CANTON — The State University of New York's 12th chancellor, Nancy L. Zimpher, made her first visit to the north country as part of a statewide tour Monday.
She got quite a view: From the wind-whipped roof of SUNY Canton's faculty building, the chancellor looked out at the growing campus — and Canada and the Adirondacks beyond. Ms. Zimpher also got an idea of the college's growing reach, as she met with 80 visiting international students and faculty.
"Canton's boundaries are truly global," she said. "This is my 35th visit in a 64-campus tour. The numbers are deceiving though, because each campus is so unique. I mean, when have you ever been greeted by a kangaroo?"
The greeting from the college mascot was part of SUNY Canton's efforts to stand out, President Joseph L. Kennedy said.
"We're trying to reinforce the message that we're not your typical liberal arts college," said Mr. Kennedy, who is the second- longest-serving college president in the SUNY system. "As we have been joking, she is my 10th boss, and we are hoping she will serve for a while to have a continuity of leadership."
Ms. Zimpher is seeking input from people across SUNY's many college communities, as she works toward crafting a strategic plan by spring.
"We need what's happening on this Canton campus," the chancellor said, citing the college's online classes and international programs. "I have to say I think this is a model of innovation, and innovation I think is going to have to be the norm, given how our information systems are changing."
The chancellor acknowledged that she faces a tough road ahead, as she tries to expand the state university in a global marketplace, at the same time that SUNY faces budget constraints from the state Legislature.
"I have said I'm not going to start with a conversation about money or the dollars," Ms. Zimpher said. "When we get finished with this strategic plan and we start to implement, I think the state of New York is going to see that we're really a huge key — if not the key — for economic recovery in New York. And I think that over time that will encourage public policymakers to continue to support what we do; I really do, because they're going to get a return on their investment."
One resource that the chancellor hopes to turn to as she makes the case for investing in SUNY's growth are the system's 2.4 million living alumni and its 450,000 registered students, Ms. Zimpher said. She also said that she hopes to keep in touch with campuses statewide.
"This is my first trip to the north country; it will not be my last," she said.
"But maybe not in January," Mr. Kennedy replied.
"Well, I might come during the thaw," the chancellor said, laughing.
Ms. Zimpher will make her way to Jefferson Community College, Watertown, today, where she will meet with President Carole A. McCoy and community leaders at 8 a.m. in the courtyard. The chancellor will tour the JCC campus before heading to Fort Drum at noon to check out the Army Education Center.
On Wednesday, Ms. Zimpher will stop at SUNY Potsdam. Her visit there includes a full schedule of meetings to learn about the college's variety of programs and degrees. The chancellor will also be treated to a theater and dance performance over lunch, as well as impromptu concerts at the Crane School of Music.
She will spend the rest of the week visiting North Country Community College, Saranac Lake, and SUNY Plattsburgh.
"I may not have had a full vision of how big the state of New York is, but boy am I seeing it," Ms. Zimpher said.
Ms. Zimpher previously was president of the University of Cincinnati and chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She is the first woman to be appointed chancellor of SUNY, the nation's largest public university system.
She was appointed in February and began work on June 1. Ms. Zimpher has committed to at least five years in the position. Her total annual compensation is $545,000.
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