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President Harvey Stenger delivers his State of the University address on Sept. 3 in the Osterhout Concert Theater.
Photo by Jonathan Cohen
State of the University stresses graduate enrollment, economic development
September 3, 2015Tweet
Boosting graduate enrollment and the area economy are Binghamton University’s primary goals for the year ahead, President Harvey Stenger said Sept. 3 at the State of the University address.
“I think we are on the right path,” Stenger said. “This is like a race. … Our job as a small- to mid-sized university is to make sure we are in the right position to take advantage of our opportunities.”
Stenger discussed the University’s priorities for 2015-16 and accomplishments from the past three years during a 30-minute talk to faculty, staff, administrators and students at the Anderson Center’s Osterhout Concert Theater. It was the first time that the State of the University was held at the beginning of the academic year.
Increasing the number of graduate students is vital as the University moves through the 21st century, Stenger stressed.
“We need to enhance our role as a research institution that has strong graduate programs, as well as nationally recognized undergraduate programs,” he said. “We’ve had PhD programs for 50 years. It’s nothing new here, but we need to make them bigger.”
While the University is already nearing its goal of 14,000 undergraduate students by 2020, it is moving “slowly, yet steadily” toward the goal of 6,000 graduate students by that year. A 70/30 split between undergraduate and graduate students (as opposed to the current 80/20 split) would place the University closer to its peers, Stenger said.
Stenger emphasized several ways to help build graduate enrollment:
• Grow research and doctoral programs by continuing to hire exceptional faculty and offering competitive stipends to doctoral candidates.
• Support strong graduate programs in the arts, humanities and social sciences that provide “critical guidance for the world’s future.”
• Grow career-directed graduate programs and develop new programs based on the University’s current strengths and needs.
“The School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences is in one of the fastest growing areas of research in the world,” Stenger said, referring to examples that will elevate graduate programs. “We are using the Transdisciplinary Areas of Excellence approach. That will enhance the quality of faculty we choose and how we support them when they come to the University. I like to think that we are creating neighborhoods for our new faculty – not just a single house, or department.”
The community, meanwhile, is a resource that the University will continue to partner with while developing academic initiatives, Stenger said. The University has already worked with Southern Tier leaders to bring $273.8 million in funding through Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development Council program.
But the University’s work is not finished. In the Upstate Revitalization Initiative, seven New York state regions will submit proposals in October seeking up to $500 million over five years. Three will be selected. Binghamton University is helping to shape the Southern Tier proposal, which was described by Stenger as “a big idea.”
“I believe we have a great chance of winning,” he said. “But how do we use that as a University to help the community and help the region, while at the same time meet some of our goals?”
The proposal will call for the establishment of three “innovation districts”:
• One in downtown Binghamton around the site of the Southern Tier Incubator;
• A second in Endicott at the Center for Advanced Microelectronics Manufacturing (CAMM) facility on the Huron site;
• A third in Johnson City at the proposed Southern Tier Health Sciences and Technology Park, in the area surrounding Wilson Hospital and the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences (scheduled to open in 2017, pending precandidate status from the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education). It will serve as a healthcare campus that will grow the region’s medical infrastructure by linking the School of Pharmacy, the Decker School of Nursing and possibly the clinical campus of Upstate Medical Center.
“(The innovation district) will feature research and clinical facilities,” Stenger said. “We will have interdisciplinary engagement: faculty members, students, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, social workers and engineers working in teams. We will also establish a biopharmaceutical industry hub and offer space to companies who would like to move here and take advantage of the START-UP NY benefits. We see this as a future growth area in jobs and reputation. It’s a great opportunity.”
Before discussing the graduate-education and economic initiatives, Stenger reviewed the University’s progress since the introduction of Road Map to Premier in 2012.
The University has grown significantly, Stenger said, adding 200 tenure-track faculty members and more than 160 staff members. The quality of students continues to increase, with average SAT scores surpassing the 1300 mark this fall. Diversity is also increasing on campus: underrepresented minority enrollment is up 36 percent for undergraduates and 58 percent for graduate students. Underrepresented minority faculty is up 47 percent, while staff in the same category is up 46 percent.
“You have students, faculty and staff, but you need to put them in a great place,” Stenger said, displaying a photo of new buildings such as the Center of Excellence, the Smart Energy Facility and the Dickinson Residential Community while praising the support of alumni.
Stenger reminded the audience that the University has also changed its approach to creative work and academic programs, thanks to the Transdisciplinary Areas of Excellence and the Road Map process. Thirty-five percent of faculty hires over the past three years have been in Transdisciplinary Areas of Excellence, said Stenger, who added that the Road Map has enabled the University to expand student research opportunities, increase advising staff, provide more resources for faculty startups and create a Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
“The Road Map process in general has helped us develop (ideas) that are new,” he said. “It wants to help us do things better.”
Stenger concluded his address by returning to the “right position in a Race to Premier” theme. He showed an overhead photo of Binghamton University senior – and All-American 800-meter runner − Jesse Garn trailing competitors and then a second photo of Garn winning the race.
“We are positioned well to reach our goals,” Stenger said. “But it’s not going to be easy. … Jesse was in the right position to win. He won by a mile! That where I think we are now: We are ready to work hard and you can see that across the entire campus.”