Stony Brook University 2019 State of the University Address

November 17, 2019 0 By Kody Olson

Please welcome the Interim President of
Stony Brook University, Dr. Michael Bernstein. Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for
being here. It’s an honor and a pleasure to present this year’s State of the
University address. And over the course of the next 50 to 55 minutes I would
like to share with you a variety of information and insights about our
rankings and recognition, our research scholarship, and art-making, our honors
and awards, our students, our facilities, our budgets and finance, our global reach
our international impact and several other topics. But before I do that, I’d
like to acknowledge the presence of some very special guests and ask them to rise
and be acknowledged by this audience. First I’d like to welcome Kevin Law, the
chair of the Stony Brook Council. Kevin, please stand and be acknowledged. Thank you for being
there, Kevin. I’d also like to recognize Stony Brook Council member Chris Hahn and
council member Shaheer Khan. I’d also like to recognize New York
State Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick, who’s with us today.
Thanks for coming Mike. And representing Governor Cuomo, Theresa Santoro.
And representing Assembly member Kimberly Jean-Pierre, Darrell Gonzalez. Thank you
for being there. Let me begin again by welcoming all of you. I’m Michael
Bernstein, the Interim President of Stony Brook University. My pronouns are he/his/him. It’s an honor to welcome you here today. I would like to begin by talking
about rankings and recognition for our institution. There’s been a lot of
distinction in this past year and it’s important that we pause and recognize
our accomplishments. We were ranked this past year as the top public school in
the state of New York by The Wall Street Journal. We were identified by US News as one of
the top 40 public universities in the United States. We were also recognized by
Money Magazine as one of the top 50 best value institutions in the United States. I’ll have
more to say about that in a moment. We were recognized by MarketWatch as
being in the top 10 of institutions in the nation that facilitate meaningful
and statistically significant socio-economic mobility for its students.
This is an important accomplishment on behalf of our institution. I think it
demonstrates the fact – something I’ve shared with an array of faculty and
staff with whom I’ve been visiting over the past few weeks – it demonstrates the
fact that we are an elite, but not an elitist, institution. And that’s something
that is very much part of our DNA here at Stony Brook. So let’s talk about personnel. We have a
number of new members of the leadership team at the University and I’d like to
acknowledge them today. Our colleague Minghua Zhang, Professor of Marine and
Atmospheric Sciences, is serving as our Interim Provost and Senior Vice
President. Very grateful to Minghua. Matt Whalen, who’s been part of the university
for a while. has assumed new duties as the Vice President for Enrollment
Management and Strategy here at the institution. Eric Wertheimer, a professor
of English. has joined us as our new Dean of the Graduate School and Vice Provost
for Graduate and Professional Education. He joins us from Arizona State. Annette
Wysocki is our new Dean of Nursing, comes to us from UMass Amherst, a specialist in
wound repair and wound management. We’re delighted to have Annette on board. Carol
Gomes has stepped up to serve as our interim Chief Executive Officer of Stony
Brook Hospital. She’s been with us for several years in a key deputy role. She’s
taken on the leadership role. Delighted to have Carol leading our superb
hospital. And Stacy Gropack has joined us
as our new Dean of Health Technology and Management. She comes to us from Long
Island University. She’s a specialist in pediatric rehabilitation. She just began
a few weeks ago. So welcome to Stacy. I’ll also mention a group of additional
permanent leadership assignments that are important to note as we start the
new year. Surita Bhatia, our colleague in chemistry and chemical engineering, is
our new Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs. Mark Sands, a radiologist who joins us
from the Cleveland Clinic, is our new Chief Medical Officer at the hospital. Pat Malone, many of you know Pat’s been
part of corporate and executive education and the School for
Professional Development for many years, has assumed new duties as the Associate
Vice President for Professional Education. So congratulations to Pat. And
Dean Tufts is our new Vice President for Facilities and Services. He joins us from
the Navy, so don’t mess with him, okay? We also made a series of interim
appointments over the past few months. You may recall there have been
communications about this. Let’s note them. Laura Lindenfeld, our colleague
in journalism, a specialist in science communication, is now serving as Interim
Dean of Journalism. Deborah Lowen-Klein is our Interim Vice
President for Advancement. She stepped up into that role. Yi-Xian Qin is our acting Vice President and
Vice Provost for Global Affairs, a colleague in biomedical engineering. And
Jarvis Watson is our Interim Chief Diversity Officer. I want to thank all of
these colleagues for stepping up into these important leadership roles on
behalf of our University. So let me take a moment just to articulate once again –
I’ve done this in several settings but I think these issues can’t be repeated
enough – I want to articulate our key strategic commitments going forward at
our institution. And as I do so, I want to start by emphasizing, as I have mentioned
before, the importance of shared governance to our institution.
