Showcasing 60 years of innovation and bold achievement as the driving force behind Stony Brook University, President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. delivered his eighth State of the University Address on Wednesday, September 27.
In the face of budget and political challenges, President Stanley said the University would be undeterred in its mission to invest in tomorrow.
“Every time we faced a deficit, we came out of it stronger, and I anticipate that will happen again,” he said.
Speaking to students, administrators, faculty and staff in the Staller Center for the Arts, President Stanley highlighted statistics and stories exemplifying the growth and momentum Stony Brook has experienced in the past 60 years:
- The first graduating class in 1961 earned 40 degrees compared with 7,313 handed out this past May.
- The number of faculty has surged from 14 to 1,900 today.
- The campus expanded from a largely untouched and wooded field to a bustling community of learners and educators covering 12.3 million square feet, including 136 buildings visible by satellite.
- Facilities have transformed from quaint, classically designed structures with books and desks to technologically sophisticated spaces for learning.
“Today’s students get their information from different sources than they did in the past,” he said. “It’s really important that we understand this as we think about education moving forward.”
President Stanley highlighted the most recent graduating class, which set record numbers in degree and certificate completions, with 4,289 bachelor’s degrees, 2,136 master’s degrees, 592 doctoral degrees and 296 graduate certificates.
He added that the incoming class has set all-time highs for admissions, including a record 35,313 freshman applications, and large increases in enrolled students from minority groups — supporting Stony Brook’s goal of diversity, equity and inclusion.
“We’ve done remarkable work in increasing the number of underrepresented minorities and students of color at Stony Brook University,” he said. “We’re proud, but we still have work to do to reflect the diversity of the state and country where we live.”
President Stanley reaffirmed the university’s support for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) and related initiatives, in the face of recent calls to rescind the program.
“International students epitomize the American Dream, and despite challenging backgrounds, they contribute greatly to our University and the New York State economy,” he said. “We will work tirelessly with legislators to create pathways for those affected by DACA being rescinded — it simply makes sense.”
President Stanley reported that freshman graduation rates will reach all-time high levels in 2017-18, with nearly 60 percent of students getting their degree in four years — one of the University’s top commitments.
The Academic Success Team, which tracks and supports students through their time at Stony Brook, was applauded for its “Finish in 4” outreach program, the Academic Success & Tutoring Center, the Male Success Team, the Finish in 4 Fund for students who face financial aid crises, and the use of predictive analytics to identify at-risk students during their first year of study.
Along with student success, the President emphasized the importance of diversity, sharing several examples of how the University strives for gender equality across campus, international student inclusion and more women in science and engineering, to name a few.
“Through Stony Brook University’s Plan for Equity, Inclusion and Diversity, we’re doing many things to improve campus climate for everyone, and the recruitment and retention of underrepresented minority students,” he said.
Partly as a result of such efforts, Stony Brook was named to the College Choice 50 Best LGBT Friendly Colleges and Universities, as well as No. 3 in the United States on “Mobility Rate” by the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research’s Report, which tracks the movement of students from the lowest 20 percent of income to the highest 20 percent.
President Stanley also shared the progress and importance of continuing to diversify Stony Brook’s faculty and staff, recognizing that 40 percent of faculty are women, and 67 percent of faculty are white.
“There’s much room for us to move on this,” he said. “As part of our Plan for Equity, Inclusion and Diversity, we’re changing how we recruit, and making sure Stony Brook is a welcoming place for diverse faculty to come.”
As is customary at the State of the University, the President welcomed newly hired faculty.
“I am pleased and proud that you elected to join us,” he said. “We’re a special, young, precocious institution that epitomizes the label of public research university, and I look forward to meeting you all to learn how I and our institution can best help you succeed.”
He also celebrated Stony Brook faculty who were recently appointed as SUNY Distinguished Professors, along with other Stony Brook instructors who earned major awards and appointments during the past year, including two appointments to National Academies.
President Stanley also acknowledged staff and administration as an integral piece of the engine that drives the university.
“Staff are absolutely core to the University’s success,” he said, adding that it is the staff who keep the lights on and the classrooms clean for study, as well as helps recruit and retain the talented students and faculty. “Our staff serve and work with us in so many ways — thank you.”
President Stanley announced several administrative leadership appointments and promotions, including Lee Bitsóí as Stony Brook’s first chief diversity officer, and Kristina M. Johnson who was named the 13th chancellor for SUNY.
Turning to research accomplishments, the President spoke of the discovery of a 13 million-year-old infant ape skull, a collaboration between NASA, Stony Brook and civilian scientists to document climate change and track penguin populations, and the definition of the structure of a key enzyme implicated in cancer and neurological disease.
He spoke of the need for growth in sponsored research activity at Stony Brook, and described the University’s efforts to make the application process for research funding more efficient.
“We really need to grow our sponsored research — this is the area we’re most deficient,” he said. “We punch above our weight class in many ways, but not sponsored research. We’re working to make sure faculty who are here will have fewer barriers to receive research sponsorship.”
President Stanley shared his excitement over Southampton Hospital, now known as Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, joining the Stony Brook Medicine healthcare system. He announced that the Medical and Research Translation (MART) building is expected to open in 2018.
“The MART is going to be transformative. The future of medicine at Stony Brook is providing cutting-edge care on Long Island with this project,” he said. Pointing to a map that showed the university’s facilities covering most regions of Long Island, he added: “We envision and are trying to accomplish healthcare excellence from Montauk to Manhattan.”
Regarding Stony Brook University’s budget, President Stanley said that the current structural deficit of approximately $24 million is only 3 percent of the total non-clinical budget, and that this is not the first deficit Stony Brook has faced in its history.
“This is a short term issue,” he said. “We have the means to overcome it and will emerge stronger than before.”
To address the deficit, President Stanley identified several tactics including a 10 percent reduction in total spending, engaged program reviews and informed decisions regarding cuts, and more precise hiring in certain areas of the University. He said these decisions reflect a strategy intended to minimize impact on students and their success, researchers and their goals, and the University overall.
The President also recognized the positive impact of the University’s Office of Advancement and the Campaign for Stony Brook, the largest campaign ever by a SUNY school. With a goal of $600 million by June 30, 2018, the Campaign for Stony Brook has raised $559.2 million to date, and received donations from more than 15,700 alumni.
“Advancement doesn’t solve our budget problems entirely, but the funds they acquire provides our margin of excellence,” President Stanley said.
Such fundraising has had a major impact, including an increase in endowed professorships from seven to 48 since 2009, the establishment of nine new centers of excellence and the addition of hundreds of millions of dollars for scholarships, faculty, research and campus life since 2011.
The President closed his address by giving special recognition to David Ferguson, distinguished service professor in the Department of Technology and Society and provostial scholar for diversity and innovation, for his dedication to and work in increasing underrepresented minority student populations in the prosperous fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), including Stony Brook’s becoming the lead institution for a new $4 million five-year National Science Foundation grant related to this issue.
“The work that Dave does is part of what contributes to our remarkable strides in improving student access and success,” President Stanley said. “Income and equality are at the top of the issues our country faces. Each of your contributions makes a difference — so thank you very much.”