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Carl Lejuez

Stony Brook University. File photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Like colleges around the state and country, Stony Brook University is preparing for the possibility that New York State students will no longer be required to pass Regents exams to graduate from high school.

Stony Brook University Provost Carl Lejuez. File photo

During Covid-19, when many schools including SBU made reporting Scholastic Aptitude Tests, or SATs, or American College Testing, or ACTs, optional, the university continued to take a broader view of college applicants.

“The idea of holistic admissions has been something that has been gaining steam for a while,” said Provost Carl Lejuez in a wide ranging interview. Such an approach brings numerous potential student strengths into the admissions decision process.

“Judging by the success we’ve been having, we feel good about our ability to bring in the best students and help them succeed,” Lejuez added.

The admissions process at SBU has been considering additional factors, such as students’ educational experiences and opportunities, the adversity they experienced, and their trajectory and improvement.

A flagship public university, Stony Brook has become an important higher education entry point for students who are first-generation college applicants.

The university does not “want to make the process so onerous that it becomes less successful when you think of low income, first generation students who may not have a lot of the same opportunities” as students in wealthier, more established school districts, Lejuez said. The university wants to be “rigorous and equitable” in the strategy for bringing in the best students.

In the meantime, Stony Brook University recently completed its first full week after the departure of President Maurie McInnis, who had led the school for four years and is now the president of Yale University.

“The mark of a good leader is an organization that continues to thrive when they’ve gone and that is something, because they’ve created the right infrastructure and hired the right people and developed the right culture” that McInnis did, Lejuez said. “While folks are eager to have our permanent leadership in place, things are exactly how they should be.”

Indeed, Stony Brook in the coming days is expected to announce an interim president, who will take the reins for the university while the school conducts a national search, chaired by Stony Brook Council Chairman Kevin Law, for the seventh president.

Since McInnis’s departure, Stony Brook Medicine Executive Vice President Dr. William Wertheim has overseen operations as Officer-in-Charge.

Professor grades

In evaluating professors, Stony Brook uses student-driven evaluations. The university also has peer faculty observe classes and provide feedback.

“We are revising a lot of our promotion and tenure guidelines,” said Lejuez. “We’ve been very, very clear that you have to be an excellent teacher as well as an excellent researcher here at Stony Brook.”

Stony Brook emphasizes the importance of teaching at faculty orientation, where administrators urge new professors to visit and get to know the options available at the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching.

Through various assessments, SBU is working to ensure students are learning the lessons and ideas they should in classes.

The university made its first set of revisions this year by providing a midpoint feedback at the three-year mark for professors on a six-year tenure track throughout the university. Such feedback had been available for faculty in the College of Arts of Sciences previously.

“When you see professors who are struggling with their research or teaching, they should be getting feedback,” said Lejuez. “Sometimes they don’t get it until they’re going up for tenure. That’s not fair to the students or the faculty for that matter.”

To help students throughout their educational journey, Stony Brook invested several million dollars in increasing the number of advisors, while also increasing the support within the tutoring center.

These efforts have paid dividends, as the retention rate from first year to second year for students, which had been in the mid 80 percent range, is moving higher. Within two or three years, SBU would like to see that number reach 92 percent or more.

As for international efforts, the university plans to connect resources in places like the Turkana Basin Institute in Kenya, Centre ValBio in Madagascar and SUNY Korea, which is a partnership between SBU, SUNY and the South Korean government.

“I, as well as several deans and faculty, have made trips to all three in the past year and we are increasing our support,” said Lejuez. “We have also been ramping up fundraising efforts.”

Stony Brook University admissions office where about 10,000 students applied through the school’s first early action program. Photo courtesy Stony Brook University

By Daniel Dunaief

For Stony Brook University, 2024 will be the year of more, as in more college counselors, more classes, more study abroad opportunities, more artificial intelligence and more faculty.

The downstate flagship university, which is a member of the Association of American Universities and has been climbing the rankings of colleges from US News and World Reports, plans to address several growing needs.

“We have invested heavily in new advisors,” said Carl Lejuez, executive vice president and provost at Stony Brook, in a wide ranging interview. These advisors will be coming on board throughout the semester.

With additional support from the state and a clear focus on providing constructive guidance, the university is working to reduce the number of students each advisor has, enabling counselors to “focus on the students they are serving,” Lejuez said.

Advisors will help students work towards graduation and will hand off those students to an engaged career center.

At the same time, Stony Brook is expanding its global footprint. Lejuez said study abroad options were already “strong” in Europe, while the university is developing additional opportunities in Asia and Africa.

The university prioritizes making study abroad as affordable as possible, offering several scholarships from the office of global affairs and through individual departments.

Students aren’t always aware that “they can study abroad in any SBU-sponsored program for a semester and keep all of their existing federal aid and scholarships and in many cases the full cost of that semester abroad is comparable and sometimes even less expensive” than what the student would spend on Long Island, Lejuez explained in an email.

Stony Brook University Executive Vice President and Provost Carl Lejuez. Photo courtesy Conor Harrigan

As for artificial intelligence, Stony Brook plans to expand on existing work in the realm of teaching, mentoring, research and community outreach.

In efforts sponsored by the Center for Excellence in Learning and the Library, the university is holding multiple training sessions for faculty to discuss how they approach AI in their classrooms.

The library opened an AI Lab that will enable students to experiment, innovate and work on AI projects, Lejuez said. The library plans to hire several new librarians with expertise in AI, machine learning and innovation.

The library is training students on the ethical use of AI and will focus on non-STEM disciplines to help students in the arts, humanities and social sciences.

Artificial intelligence “has its strengths and weaknesses,” said Lejuez. “We are not shying away from it.”

As for the community, the hope is that Stony Brook will use the semester to develop plans for kindergarten through 12th grade and then launch the expansion later this spring.

Additional classes

Lejuez acknowledged that class capacity created challenges in the past.

