On July 29, Chancellor Nancy Zimpher visited our campus at the midway
point of her 64-campus tour of SUNY. Her stay with us was one of the
longest of any visit on the tour, as she began at 8 a.m. and continued
until shortly after 5 p.m. I am so very proud of everyone who helped to
make the visit the tremendous success it was, and I extend my deepest
thanks to all for their help.
There were several salient points I wanted to convey to Chancellor Zimpher. These points all originate from the key areas of our Bicentennial Plan. By far, the most significant is that we have an academic program of the highest quality based on three core elements: we strive to be the leading campus of the arts in SUNY, we have a tradition of programs of quality and strength in teacher preparation, and all of our undergraduate curricula are based in a broad and rigorous general education program grounded in the liberal arts and sciences.
Beyond these three guiding areas, we also sought to highlight the elements of the student experience on campus. In this, we focused on the high-impact educational opportunities for which we are well known, such as undergraduate research, first-year programs, learning communities, internships, service learning, and student leadership programs. These are the fundamentals of what I have called the handcrafted education that characterize the student experience at Potsdam. The Chancellor had the opportunity to hear about exciting programs in the Literacy Center and progress on the Performing Arts Building. She observed a student actor at work; examined works of art by our students and faculty members; talked to community, alumni and foundation board leaders; was treated to a brief recital by students and faculty members in Crane; and sat in on a round-table discussion of student engagement programs.
We also shared with Chancellor Zimpher the historic nature of what we do. We currently are celebrating 175 years of state financial support for teacher preparation. In just a few years, we will celebrate the 125th anniversary of the founding of The Crane School of Music and the beginnings of music education in the United States. Of course, in 2016, we will celebrate the bicentennial of the College itself.
For her part, the Chancellor explained her desire to have a more strategic plan for SUNY. This plan will recognize the individual strengths of the campuses and provide guidance as campuses seek to expand, or reduce, program offerings. She acknowledged there is great frustration throughout the system regarding what we call “mission creep,” the proliferation of four-year programs among historically two-year campuses, as well as the expansion of graduate programs to doctorate level on comprehensive (master’s degree-only) campuses. She has pledged to work closely with our elected officials to forestall further reductions to the system and to seek to increase our financial well-being. Lastly, she conceded that the method whereby funds are distributed within the system has serious flaws, and she will work with the presidents and others to implement a better system.
At the end of the day, I can safely say she was extremely impressed with SUNY Potsdam. Before leaving the campus, Chancellor Zimpher made a brief video, which can be found on our home page under vlogs. I encourage you to watch it, and see for yourself what she thought of her experience.