Debrief: Kimberly Cline, Long Island University

LIU President Kimberly Cline: Connecting urban, suburban and global education.

As the 10th president in LIU history, Kimberly Cline heads a 90-year-old institution with Long Island and Brooklyn campuses, 20,000 students and over 500 distinct degree programs. Like her predecessors, she must safeguard the quality and reputation a large and comprehensive private university. But the first woman ever to serve as LIU president, now completing her second year in office, must do it in an era when collaboration with the surrounding business community has become essential to her school and the regional economy – one of several reasons she serves on multiple boards, including the Long Island Association and the Center for Creative Leadership. In her words:

NEW YORK, NEW YORK: We’re absolutely a vital link between business on Long Island and business in New York City. Brooklyn has become the hottest place in the world as far as real estate and business, and our campus is one stop away from the city, four blocks from the Barclays Center, close to the Navy Yard … there’s a lot going and we’re really close to everything. And at LIU Post, we’re really close to all these little villages and everything Long Island has to offer.

SEPARATE LIVES: There are many similarities between the two campuses, but plenty of individuality. The obvious difference is one’s urban and one’s suburban. If a student wants to be one subway stop from the city and have access to all that when they step out of their dorm, that’s LIU Brooklyn. If someone wants to attend a quintessential college away from all that, that’s Long Island. But both campuses have business programs, and computer science and accounting and education programs, and very strong healthcare programs.

GLOBETROTTING: We also have a secret we need to share with folks: LIU Global. It’s been around for years and has a relatively small student population, by design. They study around the world for seven semesters: one year in Costa Rica, a whole year in the European Union, and in the third year they choose between Australia, Bali and China. In the fourth year they come back to the United States. Their degree is a BS in global studies, and we’ve added focuses in entrepreneurship, international relations, diplomacy and arts and culture. Imagine studying art in the Louvre or working with a venture capitalist in China, then coming back with that knowledge of the global economy.

 IT’S A START: We’re very pleased to be among the first Long Island universities to be named as a Start-Up NY participant and we’ve made significant progress identifying a number of businesses we feel would be a good match for our startup culture. Some businesses have been through the early evaluation process – there are approvals that have to happen before it goes to the state – and we have a number of businesses waiting to be approved at this point. We’re also developing an LIU tech park within the Start-Up NY designation area.

THE THOUGHTBOX THAT COUNTS: Thoughtbox is developing companies and gives our students opportunities for internships, and also regularly works with our clubs and speaks with groups that want to learn everything about entrepreneurship, whether it’s focusing on the idea or the business plan. We think there’s good synergy there.

LIVING THE LIFE: We want to focus on experiential learning. We believe entrepreneurship is not just a degree, but a lifestyle. Whether you’re a doctor or a lawyer or you’re in education, you always have to think about inspiring and working with others in your field.

INCUBATION EDUCATION: We give students an opportunity to work on campus. We have spaces very similar to WeWork, where everybody works together in a common space, from having walls you can write on so you can run sessions and be creative, to places where they can hold private meetings and develop business ideas. We’ve also created a cadre of student-run businesses, including The Student Body (a clothing store), Browse (which sells Apple products) and Endzone (a sports bar serving non-alcoholic beverages). This summer, we’re launching a PR/marketing firm. Fifty percent of profits goes to student scholarships and 50 percent goes to creating new student-run businesses. We want freshmen to experience real businesses on campus so they’ll be ready for internships by their sophomore years.

BOARD WALK: The more people you integrate with, the more people you learn about, the more areas you’re exposed to, the better leader you become. It also helps you make connections for student internships and to bring in speakers. The board that contributes the most as far as how I’m able to help others is the Center for Creative Leadership, but on the Long Island Association and all the rest, there are members who are always looking to help and give back. If we’re really going to make Long Island a better place to live and work, we have to be giving of our time and helpful with others. I really believe the other people volunteering on these boards feel the same way.

Interview by GREGORY ZELLER