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Chancellor prepares to lead SUNY

Associate News Editor

Published: Friday, March 13, 2009

Updated: Friday, March 13, 2009 01:03


Photo provided by SUNY.

Nancy Zimpher was unanimously voted in as the new SUNY chancellor Feb. 10. She will officially take the reigns June 1.

Nancy Zimpher chose to apply for chancellor of the State University of New York because she wanted to take the system beyond what it has become.

"I think my primary responsibility is to provide leadership in determining exactly what our future as a collective of diverse and wonderful campuses will be," she said through a first ever SUNY-wide webcast Wednesday.

The SUNY Board of Trustees unanimously voted Zimpher in Feb. 10, 2009. Former Chancellor John Ryan retired May 31, 2007.

"The overall reception among members of SUNY has been overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic," said Dave Henahan, director of media relations for SUNY.

David Curry, the PSUC chapter president for United University Professions said, "She brings a fresh, new prospective to the chancellor's office coming in from Ohio."

PSUC President John Ettling is optimistic about what Zimpher brings to the SUNY system.

"She is a strong and effective advocate," he said. "We hope she has everything it takes to succeed in this system — SUNY needs the help badly."

Gov. David Paterson welcomed Zimpher at the Capitol Feb. 11, and she visited University of Albany. Paterson said in a press release Feb. 10 that Zimpher raised admissions standards while growing enrollment, strengthened research, introduced state-of-the-art business practices and enacted academic and management reforms.

"She also has a reputation as a fair but tough leader, which is what our system needs to compete in the 21st century," he said in the release.

Zimpher is not concerned with gender as the first woman chancellor in SUNY's 60-year history. She was the first woman dean of the college of education at The Ohio State University, where she received her bachelors, masters and doctorate degrees. She then served as the first woman chancellor at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the first woman president of the University of Cincinnati.

She mentioned the story of when she was introduced at UC as the first woman president. A person shadowing her asked Zimpher if she ever got tired of being introduced as the first woman in her different positions.

"What I said — I think reveals what I think," she said. "When it doesn't need to be said anymore, it won't be. Until then, as we increase our ranks, let's celebrate this evolution."

Zimpher takes office in SUNY on June 1. Over the summer, she will visit all 64 campuses. She will spend a lot of her time in advocacy in the development of public policy around the role SUNY campuses can play not only in the economy, but also in the quality of life, she said. She expects to work with government leaders always as an advocate for SUNY, she said.

She contributed the work already done in SUNY to all the former chancellors.

"I hope I can learn from each and every one of the former chancellors," she said. Several former chancellors have already reached out to her, offering advice and help for the future.

She will talk a lot about collaboration and partnership. As she begins to visit campuses, she will engage students in questions about their ambitions for their campus and SUNY.

"Her reputation is strategic — planning and involving many people," Ettling said.

She already began building relationships with SUNY offices in Washington.

"I have been in my own work with Congress in the delegation in Ohio," she said. "I already spend three hours with the federal offices of SUNY in Washington, so I've begun to get the briefings."

As rising college costs affect every student, Zimpher will work on keeping prices down.

"I'm going to be an advocate for both state and federal support for bringing down the cost of higher education by enabling tuition support and supporting universities so we can keep tuition affordable for you (students)," she said. "I will do everything in my power to advocate for affordability. I know how important it is, and I know what an issue it is."

Ettling said Zimpher has the background and experience.

"She has had time to know how college settings work," he said. "It's not crucial, but it helps."

Ettling said he would like to see continued progress in uniting SUNY. Over the past years, the schools have a good history of working together instead of competing with one another, he said.

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