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University to remain flexible in a changing landscape

By : By Katie Ellis and Sarah Lifshin

President Lois B. DeFleur and Interim Vice President of Research Bahgat Sammakia prepare for the start of the annual University Forum earlier this week. Nearly 500 members of the campus community crowded Lecture Hall One to hear DeFleur and the five vice
Facing continued demands to provide a lifelong education, Binghamton University will continue to strategically grow, as academic institutions nationwide face growing enrollments and record numbers graduate from high school, President Lois B. DeFleur told more than 500 people who attended the annual University Forum earlier this week.

“These trends post significant challenges in the areas of enrollment pressures, housing, space, and funding,” DeFleur said, adding that universities in some states have capped enrollment, cut classes or limited the number of sections offered as growth has been left unfunded by state legislatures.

“Today’s students have different expectations for what their college experience will bring them,” DeFleur said. “They want high quality academic experiences coupled with real-life learning.”

Binghamton continues to attract the best students and set new records with 19,068 freshmen and 2,468 transfer applications for last fall.

To meet anticipated changes, DeFleur has reconvened the Strategic Planning Council, first created in 1992 to identify areas of potential growth and development, as well as key benchmarks to measure the University’s progress. The efforts will help prepare for the 2004 SUNY Mission Review process.

In each of their remarks, the five vice presidents sounded similar themes on a changing environment, where meeting the student’s needs for high-quality academic experiences is coupled with real-life learning.

“It’s just not the case any longer that states see higher education as an investment in the future of the state as a whole,” said Mary Ann Swain, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “It’s seen as beneficial for the individual. Education is a commodity you’re buying.”

Swain spoke of the tremendous pressure on admissions and the University to accept students and provide them with “anyplace, anytime” coursework and degrees.

“Our traditional mix within courses has got to change,” she said. “We should change the way we manage our face-to-face contacts with students and we need to do more to engage them. My conviction is that synergy and continued innovation has and will continue to be the best response to working with constrained resources.”

Student issues are really University issues, said Rodger Summers, vice president for Student Affairs.

“We’re seeing more and more legislation and policies coming into our workplace that further complicate our ability to rationally work with our students to affect change,” Summers said.

Efforts such as the Alcohol and Other Drugs Task Force, the creation of student portfolios and the Diversity Council are helping BU to continue to provide the best experience possible for our students, he added.

State support is now at 42 percent, with tuition and fees providing 58 percent of the University’s revenues, said Anthony Ferrara, vice president for administration. “We continue to struggle with the fiscal changes at the state level, but the University is responding,” he said Ferrara reviewed the progress on a number of campus construction projects as well as cost-saving measures including custodial changes, use of e-mail, energy conservation efforts and the workplace flexibility project. Increasing efficiency has allowed the campus to realize over $3.6 million in annual savings, he said. He also reviewed campus safety efforts and noted that more than 900 parking spaces will be added to the campus by next fall. Bahgat Sammakia, interim vice president for research, said that change brings opportunity and the University is poised to take advantage of many opportunities. “We must be interdisciplinary and we are constantly looking at emerging areas on campus,” he said. “We have a very diverse set of activities happening. Many are complimentary and mirror the national initiatives as well. This is a very positive change for this campus.” As Binghamton’s research initiatives expand and grow, Sammakia also commended efforts in the economic development arena. “Binghamton is an engaged partner in the community,” he said. “Our efforts with the Integrated Electronics Engineering Center, the Strategic Partnership for Industrial Resurgence, the Trade Adjustment Assistance Center and the Small Business Development Center have added millions of dollars to the local economy as they have created or saved thousands of jobs.” As the University’s state support has declined and the nation’s economy has suffered, Binghamton University’s fund-raising activities have held steady or increased, said Thomas Kelly, vice president for external affairs. “We’ve increased our focus on getting the large, principal gifts and broadened our units on campus with development staff now working with the library and Student Affairs as well as other deans and directors,” Kelly said. “We must continue to keep our eye on the mission and priorities of the University as we pursue resources for this exceptional campus.” The efforts are paying off. “We project receipt of at least $11 million this year — a banner year and a record,” Kelly said. DeFleur said one of the keys to future success will be the development of new academic and research programs that meet pressing social and regional needs, and capitalize on changing federal and state priorities. “It is clear that we are working in a rapidly changing environment — one that poses many challenges and presents many opportunities,” DeFleur said. “We start from a position of strength, with quality programs and faculty and staff who are remarkably creative, innovative and forward thinking. We will continue to be flexible and strategic.”
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Last Updated: 10/14/08