Fostering an Informed Citizenry – President Stanley assumes a leadership role with national organization dedicated to public higher education

Photo: Jim Russell ’83

In November, SUNY Oswego President Deborah F. Stanley became chair of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. Before becoming chair-elect in 2015, Stanley completed a three-year term on AASCU’s Board of Directors as secretary-treasurer. She also served on AASCU’s Millennium Leadership Initiative (MLI) Steering Committee and as an MLI Mentor; on AASCU’s Financial Review Task Force, the investment committee; the Council of State Representatives; the Committee on International Education; the Nominating Committee; and Policies and Purposes.

President Stanley shared her vision for AASCU and for public higher education with OSWEGO Alumni Magazine.

You have been involved with American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) since you became college president in 1995. Why do you feel it is important to be involved with the organization, and what are some of the ways in which it is advancing higher education in the country?

It is a personal and professional honor to serve as chair of the AASCU Board of Directors—an organization with transformative influence in American public higher education. Its membership of nearly 420 public colleges, universities and systems share a learning and teaching-centered culture, a historic commitment to underserved student populations and a dedication to research and creativity that advances their regions’ economic progress and cultural development.

I believe in AASCU’s mission and profound message that through our commitments to access and opportunity, public colleges and universities effectively and accountably deliver America’s promise.

AASCU is a feet-on-the-ground organization with its ears to our member presidents with a research- based approach to providing guidance on how to achieve operational excel- lence. AASCU is leading pilot initiatives across the country, looking carefully at curriculum and internationalization opportunities, as well as addressing certain challenges such as state funding and enrollment management.

It is a repository for ideas and best practices and also represents our institutions in federal legislative and policy realms. A member of what is commonly referred to as the “Big Six” (a group of the major types of higher education institutions in the United States), AASCU offers its collective and expert voice on issues related to higher education that impact our sector and provide a road map to the future.

How has your involvement with the organization affected your leadership on the SUNY Oswego campus?

Photo: Jim Russell

Working with AASCU is always incredibly productive. In addition to the great networking that takes place outside New York State and across the country, I have numerous opportunities to work with other presidents and see how colleagues are handling initiatives. Such collaborative discourse has allowed me to gain insight and address matters back on the Oswego campus with a much broader perspective.

AASCU provides professional development programs designed to help leaders think deeply and creatively about the nature of our work and effect better outcomes for our regions. I have directly benefitted from AASCU’s support of institutional leaders as we face national, regional or statewide challenges in an ever-changing environment for public higher education and attempt to integrate new ideas and advanced technology in degree delivery.

What are your top goals as chair of the organization?

As chair, I support Dr. Muriel Howard, our president, and her administrative leadership team. It is important that we work toward achieving the vision of the organization. We do this by helping the general public, the media and policymakers better understand and support the role and public purposes of state colleges and universities; assist our members in preparing students for the 21st century; and maintain our reputation as an innovative thought leader and force for positive change in higher education.

I look forward to supporting and standing behind AASCU’s national Opportunities for All initiative that is designed around a unified brand for state colleges and universities, and grounded in the value proposition that America’s state colleges and universities offer the higher education choice that creates brighter futures for all.

I am committed to the strategic goals of AASCU, which include:

  • Advancing the distinctive mission of public higher education
  • Fostering institutional effectiveness and student success
  • Supporting institutional leadership and change
  • Leading advocacy efforts to support public financing of public higher education
  • Advancing equity and opportunity in public higher ed
  • Strengthening research capabilities and creative activity of AASCU and its members; and
  • Strengthening the financial sustain- ability of AASCU and its members.

You are entering your term amid great change in the country with
a new administration. How do you think that will affect the organization and the goals you hope to achieve during your tenure?

AASCU will remain focused on its priorities of affordability, excellence and accountability. We will continue our work on combating campus sexual assault, and ensuring access, diversity and inclusion for those historically under- represented in American higher education. In the words of our President Dr. Howard, we are “recommitting the association and its members to the national goal of promoting affordability by restoring the proper balance among the federal government, the states and families.”

As the new administration takes office in Washington, we will seek to collaborate and enhance understanding, especially with the U.S. Department of Education.

Of significant importance is policy related to Pell grants, debt levels, accreditation and reauthorization of the Higher Educa- tion Act. Certainly, immigration policy and executive action have great impact on our campuses so we are being vigilant to pursue just and non-discriminatory policy through our efforts in Congress and in the federal courts.

Many state colleges and universities offer lower tuition costs for in-state residents, and some offer free tuition to in-state residents. Does AASCU support free public higher education for state residents?

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has made a very powerful and positive statement in support of public higher education. AASCU is enriching the dialogue around deliberations like these by providing facts and analyzing possible impacts.

Why is public higher education so important?

Public education throws its arms wide open to enfranchise ideas and intellects without the barrier of high cost.

Public higher education is based on a belief that wide inclusion produces a better informed, creative and productive citizenry for all to benefit. I support AASCU’s belief about higher education institutions—that “we are ‘stewards of place,’ engaging faculty, staff and students with the communities and regions we serve—helping to advance public education, economic development and the quality of life for all with whom we live and who support our work. We affirm that America’s promise extends not only to those who come to the campus but to all our neighbors.”

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