SBU president delivers State of the University 2022 address

SBU president delivers State of the University 2022 address

Stony Brook University President Maurie McInnis delivered the State of the University address on Oct. 12. Photo from SBU

During the latest annual State of the University address held on Oct. 12, Stony Brook University President Maurie McInnis gave updates about the latest news and accomplishments at the educational institution in a prepared speech.

Toward the beginning of her address, McInnis quoted from the essay “The Pandemic is a Portal” by novelist and critic Arundhati Roy. The author compared a pandemic to a portal.

“We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.”

McInnis said earlier in the pandemic, the university was “in the midst of the pandemic; we were reeling from the effects of long-entrenched budget issues; we were working around the clock to care for our community; we were teaching online; and our staff were stepping up to the plate every day to keep the complex operations of this university running.”

Despite the obstacles COVID-19 brought, she said SBU emerged “as a flagship institution with a renewed commitment to our students’ wellbeing, reinvigorated support for our scholars and research, a stronger and expanded health care enterprise, and several major developments on the horizon —speaks to our university’s ability to adapt and grow. To imagine a better world. To fight for it.”

McInnis told those in attendance that SBU was named a flagship of the SUNY System and just earned its highest ranking from the U.S. News & World Report. The university rated No. 31 for public institutions and No. 1 public in New York state.

The university president said the four-year graduation and six-year graduation rate at SBU increased 18% points and 10 points, respectively, over eight years.

“In addition to these increases, we have nearly eliminated the equity gaps most universities face when it comes to graduation rates for Black, Latinx, underserved and Pell-eligible students,” she said.

The university is committed “to increasing our one-year retention rate to 92% and targeting a six-year graduation rate of 85% by 2030.” 

McInnis said the university wants to ensure “that Stony Brook’s campus culture promotes connection” and has reimagined its undergraduate colleges “connecting students across disciplines and fields under global topics.”

One example, the university president said, is the Vertically Integrated Projects Program that was inaugurated three years ago at the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. The VIP program brings together undergraduates, graduate students and faculty “in multidisciplinary teams to work on real-world projects in research, design and entrepreneurship.” The program has grown from approximately 50 students to more than 500.

McInnis said the partnership between SBU and the Simons Foundation has resulted in the Stony Brook Simons STEM Scholars Program, which aims “to create pathways to successful STEM careers for underrepresented students and increase the diversity of students pursuing doctoral degrees in STEM.” 

McInnis said in 2022, for the first time, four SBU junior faculty members earned “the prestigious” Sloan Fellowship. There are also six Department of Education Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need awards, which helps to support graduate student research.

“We also just learned that the National Science Foundation will be funding three instrumentation proposals for Stony Brook University — marking the first time that all of our proposals submitted to the NSF MRI Program have been successful,” she added.

McInnis said during the address that the College of Business is now fully accredited. The university’s School of Communication and Journalism received the Inaugural Solutions Journalism Hub Designation this year and was one of only four universities to receive it.

She said, in 2022, 14 students received a Fulbright Fellowship, which they will used to fund their international research and teaching.

SBU has made a bid to become the anchor institution for the Governors Island Center for Climate Solutions, McInnis announced. She said if the university is selected it would develop the island “as a hub for climate-change solutions and innovations in New York.”

“Our proposal includes an interactive living lab with green-designed research labs, classrooms and mitigation technologies,” she said. “A Research and Technology Accelerator will nurture new ventures dedicated to solving climate change in New York and beyond, and academic programs will prepare students of all ages for different careers in environmental justice and climate change.”

The president also devoted part of her address to Stony Brook Medicine, which she described as “a differentiator on Long Island and in New York state.” She name-checked many individual students and professors throughout.

Midway through the address, representatives from the Graduate Students Employees Union interrupted the speech to say that they are not paid well. One said, “We deserve a living wage.” After the last person spoke, a few repeatedly shouted, “Living wage now.”

McInnis remained silent and allowed the representatives to speak. When they were done, she returned to her address.

Later that day, SBU officials released a statement that said they “recognize the high cost of living and stipend issues that our graduate students and other employees face here on Long Island.”

“Wages and stipends are negotiated between the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations and the respective bargaining units. The current Graduate Student Employees Union agreement for state graduate assistant and teaching assistant student employees raises salaries and has a total compensation package that includes insurance, pension, paid leave, and a location adjustment among other benefits. This is in addition to tuition scholarships.”

Officials recognized it as a “longstanding issue.”

“At Stony Brook, we have consistently advocated for increases and funding to support such increases,” the statement read. “Additionally, we have increased graduate student employee stipends well above the contractual requirement and recently added to those stipends retroactive to Oct. 1, 2021, so that all State TAs and GAs received an increase proportionate to their appointments.”

The statement listed added support such as “student fee scholarships of up to nearly $1,800 for doctoral and terminal degree students. The university has also made available $1 million in Presidential Completion Awards. These awards provide stipend support and research funds.

McInnis concluded her address by saying, “At Stony Brook University — where our scholarship crosses over the arts, humanities, social sciences, STEM and medicine; where our research extends well past this campus and even beyond New York to countries all over the world; where our legacy has been defined by bravery, creativity and commitment to service — we are working to address the world’s pressing issues.”