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A Look Back at the 2017 State of the University Address

Chancellor Zimpher on stage at the 2017 State of the University Address

Every year in January, the State of the University Address is given by our Chancellor Zimpher to update the SUNY family and all of New York on the hard work being done across the system and what future work will come to be to continue our success. This is not a new thing for Chancellor Zimpher. After all, she has been in the role here at SUNY for close to ten years. But although we’re used to the build-up and preparation, the end result is always still something to revel and take pride in.

Delivering her final State of the University Address in Albany, Chancellor Zimpher summarized all that SUNY has accomplished and the progress that has been made in the last decade under her tenure. Since 2009, Nancy Zimpher has taken many initiatives to ensure that the growth of SUNY is not set back. This includes accomplishments in areas such as college access, affordability, inclusion, seamless transfer, and degree completion.

The Highlights

The state of the University Address began with a video look back at some of the news and success stories from 2016 across the SUNY system. You can see this clip below.

Board of Trustees Chairman H. Carl McCall then took the stage, welcoming all attendees and special guests. He proceeded to tell all in attendance and viewing online that “Moreso than any chancellor before her, Nancy Zimpher has truly transformed The State University of New York.” It’s hard to argue against that statement.

SUNY Student Assembly president Marc Cohen speaks at the 2017 State of the University Address

SUNY Student Assembly president Marc Cohen speaks at the 2017 State of the University Address.

President of the SUNY Student Assembly, Marc Cohen, spoke after the Chairman. He introduced the chancellor by saying “I want to thank the Chancellor for bringing the State University of New York to new heights, and including students every step of the way.”

He also wanted his 600,000+ classmates to help him share the good things that are coming or came from their SUNY education. Marc asked all to share the stories of their research opportunities, their community engagement, unique learning experiences, and more, on social media using #SUNYCompletes.

Marc’s hard work as president of the SUNY Student Assembly, and the work of the entire organization, is a perfect example of how students hold a key spot at the table to help move SUNY forward each year.

After the intros, the full show took off. In the first part of today’s speech, Chancellor Zimpher looked back at her beginning and the creation of The Power of SUNY strategic plan. When you look back at things, it’s fair to say that The Power of SUNY has stuck.

Chancellor Zimpher stated that “From the many conversations, we built our plan for SUNY’s future, and in doing so, how SUNY would help New York recover. We made it our business to know what New York needs and to find a way to provide it… Our six-point agenda to improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers, connecting education and economic development, bound together with the thread of SUNY’s unwavering commitment to equity and inclusion.”

After more recollection and recognition of SUNY successes, the business of the speech was put into effect.

The creation of two new entities was announced, as ways to keep the university system moving forward. The SUNY Impact Foundation will enable SUNY, for the first time in history to seek private sector investment in system-wide initiatives, primarily focusing on SUNY’s Completion Agenda. The SUNY Center for Systems Change will ensure that the university system continues to excel.

Along with the SUNY Impact Foundation and SUNY Center for Systems Change, some new items on the agenda for SUNY include Re-enroll To Complete, FAFSA Outreach, and Patent Policy. These initiatives are being put in place to ensure growing numbers in people who pursue college degrees along with motivating those in the SUNY campuses to think outside the box and be innovative in research.

  • Re-enroll To Complete: Based on the success of a 17-campus pilot program led by SUNY Plattsburgh, SUNY Smart Track Re-Enroll to Complete is designed to reach recently withdrawn student loan borrowers to get them back to campus to complete their degree, and avoid the greatest known predictor of student loan default – early separation from college. This year, 29 SUNY campuses will participate. An invitation for bidders (IFB) was posted last week to begin the vendor selection process.
  • FAFSA Outreach: Approximately 62 percent of graduating high school students currently complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) process, which summarizes their eligibility for aid. Following Governor Cuomo’s announcement of tuition-free college and the launch of a new SUNY Smart Track website to increase financial aid awareness among high school students, SUNY and SEFCU will partner on a state-wide push to “move the FAFSA completion dial to 100 percent,” engaging parents across New York through informational sessions and direct support.
  • Patent Policy: In support of research and discovery by faculty and students across the university system, SUNY recently modernized its patent policy so that more of the revenue generated by its patents would be returned to campuses and maximum flexibility would be in place to grow university-industry partnerships.

Toward the end, Chancellor Zimpher noted that she’s often asked how she runs 64 campuses? Her answer was easy. “I don’t do it. We do it.” She extended that by noting that she could not do this job without guidance and approval of the Board of Trustees, school Presidents, shared governance groups. Even the Governor,  Legislature, and people of New York need to get behind things. “SUNY is not a command and control environment.”


And we are. There is so much more to come in 2017 and beyond. Stay tuned.

Chancellor Zimpher on stage at the 2017 State of the University Address.

Chancellor Zimpher stands on stage at the Swyer Theater during the 2017 State of the University Address, her 8th and final formal address to SUNY and New York State.

    Big Ideas

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      Big Ideas is the Blog of The State University of New York, published by the Office of New Media.

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