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Year in Review

The 2017 Year In Review: Part 1

Another year has come and gone, but before we get deep into 2018, we wanted to recap some of our favorite SUNY stories from 2017 that made their way to you from us, whether through the Big Ideas blog or our news sources.

This past year, SUNY colleges and universities banded together to give back to their local communities, received nationally recognized accolades and rankings, and overcame challenges. From providing new international opportunities to students, to supporting nation-wide higher education policies, to publishing industry-changing research, SUNY left a large-scale impact on New York, the country, and the world in 2017.

In order to reflect back on all the exciting accolades and memorable events that happened in 2017, we’ve put together a month-by-month recap of our most noteworthy moments from the year. Start reminiscing below:


Chancellor Zimpher on stage at the 2017 State of the University Address.
As is the case every year, 2017 started with the State of the University Address in Albany. What made this year’s address particularly special was that it was Chancellor Emeritus Nancy L. Zimpher’s eighth and final address to the SUNY family. During her last address, Chancellor Zimpher praised the system’s accomplishments in college access, inclusion, and seamless transfer, degree completion, and affordability.

“No one else does what SUNY can do,” Chancellor Zimpher said. “No one else matches our reach or strength or potential to educate more people and to educate them better…to be New York’s best economic engine…to push the boundaries of research and innovation…and to always figure out how to improve. This is who we are. This is the SUNY brand.”

Since 2009, Chancellor Zimpher supported many initiatives to ensure that SUNY continues to grow and be a change agent within higher education. In her address, Chancellor Zimpher announced the creation of two new SUNY entities to keep the university system moving forward – the SUNY Impact Foundation and the SUNY Center for Systems Change – as well as Re-enroll to Complete, increased FAFSA outreach, and an updated patent policy.

Multiple SUNY schools were named to the U.S. News and World Report’s 2017 Best Online Programs list in January as well. Eight SUNY campuses were featured on the list: three undergraduate programs made the top 100 and eight different graduate programs received accolades!

Other noteworthy stories from January include Monroe Community College being recognized as a White House Healthy Campus, University at Albany’s forensic research advancements, and SUNY ESF’s groundbreaking research findings that will combat cancer.


SUNY Plaza shines in red light at night.

While most people associate February with Valentine’s Day, it’s also American Heart Month. Throughout the month, SUNY worked to raise awareness for heart health through a number of initiatives. SUNY Plaza shined red for National Wear Red Day and Upstate Medical University was named the top corporate team for the Syracuse Heart Walk. In addition to raising funds as a system, Downstate Medical Center continues to provide comprehensive cardiovascular services and conduct research to improve heart health.

February also saw our system-wide resource for victims of sexual assault and violence response (SAVR) be translated into more than 100 languagesIn addition to the local contacts and information previously available, SUNY has translated the Affirmative Consent, Amnesty, and Bill of Rights provisions of Enough is Enough legislation into more than 100 languages, developed a visa and immigration resource specific to international and immigrant victims and survivors of violence.

Additional memorable moments from February include a system-wide stand against President Trump’s executive order denying entry into the United States for individuals from seven countries of “concern,” and raising awareness for eating disorders and how they affect college students.


Farmingdale State Student works with large wrench in National Grid natural gas training program

This past March, Farmingdale State College – through its Renewable Energy and Sustainability Center (RESC) –  partnered with international energy provider National Grid to create a National Gas Technician Certificate Program. The program, which is taught at National Grid’s Long Island training center, is a prime example of applied learning and exposes students to job tasks, work methods, and safety practices utilized by various workforce positions in gas construction, maintenance, and customer service.

One of college athletic’s most popular tournaments takes place in March: March Madness. But what would March Madness be without all of the amazing mascots that help pump up the crowd and cheer their teams on to victory? This year was the 5th anniversary of Mascot Madness, which is a month-long competition among the different SUNY mascots to determine which is New York’s favorite campus rep. 38 of our campuses participated for the title, and after many rounds of voting and promoting SUNY’s many mascots, Oakie the Acorn from SUNY ESF was crowned the new champion!

In addition to our mascots, athletes put in a lot of hard work during March Madness as well. University at Albany’s women’s basketball team won an unprecedented 6th-consecutive America East championship, securing them a spot in the NCAA tournament.

SUNY also made history in March through the creation of an international partnership with the Cuban Ministry of Higher Education, which will provide SUNY students with enriching experiences and expand technical education and generate more jobs for people in Cuba.