Identifying and articulating strategic commitments is a product of shared
governance where the leadership of all the constituencies of our University are
brought together to debate, discuss, share information, and formulate good decisions
and fine plans. And in that regard I do want to acknowledge once again some of
the people I welcomed, and others who are a key part of the shared governance
structure of our University. I mentioned Kevin Law, the chair of our Stony Brook
Council, Shaheer Khan, the head of our undergraduate student government, Xiaoqing Zhang, who’s the head of our graduate student government,
Nancy Tomes, the president of our University Senate, and Rob Debrauwere. I’d
like to acknowledge him, too, who is our new head of the Alumni Association, a
1987 graduate of our university. These people and many others are part of the
shared governance team that allows us to pursue these strategies most effectively
and with the greatest import. It’s important we note that and
acknowledge it as we articulate what these strategic goals are. First of all,
we need always to facilitate faculty, staff and student success. Where our
faculty’s mission is secured, our students are graduating on time and
securing the education they need, and where our staff are effective and
fulfilled in their roles, our university flourishes. Job One: their success.
We need always to promote and strengthen diversity and inclusive
excellence, and I’m going to return to that topic in a moment and talk a little bit
more about the whys and wherefores about those protocols. Three: we need always to
manage our operations efficiently effectively and prudently, And when I say
“manage our operations,” yes, I mean finances and budget, but I also mean
personnel, human resources and environmental resources. All of these are
part of the ways in which we manage our operations, and effectively, efficiently
and sustainably accomplish our goals as an institution. Additionally, it is our
mission, our task, the expectation of the state of New York that we provision
excellent, state-of-the-art accessible healthcare – a big part of who we are at
Stony Brook. We are also tasked and expected to enhance the economic
development and vitality of our state, and in particular of our region and of
our island. We need to be an outstanding employer of choice.
We need to interact with our employees in fulfilling and useful ways, allowing
them to secure their career goals and dreams. And finally, we need always to be
a worthy and thoughtful neighbor to all the communities in which our campuses
subsist. Tt’s a challenging list of to-dos, but it’s a key part of what defines
us as the excellent institution we are. So I mentioned diversity and inclusive
excellence, and I want to pause here for a moment to talk about our commitments
in this area, our efforts and, as I said a moment ago, the whys and the wherefores.
We are committed to diversity and inclusive excellence, first and foremost.
because we are committed to equity and fairness. We believe that access to the
opportunities that our institution represents should not be restricted on
any basis that is anchored in bigotry or exclusion. The
second reason we’re committed to diversity and inclusive excellence is
that we resolutely believe, as scholars, as scientists, as educators, as artists,
that a diverse and inclusive population generates optimal results. In research, in
scholarship, in art-making, in education, in mentorship, in professional service,
the more diverse that population, the better the results, and certainly the
more effective the education we provide to our students. And I’ll just mention,
because I happen to be an economic historian, and I can never resist to give
an economic historical example, there was a recent op-ed piece in The New York Times
this past weekend that noted in the 1920,s when a series of very restrictive
acts were passed to restrict immigration access to the United States, the economic
growth potential of the United States fell, because of the impact the negative
impact of those immigration restrictions on productivity and technological change.
So diversity and inclusive excellence are good for equity and fairness, they’re
good for scholarly and educational outcomes, and quite frankly it’s good for
the economy. So we are committed – thank you – we are committed to diversity and
inclusive excellence, and we have tasked a special team to develop and implement
a plan to sustain and improve the diversity of our community, to expand our
efforts to diversify our faculty, staff and student cadres, and at the same time
to expand educational research and other service efforts to ensure that our
students can thrive in this diverse community that we think is so essential
to their development and their and their progress. And that involves creating a
campus climate that is welcoming, inclusive ,safe and secure. And finally, it
is very important that we establish a culture of accountability and assessment
around these issues. We should be measuring what we do and how we do it,
and we should also be holding ourselves accountable to the outcomes. We have
invested a fair amount of resources already in our diversity initiatives:
close to 1.7 million dollars. You can see in the graph behind me the overwhelming
proportion of this investment is in people: faculty, staff, students. We’ve also
made a great deal of investment in community activities, educational efforts.
We’ve created a Center for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Training and
Education to work with our search committees, to deal with issues of
implicit bias and the framing of search processes that may distort outcomes in
ways that are not supportive of the diversity agenda. And we are also deeply
connected with and engaged with the PRODiG effort from our authorities and
leadership at SUNY and Albany. PRODiG is an acronym that stands for promoting
recruitment, opportunity, inclusion, diversity and growth.
