executive Vice President, The Institute for College Access & Success

Remedial Courses in College Stir Questions Over Cost, Effectiveness
Josh Mitchell for The Wall Street Journal, November 17, 2014

Location: NY Times Conference Center 15th floor

This hidden cost of college will require unprecedented collaboration between P-12 and higher education leaders in order to protect students from paying the price – in dollars and time – for their lack of readiness.

Moderator: Josh Mitchell, Reporter, The Wall Street Journal



Leadership Workshops

Location: The Hall

SKD Knickerbocker, one of the leading communications firms in the country, will walk participants through handling a media crisis and coming out unscathed.

Drs. Samuel Sommers & Keith Maddox from Tufts University will deliver an interactive presentation exploring cognitive and behavioral science research on the nature of implicit bias, identify the circumstances under which bias is most likely to emerge, and evaluate potential strategies for trying to curtail such tendencies.

Presented by Laura Lindenfeld & Valeri Lantz-Gefro, this innovative workshop pioneered by Alan Alda uses improvisational theater games to help scientists speak more spontaneously, responsively and directly with their audience. Campus leaders will benefit from learning about this approach first-hand an discovering opportunities to bring this approach to their institution. This extended workshop will take place from 1:45-4:15pm and is open to a limited number of attendees. Registrants should click here to express interest.


Afternoon Break


* This session will be webcast

Afternoon Plenary Panel

Location: The Stage

The Travesty of Starving Our Best Public Universities
Jeanne Theoharis for The Chronicle of Higher Education, June 6, 2016

Higher education’s fight for relevance cannot be untangled from its fight for state and federal funding, which for decades was a given. Higher education leaders will share lessons learned from the challenges and opportunities presented by the current budget climate.

Moderator: Peter McPherson, President, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities


  • Sara Hebel, Reporter, Chronicle of Higher Education
  • H. Carl McCall, Chairman, SUNY Board of Trustees
  • Clayton T. Christian, Montana Commissioner of Higher Education
  • Gail Mellow, President, LaGuardia Community College

Conference Reception

R Lounge at Two Times Square


Friday, October 28, 2016


Welcome Back

Location: The Stage

Conversation with NPR’s Terry Gross - Host of Fresh Air

Moderator: Gerald Benjamin, Director, The Benjamin Center at SUNY New Paltz



Location: The Stage

Public Higher Education Should Be Universal and Free
Sara Goldrick-Rab for The New York Times, January 20, 2016

With student debt on the rise, promise programs and other innovative approaches to tuition are being debated in legislatures across the nation. Who should pay for college and what does broadening access mean for institutions’ ability to support students through completion?

Moderator: Melissa Korn, Higher Education Reporter, The Wall Street Journal


  • Sara Goldrick-Rab, Author of “Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American Dream”
  • Matthew Chingos, Senior Fellow, Urban Institute, Author of “Game of Loans: The Rhetoric and Reality of Student Debt”

* This session will be webcast


Location: The Stage

The Morbid Fascination with the Death of the Humanities
Benjamin Winterhalter for The Atlantic, June 6, 2014

The value of higher education is too often based on graduates’ employability, putting STEM and liberal arts education unnecessarily at odds. Are reports of the death of the humanities grossly exaggerated?

Moderator: Benjamin Winterhalter, Reporter, The Atlantic


  • Kristin Esterberg, President, SUNY Potsdam
  • Amy Laitinen, Director for Higher Education, New America
  • Laura Lindenfeld, Director, Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, Stony Brook University
  • RG Conlee, Chief Innovation Officer, Xerox
  • Shane Kosinski, Deputy Director for Operations for the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E), U.S. Department of Energy

* This session will be webcast


Location: The Stage

Misplaced Priorities in College Sports
The Editorial Board of The Washington Post, December 26, 2015

The media has held higher ed institutions and athletics organizations to the fire for putting the “student” in student athlete second.  How do we reconcile the college student with the superstar athlete and incentivize institutions to support them equally?

Moderator: Doug Lederman, Editor and Co-Founder, Inside Higher Ed



* This session will be webcast

Call to Action

Location: The Stage

Dear 45
We will reflect on President Obama’s leadership on access, affordability, and completion and his legacy of support for the higher education sector. We will also distill what lessons our discussions from throughout the conference hold for the next President of the United States.

Moderator: Susan Arbetter, Reporter, Capitol Pressroom



Conference Co-Hosts

APLU logo     American Association of State Colleges and Universities logo  National Association of System Heads logo

Conference Sponsors

TIAA Financial Services logo

Xerox logo    National Grid logo   Sodexo logo

VOYA Financial logo  Bank of America logo Starfish by Hobsons logo   New York Times in Education logo

Lumina Foundation logo  Con Edison logo     American Association of State Colleges and Universities logo

McGraw Hill Higher Education   Jack in the Box logo   Qdoba logo   Brightspace logo

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