Stony Brook is using predictive analysis to make decisions about where to add classes and sections. At this point, the university has invested in the most in-demand classes in fields such as computer science, biology, chemistry, psychology and business.

The school has also added capacity in writing, math and languages.

Stony Brook is focused on experiential opportunities across four domains: study abroad, internships, research and entrepreneurship.

The school is developing plans for additional makerspaces, which are places where people with shared interests can come together to use equipment and exchange ideas and information.

New hires

Stony Brook is in the middle of a hiring cycle and is likely to “bring the largest group of new faculty we’ve had in many years” on board, the provost said. “This is going to have a big impact on the student experience” including research, climate science, artificial intelligence and healthy aging.

The additional hires will create more research experiences for undergraduates, Lejuez said.

Stony Brook recently created a Center for Healthy Aging, CHA, which combines researchers and clinicians who are focused on enhancing the health and wellness of people as they age.

Amid a host of new opportunities, a rise in the US News and World Report rankings and a victory in the city’s Governors Island contest to create a climate solutions center, Stony Brook has seen an increase in applications from the state, the country and other countries.

This year, about 10,000 students applied to Stony Brook’s first early action admissions process, which Lejuez described as a “great success.”

Amid a world in which regional conflicts have had echoes of tension and disagreement in academic institutions around the country and with an election cycle many expect will be especially contentious, Stony Brook’s Humanities Institute has put together several programs.

This includes a talk on “Muslim and Jewish Relations in the Middle Ages” on February 15th, another on “The Electoral Imagination: Literature, Legitimacy, and Other Rigged Systems” on April 17th and, among others, a talk on April 18th titled “The Problem of Time for Democracies.

True to the core values

Amid all the growth, Stony Brook, led by President Maurie McInnis, plans to continue to focus on its core values.

Lejuez said some people have asked, “are we still going to be the university that really provides social mobility opportunities in ways that are just not available in other places? We will always be that. Everything else happens in the context” of that goal. 

Heather Lynch, above, is the inaugural director of the Collaborative for the Earth at Stony Brook University. File photo courtesy Rolf Sjogren/National Geographic

Heather Lynch is hoping to take a few pages out of the Coke and Pepsi playbook, which is rarely, if ever, used in the fields where she works.

A penguin expert who has traveled more than 9,000 miles to Antarctica to monitor populations of these flightless water foul, Lynch, who is the IACS Endowed Chair of Ecology & Evolution, plans to use her new role as the inaugural director of the Collaborative for the Earth at Stony Brook University to accomplish several tasks, including shaping the way people think about environmental issues like climate change.

“Coke and Pepsi understand the importance of psychological research and persuasion,” Lynch said. “The environmental community has not used any of the tools to get at the hearts and minds” of the public.

Scientists have been trying to reach people in their heads when they also need to “reach them in their hearts,” she added.

Lynch hopes to figure out ways to bring in people who are experts in psychology and persuasion instead of adding another model of climate change consistent with so many others that have made similar predictions.

Lynch, whom a steering committee chose from among several qualified tenured faculty at SBU to take on this new role, will also help organize forums in which researchers and participants worldwide discuss pressing environmental issues.

In the forums, Lynch plans to encourage debate about challenging topics on which researchers disagree, such as the role of nuclear power in achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. She also hopes to address the concept and moral hazard of geoengineering.

In recent years, scientists have debated whether geoengineering, in which scientists use chemical means to cool the atmosphere, could exacerbate the problem or give people false hope that taking steps to reduce emissions or mitigate climate change may not be necessary.

Lynch also suggested other “third-rail topics” as population control may be fodder for future Stony Brook forums.

Scientists “don’t discuss controversial things,” said Lynch. “There tends to be an echo chamber in the scientific community. The forum will help us air these issues.”

To be sure, Lynch believes the issue of climate change and the urgency of the climate crisis is well established. The differences she hopes to discuss relate to various potential solutions.

“I’m hoping to focus on things where we disagree,” she said. “We need to get at the root of that.”

SBU Provost Carl Lejuez, to whom Lynch is reporting in this role. File photo

The right candidate

As a candidate, Lynch met numerous criteria for the search committee and for Provost Carl Lejuez, to whom Lynch is reporting in this role.

“Her research is and has been squarely placed to understand climate change and the climate crisis and how we try to move forward toward a healthier planet,” said Lejuez.

Lynch is also a “creative, entrepreneurial thinker” who has an “exciting vision for what the Collaborative can be,” Lejuez said. “She has a real strength in leadership and is very good at bringing people together.”

Lejuez has several goals for the Collaborative in its first year. He would like Lynch to start creating forums that can “live up to the potential of being a leader in creating that academic conference that brings rigor to real-world problems” and is connected to policy, industry and politics and that has clear deliverables.

Additionally, Lejuez would like the Collaborative to move toward an understanding of Stony Brook’s role in the future of climate science, climate justice and sustainability.

New podcasts

Lynch plans to dedicate considerable energy to this effort, cutting back on some of her teaching time. She plans to conduct podcasts with people on campus, speaking with them about their work, what keeps them up at night, what technologies excite them and a host of other topics.

She also hopes to bring in the “brightest lights” to big-stage events at Governors Island and on Long Island.

She is pondering the possibility of creating a competition akin to the entrepreneurial TV show “Shark Tank.” At Stony Brook University, faculty judges could evaluate ideas and advance some of them.

The Shark Tank could give students an opportunity to propose ways to create a greener Stony Brook campus.

As for the psychology and social science of environmental efforts, Lynch plans to work with the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science to explore ways to understand how people think about these issues.

The evidence and impact of climate change increases the urgency of this work and the potential contribution of the university to debating, addressing and proposing solutions.

Earlier this year, Hurricane Otis intensified within 12 hours from a tropical storm to a deadly Category 5 hurricane, slamming into Mexico.

