SUNY Chancellor visits SUNY Cortland

SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson speaking to members of the media Thursday morning at the SUNY Cortland Student Life Center (Sara Sampson/Cortland Voice)

CORTLAND, N.Y. — State University of New York Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson visited SUNY Cortland on Thursday morning to meet with SUNY Cortland officials, tour the campus, and talk with students from the College's Equal Opportunity Program (EOP).  

When Dr. Kristina M. Johnson joined The State University of New York as its 13th Chancellor in September 2017, she made it her commitment to visit all 64 SUNY campuses within the first year and a half of her tenure, and she’s well on her way. Thursday’s visit to SUNY Cortland was the chancellor’s 55th stop, and after departing SUNY Cortland, Cayuga Community College will be her 56th stop.

During SUNY Cortland President Erik J. Bitterbaum’s opening address before the start of the spring 2019 semester, he highlighted current student challenges, including the student loan debt crisis and a decreasing number of high school graduates. The college is prepared to meet these challenges head-on by pursuing further online courses that will allow the college to provide the very best career preparation for future incoming students.

“We have to reach out to these extraordinary young men and women who are coming here,” President Bitterbaum said in his opening address.

In an effort to help students succeed, President Bitterbaum and SUNY Chancellor Johnson are making it their mission to put together a diverse set of programs, tools, and initiatives for students once they’re on a SUNY campus, and in this case, SUNY Cortland.

One such program is the college’s new Writing Center. Dr. Elizabeth Saur, Interim Writing Center Coordinator, and the rest of the Writing Center’s staff—currently six faculty and graduate writing consultants, and two undergraduate Professional Writing Interns—wanted to make the center a comfortable space for students where they could come “talk about their writing with someone who cared about their writing and them as a writer,” she said.

The Writing Center had a soft opening in the fall 2018 semester, and the center saw over 100 students. Some students have returned this semester along with new students who have expressed interest in developing their writing process. The Writing Center is open to any and all students, but it’s geared toward those who are in their first year of academic writing.

“The Writing Center at Cortland was developed to help students become better writers—especially as they learn how to negotiate/navigate their way through the unfamiliar expectations of academic and other new audiences,” Dr. Saur said. The writing center plans to achieve this goal by “offering one-on-one individual writing consultations for students in the Writing Center, developing and implementing workshops on a variety of topics for students from across campus, having writing consultants visit classrooms to help out with in-class activities, as well as developing future collaborations with other resources on campus focused on student success,” she said.

“The faculty are just so into the scholarship and the student learning,” Chancellor Johnson remarked about SUNY Cortland’s dedication to its students.

“I was really intrigued by the tutoring program. I guess it started out as Nightowl [SUNY Cortland’s online tutoring service] and expanded to twenty-six campuses. I think that exemplifies what the SUNY system can be about,” Chancellor Johnson said. “You take innovation on campus and then you expand it to scale to campuses that want in and then how the system then can help the individual campuses and the individual campuses contribute to the system. I think that certainly exemplifies what we’re trying to do,” she said.

Chancellor Johnson also commended SUNY Cortland for its “superb” physical education program.

“It’s quite an exciting place,” she said as she wrapped up her tour before heading to Cayuga Community College in Auburn, NY.

SUNY is the nation’s largest comprehensive system of public higher education. It serves more than 1.3 million students annually, employs more than 90,000 faculty and staff, and connects more than three million alumni around the world.