LIU President Kimberly Cline was No. 16 on the most recent Long Island Press Power List ranking the most influential Long Islanders. (Photo by Bob Giglione)

As president of Long Island University, Kimberly Cline, the first woman to hold the title in its 92-year history, oversees 1,460 faculty members teaching nearly 16,079 students on the Brooklyn and Brookville campuses. We recently caught up with Cline, who discussed the university’s goals to become a research institution, how she, a North Carolina transplant, views LI, and the importance of an entrepreneurial spirit.

Long Island Press: What do you tell students about the importance of pursuing a higher education?

Kimberly Cline: It’s not an option. They’re not only earning their degree, but they’re also picking up liberal arts and science skills that will help them throughout their lives with critical thinking skills, the ability to write and to think. Employers call them soft skills, but they say that they’re much in demand today. It really opens the door to opportunity and I believe it’s the great equalizer.

LIP: LIU recently announced its biggest expansion of the Brooklyn campus since it was founded in 1926. Why?

KC: The timing and the stars all lined up. It gave us the ability to provide additional resources to our students and our faculty. It gives us the ability to not only secure our campus strength but also to be able to bring more of our programs to the community. It’s a win-win.

LIP: The Tilles Center for the Performing Arts and the Global Institute have attracted some big names to the Brookville campus. Who’s on your wish list?

KC: We are bringing in Joe Biden and President Bush this year. Those were on my wish list and we just secured them. People will continue to see more world leaders.

LIP: You’ve been a pioneer in promoting entrepreneurship and student-run businesses. How is that important?

KC: It’s really important for everyone to have an entrepreneurial spirit. You can have an entrepreneurial spirit and not be an entrepreneur. On the student- run businesses, they’re able to get experience early on, even before they have that internship, so it makes them a stronger applicant. We want to have our students prepared past the classroom, past a normal degree and have the ability to walk into opportunities in their
career.

LIP: What is your long-term vision for the university?

KC: We want to be recognized as a national teaching and research institution. We feel that that’s within our reach. We have a very strong pharmacy school. We’re looking forward to having a [Science, Engineering and Technology] school at Post in the near future. And we just hired a gentleman named Randy Bird, who was an executive at the University of Arizona, and he’s going to be leading our research initiative.

LIP: Can you explain LIU’s impact on the region?

KC: We’re one of the largest employers in the region. Think about the impact of a large scale research institution. First, students have the ability to learn and grow and be more prepared for graduate and doctoral programs, but it also creates a lot of jobs.

LIP: What sets LIU apart from other universities?

KC: We’re really focused on our students. I call it a student-first mentality. And that means making sure that they have the right opportunities in the classroom, that the classroom not only has lectures, but it has engaged learning so they get to practice what they learn. We have a unique arm of our institution, called LIU Global, where students can study for seven semesters around the world. There’s no other program like it in the world.

LIP: Many Long Islanders are moving to North Carolina, but you did the opposite. How have you found the transition?

KC: I moved here many years ago. I came to New York after college, married my husband and stayed for nearly 30 years. I love the area, I would not live anywhere else. It gives you the opportunity to be near the city, beautiful beaches out east, see a Broadway play. It’s a lovely place to live.

LIP: Do you have any sayings?

KC: Charlotte Frank, who was a longtime senior leader at McGraw-Hill, used to say, “You can do anything you want as long as you care enough.” And I believe that. If we’re really focused on our students and we care about them and we care about our future, I think we can make this institution one of the greatest in the country.

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Timothy Bolger is the Editor in Chief of the Long Island Press who’s been working to uncover unreported stories since shortly after it launched in 2003. When he’s not editing, getting hassled by The Man or fielding cold calls to the newsroom, he covers crime, general interest and political news in addition to reporting longer, sometimes investigative features. He won’t be happy until everyone is as pissed off as he is about how screwed up Lawn Guyland is.