The potential for future storms with intensification that occurs so rapidly that forecasts might not provide warnings with sufficient time to take emergency measures should ring alarm bells for area residents.

Hurricane Otis, whose intensification was the second-fastest recorded in modern times, “should scare everybody on Long Island,” said Lynch. “People think toddling along with business as usual is an option. That is not an option.”

Joseph Pierce, associate professor in the Department of Hispanic Languages and Literature and the inaugural director of Stony Brook University’s Native American and Indigenous Studies program. Photo courtesy Stony Brook University

Stony Brook University named Joseph Pierce, associate professor in the Department of Hispanic Languages and Literature, the inaugural director of a Native American and Indigenous Studies effort as the university plans to hire three new faculty in this nascent undertaking.

Next year, the southern flagship school of the State University of New York plans to add staff in the English Department, Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies and Anthropology.

“I have been eager for this to start,” said Pierce, a member of the Cherokee Nation who has been at the university for a decade. “We have so much to contribute to broader discussions that are happening around the world. The university is better by including Native American studies.”

Andrew Newman, professor and chair of the Department of English at SBU. Photo courtesy Stony Brook University

Andrew Newman, professor and current chair of the Department of English, who is also chair of a committee advising Axel Drees, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, described Pierce as having a “real national profile,” adding that he was the “right person to be the founding director.”

Starting next fall, students at the university can minor in Native American and Indigenous Studies, where they can study the history, art, social and political interests, languages and cultures of Indigenous peoples.

The focus on Native American Studies will emphasize transdisciplinary topics such as environmental justice and sustainability.

Earlier this year, Stony Brook won a competition to develop Governors Island as a climate solutions center [See story, “SBU will develop $700M climate center on Governors Island,” April 26, TBR News Media].

Indigenous scholars should have a “seat at the table,” said Newman, “as they are globally one of the demographics most impacted by climate change.”

Islands in the Pacific are disappearing, Guam is undergoing “significant environmental degradation,” and fires in the Pacific Northwest and leaking pipelines in the United States and Canada are “disproportionately affecting Indigenous peoples,” Pierce added.

Indigenous groups relate to the land in a way that’s different from others, approaching it as stewards and caretakers, Pierce said.

“We see land as a relative,” he noted. “We’re asking very different questions about what it means to care for a place and to care for the environment and to care for the life that sustains it.”

The New York City government proposed plans for flood relief on the lower East Side of Manhattan in the event of future storms like Hurricane Sandy. The proposals included building massive walls and raising elevated platforms, including clearing thousands of trees.

Numerous indigenous groups objected and protested against such plans, Pierce said.

In an email, Carl Lejuez, Stony Brook University’s provost, suggested that a significant piece of Governors Island is climate justice, so the link between the Governors Island effort and indigenous peoples “fits naturally with the goals of the New York Climate Exchange.”

Axel Drees, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at SBU. Photo courtesy Stony Brook University

Lejuez credited Drees as a “driver of this in collaboration with Professor Pierce.” Lejuez added that his office is “definitely providing support to see it come to fruition.”

The most crucial component in the start of this effort is hiring faculty.

“If we build the core faculty across the university, we can definitely consider expanding research and curriculum opportunities,” Lejuez wrote.

Student interest

Students from the Anthropology Department recently invited Pierce to give a talk about some of his current research.

“It was evident that a lot of them have an interest in working toward understanding humanity, what it means to be human,” he said. They also have an understanding of how anthropology as a discipline has sometimes historically “adopted rather unscientific and proto-eugenic methods” in describing and analyzing Indigenous Peoples.

Students are eager for an alternative perspective on the acquisition and acceptance of knowledge.

Pierce believes students have considerable interest in Native American Studies. His courses about Latin American indigenous populations are full.

“There are numerous students who are interested in Native American and Indigenous studies but don’t quite have a cohesive plan of study that’s available to them,” Pierce said. “This is remedying that disconnection.”

Long Island students grow up in numerous towns and communities with Native American names, such as Sachem, Wyandanch, Montauk and Setauket.

Newman added that the staff hopes the new effort can do some “outreach to local schools and provide professional development with kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers. It would be an important mission for the university to educate Long Island as a whole about Native culture.”

The free event will be held on Oct. 30 at 4 p.m. at Stony Brook University’s Staller Center for the Arts, Theater Two, 100 Nicolls Road, Stony Brook.

By Daniel Dunaief

Want to hear characters from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein discussing artificial intelligence? Or, perhaps, get an inside look at an interaction between a scientist studying penguins and a potential donor? Maybe you’d like something more abstract, like a thought piece on aspects of memory?

You can get all three at an upcoming Science on Stage performance of three one-act plays written by award-winning playwrights that feature the themes of cutting edge research from Stony Brook University.

Ken Weitzman Photo courtesy of SBU

On October 30th at 4 p.m. at Staller Center for the Arts’ Theater Two, which holds up to 130 people, professional actors will read three 10-minute scripts. Directed by Jackson Gay, topics will include research about artificial intelligence, climate change in Antarctica and collective memory. Audience members can then listen to a discussion hosted by Program Founder and Associate Professor of Theater Ken Weitzman that includes the scientists and the playwrights. The event is free and open to the public.

Funded by a grant from the Office of the Provost at Stony Brook University and supported by the College of Arts and Sciences and the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, the performances are an “amuse-bouche,” or an appetizer, about some of the diverse and compelling science that occurs at Stony Brook University, said Weitzman. 

“The hope is that [the plays] generate interest and get people to want to ask the next question or that [the plays] stick with audience members emotionally or intellectually and makes them want to discover more.”

The upcoming performance features the writing of two-time Tony Award winning playwright Greg Kotis, who wrote Urinetown; Michele Lowe, whose first play made it to Broadway and around the world; and Rogelio Martinez, whose plays have been produced around the U.S. and internationally.

