Stony Brook University (SBU) submitted a proposal on Oct. 13 to become a candidate in a worldwide competition to select an anchor establishment for a groundbreaking climate science-related development project spearheaded by the City of New York and the Trust for Governors Island.
The institution that wins will receive up to 33 acres of real estate on Governors Island and up to $150 million to build an international hub for convening climate science research. The island will be developed into a climate center which encourages community engagement, workforce development and global and local partnerships aimed at supporting equitable climate solutions.
SBU was one of 12 respondents for the Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI), which was announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio and The Trust for Governors Island on June 28.
“Our response was almost immediate,” Rose Martinelli, the vice president for Strategic Initiatives at SBU, said. “Within a week, I was asked by the president to lead up a team to put together the RFEI response.”
On Aug. 18, the president and provost announced plans to participate, soliciting ideas and input from the community. “Over 50 faculty members from across the entire campus submitted ideas, many of which we included in the RFEI,” Martinelli said.
She also said over 40 faculty members contributed directly to the proposal, including Kevin Reed, an associate professor in the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SOMAS), William Herman, the assistant vice president for Campus Planning, Design & Construction and Lauren Lindenfeld, the dean of the School of Journalism.
“What we needed to do is bring a lot of people from different disciplines together,” Martinelli said. “Climate is not only an atmospheric issue; it’s also an economic issue and an arts issue, so we wanted input from people from across disciplines, from creative writing, to engineering.”
Donovan Finn, an assistant professor in SOMAS, added to this. “STEM is widely considered to be Stony Brook’s bread and butter, but this project also engages the social sciences, the humanities, political science and embraces community engagement,” Finn said. “I think that kind of full suite of approaches is necessary, and it seems to me that it’s pretty explicit in the proposal.”
Finn also adds that he was “impressed by the breadth and quality of partners and supporting institutions that were included in the proposal.”
According to Martinelli, some of these partnerships with SBU include collaborations with institutions such as the University of Washington, the University of Oxford, Yale University, Columbia University, Stanford University, SUNY Maritime, the Rochester Institute of Technology and Brookhaven National Lab.
Additional partnerships involve various different non-profit organizations, labor unions, environment justice and community partners, development partners and industry partners such as IBM.
Other unique aspects of SBU’s proposal is the University’s proximity to Governor’s Island, its influence in New York, its identity as the leading public research university in the Greater NYC area and its being the only public member of the Association of American Universities in the region.
“Stony Brook was founded in the late 50s, to serve an ever growing population in New York and to be a research intensive university. And so, we’ve always served New Yorkers,” Martinelli said. “Eighty percent of our students come from the five boroughs or Long Island, and more than half of our alumni live in similar areas. And so, when I think about our commitment to energy issues in NY, we’ve been a part of this forever.”
SBU has also been lauded for its commitment to serving underrepresented and first-generation students, a defining feature of the University which emphasizes its role in engaging with and benefiting the public.
“I think this opportunity puts us in a position to leverage that expertise that’s been built quietly over the last few decades, and really jump into a much more prestigious, visible position,” Finn said. “Our world class faculty, high-quality students and the ability to move students through the socioeconomic spectrum can benefit this project immensely, and this project can, in turn, help draw more attention to Stony Brook.”
On Nov. 3, SBU had an interview with the Trust for Governors Island, and in the following weeks, questions for a written proposal will be sent out from the Trust to the competing institutions before one is selected as the final candidate.
In a post published on the school’s website, President Maurie McInnis wrote that “This is the kind of exciting project that will be a game-changer at Stony Brook if we get selected … and even if we do not, it has energized the many faculty and students involved with the planning and driven conversation across disciplines in a deep and meaningful way.”
Isabella Berger, a freshman environmental studies major, said the proposal definitely drew her attention.
“I think this project is really important in that it not only engages students within SOMAS, but has also inspired other students to explore environmental studies and other areas in that discipline,” Berger said.
Martinelli commented on the number of emails she received from faculty and staff, asking how they can be engaged.
“There is definitely potential for students to be directly involved in the next phase of work, but most importantly, there’s enormous pride in what we did,” Martinelli said. “In less than four months, we were able to pull this off and demonstrate that Stony Brook has everything it needs to be incredibly ambitious and succeed.”