It’s a system-wide initiative at SUNY to support the recruitment of a diverse and
always sustainable inclusive population on all our campuses. And I do want to
give a little shout-out here again to Jarvis Watson, who’s been leading these
efforts effectively for months and months and who is leading us
to a new future with respect to diversity and inclusion. One final point
in this regard. You noticed I started the presentation by referencing my own
pronouns. Today happens to be International Pronouns Day. We didn’t
plan that, by the way, we just became aware of this. And you know this
agenda of reflecting on pronouns and the pronouns that people choose, and
recognizing diversity in that respect – it’s new and for some people a
little bit disarming and disorienting, but I would emphasize, as I tried to
demonstrate in my opening, the simple act of asking is a way to demonstrate at our
institution that we are open, transparent and welcoming of new initiatives with
respect to diversity and inclusion. Happy International Pronouns Day, everyone. So I mentioned our mission in terms of
economic impact. We continue to be a vital contributor to the economy of our
island and region. Some of the essential data in this regard are captured on this
slide. A 7.23 billion dollar impact this past fiscal year. As
I’ve pointed out to some faculty and staff groups with which I’ve met
recently, given the state’s investment in the campus, this return of about seven
and a quarter billion is a pretty good rate of return on the
investment. And you’ll also note here the important role we play in provisioning
jobs, generating tax revenue and of course in serving as a key employer here
on Long Island. Let’s turn to our creative mission in research, in
scholarship and in art-making. I think our success in this regard is
dramatic in the past couple of years and continues in a consistent and stable
fashion. Here are some rudimentary data that demonstrate that our total spending
on research, so-called research and development activities, has been steadily
rising over the past a few years. The last year for which we have the the data, 2018,
245 million is a record high for us.
And similarly, sponsored research – the grants and contracts we’re bringing in
from external agencies has continued to rise each and every year. Last year at
almost 192 million dollars. This is a record high, and I want
to give a shout-out here to Rich Reeder and his team in the Office of Research
for all the work they’ve done to stimulate this kind of growth and
expansion in our creative activities. We talk a lot about interdisciplinary
research. I’m going to give a few examples here of some of the very impressive
developments in interdisciplinary research in the past year. They are not
exclusive and when I conclude my remarks I’m going to have more to say about the
interdisciplinary agenda. But for example, with respect to artificial intelligence,
we are a uniquely well poised institution in terms of the excellence
of our faculty and staff, and the potential and capability of our students,
to drive enormous advances in the development of machine learning and
artificial intelligence. And nowhere is that opportunity demonstrated more
vividly than in the intersection between the engineering sciences and medicine. In
addition, in energy-based research we have accomplished a great deal in the
past year research that focuses on the storage of energy, the development of new
materials to generate energy and to deliver energy in efficient and
sustainable ways. We are the only university right now in the state, and
one of only three nationwide, that have received two major investments from the
National Science Foundation in establishing Energy Frontier Research
Centers. And just recently the Advanced Research Projects Agency energy, ARPA-E
as you see up there, has provided support for upwards of seven million dollars of
research. But it’s not simply in the so-called STEM-based fields where we
have been so productive and so effective. You see here that our colleague Jessica
Schleider in psychology has received a major grant from the National Institutes
of Health, the only, the first Stony Brook faculty member in clinical psychology to
receive such a grant to pursue her very important work on teenage depression and
management of diagnostics in that very important area. Similarly, in the
humanities a lot of cross-cutting research that holds the promise of
transforming our understanding of the cultures and communities within which
our university subsists. Adrian Perez Melgosa, our colleague in Hispanic
Languages and Literatures, has been developing a map of the Latino/Latina
communities here on Long Island, a very complex and variegated community
community in fact. A map that will not only enable us to have a comprehensive
appreciation of those cultures but perhaps even more importantly allow us
to understand the best ways to formulate policy, social and cultural
initiatives that make sense, here on our island. And finally as an example,
Josh Teplitski, our our colleague in history, has been engaged in research
that seeks to apply digital learning and digital techniques to understand in this
case the evolution and distribution of Jewish literature and Judaica. So the
goal here again is to develop a more comprehensive set of data on a
particular phenomenon. But what’s also interesting is that these data analytics
will also enable historians and other humanists to better understands the ways
in which urban centers and regions play roles in distributing book-led culture,
something of intense importance to historians for decades but not
previously driven by digital analytics. So these are just some of the examples
that give us a sense of the richness and the multidisciplinary standing and
footing of our University, something we should never forget. Our university is a
global institution – you all know that – so why don’t we pause for a minute and talk
a little bit about that that global impact. We are the first among our peers in the SUNY system in terms of our sending
students abroad and enabling them to have an active international experience.
