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2019 State of the University System Address Puts Focus on the Critical Role of Higher Education

Chancellor Johnson speaks at a podium during the 2019 State of the University System Address.

More than one year into Chancellor Kristina Johnson’s leadership, SUNY is continuing to move forward under the guidance of our 13th chancellor. We recently heard the second annual State of the University System (SOTUS) address given by Chancellor Johnson in Albany, in which she shared details of the past year at SUNY and information on new initiatives coming in 2019.

SUNY Student Assembly president Mike Braun takes a selfie with Chancellor Kristina Johnson.

SUNY Student Assembly president Mike Braun takes a selfie with Chancellor Kristina Johnson.

To begin the day’s events, SUNY Student Assembly president Mike Braun took to the stage to share with attendees his experience working with Chancellor Johnson and the SUNY Board of Trustees. After finishing his prepared remarks, President Braun introduced Chancellor Johnson to the attendees at the Albany Capital Center. As is customary among our energetic members of the SUNYSA, he made sure to grab a selfie with the chancellor before exiting the stage.

Chancellor Johnson then delivered her address, beginning with a look back at the year since her first SOTUS. After a review of the past year’s events, she spoke of the importance of a college degree and additional credentials as a way for New Yorkers to move toward employment and social mobility. She mentioned how research shows that people with a college degree earn 80 percent more than those who have only a high school degree.

At the 2019 SOTUS, we learned about a number of new initiatives being developed at SUNY in 2019 to help more students earn those degrees and additional credentials that will help them succeed, including:

PRODI-G (Promoting Recruitment, Opportunity, Diversity, Inclusion and Growth)

While student diversity is increasing across SUNY, the diversity of its faculty has not kept pace. The PRODI-G initiative is designed to enable SUNY campuses to hire up to 1,000 early-to-mid-career professors over the next decade who continue to meet persistent barriers in achieving certain careers, including underrepresented minorities and women in STEM disciplines.

“To create our own diverse professoriate, we will expand the pathways for high-achieving graduate students in underrepresented groups,” said Chancellor Johnson. “We will support campus strategies for diversity and inclusion, including offering our campuses PRODI-G guidance to educate search committees about best practices in hiring. We will also use proven evidence-based strategies to retain our young PRODI-G professors and ensure their success.”

Buffalo State College will be the first campus to receive funding for five new faculty members beginning in fall 2019. The campus will also begin developing a multi-disciplinary Africana Studies department, a move championed by students. All SUNY campuses are invited to participate, and a request for proposals will be issued in February 2019. Funding for this initiative will be secured through private contributions as well as New York State investment through the Performance Improvement Fund.

SUNY Online – Support for Lifelong Learning

This fall SUNY will launch a new system-wide online learning initiative that will focus on increasing opportunities for exclusively online learners.

“We will rethink our online platform in a way that recognizes that lifelong learning is the new reality, and there is much more we can do to serve adult learners,” Chancellor Johnson said.

This new initiative will build upon investments and expertise its 64 campuses have developed individually to build tomorrow’s workforce here in New York State. SUNY Online will establish new cutting-edge programs, as well as enhance the ones most in demand today, and SUNY system will offer those programs seamlessly through campus partnerships.

SUNY Online is New York State higher education’s response to a dramatically changing market and will prepare students, and New York, for the changing and growing global economy, Chancellor Johnson explained.

“With SUNY Online, we will build new partnerships with businesses in need of skills, and use machine learning to give students new tools to map their futures,” Chancellor Johnson said.

Ensuring Success in College – SUNY Achieve

“Some of our students have trouble clearing the academic hurdle represented by their first college-level courses in math and English. We have had tremendous success with the Carnegie math pathways quantway and statway courses that combine preparatory math with math for college credit,” said Chancellor Johnson.

SUNY system is expanding its remedial support so students are better prepared for college. SUNY Achieve is an initiative to expand intensive, evidence-based academic supports that are helping students succeed both statewide and nationally. The program focuses on student-centered pathways called guided pathways, as well math pathways and co-requisite Developmental English to help more students complete their gateway courses in their first year leading to better completion rates.

To date, almost 20,000 students have participated in one of the programs. Funding, in large part, from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Strong Start to Finish, SUNY, as well as other foundations will help to scale these programs further to all 30 SUNY community colleges and eight state operated colleges.

SUNY Green Revolving Fund

SUNY continues to forge ahead as a leader in sustainability. The system recently issued design criteria for all new buildings that will make them net zero carbon. In addition, 16 campuses have joined the 22-member New York Large Scale Renewable Energy Consortium to source their electricity from renewable sources.

“Because SUNY operates about 40 percent of the buildings owned by New York State, we are a key part of the Governor’s green new deal, which intends to make New York’s electricity 100 percent carbon neutral by 2040 and put the state on the path to eliminating its carbon footprint,” said Chancellor Johnson.

In keeping with Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Green Bank, SUNY is launching
a Green Revolving Fund for its 64 campuses. Using loans from the fund, SUNY will assist its campuses in financing investments in conservation, efficiency, and clean energy. Loans provided to campuses will be repaid to SUNY from energy cost savings realized on campus.

In all its initiatives, Chancellor Johnson said SUNY strives to preserve the American Dream by offering excellence at scale for all, enabling individual success and social and economic mobility.

“We are working to restore the essential promise of America, in the state that first welcomed so many of our ancestors from distant shores,” Chancellor said. “I am so delighted to be able to join forces with our students, our faculty, our staff, our campus leadership, Governor Cuomo, the legislature and the citizens of New York State to underscore that New York remains what it always has been—a beacon, an inspiration, and a place of shining hope for all.”


There is a lot to look forward to in the future at SUNY. As our economy, workforce, and societal needs change, you can be sure to know that SUNY will be there to educate and train the students that will help us meet those needs. To revisit the entire day, including full video of the speech, visit suny.edu/sotus.

    Taras Kufel

      Written by Taras Kufel

      Taras Kufel is the Manager of Digital Engagement at the State University of New York.

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