July 5, 2022

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President's Quarterly Report

The campus is now seeing the first signs of spring, with red and yellow buds appearing on the trees and snowbanks banished until next November. The start of spring is always a time for optimism at Binghamton — the dark days of winter are gone, and with permanent daylight-saving time in the offing, the sun sets later and later in the evening. Now, students are gearing up for the last few weeks of the semester. It’s an active and exciting time on campus.

At the same time, the campus community is deeply concerned about events taking place in Europe. All of us are watching closely as the news coming out of Ukraine is both sad and inspiring. As the invasion unfolded in recent weeks, I sent a message to the University community offering our support for students and scholars affected by the war. While the genesis of the conflict is historically complex, I think that we all can agree that the invasion goes against the values of democracy, education and enlightenment that campuses like Binghamton encourage. Hopefully, there will be a quick resolution to the war and the violence will come to an end.

Spring 2022 and living with COVID

In January, we successfully launched the spring 2022 semester, with students returning to campus from Jan. 20 through Jan. 23, and classes starting on Jan. 25. This reflected our decision to push back move-in and the start of classes by a week in response to a spike in COVID cases that occurred late in the fall semester. As a result, Commencement for the class of 2022 will be moved back one week and will be held May 20, 21 and 22, (with the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences holding its ceremony May 13).

The good news is that we started the semester with all classes taking place in person, along with campus co-curricular and social activities. In short, the campus has largely returned to normal, though we began the semester with a mask requirement in place, due to higher COVID positivity rates in the Southern Tier communities. The return of students to campus following their spring break gave us a chance to assess the positivity rate on campus, allowing us to decide to lift the University’s masking mandate.

We are now in a much stronger place than we were last year — with all students required to be vaccinated and boosted, and the great majority of our faculty and staff also having been vaccinated. So, I want to thank all of you for doing your part to make our campus safer. This has been a challenging two years, but we have come through COVID having learned many lessons that will make the campus more flexible and resilient for future challenges.

State of the University and the upcoming budget

The University’s success in addressing the challenges of COVID was one of my main messages during my annual State of the University address that I gave at the beginning of February. During my talk, I also noted the University’s steady move up the national rankings, with U.S. News & World Report having named us the #33 best public college and #84 among all U.S. colleges and universities, up five and eight positions, respectively. From my perspective, our growing recognition stems from both the strength of our academic programs, particularly our high-impact learning experiences, and the strength of our University’s research programs.

During my address, I took time to recognize some of the student-centered programs, including our First-year Research Immersion and Source Project programs that give students hands-on research and scholarship experiences from the start of their time at Binghamton. I also took time to recognize the record five distinguished professors named by SUNY this past year, as well as the seven National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER awards earned by our faculty this year.

I also spent time discussing the important role that the arts play as part of the overall liberal arts instruction that is central to the education all Binghamton undergraduates receive. Because of their importance, we have been working with faculty in the arts to to develop a new School of the Arts as part of Harpur College. Our goal is to better integrate the five departments (cinema, theatre, music, art history, and art and design) in the visual and performing arts and to raise the visibility of Binghamton’s arts programs within SUNY and beyond. We will begin conducting a search for a director for the new school in the next few months.

We also want to give our new School for the Arts a proper facility that will encourage collaboration across the disciplines. The Fine Arts Building that currently houses these programs is one of the oldest buildings on campus and hasn’t been updated much since the 1980s when the Anderson Center was constructed. We’ve hired the consulting firm CS Arch and have put together a faculty advisory committee to work together to devise a plan for renovating the facility so that we can create synergies between departments and attract the best faculty and students.

I also addressed the University’s fiscal situation in my remarks. The next year will be challenging, as we continue to confront challenges resulting from the pandemic. We are currently forecasting an $8–11 million deficit — although this may change somewhat depending on our ability to hit admissions targets for next fall. These deficits are largely due to challenges over the past few years in meeting our enrollment targets, particularly among international and graduate students. International enrollment has been down significantly during the pandemic, as nations have restricted international travel to contain the disease.

There is some good news regarding state support for the University. In Gov. Kathy Hochul’s budget address in January, she indicated that New York would increase TAP funding to eliminate the TAP gap; this would eliminate the difference between what the state’s tuition assistance program offers and the cost of SUNY tuition. This will mean several million dollars more for the campus and will help increase student access. The New York state Assembly and Senate have both committed to increasing funding for SUNY in their budget proposals as well, so the overall budget for SUNY looks promising. Their proposals include investments in faculty support, EOP and student access. The state is required to finalize its budget on April 1, just as this quarterly report is completed.

Admissions

In addition to state support, the University depends on tuition revenues for the bulk of its financing, so meeting our enrollment targets is vital. The outlook for next fall is very promising. So far, Binghamton has received more than 41,300 applications for the class of 2026. This is the first time any SUNY campus has gone over 40,000 applications (the closest previously was Binghamton last year, when we went over 39,000), and among SUNY institutions, only Stony Brook is within 10,000 of us.