The short plays will feature the scientific work of Nilanjan Chakraborty, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering; Heather Lynch, Professor of Ecology and Evolution, and Suparna Rajaram, Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science in the Psychology Department.

“It’s a good example of what we are doing and the opportunities for us as we continue to put funding in the arts and the humanities and also in the intersection of that from an interdisciplinary perspective,” said Carl Lejuez, Stony Brook Provost, in an interview. This kind of collaborative effort works best “when it’s truly bi-directional. Both sides benefit.”

Lejuez credits President Maurie McInnis with setting the tone about the importance of learning the humanities and the sciences. Lejuez said McInnis talks during her convocation speech about how she had intended to become a physician when she attended college, but took an art history course that was part of a general education curriculum that changed her life. The sixth president of Stony Brook, McInnis earned her PhD in the History of Art from Yale University.

Lejuez highlighted a number of interdisciplinary efforts at Stony Brook University. Stephanie Dinkins, Professor in the Department of Art, bridges visual art and Artificial Intelligence. She has focused her work on addressing the shortcomings of AI in understanding and depicting black women.

The Simons Center for Geometry and Physics has an arts and culture program, while the Collaborative for the Earth has faculty from numerous disciplines. They are starting a new Tiger Teams to develop key areas of study and will offer seed funding for interdisciplinary work to tackle climate change.

Lejuez plans to attend Science on Stage on October 30th.

“I feel an almost desperation to learn as much as I can about all the aspects of the university,” he said. Not only is he there to “show respect for the work and give it gravitas, but it’s the only way [he and others] can do [their job] of representing and supporting faculty and staff” in science and the humanities.

An enjoyable experience

The participants in Science on Stage appreciate the opportunity to collaborate outside their typical working world.

Heather Lynch, who conducts research on penguins in Antarctica and worked with Lowe, described the experience as “immensely enjoyable” and suggested that the “arts can help scientists step out of their own comfort zone to think about where their own work fits into society at large.”

Lynch explained that while the specific conversation in the play is fictionalized, the story reflects “my aggregate angst about our Antarctic field work and, in that sense, is probably more literally true than any conversation or interaction with any real life traveling guest.”

Lynch believes the play on her work is thought provoking. “Science is a tool, what matters is what you do” with that science, she said.

Lynch was thrilled to work with someone new and believes Lowe probably learned about Antarctica and the challenges it faces.

Bringing talent together

The first iteration of Science on Stage occurred in 2020 and was available remotely in the midst of the pandemic. Weitzman had reached out to scientists at Stony Brook to see who might be willing to partner up with playwrights.

He  is eager to share the diverse combination of topics in a live setting from this year’s trio of scientists. “I did some nudging to make sure there were a variety” of grand challenge topics, he said.

Weitzman explained that bringing the humanities and arts together in such an effort generated considerable enthusiasm. “There’s such incredible research being done here,” he said. “I want to engage for this community.”

He hopes such a performance can intrigue people at Stony Brook or in the broader community about science, theater writing or science communication.

While the plays are each 10 minutes long and include actors reading scripts, Weitzman said the experience would feel like it’s being performed and not read, particularly because professional actors are participating. 

He also hopes one or more of the playwrights sees this interaction as an opportunity to create a longer piece.

“I would love it if [this experience] encourages a playwright to think it justifies a full length” script, Weitzman said.

Lynch wrote a pilot screenplay herself called “Forecast Horizon” that she describes as an intellectual exercise. If Netflix calls, however, she’s “definitely interested in having it live on,” she said. Writing the screenplay gave her a “better appreciation for how much more similar science is to the arts than I would have thought. Both involve solving puzzles.”

As for future funding, Lejuez suggested that the University was still figuring out how to allocate available funds for next year and in future years.

He would like to see how this first time in person goes. Depending on the interest and enthusiasm, he could envision a regular source of funds to support such future similar collaborations.

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Some of the ways SBU combines arts and humanities with science

By Daniel Dunaief

The southern flagship State University of New York facility, Stony Brook University seeks ways to bring the best from the arts and humanities together with science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Provost Carl Lejuez. Photo from SBU

Indeed, the school provides a home for the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, where researchers tap into famed actor Alda’s improvisational acting skills, among other techniques, to connect with their audiences and share their cutting-edge work and discoveries.

In addition to the October 30th Science on Stage production at Staller Theater 2, Provost Carl Lejuez recently highlighted numerous additional interdisciplinary efforts.

This past spring, the Simons Center for Geometry and Physics presented artwork by Professor of Mathematics Moira Chas. Chas created artwork that combines yarn and wire, clot and zippers to illustrate mathematical objects, questions or theorems.

The Office of the Provost has also provided several grants to support interdisciplinary work. This includes two $25,000 grants that promote the development of new research teams to explore interdisciplinary areas of scholarly work and address challenges such as Digital Futures/ Ethical Artificial Intelligence, Sustainability, Critical health Studies/ Health Disparities, Global Migration, and other areas.

Additionally, the Collaborative for the Earth brings together faculty from the arts, humanities and social sciences with behavioral science and STEM faculty. The university is starting a new Tiger Teams that will develop key areas of study and offer seed funding to tackle climate change. The funding will explore ways to create solutions that policy makers and the public can adopt, as well as ways to address disparities in the impact of climate change and ways to support people who are disproportionately affected by this threat.

SBU added interdisciplinary faculty. Susannah Glickman, Assistant Professor in the Department of History, has interests such as computing, political economy, 20th century US and world history and the history of science.

Matthew Salzano, IDEA Fellow in Ethical AI, Information Systems and Data Science and Literacy, meanwhile, has a joint appointment with the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Communication. He studies rhetoric and digital culture, emphasizing how digital technology, including artificial intelligence, impacts and interacts with social justice.

Through course work, members of the university community can also address interdisciplinary questions. Associate Professor in the Department of Art Karen Lloyd teaches an Art and Medicine course, while  Adjunct Lecturer Patricia Maudies, also in the Art Department, teaches Art + The Brain. Both of these courses bring in guest lecturers from STEM and medicine.