We know that that sort of international experience is a priceless foundation for
excellence in learning and maturation. We have active partnerships with literally
hundreds of institutions and our students have access to an enormous
array of opportunities and programs. And I would emphasize that our international
student enrollment – despite the fact that nationwide many institutions are
struggling to maintain those numbers – has actually been rising. And you can see
here in this slide the impressive numbers that we have been able to
achieve and that we hope to sustain in the years ahead, making our campus global
in the truest sense. And here too I want to call out Jun Liu, who had been
serving as our Vice Provost for Global Affairs, Yi-Xian Qin whom I mentioned
earlier, who’s now in the acting position, and Yuan Wang, our
colleague in Admissions, all of whom worked very, very hard to see to it that,
not only that we’re reaching out to recruit the very best in international
students, but to ensure that these students know that here at Stonybrook
this is a welcoming, inclusive and secure environment. Finally, our faculty of course are
actively engaged around the world in a variety of research projects. You’re
familiar with some of them. I list just a few here. The Centre Valbio has
been actively involved in research and efforts to find ways to deliver
life-saving technology and treatments to very remote areas in the developing
world. The Turkana basin Institute, I think many of you know, is paving the way
in trend-setting research on human evolution and human origins. Right now
fast developing the first master’s program in human evolution on the
African continent. And then of course our colleagues in physics and in the basic
sciences are engaged in an array of collaborations. Here are some examples
collaborations in Japan and in China with respect to the fundamentals of of
matter. So let me talk about Stony Brook Medicine which, as I mentioned earlier, is
a key part of our mission and an enormous part of our footprint and our
operations both here in Stony Brook itself and on other campuses. The Medical
and Research Translation building will open in a couple of weeks, on November
1st. This will be a facility that will provide an important site for
transformational multidisciplinary research in the life sciences, in
engineering and in medical care. And tomorrow,
literally tomorrow, we will have the pleasure of cutting the ribbon on
Children’s Hospital. Yes, hooray. This hospital will be the very best
pediatric facility on the Island. It will have the only pediatric intensive care
unit on the Island. It will have some of the best facilities for children’s care
on the Island and frankly in the region and in New York State. I couldn’t be
prouder of the entire Stony Brook Medicine team all their hard work in
bringing Children’s online. Additionally, the Stony Brook Medicine
team has been working hard to elaborate our network of treatment facilities and
hospitals. I think many of you know that we now have Southampton Hospital and
Eastern Long Island Hospital as part of the Stony Brook Medicine network. There
may be more to come. The point here is that Stony Brook Medicine is expanding
its reach and its impact across the Island that we serve. Stony Brook
Medicine has also engaged in the delivery of transformative ambulatory
and emergency services. Here’s one example: the creation of a mobile stroke unit
that will allow our practitioners to intervene directly in emergent events on
behalf of people victimized by stroke out there in our region. You see here a
picture of one such person, Bill Rothmeier, who was literally saved by the
intervention of this unit. Probably if the unit didn’t exist, he would not have
survived the event that he had. This is the first of its kind mobile unit in
Long Island. And then, of course, there’s the Hospital. I mentioned earlier the
work of our leadership team in the Hospital. Stony Brook University Hospital
is recognized as one of the top 2% of hospitals nationwide. It’s been
identified as being of supreme quality and value in certain areas like cardiac
care, orthopedics, coronary intervention and related areas. Again I think we have
to acknowledge the enormous work and impact of the team in Stony Brook
Medicine and what they’ve been able to accomplish. And I’ll give a shout-out
here to Ken Kaushansky and his entire leadership team,
who have done such a great job in Stony Brook Medicine. and then there’s one
other part of Stony Brook Medicine I wanted to highlight today. As you see
behind me, the Long Island State Veterans Home. So every state has at least one if
not more of these veterans homes. President Abraham Lincoln during the
American Civil War signed legislation that started the practice of creating
veterans homes all across the country. We have five such veterans homes in New
York State. Long Island State is one of them. It is the largest of them, and I
will say without fear of contradiction, it is the best of them. And the Long
Island State Home – it’s about 350 beds, it’s a large
facility, it has an enormously high occupancy rate- not surprising given the
quality of the work it does. It serves as a major teaching facility for our
medical, nursing and health technician students, and/or dental students, and I
might add it provides a unique service to our veterans, to their spouses and
registered domestic partners, and to Gold Star parents, those who’ve lost children
in uniform. I can’t say too much about this remarkable mission at the State Veterans
Home and I salute Fred Sganga and his team for the work they do. Thank you. Okay now, I guess I get to bum you out
and talk about budget and financial planning. Just kidding, just kidding – we’ve
made remarkable progress on stabilizing our budget. I think you all know that and
it’s worth emphasizing that that progress is all the product of the very
hard work that faculty and staff and student leadership have done to try to
manage our resources in very challenging circumstances, and to manage those
resources efficiently and well. We’ve tried to streamline operations. We’ve
tried to monitor hiring in a very aggressive way, as most of you know,
including freezing hiring in some contexts. That’s been difficult. We’ve
tried to enhance revenue both from various tuition and fee increases that
have been granted by the state government but also by trying to
