Michael Bernstein, interim president of Stony Brook University, delivered his first State of the University address at the Staller Center for the Arts Main Stage to a packed auditorium filled with faculty, staff, students and elected officials Oct. 16.
During the speech, which lasted about an hour, Bernstein touched on several topics including important university initiatives, key strategic commitments, enrollment growth, Stony Brook Medicine’s future, financial woes and successes and challenges in the future.
A key theme of the presentation was highlighting the school’s rich history, including attracting trailblazing pioneers over the years and providing world-class education.
“We strive to always evolve to meet the needs of our students,” Bernstein said.
The interim president touched on the university’s efforts in diversity.
Bernstein said he is committed to improve diversity on campus and in the SBU community. The school in the past year has spent close to $1.7 million on diversity initiatives.
“We believe as scholars and educators that diversity generates optional results and better education that we can provide for our students,” the interim president said.
Similarly, Bernstein highlighted the university’s increase in admitted international students. He stressed the need to continue to provide a welcoming and inclusive environment for them.
“We are an elite institution not an elitist institution — that is very much part of our DNA here at Stony Brook,” he said.
On the economic side of things, Bernstein touted that SBU continues to be a vital contributor to Long Island.
SBU is the largest single-site employer on Long Island with more than 15,000 employees and has continued to be an economic driver in the local economy generating more than $7.2 billion.
Bernstein highlighted the accomplishments of Stony Brook Medicine.
He mentioned the expansion of the Stony Brook Medicine umbrella with new partnerships in Southampton that include the MART building in November and the Children’s Hospital in the Hospital Pavilion, which had a ribbon-cutting ceremony today.
“[The hospital] will be the very best facility on Long island for pediatric care,” Bernstein said.
Reducing expenses and increasing revenue was an important topic brought up.
Bernstein said efforts have been made to streamline university operations and monitor hiring. Top budget priority areas for the 2019-20 school year are focused on student success, growth in research and faculty support. Construction on new buildings and residence halls are underway as well as plans to address parking problems on campus.
“We know we have to address those issues,” he said. “We will get to a better outcome downstream and we salute you for your patience.”
The interim president also made sure to highlight the university’s four-year graduation rate. The rate for the class entering in 2015 has reached 64 percent, which signifies a 17-point increase over a six-year period.