Weekly Feature

2018-01-31 / Editorials

SUNY chancellor focuses on energy education, upgrades

Managing Editor

There was positive news out of Albany last week, and it had little to do with the governor or state Legislature, or politics in general.

Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson gave her first State of the University System address, outlining her vision for the future of the 64-campus institution. SUNY serves nearly 1.3 million students, including nearly 600,000 in credit-bearing courses and programs and more than 700,000 through continuing education and community outreach programs, according to the SUNY website. It also employs more than 90,000 faculty and staff.

She joined SUNY last September.

“In my travels to the campuses, I have developed a soaring pride that SUNY is able to offer its students so many different opportunities to build a better world,” she said. “Each SUNY school is distinctive, with its own history, legacy and future, but each is also the cultural and economic heart of its community – offering crucial resources for local businesses as well as educating their workforces.”

Johnson received her Bachelor of Science with distinction, Master of Science and doctorate in electrical engineering from Stanford University. After a NATO post-doctoral fellowship at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, she joined the University of Colorado-Boulder’s faculty in 1985 as an assistant professor and, later, full professor.

In these times, she seems the right fit for a university system moving into a new era of education.

Johnson served as undersecretary of energy at the U.S. Department of Energy, responsible for managing a broad $10.5 billion energy and environment portfolio, including an additional $37 billion in energy and environment investments from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

In addition to research, Johnson called for purchasing 100 percent of SUNY’s electricity from zero-carbon sources and deep energy retrofits at SUNY campuses, which represent 40 percent of state-owned buildings, and announced the goal to source 100 percent of SUNY’s electricity from zero-net-carbon sources as soon as possible.

“The United States has to get a grip on our carbon emissions. And SUNY, as an engine of innovation, has a major responsibility to lead,” she said. “Certainly, our students, who are highly committed to sustainability, want and expect us to lead.”

Locally, SUNY Erie (note the new title of what we knew as Erie Community

College) is leading by example at its North Campus in Amherst.

The school’s $5.75 million Center for Nanotechnology Studies opened last year. The energy-efficient building was funded primarily through SUNY’s 2020 Challenge Grant Program. The space was designed to help prepare students for 21st century career opportunities such as semiconductor manufacturing, biotechnology and environmental science, working within exciting local developments including RiverBend and the WNY Science and Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park.

The center provides $1.5 million in fabrication and characterization equipment and 36 solar roof panels to provide clean power as well as a state-of-the-art energy recovery system to reduce heating and cooling costs and energy usage, according to the college’s website.

“An individual education is not just about helping our students chart a course through our classrooms,” Johnson said. “It is about helping students with different backgrounds and different resources succeed.

“For SUNY to be a leader in this next century and realize the potential of artificial and augmented intelligence, we need to increase the cross-disciplinary research, scholarly work and outreach we do.”

The chancellor has seen the future.

(Opinions expressed here are those of the author. He can be reached at dsherman@beenews.com.)

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