generate revenue through online education and other initiatives for
which there are robust markets. In all these respects we’re trying to do what
any sustainable and stable enterprise does, which is to enhance revenue and
control costs. It’s a key part of what we must do to maintain the excellence and
the salience of the mission of our of our organization. I do want to
acknowledge, though, that there’s a cost in all the efforts that we have pursued
so far. It’s tough when we’re understaffed in certain units. It’s tough
when we delay hiring to replace losses in certain units. Our staff and faculty
are working double-time, triple-time to try to make up for some of these delays
and stretching of resources. And I would be remiss, in acknowledging all our
progress, in also not at the same time acknowledging the pressures, the
challenges and, quite frankly, the difficulties that so many of you have
faced in this endeavor. I cannot thank you enough. There’s sunshine down that road. A
lot more to say about that later, but without your efforts, we
would not be anywhere near stabilizing the budget as we have today. As we move
forward and try to identify areas for investment and priority, we want to
always emphasize: we will invest in our students, we will invest in our faculty,
we will invest with a view towards sustaining and strengthening diversity
and inclusion across our organization, and we will always support the multiple
missions of our university. That’s the prime directive,
that’s the compass heading, that’s how we frame our best decisions. I would also
emphasize strategy is a difficult game. Strategy means making choices. “Choices”
implicitly and explicitly means that sometimes you have to say no. And many in
the faculty leadership have heard me say, during my years in the Provost’s Office,
our university can be great in anything it wants; it cannot be great in
everything it wants. We have got to make choices and that’s hard to do. And the
best way to do it, hearkening back to my earlier comments, is through shared
governance structures that mobilize effective data and metrics to drive
optimal, transparent and credible accountable decisions. Let’s talk about
facilities for a minute. We are slated to bring a variety of new
facilities online. We’re slated to renovate a bunch of facilities, so let’s
let’s call them out. The Union is going to open, yes, in March. I joined the University in the fall of
2016 I’ve never seen the Union. I can’t wait. It’s going to be, it’s going to be a marvelous facility. A new
building is under construction on our research campus. Some of you may have
noted this and noted this, the Innovation and Discovery Center, it will provide
important space for some of our corporate partners that have had engaged
in start-up research in some of the original facilities on the research
campus and are now trying to elaborate their activities in this new IDC,
Innovation and Discovery Center. There will also be some academic space in the
building for our faculty researchers. We have an indoor practice facility under
construction. This will transform the opportunities for our student athletes
to train and prepare for competition. I’ll have more to say about our
athletics enterprise in a moment. We have new residence halls either in design or
under construction at the Table sire and at the West Apartments, Building K. Both of
these projects will ultimately provide hundreds of more beds for us to
accommodate students who would like to have residence on campus. And then we
have renovations being planned. The Chemistry Building needs renovation. The
Jacob Javits Lecture Hall, in case you haven’t been paying any attention, needs
renovation. I appreciate that people can smile and
laugh about that. It’s tough in that building, I get it. And we have a variety
of parking and transportation projects that we’re beginning to scope and look at.
We know we have to invest in these areas. Again, I want to acknowledge some of the
difficulties here. Every time we touch a project and try to start a renovation
project, there’s the good news that we’re going
to have a renovated facility. The bad news is, there’s going to be a lot of pain
and suffering on the way. Perhaps some of you have been driving Stony Brook Road
recently, or some of you have been trying to navigate in the Administration
Building parking garage and wondering how to get to your favorite parking spot.
Not nice, I get it. But at the same time, because of your support, because of your
willingness to work through these challenges, we will get to a better
outcome downstream with better facilities and better operations. So I
salute your patience and understanding and yes, where relevant and when
appropriate, your criticisms and suggestions about how we can improve
what we’re doing in this important arena. Finally, with respect to facilities we
always want to note the impact of our operations on the environment in which
we operate. We’re mindful that we’re responsible for some 18% of all the
power consumed by SUNY combined. That’s a big footprint. And we’re also mindful of
the fact that we consume about 8 percent of all the power in state-owned
buildings. So anything and everything we do to make our operations more efficient
and more sustainable is going to yield important results with respect to the
environment here in our region, and of course across the state. And I’m very
proud to say that because of our efforts here on the part of our facilities team,
we have succeeded in reducing campus energy usage by 16% to date. And we will
continue to push that needle – I know I’m using an old metaphor – we’re trying to
push that digital readout farther and farther as we make more investments in
this area. So let me turn now to awards and honors. We talked about recognition
for our institution. Let’s talk about recognition for our people, because it’s
our people – faculty, staff and students – who make this place go, and it’s because
of the superb quality of what all the people at our institution do that our
institution is recognized for its excellence and impact. First, staff awards
this year. We had upwards of almost a dozen staff colleagues recognized by the
Chancellor’s office for excellence in their work and
I want to call them out here in this slide. Martha, James, Janice, Dorothy
Jennifer, Diane, Susan, Diana, Edie ,Sheila and Ann Marie. I want to salute all of
them for their accomplishment and the excellence of what they do.
