SUNY chief unveils broad plan to spur state economy

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The new chancellor of the State University of New York unveiled a strategic plan Tuesday that seeks to more sharply focus areas the sprawling 64-campus SUNY system can target to help spark the state's economy.

The times are challenging economically for the state, Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher said in an interview after the SUNY Board of Trustees meeting in Manhattan, where she announced her plan to begin statewide "conversations" about how SUNY can be a driving force behind the state's economic revitalization.

"We can be helpful, but to be helpful," she said, SUNY needs to clearly define those areas in which it can be most effective. Citing a presentation to the board about nursing shortages, she suggested health care might be one place SUNY could focus resources to help fill a need and create jobs too.

"These are the issues we want debated in the statewide conversation . . . This whole planning process will help us set goals," Zimpher said in the interview. She said she was pursuing "more connectivity" across SUNY that also could be harnessed to help not just regions with SUNY institutions but the state as a whole.

Zimpher recently concluded her tour of all SUNY campuses over the last three months, logging nearly 7,000 miles since she became chancellor June 1. She told the board those visits were more than a listening tour. They were a fact-finding mission to begin building a strategic plan to improve on previous efforts.

The ultimate goal, Zimpher told the board, was to position SUNY to be "out in front . . . It's really important that we have a really riveting mission for the State University of New York and for the State of New York."

Zimpher said she developed some broad themes after visiting the campuses, learning about their strengths as well as their needs. Now she wants to hear from students, faculty, administrators and the community in meetings, or "conversations," to be conducted at SUNY institutions in about a half-dozen regions in the state.

A SUNY Web site is slated to chronicle the meetings, which might begin as soon as next month, so people can see the input for themselves, Zimpher said. She said she will be taking what she learns from these meetings to legislators.

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