"We have had extraordinary success in helping economically disadvantaged and underrepresented minority students succeed in attaining their college degree."
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All of this is vital, but I want to emphasize that it is absolutely imperative that we also support cutting-edge work in the humanities, social sciences and arts. The notion that a university can produce an educated citizen or have an impact on major societal problems without vibrant teaching and scholarship in the liberal arts is flat out wrong. I have a personal example to share. My daughter Katie is in the process of applying to medical school. Her major in college was Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, a humanities major. Her honor’s thesis was on the problem of obesity in Hispanic children. Her goal is no less than to eliminate health disparities in our society. I am absolutely convinced that the cultural competency she will bring to medicine from her liberal arts education is going to make her a better classmate, a better physician and a better researcher in her quest to improve people’s lives. The humanities, arts and social sciences are at the core of what makes a great institution. They really matter.
As we all know, the federal government has slashed support for scholarship in the humanities, arts and social sciences. We will continue to advocate for more funding for these critical disciplines, but in the meantime we must work to create a funding stream that will support our outstanding faculty and innovative programs in research and education. We have had success in gaining philanthropic support, with the creation of endowed chairs in Hellenic Studies, Italian Studies, India Studies and Modern Art. But this is not enough, and I am announcing today that we are committing $1 million to establish a fund to support scholarship in the humanities, social sciences and arts. This will be in addition to funds already provided by Provost Assanis to support these areas. My initial thought is that this new fund will support small grants and pilot projects, but I want input from the faculty in these disciplines. Provost Assanis is convening a summit on supporting the humanities, arts and social sciences on campus, and I will await recommendations from that meeting before finalizing the program.
There is more to do. We have increased graduate student stipends, but must find additional support for them. There are critical issues around affordable housing and improving the quality of their experience at the University. Graduate students are an absolutely vital part of the research effort and if we are to grow our research expenditures and push our economic development agenda (after all, graduate students form more start-up companies than faculty), we must find ways to attract and retain the best and brightest graduate students at Stony Brook.
We also need to look at how we fund and incentivize research on our campus. We are in the process of working with other top universities to develop a new fundraising paradigm to provide seed monies for innovative research on our campus. At the same time, we are investigating new budget strategies to reward researchers who increase their federal research dollars by returning some portion of the increased funds to their laboratories.
At a time when the national discourse is focused on the rising costs of higher education, student debt and the value of a college degree, Stony Brook University stands as a model for access to excellence. We rank fourth among all AAU schools for the highest percentage of Pell grant-eligible students, and we have the second-lowest in-state tuition and fees among all of our AAU peers. And I am very proud to say that Stony Brook is the only SUNY school that provides all students from families making less than $75,000 per year the funds to meet the gap between New York’s Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) and the tuition increase.
And we have had extraordinary success in helping economically disadvantaged and underrepresented minority students succeed in attaining their college degree. Students in our nationally recognized Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), which offers access, academic support and financial aid for economically disadvantaged students whose high school record falls short of the Stony Brook norms, graduate at a higher rate than non-EOP students. In a recent report, The Education Trust recognized Stony Brook University for significantly improving the graduation rates for Hispanic students, one of the most rapidly growing segments of undergraduates. EOP works, and EOP at Stony Brook works incredibly well, and the State needs to step up its support for this program. I will continue to advocate for an increase in funds for EOP as part of any SUNY budget requests. However, in the meantime I think it is critical that we show our commitment to EOP on this campus. So I am pleased to announce a $1 million internal award to EOP for use over the next four years to improve, and hopefully expand, the program. Cheryl, I have every confidence that you and your outstanding team will continue to make a real difference in the lives of many students, and I thank you for everything you do for them and for Stony Brook.
The Turner Fellowship program provides support for outstanding graduate students from historically underrepresented backgrounds, and has helped Stony Brook University produce more minority doctorates than any other SUNY institution. It, too, is an extraordinarily successful program and deserves additional support. Stony Brook will provide a $250,000 internal award to support this important initiative. Congratulations to you, Nina, and all of your team.
We have also implemented programs to help better prepare K-12 students from low-income neighborhoods for application to Stony Brook University. Collaborating with Marian Wright Edelman, and with Dean Charlie Robbins leading the initiative, we established the first Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School on Long Island where Stony Brook University students, faculty and staff provide an outstanding enrichment program for third-graders from two low-income neighborhoods. While, of course, it is too early to see the long-term impact of this program on the children, it was wonderful to see the positive effect on the Stony Brook University students, faculty and staff who participated. The President’s office has committed to funding this program for an additional four years to ensure its stability and chance for success. We continue to support the All the Way Program, providing support for students from Washington Heights to attend Stony Brook University. We can be proud of all of these programs, but much remains to be done. We will work to maintain and grow the diversity of our student body, while, and this is critically important, developing new programs to increase the diversity of our faculty and staff, improving the environment on our campus, and helping to provide the best role models and mentors for our students.
Stony Brook is a global university, with a footprint that extends from Manhattan to Madagascar, and students from more than 100 countries on our home campus. We recruit internationally, engage with many international universities for study abroad programs, and strongly support individual faculty as they engage in collaborative research around the world. But to truly have a global impact, we have focused our institutional resources on three unique and exciting initiatives. Stony Brook is the founding institution in the Songdo Global Campus, becoming the only American university accredited in Korea. The Songdo Campus is an innovative, truly collaborative international university, where multiple schools will present their best programs, attracting students from all over the world. Stony Brook University already has a strong reputation in Korea, with a number of distinguished Korean alumni, and we believe providing superb undergraduate and graduate programs in Korea will provide new opportunities for our students to study abroad, will increase the number of outstanding international students receiving a Stony Brook education, and will lead to new research and industry collaborations with Korean partners.
Africa has been called the "continent of the future," and Stony Brook University is there. The Turkana Basin Institute, founded by Stony Brook faculty member Richard Leakey, is the world’s pre-eminent field site for studies of human origins. With two state-of-the-art facilities on each side of Lake Turkana in Kenya, researchers from around the world can study human evolution in the cradle of mankind. And Stony Brook students can learn about human origins, archaeology, geology, entomology, as well as critical environmental and social issues at Turkana Basin’s world-renowned field school.
Madagascar’s unique flora and fauna make it a global treasure, one of the most important areas in the world for the study of biodiversity. Stony Brook faculty member Pat Wright, an expert on lemurs, helped found the Ranomafana National Park in Madagascar, preserving a vast tract of rainforest and hundreds of unique species. The park is home to the Centre ValBio, a new state-of-the-art laboratory and educational center that supports researchers and students from around the globe studying biodiversity. The new Stony Brook University Global Health Institute, generously supported by Jim and Robin Herrnstein, will utilize Centre ValBio in its mission of developing innovative approaches to critical public health issues in Madagascar, coupling basic and applied research with state-of-the-art clinical care. With unparalleled facilities in three key regions of the world, partnerships with some of the leading universities in the world, and our commitment to tackle the big questions anywhere on the globe, we are ready to make a difference.