The wider academic world also knows we have reached those early goals; our successes are no longer deemed “puzzling.” Our creative impulses were shaped by those early visionaries, and Stony Brook has remained true to their vision. For many years our greatest aspiration was to be recognized by election to the Association of American Universities (AAU); we passed that hurdle some five years ago. Now no one is surprised when Stony Brook is ranked with the great universities. But what is truly amazing is that we have come so far, so fast.
Recently, we have received a lot of recognition. The London Times Higher Education Supplement ranks us 136 among the world’s 8,300 universities, well within the top 2 percent. Its rankings list us in the top 50 universities in North America, and in science we make the top 100 in the world, top 25 in North America, and top ten among American public universities. The Institute of Higher Education in Shanghai agrees in its rankings—we are in the top 100 to 150 of 8,300 (they do not give more precise rankings). U.S. News & World Report rates us in the top 100 national universities and in the top 50 public national universities. Beyond that, we are listed in “Programs to Look For” as outstanding for undergraduate research and creative projects. We also are recognized as one of the national institutions whose students graduate with the least debt. It is notable that in 2003 we were ranked 117 in U.S. News & World Report and last year we were 106; so at 97 now, we have moved up 20 slots in two years. (See Picture 1).
The Fiske Guide is also complimentary, talking of our aim to be “the model of a student-centered research university,” and pointing out our six Undergraduate Colleges, which “provide a small college community experience with all the assets of a leading research university.” Fiske notes that Stony Brook made a name for itself with top-notch programs in the hard sciences; the guide recognizes a “highly competitive learning environment” as well as “the high quality of its professors.” Fiske even points out that students “boast of their school’s diversity and creativity as well as the feeling of hospitality that pervades campus life.” The Princeton Review, which, this year, discusses Stony Brook in its rating of the best 361 colleges nationwide, for years had ranted about our tiny—yes, tiny—ugly campus. This year that misinformation was omitted; instead the guide spoke glowingly of our “solid reputation in the sciences, mathematics, and engineering” and our “brilliant professors.” One student talked about our athletic programs and facilities as excellent. Yes, even The Princeton Review now has to admit Stony Brook is outstanding.
Our skepticism about the methodology of the commercial rankings has not diminished. Nevertheless, it is nice to be on the right side in the listings. It is good to see that people know what has been built in this incredibly short time, 49 years in all, 43 years in Stony Brook, 40 years since John Toll arrived and recruited Bentley Glass, Frank Yang, and the other greats of that generation of pioneers.
As we continue to excel in the central goals of this University, we do so in a world that has changed radically, and we must respond to those changes. We must build on the strengths of that mid-century effort, but we must also envision the next 50 years and meet the new challenges with intelligence and foresight.
As President Toll foretold decades ago, one of the most important goals has been to make Stony Brook a great place for undergraduates to learn. Over the past several years, we have seen the fruition of that dream. We have become one of the strongholds for undergraduate education, noted across the country.
Our Reinvention Center, which grew out of the report of the Boyer Commission, Reinventing Undergraduate Education: A Blueprint for America’s Research Universities, which I chaired, now helps universities nationwide build their undergraduate programs. We are a stronghold of undergraduate research, as noted by U.S. News & World Report, and I can think of nothing more important to the undergraduate experience, whether or not the young researcher continues in the field in which he or she worked. Now, thanks to the dedication and determination of Provost Robert McGrath and the energy and innovation of our faculty, the Undergraduate Colleges are fully operating, giving students an opportunity as freshmen to be part of a residential college focused on one of six selected topics. (See Picture 2) And this fall, for the first time, all freshmen will participate in a seminar. Freshman seminars and undergraduate research are two of the key components of the Boyer recommendations, and we stand in the very good company of universities like Stanford and Cornell in making sure all our students get those opportunities.
"Top-notch programs in the hard sciences… a highly competitive learning environment," and high-quality professors." -- Fiske Guide to Colleges 2006.