Welcome from the Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost - Spring 2014
This has already been an extraordinary year for Binghamton University, full of exciting events and positive change. As we begin the spring semester, the pace of change will accelerate, as we recruit new faculty and students, expand research, develop new programs, and open new facilities.
In August, President Barack Obama chose Binghamton University as the venue to discuss his agenda for higher education. Binghamton's record of offering students excellence, access, and value made us the perfect place for the President to present his ideas, and we were honored to host him.
President Obama's visit came as we welcomed almost 5,000 new students to campus and saw enrollment top 16,000. Binghamton is growing according to plan and doing so with the selectivity and quality that has defined us for the past 63 years. The average SAT scores of our new freshmen ranked sixth among public universities, and a dramatic increase in graduate applications yielded an outstanding group of new students from across the United States and around the world.
I am especially proud of our rare combination of excellence and access. Binghamton is highly selective, but selectivity has not come at the expense of our commitment to provide access to a truly remarkable education to students from diverse backgrounds. Thirty percent of our undergraduates are eligible for Pell grants, nearly the same proportion are students of color, and about a quarter are first-generation college students. Speaking for my faculty colleagues, we feel privileged to teach such a bright, curious, diverse, and highly motivated group of students.
To serve our growing student population and enhance our standing as a top research university, we have developed an ambitious faculty hiring plan. Over the past two years, we have hired almost 100 new faculty, and we currently have 55 searches underway. While our hiring initiative is keeping faculty, staff, and deans busy, all of us are excited about the results. We are recruiting outstanding faculty who bring new energy and fresh insights to teaching, mentoring, and research.
We are taking a new approach to faculty hiring this year, one that is designed to foster collaboration among faculty from different disciplines. During the 2012-13 academic year, I worked closely with faculty leaders to develop a strategic approach to hiring that will help Binghamton University enhance its strength and visibility in research, scholarship, and creative work. A faculty team identified five Transdisciplinary Areas of Excellence (TAEs) in which Binghamton University has significant strength and can become internationally recognized by making additional investments in faculty (http://www.binghamton.edu/tae/). These areas address important scientific, social, technological, cultural, and policy questions that can only be answered by teams of faculty from multiple disciplines.
Over half of our searches this year are for faculty who will strengthen the TAEs. Members of the faculty steering committees responsible for guiding each of the TAEs are playing an important role in searches for the new colleagues who will join their area. The steering committees have also developed initiatives—workshops, conferences, and seed grant competitions—designed to promote research, foster intellectual exchange, and encourage transdisciplinary collaborations in research, teaching, and proposal development.
In addition to hiring, faculty and staff are hard at work implementing the Road Map (http://www.binghamton.edu/president/road-map/index.html), our new strategic plan that was developed during the 2012-13 academic year with broad input from faculty, staff, students, alumni, and community members. As a result of the Road Map, we have already increased our investment in faculty start-up packages, transdisciplinary research collaborations, library collections, and doctoral fellowships.
With assistance from the Road Map, we have also expanded our Center for Learning and Teaching. Distinguished Teaching Professor James Pitarresi became executive director of the Center last summer. In the span of a few months, he has accomplished a great deal, creating faculty development grants, developing workshops for faculty, supporting innovation in STEM education, providing leadership for classroom design and online and blended learning, and expanding tutoring services. Complementing these initiatives, we are developing a Freshman Research Immersion Program in STEM disciplines and expanding support for undergraduate research in the fine arts, social sciences, and humanities.
Binghamton's commitment to internationalization has earned it accolades from the higher education community, and we continue to build on our record of success. This year, over 15% of our students come to us from over 100 countries around the globe, up from 8% just a decade ago. We have also built strong partnerships with top universities and corporate partners around the world, fueling global collaborations that contribute to research, study abroad, and internship opportunities. During the current year, we are building new and strengthening existing partnerships in Turkey, China, India, South Korea, Botswana, South Africa, Colombia, Peru, and Germany.
Binghamton University is moving steadily toward the goal we established in the Road Map: becoming the premier public university of the 21st century. As we grow in size, we are growing with quality while maintaining our commitment to diversity and access. We are also enhancing our research infrastructure and, most importantly, recruiting top faculty. Together, faculty, staff, students, and alumni are building on a tradition of excellence to make a great university better.