March 5, 2011
SUNY chancellor visits TC3 campus
Zimpher encourages partnerships between colleges and businesses to boost economy
DRYDEN — SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher is determined to forge new partnerships among colleges and businesses, taking advantage of the nation’s largest public college system.
Zimpher brought her message Friday morning to Tompkins Cortland Community College, speaking to about 100 education and economic leaders from Cortland and Tompkins counties.
She was joined for a panel discussion by SUNY Cortland President Erik Bitterbaum, Cornell University President David Skorton and Ithaca College President Thomas Rochon.
Zimpher is touring the state’s two-year colleges. She planned to visit SUNY Morrisville in the afternoon.
Zimpher used the example of the State University of New York’s four medical schools and its College of Optometry working together in medical research and outreach. She said she tried to accomplish that in Ohio and failed.
She was president of the University of Cincinnati before becoming SUNY chancellor in 2009.
Zimpher said other such bonds can be forged in the four areas identified as crucial in SUNY’s strategic plan: life sciences, nanotechnology, information technology and high-performance computing and energy.
She said TC3’s educational programs will be called upon to help in two of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s regional economic councils: Central, which stretches from Cortland to Oswego, and Southern Tier. The Central Council has six colleges within it and the Southern Tier has seven colleges.
Zimpher said she understands if New York residents are skeptical of yet another economic development plan.
“As Chamber of Commerce president in Cincinnati four years ago, I saw us develop a plan — the 33rd one for that region, with the other 32 plans having been shelved,” she said. But she said she is optimistic that this plan will work, led by Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy.
Bitterbaum said the three things needed to support the plan are a rational tuition policy, allowing families to plan for tuition increases and giving the new money to campuses; partnerships between colleges and the private sector, such as SUNY Cortland’s hosting the New York Jets training camp the past two summers; and ways around the state government’s procurement policies, which slow purchases and construction.
Jim Place, owner of Place Insurance in Cortland and a TC3 Foundation board member, later asked Zimpher why construction of new buildings at SUNY Cortland and TC3 takes so long, as the colleges go through the state bureaucracy.
Zimpher said she is actually proud of SUNY’s construction plan but agreed that if procurement policies were lessened or relaxed by the state Legislature, more could be accomplished faster.
She said she failed at that aspect of working with the Legislature last year but is optimistic for this year.
Skorton disagreed, saying the construction procedure might be inefficient but the buildings are made to last for decades.
Zimpher said purchasing procedures must be faster.
“One of our state medical schools wants to purchase a piece of equipment, and the process takes so long, the equipment is already off the market or twice as expensive or out of date,” Zimpher said later. “Speed turns an economy around, and we don’t have it.”
Ithaca business owner Mary Kane, a Hangar Theatre board member, asked where the arts fit into SUNY’s plan. Zimpher said the arts will be part of making any community vibrant and raise its quality of life.
“Yes, there is the tension of education for education’s sake, of getting a job,” she said, adding that parents of college students want to know about specific skills and career paths.
Bitterbaum said SUNY Cortland graduates usually remember plays or other arts events from their college days, more than courses.
Dryden Town Supervisor Mary Ann Sumner said Zimpher’s discussion was energizing.
“It was not the usual song and dance, it was inspiring,” she said. “She has a plan and her taking time to be here is the first step.”
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