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The Accidental Giant of Higher Education

July 26, 2010

New York Times

July 24, 2010

NANCY L. ZIMPHER, the new chancellor of the State University of New York, is a woman with a plan. From 1998 to 2003, when she was chancellor of the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, it was “The Milwaukee Idea.” From 2003 to May 2009, when she was president of the University of Cincinnati, it was “UC/21.”

And for much of this year, Dr. Zimpher has been crisscrossing New York State, PowerPoint engaged, promoting “The Power of SUNY,” with its pragmatic and somewhat buzzy bullet points — “SUNY and the Entrepreneurial Century,” “SUNY and the Seamless Education Pipeline,” “SUNY and the World” — about the university as economic and community-building engine for tough times. Dr. Zimpher is somewhat famous in higher education as a tireless and creative marketer.

“I have to say that if you planted me on Mars, this is what I would try to do,” she said a few weeks back, after spending the morning touting “The Power of SUNY” to the staff of the Research Foundation, which administers more than $1 billion in university research funds. She then swore in a new student representative to SUNY’s board of trustees, positively beaming when, without prodding, the student put her hand on the “Power of SUNY” brochure, in lieu of a Bible, in reciting her oath.

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