Stony Brook President Maurie McInnis giving at the State of the University Address on Oct 12. McInnis recounted the university’s accomplishments from the past year in front of a crowd of nearly 1,000. KAYLA GOMEZ MOLANO/THE STATESMAN

Stony Brook University President Maurie McInnis gave the annual State of the University speech at the Staller Center for Arts on Oct. 12 at 1 p.m.

The auditorium was filled with nearly 1,000 attendees. Viewers could also watch the event from a livestream on Stony Brook’s website. 

McInnis discussed the accomplishments of students and alumni while detailing the University’s plans for the future. The speech lasted an hour.

During the speech, graduate student workers in attendance stood up and protested the treatment of graduate student workers. 

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“Among all AAU [Association of American Universities] members, we are the second poorest graduate workers… We deserve a living wage and we will fight for a living wage,” said one of the protestors.

The protests have been going on since November 2021 over the stipends that graduate students receive, which start at $22,500 annually. That is an amount below the poverty level in Suffolk county, which is $27,300 annually. 

President McInnis did not comment on the protest during her speech. She continued where she left off, talking about the healthcare Stony Brook’s provides as “agile, flexible, accessible and quality medical enterprise.”

She cited the story of Charlie Defraia, a four-year-old boy whose life was saved at Stony Brook Hospital this September. 

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McInnis began her speech by reflecting on the University’s growth. “Stony Brook is about defying the odds,” she said. “It’s a school that took a muddy potato field, and with only a few decades, built a top tier public research institution and hospital.”

She then highlighted how Stony Brook will continue to improve while emerging out of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In particular, McInnis emphasized how the University’s graduation and student retention rate increased, while the “equity gaps most universities face when it comes to pass rates for black, latinx underserved and Pell [Grant] eligible students” has decreased.

Future targets were also given, with the University hoping to achieve a “one year retention rate [of] 92% and targeting a six year graduation rate of 85% by 2030.”

She also emphasized the school’s new membership in the Colonial Athletic Association and partnership with the Simons Foundation.

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McInnis spoke about the growth of STEM programs. New projects, collaborations and the Presidential Innovation and Excellence Fund were all established to contribute towards research in a wide variety of fields. 

She also spoke about Stony Brook receiving funding from various sources. This includes the CHIPS and Science Act, which focuses on semiconductor and STEM research. 

Stony Brook was also the recipient of three Major Research Instrumentation proposals that the National Science Foundation accepted which provide funds for new research instruments and technology, as well as 14 Fulbright Fellowships which provide research and English instruction funding. 

According to McInnis, “Stony Brook’s research expenditures are up more than 20 percent” as a result. 

To Philip Doesschate, the Director of the Division on Information Technology, the budget is particularly important.

“Stony Brook does face some challenges budgetarily and I think she [McInnis] might have talked about some of that,” Doesschate said. “It fills out the picture of the challenges that we, as a campus, are up against.” 

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Throughout the speech, McInnis pointed to students, alumni and staff who benefitted from the opportunities Stony Brook gave to them and used those opportunities to benefit the world. 

She discussed Carolina Louis, a graduate student who emigrated from South America and now works as a care coordinator. She also mentioned Chris Gobler, a professor of Marine Science whose work helped restore local clam populations. 

Kristi Henderson, the chief of staff at the Provost Office, said that the stories of Stony Brook’s impact on the lives of its students particularly stuck with her. 

“They were all just really incredible examples of how this university kind of transforms and prepares students to go off to do all these amazing things,” Henderson said.

McInnis also gave plans for the expansion of Stony Brook’s hospital system. “We’re continuing to expand our impact and build out our clinically integrated network of providers across Suffolk County by late 2023. We will open a new East Hampton emergency department,” she said.

Vishruth Nagam, a sophomore student majoring in biology and minoring in music, was mostly satisfied with the subject of the speech. 

“Since I am in the med program, statements on med research and scholarships relate to me,” Nagam said.

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However, Nagam felt that more time could have been spent on the accomplishments of Stony Brook’s contributions to the arts and humanities. 

“Gilbert Kalish won a Grammy, which was not mentioned,” he said.

Kalish is a professor in the music department and a pianist who won a Grammy this year for Best Contemporary Classical Composition.

McInnis concluded the speech with an analogy. “If we are indeed standing at a portal, a gateway between one world and the next, it is up to us to walk through,” she finished.

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