Stony Brook also hosts centers aimed at interdisciplinary research, such as the Institute for Advanced Computational Science (IACS).

One of the current goals and objectives of the IACS strategic plan is to advance the intellectual foundations of computation and data, with high-impact applications in engineering, in the physical, environmental, life, health and social sciences, and in the arts and humanities.

Stony Brook University climbs 19 spots in the latest US News and World Report ranking. File photo from SBU

The public university that could, Stony Brook University, which is considerably younger than many of the schools with greater prestige, climbed 19 spots in the latest US News and World Report ranking of schools to 58.

At the highest ever rank for a State University of New York institution, SBU also placed 12th among national universities for social mobility rank.

“Stony Brook takes tremendous pride in its role as a New York flagship institution, and these latest rankings offer yet another proof point that this university is a destination of choice for students from all backgrounds looking to reach and exceed their boldest ambitions,” said Stony Brook University President Maurie McInnis. “While these rankings represent an opportunity to celebrate Stony Brook’s promising trajectory as the top public university in New York state, the focused commitment to our mission continues to guide our path forward.”

Stony Brook’s climb up the rankings is neither a one-year wonder nor a sudden recognition of the breadth and depth of its programs and the commitment of its staff to students from a wide range of backgrounds.

Stony Brook ranked in the 93 in 2022.

“While this jump is much bigger, you feel more confident when it’s part of a trend,” said Carl Lejuez, executive vice president and provost, in an interview. “This is a trajectory that has been led by the president’s vision for what it means for the state of New York to have a premier public institution.”

Lejuez added that SBU benefited from a change in the way US News and World Report compiles its rankings. At the same time that alumni giving, where Stony Brook doesn’t do as well, was taken out of the rankings, the periodical increased its emphasis on the graduation of Pell-eligible students.

Considered among the most economically challenged students at Stony Brook, Pell-eligible undergraduates achieved an 80% graduation rate.

“Other schools have a huge disparity” for the graduation rates of Pell-eligible students, Lejuez said. “We’ve really leaned into who we are” particularly for students who can improve their social mobility through a quality and well-respected education.

“We do believe those changed metrics make the rankings better,” Bill Warren, vice president for marketing and communications, said in an interview. “It’s not happenstance that we rose — we are being recognized for many of the things we do so very well.”

Specifically, Warren said the university admits and supports a diverse student population that has excellent graduation rates, reflecting the level of academic and other types of support the school offers to ensure the college experience meets and “hopefully exceeds” their expectations and needs.

More applicants

The climb in the rankings has helped drive up applications and made 2023 the largest incoming first year class in the school’s history.

In 2023, applications surged 24.2% for all Stony Brook application submissions to 55,633. The freshman rate, which comprised the vast majority of those applications, increased 23.9% to 50,435.

The faculty, meanwhile, applauded the recognition and the higher ranking.

“Without question, this is great news for Stony Brook University and long overdue,” Clinton Rubin, SUNY distinguished professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, wrote in an email. The senior administration is “committed to building on strengths, and research and technology development across all disciplines is thriving. The impact the university has had on upward mobility is inspiring, and the faculty, staff and students are proud to be part of such a key resource for the global community.”

Stony Brook has “come a long way and has much more to contribute,” Rubin added.

Peter van Nieuwenhuizen, distinguished professor emeritus in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, has noticed a “happiness” at the university: “I believe we are in fact better even than these rankings say,” he said in an interview.

Van Nieuwenhuizen said that 14 of his 17 former Ph.D. students have become professors elsewhere, which shows how other institutions value the students who earn degrees at Stony Brook University.

In addition to the higher ranking from US News and World Report, Stony Brook has also had some high-profile academic and financial victories recently.

Stony Brook was named the anchor institution to build a Climate Exchange Center on Governors Island that is dedicated to research and education and sharing information about the impacts of global warming on the world. [See story, “SBU will develop $700M climate center on Governors Island,” April 26, TBR News Media].

In addition, the Simons Foundation, founded by former math chair and founder and CEO of Renaissance Technologies and his wife Marilyn, announced a $500 million gift to the university, which was the largest ever unrestricted endowment gift to an institution of higher learning. [See story, “Simons Foundation gives record $500M gift to Stony Brook University,” June 2, TBR News Media].

Further opportunities

Lejuez sees continued opportunities for the university. He said international enrollment has not returned to the pre-pandemic levels.

Comparing Stony Brook to where the school’s peers are in terms of out-of-state and international students, the university is “not where we want to be in both of those areas.”

SBU is developing strategies that Lejuez anticipates will pay off within two years.

“You never want to bring in international and domestic out-of-state students at the expense of students in the state,” but having the right mix of students from different backgrounds and experiences “creates a vibrant university,” he said.

Lejuez has been to South Korea twice and China once in the past six months and has emphasized the quality of the programs and the safety of the campus.

Stony Brook is also enhancing the level of its advisory services for students.

“We invested a lot this summer in advising,” Lejuez said, which is an area where “we were lagging behind other universities. Students and parents are going to see a lot of focus in advising and tutoring” which help ensure student success.

Andrew Singer

Following a competitive national search,  Andrew Singer, PhD has been appointed Dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences (CEAS) at Stony Brook University, effective July 3, 2023. Singer will come to Stony Brook from The Grainger College of Engineering at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. While there, he has held a number of administrative and service positions, with activities focused on innovation and entrepreneurship, capital building projects, new degree development, and diversity, equity and inclusion programs.

“Stony Brook’s College of Engineering and Applied Sciences has quickly become one of the most exciting drivers of innovation and entrepreneurship across the state. Andy’s compelling leadership experiences and vision are a perfect combination to accelerate the trajectory of growth and excellence of CEAS,” said Stony Brook University President Maurie McInnis.

