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Long IslandEducation

SUNY leader listens and learns of needs at LI college campuses

Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson met Thursday with the presidents of SUNY Old Westbury and Nassau Community College, as well as students and faculty.

SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson on Thursday toured the SUNY Old Westbury campus with its president, the Rev. Calvin O. Butts III. (Credit: Barry Sloan)

SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson, with visits Thursday to SUNY Old Westbury and Nassau Community College, can check all of the system’s Long Island schools off of her tour list.

Johnson, who succeeded Nancy L. Zimpher as the system’s 13th chancellor in September, is making a point of going to each of the 64 campuses statewide.

“I’m looking to see unique things that this campus does that maybe can be utilized by other campuses,” Johnson said while touring SUNY Old Westbury. “I’m looking for opportunities. I’m looking to understand what the needs of the campus are, what their strategic direction is.”

During the stops, she met with the Rev. Calvin O. Butts III, SUNY Old Westbury president, and NCC President W. Hubert Keen, as well as executive leadership teams, members of the Faculty Senate organizations and students.

“You can’t really get a feel for a place unless you’re here and you walk around and you get to interact with these great students and the administration,” the chancellor said.

The visits provided campus leadership the opportunity not only to show off their campuses, but also to make their case for infrastructure funding and support for expanding academic programming.

“She’s familiar with the statistics of our diversity, but I wanted her to see it,” Butts said of the four-year, 5,000-student school. “I wanted her to see the beauty of the campus and the need for a new science building.” There are a number of students “who want to major in physical sciences, but our lab space and our facilities are very outdated,” he said.

Johnson, in her official capacity, now has toured nearly 40 campuses statewide. She previously visited Farmingdale State College, Stony Brook University and Suffolk County Community College.

One of the strengths of SUNY’s colleges and universities on the Island is their proximity to New York City and the ability to “help provide a SUNY-style education for the downstate population,” she said.

Several of the chancellor’s questions for administrators on both tours revolved around energy and efficiency, her specialty area.

Before becoming chancellor, Johnson founded and led Cube Hydro Partners LLC, which operates hydroelectric generation facilities on rivers in five states, including New York. She is a senior adviser to the company. She also served as undersecretary of energy with the U.S. Department of Energy during the Obama administration from 2009 to 2010.

Johnson’s signature initiatives for SUNY thus far include making buildings more energy-efficient, reducing emissions and using campuses as regional microgrids.

While touring NCC’s campus, she lauded its efforts in keeping energy use low.

Keen said there are a number of services SUNY’s leadership can provide, “especially in the support of our changes in academic programs and academic program support.” With an enrollment of more than 19,000 full-time and part-time students, NCC is the largest single-campus community college in the state.

“For instance,” the NCC president said, “they are providing some funding for us to invest in what are called ‘corequisite’ courses and developing curriculum called pathways for students.”

Butts said he was encouraged by Johnson’s visit.

“She’s talking about a creative investment in developing resources. She’s talking about online learning. She’s talking about the right kind of relationships with our leadership in the state,” he said. “And these are the kinds of things we need to hear.”

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