Thank you. One particular member of our staff,
apropos of course of what we just discussed with respect to sustainability
and environmental impact, deserves special recognition and that’s Tom
Lanzilotta, our campus energy manager, who was recognized regionally for the
excellence of his work in achieving these new sustainability and energy-efficient goals. So congratulations to Tom. Students. I want you to take a look
at this slide and the next slide, and I’ll toggle back between the two. Ten Fulbright Scholars. Here’s five of
them; here’s the other five. This is an all-time record for our University and I
want you to notice, looking up these two slides – go back and forth again – the
diversity, not only of who these students are, but the fields they represent. I
couldn’t be prouder. Humanities, social science, basic science, and again that’s a record. That’s a
record in Fulbrights; we’ll probably see more in the years
ahead. We had three Goldwater Scholars this
past year. The Goldwater Scholarships are focused in the STEM areas. We’re very
proud of these three students. and then we had we had several
colleagues take up inaugural appointment in endowed faculty chairs, and you see
the list here. Endowed chairs are the coin of the realm at research
universities. They provide resources in support of the creative enterprise, they
recognize excellence and they establish visibility and standing in a field. and
I’m very proud of Hal, Arnidam, Karina, Anissa, Pat, Ellen and Eric. And I salute
all of them and I congratulate them on their appointment to endowed chairs. We also had a record crop of SUNY
Distinguished Professors this year, almost a dozen of them. You can see that
nine of our colleagues were elevated to appointment as SUNY Distinguished
Professors. One colleague was appointed as a Distinguished Service Professor and
one as a distinguished SUNY Librarian. We have the largest cadre of distinguished
professors in the Distinguished Faculty Academy at SUNY. Very proud of all these
colleagues and I congratulate each and every one of them. There are a few distinctions we should
call out one by one. Here’s one of them. Misha Lyubich, our colleague in
mathematics, was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Bill Studier and Ken Kaushansky were
elected fellows of the National Academy of Inventors. Congratulations to both of
them. Howardena Pindell, our colleague in studio art, was recognized with the
2019 artists Legacy Foundation award, a great accomplishment for Howardena. Heather Lynch became the first member of
our faculty to win a Blavatnik Award. Three such awards are given every year in the life sciences, in chemistry and in quantitative sciences. Heather received
this year’s award in the life sciences. Congratulations to Heather. I think some
of you saw the communications about this year’s Breakthrough Prize. Peter van
Nieuwenhuizen received this very important distinction in physics.
Congratulations to Peter. And Memming Park, our colleague in neurosciences, was
recognized with the Stony Brook Discovery Prize for his work on states
of consciousness. I’m very proud of Memming, congratulations to him. Ken Dill, many of you know, a gifted leader
of the Laufer Center for Computational Biology, received the Delbruck Prize in
biological physics this year, a great honor and recognition of Ken’s leadership. Two of our colleagues in mathematics received
the Veblen Prize in geometry. Xiuxiong Chen and Simon Donaldson, a
great distinction for our for our math department. Aand two colleagues in English
were nationally recognized this year. Andrew Newman received a fellowship from
the Guggenheim Foundation, a tremendous accomplishment in humanities, and
Rowin Ricardo Phillips received a PEN/ESPN writing award. So congratulations to
them. And I want to conclude on awards and honors with this recognition. This
year we inaugurated an outstanding faculty mentor award process. These are
our three inaugural laureates this year. I want to congratulate Lisa, Daniela and
Aurora. The importance of mentoring, especially for our early career stage
faculty, is very important. Their success depends on effective mentoring by more
experienced faculty within their disciplines, and even beyond. And, with
reference to this award and its inauguration this year, I also want to
give a shout out to Stella Tsirka, the former Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs.
It was her idea to create this award and she led the process of its establishment. Congratulations to these colleagues. You can’t do a presentation on the
university without talking about philanthropy. So let’s pause for a moment
and talk about the incredible support that our communities have demonstrated
for our institution through commitments of their time, their energy, their insight
and yes, their treasure. Very important. We had enormously successful fundraising
results this this past year, about 78 million dollars raised.
What’s very interesting here is the number of donors you see some of the
data here. In terms of sheer numbers, we continue to expand our reach and our
impact in advancement. It’s also quite striking to see both the number of
first-time new donors that we succeeded in identifying and engaging, and the
engagement and commitment of faculty and staff. So I want to I want to take a
moment right here to thank all of you, the Stony Brook community itself, who
have seen fit to commit your support directly for all the great things that
our university does. Thank you very much. We will have another Giving Day. We
had an inaugural Giving Day this past year, you may remember. Very successful, as
you can see here on the slide, a couple of thousand donors. There were
matching gifts that were accomplished in in the Giving Say itself. We’re going to
schedule another one, so we’ll have another Giving Day this April, April 2020,
so mark your calendars. It was a good day, people seemed to enjoy it and of course
the results in support were terrific. Again, thank you very much. You know, just a word on philanthropy.