“Andy’s experience is an ideal match for CEAS at Stony Brook. Throughout our search process, he demonstrated a deep understanding of the opportunities and needs for CEAS to grow as a nationally renowned hub of excellence and innovation,” said Carl Lejuez, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “I look forward to partnering with him and our extremely talented faculty, staff, students, and alumni of the college to implement his vision.”

Currently, Singer serves as Associate Dean for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering in The Grainger College of Engineering at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. In this role, he oversees activities of the college’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, including the Technology Entrepreneur Center, Innovation Living Learning Center, and the cross-disciplinary Innovation, Leadership, and Engineering Entrepreneurship (ILEE) degree program. He also advises the dean on matters related to innovation, translational research, and entrepreneurship. Illinois’ Grainger College of Engineering enrolls more than 16,500 students, with more than 600 faculty members, and 40 degree programs ranked in the top 10.

Singer has led large-scale administrative and research efforts, including serving as Co-PI and associate director for the Systems on Nanoscale Information Fabrics, a $35 million research center across 10 universities and 10 sponsors. He also played a leadership role in securing a $50 million gift for the Siebel Center for Design at Illinois, and oversaw the development and construction of the center as chair of a campus faculty committee. He has worked extensively to broaden participation across Illinois’ innovation ecosystem, including development of the Advancing Women And under-Represented Entrepreneurs (AWARE) program, which helps launch Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) teams led by women and researchers underrepresented in the university’s ecosystem.

He is an internationally recognized scholar in the field of statistical signal processing and communication systems, having won numerous awards for his research and is a fellow of the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). An accomplished entrepreneur, he co-founded two companies in the areas of optical communications and underwater acoustic communication systems, and he has served frequently as a consultant and expert witness for the communications, audio, and sensing industries. Singer holds the Fox Family Professorship, one of only 18 university and campus-wide endowed positions on the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus.

“I’m excited by the opportunity to serve as Dean and to lead in the expansion of the educational, research, and innovation activities of another great institution and flagship university. This is a momentous time in history, with the state of New York and the nation investing deeply in our future,” Singer said. “As a leader in social mobility, Stony Brook University has had a tremendous impact on the lives of the students and the economy in the region and will continue to lead in developing the diverse and inclusive engineering teams and leaders needed for this next exciting chapter of American engineering innovation.”

Singer earned a bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate in electrical engineering and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Singer will succeed Jon Longtin, PhD, who has been serving as interim dean since June 2021. Longtin has led several endeavors for the college, including launching a new graduate program in Data Science, increasing overall research expenditures and research expenditures per faculty in CEAS by 40%, partnering to secure funding for a $100 million multi-disciplinary engineering building, and leading CEAS’s contributions to Stony Brook’s bid for the Governors Island Center for Climate Solutions.

Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY: Fall on campus

Stony Brook University has welcomed a trio of new leaders to its campus over the last several months. Provost Carl Lejuez, Vice President for Marketing and Communications William Warren, and Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration Jed Shivers recently shared their goals for Stony Brook and their excitement at joining a flagship university for the State University of New York educational system.

Carl Lejuez. Photo from Stony Brook University

Provost Lejuez

As provost, Carl Lejuez is responsible for the faculty, staff and students at Stony Brook University.

Lejuez, who has asked that people call him by his first name instead of trying to pronounce his last name — which, by the way, is Lejh way— makes a concerted effort to forge connections on campus.

“Whenever I introduce myself, I don’t say, ‘Provost,’” he said. “I say, ‘Professor in the Department of Psychology.’ I don’t believe I can be a credible leader of the faculty if there’s not a sense of sitting in their shoes and understanding the implications of the strategic and practical decisions we make.”

Lejuez, who grew up in Secaucus, New Jersey, earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Emory University and his Master of Arts and PhD in clinical psychology from the University of West Virginia.

As a first-generation college student, Lejuez feels inspired by the opportunity for students to come through a place with world-class research in an environment that cares about student success.

For first-generation students, in particular, he recognizes the need to forge connections with professors.

These close bonds help “take what’s happening in the classroom, which may be esoteric knowledge, and turn it into a passion and understanding,” providing students with the opportunity to see how what they’re learning in a textbook applies to the world.

He wants to expand the scope and reach of these hands-on experiences for students, while recognizing “how much goes into it from faculty and staff,” he said.

Lejuez believes the ability of professors to conduct extraordinary and groundbreaking research should dovetail with their commitment to being accomplished educators.

“We are setting the expectation from the start,” he said. “When you are tenured here, when you are progressing and doing well, you are excellent in both research and teaching.”

Stony Brook has a Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching that provides support for professors who may need polishing or improvement in inspiring and educating students.

Stony Brook looks closely at student evaluations, while also examining other data in assessing its teachers.

Lejuez, who recently served as provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of Connecticut, supports strong and growing areas for the university, including clinical psychology, quantum information systems, and climate science, among others.

“These are areas that Stony Brook has a real opportunity to develop and part of my role has been thinking about how do we identify incredibly strong areas and areas that are able to emerge that way and fuse it with growing fields,” he said.

Lejuez believes in academic excellence and in diversity and equity.

He hopes to broaden the range of countries and regions from which the university is recruiting students and faculty.

Lejuez describes Stony Brook as “one of the best kept secrets of public universities,” ranking first in the state in public schools, according to the 2022-2023 US News and World Report ranking.

“Our goal is now to remove the best kept secret part,” Lejuez said.

William Warren. Photo from Stony Brook University Marketing

Raising SBU’s profile

This is where William Warren, vice president for Marketing and Communications, comes in.

Warren has worked in numerous corporate and academic jobs, including most recently as the chief marketing and communications officer at the University of Utah.

Warren hopes to raise “the profile of Stony Brook and really claim the sort of credit and attention this institution deserves,” he said.

Previously at Coca Cola, among others, Warren welcomes the opportunity to support Stony Brook.

