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Progress Report on Financial Sustainability Initiative

November 10, 2020

To the Stony Brook Community,

In a time when it is easy (and understandably so) to be consumed by the national news, it is critical that we remain focused on the work that will ensure our future here at Stony Brook University. With that in mind, I want to provide an update on the efforts of the Financial Sustainability Steering Committee, which began in earnest one month ago.

We now have roughly 120 faculty and staff engaged in our Strategic Budget Initiative across five task forces and the technical support team. In a clear demonstration of the power of partnership, the co-chairs of each task force have built teams that have enthusiastically embraced their charge. Task force members have already spent approximately 1,800 hours meeting both formally and informally, hearing from subject matter experts, generating hundreds of ideas, and defining the areas in which they believe that they can have the greatest impact. Their work is focused on exploring new revenue streams, ways to increase productivity, initiatives to build and strengthen our academic and research programs, and notably, opportunities to work collaboratively and effectively together as one campus.  They are also working to identify obstacles and duplications of efforts that distract us from our important work as a research institution.

The following is a brief recap of each task force’s work:

The Research and Innovation Task Force has been working to benchmark SBU against our AAU peers to better understand opportunities to support faculty success as well as identify strategic areas and mechanisms for growth. To fast-track its work, the Research and Innovation Task Force is leveraging the 2017 Facilitating Research Success Study to help identify administrative hurdles and strategies for mitigating or overcoming them.

The Stony Brook Medicine Task Force is in a unique position in that it is working in parallel with the Academic Advisory Council — an outside consultancy that will develop a set of recommendations around structure, governance, funds flow, research enhancement, interdisciplinarity, clinical research, and program development. More information about this work will be shared by the end of the fall term. In the interim, the Stony Brook Medicine Task Force is building a framework to complement that work and to implement key recommendations.

The Academic Portfolio Task Force is exploring ways to optimize the size, capacity, and scope of undergraduate, graduate, professional, and non-degree-granting programs while strengthening existing programs, launching new initiatives, forging interdisciplinary connections, and developing creative new streams of revenue. Working with the technology support team, the Academic Portfolio Task Force is in the process of building an impressive dashboard to inform its work.

The Operations Alignment Task Force is focused on cost containment, process redundancies, and service improvements through six workstreams including automation, strategic sourcing, and training. Of note: In its first few meetings, the Operations Alignment Task Force generated more than 70 ideas!

The Optimization of Campus Resources Task Force is committed to growing revenue streams through branding, benchmarking, and partnerships while reducing costs by effectively scaling operations and streamlining processes. With a large, diverse, but focused group, the Optimization of Campus Resources Task Force anticipates quickly developing solutions and tackling important milestones.

As we move from the Definition & Design stage into the Opportunity Identification stage, these teams will begin reaching out both individually and collectively for your ideas, thoughts, and suggestions through interviews, surveys, and focus groups in the weeks and months ahead. You may be asked for your help in evaluating proposed initiatives or even to contribute your expertise to one of our working groups. Your participation is critical and your insight invaluable as the teams work to deliver their first set of recommendations to leadership in mid-December.

Change can be exciting and empowering; but I also recognize that change brings uncertainty and concern. We are in a period when so much is in flux and is simply unknown — the impact of COVID, the state’s and SUNY’s financial position, and next year’s mix of in-state and out-of-state/international enrollment are among many variables we need to navigate. I believe that by remaining open and telling you what we know as well as what remains uncertain, we will all be informed and able to move forward together. I also know that fundamentally, this initiative is about how we adapt, innovate, and improve the way we operate across the university and how we build upon excellence.

Thank you to all who have been or will be supporting this important effort. I look forward to providing another update in mid-December. In the meantime, please visit the Achieving Financial Sustainability website to stay up to date on the work of the task forces and for opportunities to lend your voice and time to this undertaking. It is this collaborative spirit that has made Stony Brook the university it is today and will build it into an even stronger institution tomorrow.

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Maurie McInnis