I’ve said this to many of you in different settings. Nobody gives you
money because you need it. People give you money because they’re inspired and
committed to something you do. And so I think these results demonstrate the
powerful ability of our university to demonstrate to others that what we do is
meaningful and worth supporting, and that’s something I think all of us
should be very proud of and always be careful to note each and every day. Student success and student life. Big part of what we do here is all about our
students, so let’s just take a moment to note what we’ve been able to achieve. And I want to emphasize the point I made earlier in my
remarks. We are an elite, but not an elitist, institution. What we accomplish
with our students is remarkable because of the quality of the accomplishment as
we’ll see, but especially so because we serve a diverse and inclusive population
like few other research universities in this country. And we do it in ways that
generate measurable effective results. You all know the key statistic: roughly
40% of every incoming class that comes to our University is composed of
students who are the first members of their families to go to college. there
are virtually, you know there’s just a handful of research universities of the
quality of ours that could make that claim. We measure student success in many
ways. One of the most important is graduation rates. It’s not the only way
but it’s obviously a key diagnostic. And so note here, with respect to the
four-year graduation rate – in other words, what percentage of your students
who enter in a given fall, four years later are out the door with their
degrees in hand – you can see here that we achieved a 17 percentage point increase
in the four-year grad rate over a six-year period. That’s stunning. So stunning,
by the way, I can tell you that our student success team is regularly contacted by institutions across the country. They basically want to know, how are you
doing this? How did you manage that? And I in particular want to salute
Charlie Robbins, the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, and the entire
student success team. who every week are driving these results. You know with respect to graduation
rate, again I don’t mean to constantly reduce things to dollars and cents, but
they can be useful as markers of what we’re able to accomplish. Look at these
results. The increase in the graduation rate that I’ve just mentioned, we
estimate, generates something on the order of 125
million dollars in benefits over that seven-year period, in the form of, one,
savings in tuition and fees – speaking as a parent I salute that; that’s terrific –
and of course a little bit over a 100 million dollars in greater
secured earnings as these students transit into labor force. So again, just
looking at it from a dollars and cents perspective, student success makes sense. We know that student success is not
simply an academic enterprise. Classroom, laboratory, studio, performance
hall – these are places where students achieve a great deal, but a lot of
learning and the ingredients of their success anywhere, depends on what’s
going on outside of those venues. So it’s important that our student support
services are effective and constantly evolving to meet the needs of a new
generation of learners. And I want to acknowledge the student affairs team led
by Rick Gatteau and his colleagues, who have seen to it that we are achieving every
year steady improvement and effectiveness in the services we provide
our students. The Red Book is now a new map for all students, faculty and staff,
digitally available. You can go into the Red Book if you’re concerned about a
student, if a student’s concerned about themselves, if a faculty member is
concerned, they can go right to the Red Book, find the resources they need, find
the referral information they need to see to it that these needs are met.
Cognito is a suicide prevention platform tremendously successful nationwide. We
are now partnered with that platform to deal with one of the most tragic and
pressing of student welfare needs. Our student support team, led by Rick and his
team, are always available to help students in need, whatever the nature of
that need – academic, financial, personal, psychological, situational. And
then finally our CARE team, what used to be called the behavioral assessment
committee, has been reconstituted. The CARE team – Consult, Assess, Respond, Educate –
consult, assess, respond, educate. This team meets every week and deals with those
students who are struggling, who may have behavioral issues, who may literally be
under discipline, to see to it that we are doing everything we possibly can to
ensure their success and their well-being. The student affairs team does
remarkable work here, and again I want to salute Rick and his team. Great job. Thank
you very much. And then there’s the nature of student
life broadly. I could come up with an infinite array of examples.
Let’s just mention one. You know, close to 12,000 students last year participated
in an array of events and activities. We have well over 350 organizations hosting
thousands of events in a given year. I’m particularly struck by the efforts of
our Center for Civic Justice, which in its efforts to get students involved in
the electoral process enabled us to achieve a 450 percent
increase in voter turnout last year. That’s terrific. That’s the kind of
engagement we want to see from our students. So great work by by the Student
Affairs team. Another key aspect of student life, intercollegiate athletics.