Lastly, SUNY New Paltz’s ribbon cutting for its new Science Hall, which is paving the way to the future for all things STEM, was held in March.


Newly elected Chancellor of SUNY Kristina M Johnson stands between Chancellor Nancy Zimpher and Board Chairman Carl McCall
In April, The State University of New York Board of Trustees announced the appointment of Dr. Kristina M. Johnson as the 13th chancellor of SUNY.

Dr. Kristina M. Johnson is a woman who has seen success in business, academia, and public service in her life. She was appointed by President Barack Obama as U.S. Under Secretary of Energy in 2009, and she also served as provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs at Johns Hopkins University, dean of the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University, and professor at the University of Colorado-Boulder.

Dr. Johnson brings with her a great record of academic, entrepreneurial, and research success to lead SUNY deeper into the 21st century and create a new era of public higher education in New York, and we are excited to continue to learn about her vision for SUNY moving into 2018 and beyond.

The highly regarded Best Value Colleges list from Forbes was released in April and eight SUNY schools were featured: Binghamton University (43); Stony Brook University (83); SUNY Geneseo (87); University at Buffalo (96); University at Albany (131); SUNY New Paltz (162); SUNY ESF (231); and SUNY Oneonta (294).

SUNY also was involved with Autism Awareness month during April. A number of campuses shone blue light to support Autism and many student groups raised money to raise funds for research.


SUNY is already one of the most affordable options in the country, but leadership in New York wanted to do even more to cut costs and make higher education more accessible for students.

This past May,  Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that the New York State Higher Education Services Corporation Board of Trustees voted to approve regulations governing the Excelsior Scholarship, the first-of-its-kind in the nation program to provide tuition-free college at New York’s public universities to families making up to $125,000 a year.

The first-in-the-nation plan was started in May for Fall 2017 enrollment as it began to be phased in over three years. In year one, the scholarship was available to New York families making up to $100,000 annually in the fall of 2017, increasing to $110,000 in 2018, and finally $125,000 in 2019. The regulations for Excelsior can be found here.

Chancellor Zimpher, Carl McCall, Kristina M Johnson, and Al Roker pose for the camera at the EOP 50th Anniversary Benefit dinner.May also marked the Educational Opportunity Program‘s 50th anniversary, with a 50th Anniversary Benefit Gala held in New York City and the Rainbow Room. The event honored the success of SUNY’s EOP alumni and raised money to strengthen EOP programs at all SUNY schools. Even better, the evening was emceed by none other than famous SUNY alum of the Today Show and numerous television projects, Al Roker!

Other exciting news from May included Maritime College playing a part in Fleet Week in NYC.


SUNY students and staff pose with a banner that states "celebrating diversity and inclusion since 1948" at the 2017 NYC Pride Parade.

Millions of people once again came to the streets of New York City this past June to sing, dance, and walk for equality in the NYC Pride March, and SUNY was right there in the middle of it again. It was our second time participating in this event, which is the largest LGBTQ pride event in the world. This time the SUNY contingent was close to 400 strong (one of the largest in the parade!) showing all in attendance the Power of SUNY.

Another milestone took place in June: The State University of New York Board of Trustees appointed Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher as chancellor emeritus in recognition of her eight years of dedicated service and continuing partnership with SUNY. This is only the fifth time in SUNY’s history that the title has been conferred, and the first time the appointment immediately follows a chancellor’s active tenure.

In addition, the Board named the large courtroom at SUNY Plaza the “Nancy L. Zimpher Boardroom” and released a commemorative video in which cross-sector leaders in education, business, government, and the media discuss the impact of Chancellor Zimpher’s career and leadership.

June was an overall busy month for the Board of Trustees, as they also appointed Dr. Havidán Rodríguez as the first Hispanic president of a four-year SUNY campus at University at Albanyalong with Dr. Dan Hocoy as president of Erie Community College; and Dr. John “Jay” Quaintance as president of Sullivan County Community College.

Additional good news for June includes the approval of the TeachNY policy that will guide SUNY to achieve a higher standard of excellence in educator preparation and support; and the announcement of a Natural Gas Technician certification program at Hudson Valley Community College.

We’re just getting started with sharing our highlights from 2017. Keep an eye out for the Year in Review Part 2 to read about our achievements for the second half of the year!

Written by Sarah Petrak

Sarah Petrak is a student assistant with the Office of Communications and New Media for SUNY System Administration. She is a studying Public Policy at the University at Albany.




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