In his annual presentation to the campus community, President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. looked back on the university’s success, but also highlighted the challenging road ahead in his State of the University Address on Wednesday, Sept. 17.
Among the school’s accomplishments was a higher than usual number of faculty hires and admitted students, with 181 new faculty and about 2,900 new students this year. Stanley also noted the improved average grades and SAT scores of those admitted.
“Alumni say to me, ‘I couldn’t even get in today because of the grades,’” Stanley said. “And I say yeah, that’s right,” he joked.
He also noted that about 20,000 new donors gave over $50 million from 2011 to 2014.
But Stanley’s main concern was the future. One problem he said must be addressed is the four-year graduation rate.
“We could do better,” Stanley said. “We need to make sure students don’t drop out from financial issues.” He pointed out the near stagnation of four-year graduation rates since 2007, which has been hovering under 50 percent.
He introduced the Finish in Four Fund, which allocates up to $250,000 to be distributed to students “in good academic standing” that “max out their financial support.”
Another challenge Stony Brook and other research universities face is the stagnation of federal investment in research and development. Stanley said that from 2001 to 2011, there has been little to no growth in federal support.
According to worldbank.org, the percentage of the United States’ gross domestic product that went towards research and development in 2012 was 2.8 percent. That same year, the U.S. percentage of GDP that went towards public health expenditures was 8.3 percent.
This news is troublesome for a school as invested in its research as Stony Brook.
“Federal support has transformed the world since World War II,” Stanley said. “We’re really not moving at the state we need.”
But overall, Stanley said his vision of Stony Brook in the years ahead is bright.
“I’m really optimistic about our future,” he said. “The state of the university is strong. This is the best place we’ve been in since I’ve been here.”
Concerning more the campus itself, Stanley announced the statuses of different construction projects, including the Stony Brook Arena, opening this Oct. 1, and a Stony Brook Union redesign in place to begin by fall of 2016.
Another project the president seemed relieved to mention was the anticipated renovation of the Pritchard Pool to be completed by spring of 2016.
“Many of you have been unhappy,” he said. “I understand why.”
Stanley also took time to personally congratulate the new permanent and interim faculty.
“You’re an extraordinary and distinguished group,” Stanley said. “You all share the commitment to excellence.”
New faculty members Jarrod French of the Chemistry department and David Matus of the Biochemistry department found positives in joining the Stony Brook community.
“I’m just excited for the pool,” Matus, a new assistant professor joked. “But it’s a good relationship within the biochemistry department and there are good colleagues.”
“One of the things that attracted me was the relationship between the departments,” French, also a new assistant professor, said. “It’s a good time to be at Stony Brook. The school’s on an upward trajectory.”