“You want a challenge that’s exciting and doable,” he said. “That means having a fabulous thing to market that is possibly undervalued.”

Warren divides marketing into earned and paid media. For the former, he hopes to do the hard work of building relationships with national reporters, who can spread the word about the achievements and experts available at Stony Brook.

Warren plans to continue to work with regional and local reporters, while engaging in an ongoing effort to share the Stony Brook story, including publicizing initiatives such as the Simons Stem Scholars Program that supports minority students entering the scientific fields.

As for the paid piece, Warren sees opportunities in several dimensions.

“The great thing about the paid marketing campaign is that it’s adaptable to all kinds of purposes,” he said. “Student recruitment can use the campaign to get the right students. We can use the campaign to help us recruit great faculty.” It can also be adapted to “attract more donor support.”

Any marketing effort, however, needs to remain grounded in truth.

“You want to go out there with a message that resonates and that faculty will see and say, ‘That’s what we offer,’” Warren said. “We are not blowing smoke.”

A marketing campaign includes a host of elements, such as the best execution and photography that supports the message.

An evolved campaign could include a new slogan for the school.

The “Coke is it” campaign reinforces the idea of authenticity, as consumers can be sure it is “exactly what you think it is,” Warren said. “It never disappoints. It’s always consistent and is part of the American culture.”

In developing a slogan for Stony Brook, which Warren said is less important than the message behind it, he wants to hone in on the handful of characteristics that capture the personality of the university.

In reflecting on the differences between commercial and academic marketing, Warren noticed that academics tend to be more skeptical.

“You have to work to make them allies,” he said.

Outside of his marketing role, Warren, who had initially pursued a PhD in history at Rice University, shared an interest in teaching. At the University of Utah, he taught an American economic history class and, at some point, would also consider teaching at Stony Brook.

Since arriving on Long Island, Warren has enjoyed kayaking. He is also a former violinist and enjoys the opportunity to relax with music.

A return to the Northeast

After over four years as vice president for finance and operations/ chief operating officer at the University of North Dakota, Jed Shivers is returning to the Northeast, which is similar to the cultural and environmental feel of his childhood home in Storrs, Connecticut.

Shivers, who is senior vice president for finance and administration at Stony Brook, enjoys walking through the quad and in wooded areas around campus.

After living in the plains, which has “its own beauty,” Shivers appreciates the SB campus, which has “more trees,” and includes a view of the fall foliage outside his office window in the Administration Building.

Ready to embrace the opportunities and challenges of his job, Shivers said the university community is preparing a strategic plan for the next five years or so, which he will follow with a campus master plan.

In preparing for that plan, he is working with a firm that will survey all research space on campus and determine its current functional use, occupants and intensity of use.

He is also focusing on facilities that assist with the delivery of education and is hoping to conduct a similar survey of educational spaces.

To provide managers and executives with actionable financial information, the university is also engaged in a process to improve its business systems in human resources, budgeting, accounting and financial management. 

With a “ high rate of system failures around campus” creating a “significant problem” for the university, the building and infrastructure at Stony Brook are all aging at the same time, Shivers said.

Campus Planning, Design and Construction and Campus Operations and Maintenance work constantly to deal with these issues and fix problems as quickly as they can, Shivers added.

The immediate need for deferred maintenance issues is over $1.5 billion, which dwarfs any campus close to comparable size in the SUNY system.

The SUNY Construction Fund and SUNY leadership has provided funds to alleviate a small but substantial part of those critical issues, he said. The university is also engaged in conversations with the Construction Fund and the Division of Budget on ways to use funds for optimal results.

Shivers was delighted for the chance to “get into a place where president [Maurie Mcinnis] was forming her team,” he said. He saw this opportunity as a chance to be a part of leadership “on a ground floor-ish kind of a way.”

He embraces the challenge of working through the SUNY system.

Consistent with mandates from McInnis since her arrival, Shivers would like to create a consolidated financial statement for Stony Brook and all its affiliated entities.

In addition to enjoying his strolls through the quad, Shivers has appreciated the opportunity to join other sports and school enthusiasts in supporting college teams and cultural life on campus. He and his wife Sandee have been married for almost 30 years.

Outside of work, Shivers said he does “everything badly,” but is enthusiastic about it. That includes golf, tennis, skiing and bike riding. To get in shape for the 100-mile North Fork ride, which he’s never done, he has started riding his indoor bike close to five days per week.

From left, Chang Kee Jung, Barry Barish and Carl Lejuez. Photo by John Griffin/Stony Brook University

By Daniel Dunaief

Albert Einstein predicted gravitational waves existed, but figured interference on the Earth would make them impossible to observe. He was right on the first count. On the second, it took close to a century to create an instrument capable of detecting gravitational waves. The first confirmed detection, which was generated 1.3 billion light years away when two black holes collided, occurred in September of 2015.

For his pioneering work with gravitational waves, which now include numerous other such observations, Barry Barish shared the Nobel Prize in 2017 with physicists Rainer Weiss and Kip Thorne.

In the fall of 2023, Barish is bringing his physics background and knowledge to Stony Brook University, where he will be the inaugural President’s Distinguished Endowed Chair in Physics. Barish will teach graduate students and serve as an advisor to Chang Kee Jung, Chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy and Distinguished Professor.

From left, Barry Barish and Chang Kee Jung. Photo by John Griffin/Stony Brook University

“I’m really happy,” said Jung in an interview. “Nobel Prize winning work is not all the same. This work [Barish] has done with LIGO [the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory] is incredible.”

Jung suggested the discovery of these two merging black holes “opened up a completely new field of astronomy using gravitational waves.” The finding is a “once-in-a-generation discovery.”

Gravitational waves disrupt the fabric of spacetime, a four-dimensional concept Einstein envisioned that combines the three dimensions of space with time. These waves are created when a neutron star with an imperfect spherical shape spins, and during the merger of two black holes, the merger of two neutron stars, or the merger of a neutron star and a black hole.

