Stenger touts growth at State of the University
By Eric Coker
From a "20 by 2020" enrollment initiative to a new venue for the State of the University address, growth served as the theme of President Harvey Stenger's annual talk.
"A public university has to meet the demands of the population and has to help society," Stenger said during the Jan. 31 address. "We've proven to ourselves over the past two years that we can get bigger and better at the same time."
To help Binghamton University grow to 20,000 students — 14,000 undergraduates and 6,000 graduate students — by 2020, Stenger unveiled a 4-1-1 program to attract and retain graduate students. The program would combine career-based, credit-bearing internships with advanced coursework as students pursue master's degrees.
"What if we were to think about that time period when an undergraduate finishes his or her degree as a time when we can blend advanced academic work with experiential opportunities?" he said. "This will allow students to build their résumés and build their experiences, while at the same time adding a credential – a master's degree – that will be added to the value of those experiential opportunities."
Stenger's talk marked a change in the State of the University, formerly known as the University Forum. The presentation took place in the Anderson Center's Osterhout Concert Theater instead of the smaller Lecture Hall 1. Most of the 1,170-seat Osterhout theater was filled with faculty members, staff, students, administrators and community leaders. Stenger, eschewing the traditional podium and wearing a microphone headset, walked across the stage and spoke for almost an hour after being introduced by Vice President for Student Affairs Brian Rose and Student Association President Eric Larson.
Rose began his remarks by calling for a moment of silence in honor of former University President Clifford D. Clark, who died earlier in the day at age 88.
The State of the University also marked the first year that the University's vice presidents did not outline their own goals and accomplishments following the president's remarks. The presentation also was held after the start of the spring semester, allowing for more faculty members and students to attend.
"What President Stenger has done in his two years with us is to galvanize our work around a single, simple and powerful vision: to be the premier public university," Rose said. "We work together with that single purpose in mind and we therefore speak with one voice."
In discussing the importance of growth, Stenger emphasized the following advantages:
• Growth will be a catalyst for research, education and outreach — increasing regional
and global impact and making Binghamton the go-to University for people seeking solutions
to difficult problems.
• Growth will allow Binghamton to teach more classes in more fields, giving more students new educational and career opportunities.
• Growth will increase visibility and recognition.
• Growth will allow the University to hire more faculty, lower the student-to-faculty ratio, encourage student success and make the University more accountable to students, families, community and our state.
• Growth will shift the balance between teaching and research, allowing Binghamton to focus not only on the education of our students but on the challenges facing the world — from healthcare and energy conservation to resolving international conflicts and making the digital world more secure.
• Growth will allow Binghamton to establish a critical mass of excellence across the University.
• Growth will generate pride among alumni.
In order to determine how and where to grow, Stenger said Binghamton University compared itself to 10 renowned research schools, including the University of Virginia, the University of Michigan, William and Mary, and the University of Wisconsin. The 10 schools have an average graduate enrollment of about 30 percent. By 2016, Binghamton University's graduate enrollment will be about 19 percent.
"This difference is something we need to address," he said. "Getting bigger at the graduate level is better."
The University's enrollment is now 12,939 undergraduates and 3,078 graduate students. The "right balance," Stenger said, is 20,000 students, with 6,000 graduate students by 2020. The University already has a number of initiatives underway to help increase the graduate population:
• A new PharmD and Pharmacy PhD program due to begin by 2017;
• Binghamton's Graduate Growth Initiative, which targets the development of new career-oriented master's programs;
• Ongoing commitments of increased funding for graduate students to bring the best and brightest to campus;
• A growing base of teaching assistants to support undergraduate enrollment growth;
• A growing base of research assistants on grants and contracts due to the growth in faculty research funding.
"Those ideas are good ideas, but they're just incremental. We need a big idea," said Stenger, who paused and took a long drink of water before saying: "Alright, I've got it!"
The 4-1-1 program, which likely will not be the final name, will feature a task force led by Graduate School Dean Susan Strehle to develop a pilot program by fall 2014. While a goal is to bring Binghamton University graduates into the program, alumni will play a major role as well, Stenger said.
"We have 110,000 alumni spread across the globe," Stenger said of the internship component of 4-1-1. "We are going to offer them one of our interns to help their careers, their companies, their agencies get even better. The possibility of using our alumni to make this program work is real."
Stenger added that an additional 180 faculty members, 180 teaching assistants and 100 staff members will be needed to support the influx of students.
"Can we grow to 20,000 by 2020?" Stenger asked. "I think anything is possible. I have been amazed by what we have been able to do over the last two years. I believe this is possible."
Stenger began his presentation by reviewing 2013 and the five strategic priorities that the campus community developed from the Road Map to Premier.
• In "Graduate education, research, scholarship and creative activities," he praised
faculty members such as Ricardo Larémont, Kanad Ghose, Maria Mazziotti Gillan and
Sarah Laszlo, and reviewed the five Transdisciplinary Areas of Excellence.
• In "A transformative learning community," Stenger recounted President Obama's visit in August 2013 to promote a plan to make college more affordable. "It was an outstanding event," he said. "(President Obama) knew he was at a place that was doing exactly what he was trying to tell the rest of the country to do: Be accountable and deliver education at an affordable cost."
• In "A diverse and inclusive campus culture," Stenger saluted the work of Valerie Hampton, chief diversity officer, and reminded the audience that a campus climate survey will soon launch.
• In "Regional to global impact," Stenger emphasized that the addition of 1,300 students and 100 faculty and staff members over the past years added $30 million to the local economy.
• In "Strategic Investments," the president stressed the importance of faculty hiring and the University's commitment to the construction of new buildings for learning, living and discovery.
Stenger, who called the last year "amazing," concluded his presentation by showing a video preview of the upcoming Hugh Grant-Marisa Tomei movie "The Rewrite," which is set at Binghamton University.
"If you had said to me three years ago when I got here that there would be a movie about Binghamton University with Hugh Grant and Marisa Tomei − and written by alum Marc Lawrence '81 – I would've said: 'Ha! It's more likely we'll have 20,000 students by 2020 than that,'" Stenger said. "If that can happen, anything can happen."
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