The vice presidents and audience members watch as President Harvey Stenger speaks at the University Forum on Jan. 24.
Photo by Jonathan Cohen
A time to ‘listen, learn’ and then a strategic planTweet
The audience at the University Forum erupted in loud and lengthy applause after the first sentence was spoken.
“I’m Harvey Stenger, and I’m your new president.”
Stenger, who admitted to being “in awe, honored, humbled and a little bit nervous,” received an enthusiastic welcome from a packed crowd of 550 at Lecture Hall 1 on Jan. 24. The crowd, which also heard from the University’s five vice presidents and the athletics director, even overflowed into an adjacent Lecture Hall where video of the Forum was being streamed live.
Stenger’s introduction preceded a 2012 timeline that will culminate in the development of a strategic plan for the University.
“I’ve only been here for three weeks, so I cannot today tell you a lot of details about what my plans will be for Binghamton University in the future,” said Stenger, who started on Jan. 1, after serving as interim provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at the University at Buffalo. “But I do have a lot of experience in higher education that I can bring with me. So the first two months will be a time for me to listen, learn and ask questions.”
Stenger said he will meet with members of the University, community leaders and key supporters during January and February. He has already had day-long sessions with Student Affairs, the Decker School of Nursing, the Office of the Vice President of Administration and the Division of Research. Stenger also unveiled a long list of scheduled meetings with other offices and divisions that runs through Feb. 24.
“I’m looking forward to all of these visits and getting to know the people and the activities within the units,” he said.
Also planned are shorter visits this spring with academic departments in Harpur College of Arts and Sciences and the Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science, along with meetings with students.
“One of the things I like to do is have dinner in the dining halls,” he said. “So I’ve scheduled 12 different dinners. … It will give me an opportunity to get to know a few dozen students more personally.”
From March to September, Stenger said he will bring together a team of faculty, staff, administrators, students and external constituents to develop the strategic plan for the University. Implementation would begin in September. Defining the measurements of success will be key, Stenger said.
“How we measure success is going to be very important,” he said. “These aren’t just going to be numbers. There will be qualitative topics that we gather, testimonials, anecdotes. The measurement of success for a university is more than SAT scores and research dollars.”
Elements of the plan already exist and will be woven into the final model, Stenger said, emphasizing the University’s growth plans, its NYSUNY 2020 proposal, a healthcare initiative led by the Division of Research and the Undergraduate Task Force report that was released last spring.
The University’s growth plans include adding 2,000 students (1,600 undergraduates and 400 graduate students), 150 faculty and 150 staff members over the next four to five years, along with the modernization of some classrooms.
New York state has not yet approved the University’s NYSUNY 2020 proposal, but support from Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected soon, Stenger said. The proposal would provide a rational tuition policy and $35 million in state support for a capital project. The University plans to construct a smart energy facility at the Innovative Technologies Complex.
“The choice of smart energy is logical because we have great strengths in it,” said Stenger, who added that the facility could increase the Binghamton area’s economic impact by $160 million annually. “It also fills a niche in the SUNY system that the other university centers cannot fill.”
Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Jean-Pierre (Peter) Mileur, Interim Vice President for Research Bahgat Sammakia, Vice President for Student Affairs Brian Rose, Vice President for External Affairs Marcia Craner, Director of Athletics Patrick Elliott and Vice President for Administration James Van Voorst also weighed in on how they will be able to support the University and its NYSUNY 2020 proposal.
• Mileur provided current statistics on student enrollment: 14,746 students, with 80 percent being undergraduates. The four-year graduation rate is 68 percent for freshmen (compared to the national average of 34 percent), 72 percent for transfer and 78 percent for Educational Opportunity Program students.
“We have the finest Educational Opportunity Program in the system,” he said.
The goal of NYSUNY 2020, Mileur said, is to raise teaching and research to the next level of breadth and excellence.
“It’s an ambitious plan to get us to the next level of accomplishment and quality,” he said. “I think our chances to pull this off are extremely good.”
• Sammakia said that a smart energy facility will “allow us to compete with anyone anywhere.”
“This building, along with the Biotechnology Building, the Engineering and Science Building, and the under-construction Center of Excellence, will give us an infrastructure that is truly going to be formidable,” he said.
Sammakia also expressed optimism about the University’s research future.
“Binghamton University has an outstanding faculty team that will grow over the next few years,” he said. “It also has an experienced, professional staff that will strongly complement the faculty and enable them to succeed. And we have an administration that is committed to growth and excellence in research.”
• Rose provided the biggest laughs of the morning when describing how Student Affairs will have enough housing for additional students.
“Our first plan actually was to clean out the Nature Preserve of the deer,” he said jokingly. “The deer were more organized, they had a super PAC. So we settled on a more traditional approach.”
That approach – the construction of new residence halls – will see the new Dickinson Community open in the fall of 2013. In 2015-16, the occupancy rate will be similar to what is projected in 2012, Rose said.
“In terms of accommodating our projected growth, there really is room at the inn,” he said.
Other Student Affairs goals include finding ways to get students to think and engage intellectually outside of the classroom and collaborating with academic units to enhance advising and support.
“I want the answer to the question about whether college is worth it to be: ‘It sure is at Binghamton,’” he said.
• Craner said External Affairs will use its three pillars of university advancement to support the University: reputation, relationships and resources.
She also announced to great applause that the Bold. Brilliant. Binghamton campaign has met and surpassed its $95 million goal. Up next is reaching $100 million, and completing the campaign in June by recognizing donors and volunteers.
“We want to celebrate the success of the campaign because we raised more than twice what we raised in the first campaign,” she said. “We will also lay the groundwork for future fund-raising efforts. We have a new president … and you are always looking toward your next campaign.”
• Elliott pointed to athletic and academic accomplishments and said that “excellence with honor” will be the Athletics Department’s “rallying call.”
He also pointed to the success of Minnesota Twins pitcher and 2011 graduate Scott Diamond and All-American runner Erik van Ingen as how athletes can help the University brand itself as a quality academic institution.
“This is athletics. I’m a competitive person and we have 21 competitive head coaches,” Elliott said. “We want to win – and we want to win in all 21 sports. But we’re going to do it the right way.
“Our goal is to make every single person in this room proud of the athletics program and we are going to work hard every day to do that.”
• Van Voorst provided an overview of some of the campus construction projects and reminded the audience that the University Downtown Center suffered “significant damage” in last September’s floods.
He also looked into his “crystal ball” to examine 2012-13 budget potentials, such as a $300 in-state tuition increase, state taxpayer support at 2010-11 levels and student fees likely staying flat.
“This scenario is a lot better than last year and we should be positive about moving forward and taking advantage of these opportunities,” he said.
Stenger, who answered questions from the audience after the vice presidents spoke, used an overhead slide during his talk that illustrated positivity and moving forward. After discussing his meetings with campus groups, Stenger unveiled a slide that featured four pictures accompanied by the words “I am enjoying it.”
“I can’t find any (photos) that I’m not smiling in,” he said, looking at the overhead slide. “I’m having a good time meeting everyone here.”
Presentation Slides (.pdf, 4mb)