Jung suggested a way to picture a gravitational wave. “Imagine you have a bathtub with a little rubber ducky,” he said. In the corner of the bathtub, “you slam your hand into the water” which will create a ripple that will move the duck. In the case of the gravitational wave Barish helped detect, two black holes slamming into each other over 1.2 billion light years ago, when life on Earth was transitioning from single celled to multi celled organisms, started that ripple.

While Barish, 86, retired after a lengthy and distinguished career at CalTech in 2005, Stony Brook has no plans to create a team of physicists who specialize in this area. “The most important thing is that people together exchange ideas and figure out what to do next that’s interesting,” Barish said in an interview. “I’ll keep doing gravitational waves.”

Instead of encouraging graduate students and even undergraduates to follow in his footsteps, Barish hopes to “help stimulate the future here and help educate students,” he said.

An important call

Jung, who became chair of the department in the fall of 2021, has known Barish for over three decades. On a periodic informal zoom call, Jung reached out to Barish to tell him Stony Brook had offered Jung the opportunity to become chair. Barish suggested he turn it down. As Jung recalled, Barish said, “Why do you want to do that?”

On another informal call later on, Jung told Barish he decided to become chair, explaining that he wanted to serve the university and the department. Barish asked him what he would do as chair. Jung replied, “‘I would like guys like you to come to Stony Brook. It took [Barish] about 10 seconds to think about it and then he said, ‘That’s possible.’”

That, Jung said, is how a Nobel Prize winning scientist took the first steps towards joining Stony Brook.

Last week, Barish came to Stony Brook to deliver an inaugural lecture as a part of the newly created C.N. Yang Colloquium series in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Stony Brook officials were thrilled with Barish’s appointment and the opportunity to learn from his well-attended on-site lecture.

In remarks before Barish’s packed talk at the Simons Center Della Pietra Family Auditorium, Carl Lejuez, Executive Vice President and Provost, said he hears the name C.N. Yang “all the time,” which reflects Yang’s foundational contribution to Stony Brook University. “It’s fitting that we honor his legacy with a speaker of Dr. Barish’s character who, like Yang, is also a Nobel Prize winner. It’s a really nice synergy.”

Indeed, Yang, who won his Nobel Prize in 1957, coming to Stony Brook “instantaneously raised the university profile,” said Jung, whose department is the largest on campus with 75 faculty.

Surrounded by a dedicated team of scientists, and with the addition of another Nobel Prize winner to the fold, Jung believes the team will continue to thrive. 

“If you put together great minds, great things will happen,” he said.

Seeing the bigger picture

Barish is eager to encourage undergraduates and graduate students to consider the bigger picture in the realm of physics.

“[In general] we train graduate students to do something really important by making them narrower and narrower and narrower, so they can concentrate on doing something that’s worthy of getting a thesis and is as important as possible,” Barish said. “That works against creating a scientist who can look beyond something narrow. That’s bothered me for a long time.”

The problem, Barish continued, is that once researchers earn their degree, they continue on the same path. “Why should you happen to have had a supervisor in graduate school determine what you do for the rest of your life?” he asked.

Once students have the tools of physics, whether they are experimental or theoretical, they shouldn’t be so locked in, he urged. “It’s possible to use these same tools to do almost any problem in physics,” Barish added.

His goal in a course he plans to teach to advanced graduate students (that’s also open to undergraduates) is to provide exposure to the frontiers of science.

A few years ago, Barish recalled how the New York Times ran a picture of a black hole above the fold. He taught a class how scientists from around the world combined radio telescopes to make it act like one radio telescope the size of the Earth.

Helping students understand how that happened “pays off in the long run in making our physics students that we turn out be broader and more interesting and more interested in physics,” Barish said.

When Barish arrives next September, Jung said he plans to have some assignments for interactions with undergraduates. “Undergraduate research is critically important,” Jung said. Barish will also interact with various student groups, as well as the community outside the university.

“We will create those opportunities,” Jung said.

Carl Legged

Carl Lejuez has been appointed Stony Brook Univerity’s new executive vice president and provost, announced SBU President Maurie McInnis. Lejuez will be joining Stony Brook on July 1, 2022. He presently serves as provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of Connecticut (UConn).

As the chief academic officer at Stony Brook, Lejuez will be responsible for oversight of the academic mission of the university, providing direct supervision for all academic units, support services and operations, including enrollment management and student success, and coordinating all academic programs. In addition, the deans and directors of the colleges, schools, libraries, centers and institutes, including those in the Health Sciences related to nonclinical matters, will report to him. He will also work collaboratively with Harold Paz, executive vice president of health sciences and CEO of Stony Brook University Medicine.

Prior to his affiliation with UConn, Lejuez served as interim provost and executive vice chancellor and dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at The University of Kansas. He was also a professor of psychology and associate dean for research for the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences at the University of Maryland, a research professor at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and an adjunct faculty member at the Yale Child Study Center in New Haven, CT.

“In Dr. Lejuez, we have a leader who comes to the table with a strong track record of experience in public higher education,” said President McInnis. “I am confident Carl will help Stony Brook University meet its ambitious goals around research and academic excellence, and will be a stalwart supporter of our students, staff and faculty. He will help us find additional ways to strategically elevate our research, scholarship and art making while raising the bar even higher for amplifying our efforts to improve student success.”

“Joining Stony Brook University offers a tremendous opportunity to build upon the university’s long-standing commitment to excellence,” said Lejuez. “As a leading Association of American Universities public research institution, Stony Brook excels in educating students, creates a supportive and inclusive working environment, attracts outstanding faculty and spearheads research that improves the world. I am excited to work with President McInnis and the university community to elevate our academic programs and celebrate the accomplishments to come.”

Lejuez holds an MA and PhD in clinical psychology from West Virginia University and earned his BA in psychology from Emory University.