What is Project 50 Forward and what is it intended to accomplish?
Project 50 Forward is one of the most important initiatives that Stony Brook University has embarked upon in its 53-year history. It will help enhance Stony Brook University’s fundamental teaching, research, and service missions while building a platform to support the future growth of the University and strengthen Stony Brook’s role in the economic renewal of New York State.
What exactly falls under Project 50 Forward?
Project 50 Forward focuses on every facet of University operations—streamlining procedures, reining in costs, creating new revenue streams, and taking advantage of every opportunity to strengthen our faculty and support our students by providing them with the resources they need to excel. The result will be a more efficient, more effective Stony Brook University.
Specifically, Project 50 Forward focuses on three critical missions:
Operational Excellence seeks ways to optimize support for students and faculty to advance the educational and research mission of the University. With the assistance of an experienced management consultant and an open invitation for the campus community to provide feedback, recommendations will be made based on a comprehensive review and analysis of campus operations and administrative structure.
Academic Greatness will be achieved through implementation of a comprehensive Strategic Plan that is being developed with input from many sources within the academic community, including faculty and University leadership. It includes a significant review of the academic structure, systems, and programs to identify areas where efficiencies may be implemented. At its core is the goal to provide an academic structure that is responsive, accountable and committed to our students, providing them with the most effective tools possible so they can reach their educational and research goals in a timely manner.
Building for the Future will be advanced through the development of a Facilities Master Plan (FMP). The FMP, currently in development, is a collaborative effort with assistance from a consulting team that includes Cooper, Robertson & Partners and architect Scott Blackwell Page, and an advisory committee that includes representation from the State University Construction Fund, University department leadership, and subcommittees representing many areas within the University community. This advisory committee is charged with the review, analysis, and formulation of a best-use model for new and existing buildings and infrastructure for all Stony Brook University campuses, including Main Campus, Medical Center, Research and Development Park, Manhattan, and Southampton.
What aspects of campus operations will be studied during the Operational Excellence review?
Every administrative area will be reviewed to identify efficiencies and savings opportunities. We have an outstanding student body and faculty—this initiative will help them excel.
How long will the Operational Excellence approach take?
The Operational Excellence approach is projected to take 18 months, with milestone markers throughout the process to assess its progress and make adjustments as needed. The diagnostic phase, which involves rigorously collecting and assessing cost and performance information to create a "fact base" on University operations, has spanned 3-4 months in other university settings. Then the delivery and implementation phase can last a few months to well over a year, depending on the complexity of the initiative supported.
Is this review different from reviews that have taken place before?
This Operational Excellence review and the Project 50 Forward initiative are unique concepts at Stony Brook University, and atypical in the higher education industry. Three institutions that have pioneered the process are University of California at Berkeley, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Cornell University, and we have seen how it has helped them in their goal to become more effective and efficient. That is why there is a very strong commitment from senior leadership and others who are dedicated to implementing the tasks and initiatives needed to make the Operational Excellence review successful.
How will the Operational Excellence assessment team learn from the campus community?
In the early phase of this project, the University distributed a survey to collect the perspectives of all faculty and staff on perceptions and effectiveness of our organization. (A second survey will be distributed early in the fall semester to capture response from faculty who were not present during the initial outreach process.) An analysis of these results will help us to identify both strengths and areas for improvement.
Will Project 50 Forward close the University’s $30 million gap from state budget cuts?
Operational Excellence is about more than closing the budget gap; it is about learning what we can do to become more operationally efficient and how to be strategic about how we use our resources. It’s about how Stony Brook University moves on a positive trajectory for the next 50 years.
Won’t the faculty/staff separation agreements cover the cuts from the state?
Early indications are that the faculty/staff separation agreements will not be enough to cover our budget gap. There will be further opportunity to cover the shortfall — and more — driven by refining processes within our organization, adapting our procurement spending practices, and enabling more effective use of our funds overall.
Why was the decision made to use an outside consulting firm to review operations?
Good consultants can help organizations find ways to do things more effectively, uncover inefficiencies, and discover redundancies. Bain & Company is one of the world’s leading global management consulting firms with expertise in hundreds of large-scale transformations, including those in higher education. The consulting firm has helped the University of North Carolina, the University of California at Berkeley, and Cornell with their transformations, and is working closely with the Project 50 Forward Steering Committee to make recommendations to help Stony Brook University become more efficient and more effective for the next 50 years.
Where is Stony Brook getting the funds to pay for the consulting firm, and is this the best way to spend money at this time?
The funds the University is using to pay for the consulting services come from a targeted gift from the Stony Brook Foundation — no state funds will be used for this initiative. The money we spend up front to receive expert guidance from a consultant will help us save millions of dollars annually. This will put the University in a much stronger financial position for years to come with sustainable solutions that enable us to direct more resources to teaching and research.
How will the student body be impacted by Project 50 Forward?
The goal is to find savings and generate new revenue so we can better serve Stony Brook students and faculty in pursuit of excellence in research, education, and discovery. Project 50 Forward will help propel Stony Brook University into the top 20 public research universities, adding value to your Stony Brook degree.
Why do this evaluation at this time?
There is no better time than right now. Project 50 Forward is Stony Brook’s answer to today’s continuing tough economic and fiscal climate and the plan to set us on a trajectory for the next 50 years. Public higher education has undergone many changes since 1963 when SUNY did not charge New York State residents tuition. And according to James C. Garland, author of Saving Alma Mater: A Rescue Plan for America’s Public Universities, “The business model of higher education that has worked for a century isn’t working anymore, and it needs to change.” Project 50 Forward is Stony Brook’s strategic initiative toward working through today’s tough fiscal climate and for setting us on a trajectory for the next 50 years.
Where do you anticipate Stony Brook can save the most money and cut costs?
We are looking at every area. Other universities have found savings in the implementation of efficiencies in the procurement process, streamlining information technology (IT) support and administrative functions.
Who on the Stony Brook side is leading this internal review with the consultants?
Stony Brook University has assembled a Steering Committee, chaired by University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., MD, which will drive the decision-making and communications process.
How has staff responded to the Operational Excellence component of Project 50 Forward?
We have a high level of participation among all of our employees at this point in the process, and by building in multiple avenues for feedback and communication, we anticipate that this type of feedback and participation will continue.
How will faculty, staff, and students be made aware of Project 50 Forward developments?
All communications will be posted on this Web site where the Stony Brook University campus community can find regular, comprehensive updates and news about the initiative, as well as be provided with an opportunity to offer ideas, comments, and suggestions on how to help Stony Brook University.