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SUNY Chancellor Delivers Third Annual Address

Kristina Johnson
State University of New York
Kristina Johnson

SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson delivered her annual State of the University System address on Thursday. As WAMC’s Lucas Willard reports, Johnson outlined her vision as SUNY approaches its 75th anniversary.

Johnson is the 13th Chancellor of the State University of New York System, established in 1948. On Thursday in Albany, she delivered her third State of the University System address, outlining actions to take on challenges like Climate Change, prepare for automation in the workforce, foster energy independence, and increase diversity.

“As we approach SUNY at 75, our goal is to use the power of learning and all the confidence and opportunity it creates to shape a more dynamic future for all New Yorkers in every distinctive part of our state. And we are well on the way.”

SUNY turns 75 in 2023 and Johnson set goals in four main categories: Individualized Learning, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Sustainability, and Partnerships.

On her first goal, the chancellor outlined progress on the SUNY Achieve program. The program launched at 27 SUNY campuses allows students to receive credit for remedial classes in English and math.

“We’ve found that past rates in these credit-bearing English classes far exceed those of standalone remedial courses. It seems as though if you set an expectation for success, students will meet it,” said Johnson.

Johnson says SUNY plans to expand the Achieve program across the university system and triple the number of students enrolled to 22,000 by SUNY at 75.

Johnson also highlighted the successes of the SUNY Online pilot program launched last year; the Open Education Resources program, which provides free access to textbooks and other resources; the Re-Enroll to Complete program; and PRODiG, a hiring program designed to increase diversity among faculty.

For Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Johnson wants to double research at SUNY campuses.

“In my first year as chancellor, I set a goal of reaching $2 billion in annual research expenditures within seven years. And we are well on our to doing that. Our research expenditure system-wide exceeded $1.7 billion in Fiscal Year 2019. And sponsored research is up $136 million from the prior year.”

On Sustainability, Johnson said SUNY has reduced its greenhouse gases by 39 percent.

“By the end of SUNY at 75 and well ahead of the Climate [And Community Protection] Act’s 2040 deadline, we have set a goal of 100 percent of SUNY’s electricity would come from zero-carbon resources.”

On Partnerships, Johnson said public and private partnerships have led to $5 billion in research and development investment. Applied Materials opened its $600 million META Center at SUNY Poly in Albany in November, and Cree, Inc. is moving forward with plans to construct a $1 billion semiconductor plant at SUNY Nanocenter in Marcy, which the state says will create 600 jobs.

Toward the end of her 45-minute speech, Johnson touched on themes of bigotry and tolerance. She commended leaders at SUNY New Paltz for removing the names of several slave-owning Huguenot families from campus buildings.

She also had words for students stemming from two incidents in 2019. 

“I’m also proud of the students at the University at Albany for realizing that a crude slur kicked in the snow and directed at Israel was not a policy position, but hate speech. And pointing out that hate has no place on our campuses.”

Johnson also addressed Binghamton students after a protest there shut out a talk by an author, garnering national headlines.

“By refusing to allow a conservative economist Arthur Laffer to deliver remarks at Binghamton University, student protesters demonstrated a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of universities, which is to encourage civil debate, not to quell it.”


Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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