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state of the university

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Stony Brook University Interim President Michael Bernstein during the school’s State of the University address in October 2019. Photo from Stony Brook University

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.

Stony Brook University President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. delivers his ninth state of the university address Oct. 3. Photo from Stony Brook University

As Stony Brook University President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. looks confidently to the future, the school’s budget deficit is still at the forefront of his mind.

On Oct. 3, Stanley delivered his ninth state of the university address on the Staller Center’s main stage to an auditorium full of faculty, staff, students and elected officials. During the speech, which lasted about an hour, the university president touched on several topics including enrollment growth, Stony Brook Medicine’s future and financial woes and successes — like the university’s positive economic impact on Long Island.

When it comes to tackling the budget deficit, Stanley did not specify the exact amount but said there is more work that needs to be done to lessen the financial shortfall. He said a hiring freeze still holds for 2018-19 because nothing has changed externally as the university has not received an increase of state support since 2010. He said fee increases and enrollment growth has helped alleviate some of the financial burdens, and the university is actively communicating with the state to seek an increase in allocations.

Stanley touted SBU’s presence as a driver for the local economy, citing about $7.2 billion generated from the hospital’s research; people hired and contracted; start-up companies involved with SBU’s incubator; and purchases of students and faculty in the area, the president said.

“We always take these things with a little grain of salt, but I think it’s an important thing that we need to talk about because again the state puts a significant investment into Stony Brook University,” he said. “We appreciate the investment we get from the state, but it’s really nice to talk about the return on that investment from the state.”

The university also saw positive results from The Campaign for Stony Brook fundraising efforts, which raised $630.7 million. He said many people ask him why money can’t be taken from those funds to help with the school’s budget deficit.

“Ninety-eight percent of that money raised is directly allocated to specific goals that our donors have on campus,” he said, adding the funds are usually put toward scholarships, endowed professorship, research projects or a specific campus building.

Stanley said the four-year graduation rate for the class entering in 2014 has reached 62 percent, which signifies a 17-point jump from a 45 percent graduation rate for the class entering in 2007. Among the factors he credited for the success is the Finish in 4 Grants Program. Initiated in spring 2015, the program assists students in good standing who are about to complete their studies but are confronted with personal circumstances that prevent it.

“We want to continue to build on this momentum, but it’s going to be important that we work very hard and continue to find the resources to support this very important program,” he said.

Stanley said a significant part of the university’s budget, $2.28 billion, is for Stony Brook Medicine.

“We are the destination, I believe, for quality care on Long Island,” he said. “We’re the only provider of a level one trauma center for Long Island. We have the only children’s hospital in Suffolk County.”

In the next few months, Stony Brook University Hospital will be opening the Medical and Research Translation building with a state-of-the-art cancer center, Stony Brook Children’s and Hospital Pavilion, and the Phillips Family Cancer Center in Southampton.