And I just want to mention a few highlights of the past year. And I start
just by reminding everyone that our student athletes when they come to Stony
Brook, as I like to say to the faculty and staff with whom I meet, they’re not
making a four-year decision when they come here; they’re making a 40-year
decision. They’re making a lifetime decision to come to Stony Brook. The fact
that they are student-athletes means of course that they have a particular set
of commitments. But our commitment to them is no different than our commitment
to those students who aren’t involved in intercollegiate athletics. And I’m very
very proud of what our athletics team has been able to accomplish with respect
to the student-athletes at our University. You can see here in
the past year improvements in grade point average and academic
accomplishment. We’ve had a couple of student-athletes who are outshining the
average student population across the organization, and those metrics continue
to improve. Very, very proud of the intercollegiate athletics team in that
regard. And then of course on the field, on the court, in their competition,
many of our programs excelled last year. The women’s lacrosse team, women’s soccer
team, women’s volleyball team all won championships in our conference, America
East. The men in baseball, lacrosse and soccer also won championships. We’re very
proud of all of those teams and because of that success on the field and on the
court, we were able to receive the America East
Conference Commissioner’s Cup last year. You see our our AD, our athletics
director Sean Heilbron, receiving the cup from the conference commissioner Amy
Huchthausen. Very proud of Sean and his team. I want to give a shout-out to all
of that great work. So this brings me to the concluding points I’d like to make
for this year’s State of the University address. And first I’d like to, of course,
start with an historical reflection. I mentioned earlier I’m an
economic historian, so I like to indulge in some historical parallels. And I’d
like to share with you something that I actually shared with a group of
colleagues when I first joined the University in the fall of 2016. And that
concerns our existence our identity as a public university as part of the land-grant system of universities in our country. I think most of you know that
the so called land-grant universities, the public universities of all the
states in the United States, were created by an act signed in the summer of 1862
by Abraham Lincoln. It was called the Morrill Act, named
after its primary author, a Republican congressman from Vermont named Justin
Morril. That act provided for land grants to be given to each of the public
universities created in each of the states to begin the process of
elaborating a network of universities that would facilitate and support the
mechanical arts and the economic welfare of the states. That’s in the actual
wording of the act. That act is part of our legacy as a public institution. It’s
part of the legacy of every public institution of higher learning and
research in the United States. I draw your attention to it because of the
timing of the passage and signing of that act. July of 1862, two weeks before
President Lincoln signed the act, 20,000 men had died in a farm field outside of
Shiloh, Tennessee, in one of the opening engagements of the
Civil War. That battle decided nothing, but it certainly signaled to the
nation that the Civil War was going to be a very bloody and difficult affair.
Indeed, just a couple of months after Lincoln signed the Morrill Act, at
Antietam, Maryland another 25,000 men died in a couple of hours in a farm
field. The nation was in for a very, very, very difficult few years. And yet
President Lincoln and his party, and the political leadership in Congress, they
somehow found the forward-looking insight and courage and determination
and commitment to see the future – the future that we embrace and we sustain
today. And I reflect on that often, thinking that even in the midst of the
troubles and difficulties we face today – budgetary, operational, legal, cultural,
problems with public relations and communications, differing perceptions of
the role of higher education – all of those challenges and struggles. Surely if
Lincoln and his generation could see the future in the midst of the tragedy they
were living in, we can see the future despite the challenges and difficulties
we have today. That’s one important observation I wanted to share with you.The other concerns, as you see here in our final slide, our roots as an
institution. Ee were founded as a teachers college. We were founded to
train high school teachers in the so-called STEM fields – the sciences,
technology, engineering, mathematics. Those are our roots; that’s our legacy. But the
interesting thing today, as we’ve evolved into a world-class research university,
is that everything we do spans far beyond and engages with at the same time
the STEM fields that were originally our roots. A few examples. I mentioned energy
earlier. Eesearch on energy discovery, energy storage, energy distribution. Well,
that’s paralleled by the fact that in our world today, struggles over
energy storage, energy distribution, energy generation,
frame a lot of the geopolitical conflict and military confrontations in our world
today. So as much as our colleagues in engineering are working on batteries, for
example, we have colleagues in political science, sociology, and history who are
working on the clash of nations and regions over energy resources. That’s one
example of interdisciplinarity here. In environmental sciences, as we study the
impacts of climate change, sea level rise, shifting populations, we know that much
of what’s being driven in the way of migratory patterns, struggles
over population change, even cultural and linguistic change, is paralleled by
research being done in our humanities and social sciences faculties on the
impacts of those very changes. Working in one area is the same in many respects
as working in the other. We can’t understand these phenomena without
linking them. Finally, another example: artificial intelligence and machine
learning. We have great colleagues who work in this area in engineering and in
the basic sciences, but we also know that these areas of inquiry require in-depth
analysis of the socio-economic and political implications of artificial
intelligence. Struggles over the control of data, the meanings of artificial
intelligence for inscribed bigotry and misunderstanding and implicit bias
regarding others, and the ethics of data analytics. Our institution is
particularly well poised to deal with these issues. And as I often like to say
in my office today, we are not Setauket Tech, okay? We’re Stony Brook University, and
the operative word there is “universe.” We are better poised, we are well poised to
do cutting-edge research, scholarship and art-making, in all of these areas of
concern in our world today, precisely because of who we are, precisely because
of where we came from, and precisely because of all the things
that we do. We should never forget that. And in the course of the six decades or
so that have defined our legacy and our trajectory as an institution, I think we
should always remember that, contrary to what some say, our University
demonstrates not only the very best of what American higher education has to
offer, but the array and indeed the total 360 degree richness, of what American
higher education has to offer. And that, too, is part of our mission, our legacy
and indeed, it’s our story. I want to thank all of you for your time today.
I hope you’ll have a little time to join me for some refreshments and
some conversation next door. Most of all, thanks for being part of this wonderful
and spectacular institution we call Stony Brook University. Thank you very
much, everyone.