Binghamton’s reputation is growing, and we are attracting more and more interest from students in other parts of the country, with our out-of-state domestic applications up about 10% compared to last year. Most importantly, we are optimistic that, with the worst of COVID past us, that we will return to being a preferred campus for international students. We are already seeing a 17% increase in international applications — this is welcome news, though it will probably take some time before our international enrollment fully rebounds from the impact of COVID.

The way we review and analyze applications has changed over the past couple of years as well. COVID restrictions meant that many students either were unable or chose not to take the standardized SAT tests that historically have been one of the key measures admissions staff use to determine student quality. More than half of our prospective students in this cycle do not include standardized test scores in their application, and this will continue into next year as well, since SUNY has indicated that the fall 2023 recruiting cycle will again be test-optional.

For first time since spring 2019, we’re able to hold in-person admissions events both on campus and in other locations in New York and farther afield. Our goal in these events is to convince applicants, some of whom have been accepted at multiple campuses, that Binghamton is the right school for them. We’ve learned a lot from the experiences of the past couple of years in our yield events so this year will still feature some virtual/online events. This will help us ensure that everyone can participate in some way and allows us to focus on the types of presentations that will work well in that format. Our in-person events will focus on building relationships and connections as we emphasize the “best of Binghamton” for those who can experience our environment in person.

Binghamton’s growing reputation

We do know that Binghamton University has a lot to offer students, and that when students come to Binghamton they are impressed with the quality of education they receive here. The most recent evidence of this can be found in the 2021 Graduating Student Survey conducted by the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy and the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education. This is an extensive survey of pharmacy graduate students, with over 70 questions touching on all aspects of college life — from academics and educational resources to the college environment and the overall college experience. The survey of the Class of 2021 graduates found that 97.8% of our School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences graduates would choose Binghamton again, compared to only 80.4% of those from peer institutions and 82.4% from all schools nationwide. While the survey is only a snapshot of our pharmacy program, I think that we can extrapolate from this sample and say that Binghamton provides a college experience for both undergraduate and graduate students that is highly valued and provides excellent career preparation.

Other schools at Binghamton are also receiving recognition. The business education website Poets&Quants recently ranked Binghamton’s School of Management (SOM) among the top 10 public business schools in the nation and #27 among all business schools in the nation. The SOM also received high marks for specific metrics: #1 for business degree worth its cost in tuition; #2 for quality of extracurricular opportunities; and #11 for quality of academic advising.

The rankings that SOM and the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences received are reflective of the broader University’s commitment to quality instruction and the value our students place on their educational experience. Indeed, Binghamton is consistently moving up in annual rankings conducted by publications such as U.S. News & World Report, Forbes and The Princeton Review.

Research and economic development activities

We continue to move forward with our New Energy New York proposal that would foster battery research, design and manufacturing in the Southern Tier. As I mentioned in the last quarterly report, our proposal was named a finalist in the federal Build Back Better Challenge, allowing us to compete for as much as $100 million in federal funds to develop alternative energy production in the Southern Tier. In February, local and state representatives, along with community leaders and stakeholders, convened at the Innovative Technologies Complex to learn more about the proposal and offer suggestions to improve the plan. Our submission was forwarded to the U.S. Economic Development Administration in mid-March, and we are waiting to find out whether ours will be among the top 20 regional proposals that will be awarded funding.

We also recently learned that the Koffman Southern Tier Incubator (KSTI) will receive $1.6 million from the Economic Development Administration to support a program at the incubator that will attract international businesses to the region. The incubator’s Soft Landing Program focuses on clean energy technologies and is seeking to attract foreign business and investments — creating as many as 375 new jobs and bringing in up to $2.7 million in private funding. The Soft Landing Program draws on expertise at KSTI, Binghamton University and the SC Johnson School of Business at Cornell University, and will enable students from both campuses to get real-life experience working with international companies.

We also received word that the National Science Foundation has awarded Binghamton a $3.5 million grant to fund 24 scholarships for students working in cybersecurity. The CyberCorps Scholarship for Service program supports students in information technology and security. In return for their scholarships, recipients agree to work after graduation in government cybersecurity positions for a period equal to the length of their scholarships. These are jobs that are in very high demand and are crucial to national security, as well as state, local and private organizations. Binghamton was awarded this grant based on the strength of our computer science and cybersecurity offerings, as well as the overall diversity of our enrollment in the Computer Science and Electrical and Computer Science departments.

Watson College faculty were also recognized by SUNY with the announcement that three of the College’s faculty have been named distinguished professors. They are Mohammad T. Khasawneh, chair and distinguished professor of systems science and industrial engineering; Weiyi Meng, chair and distinguished service professor of computer science; and Kaiming Ye, chair and distinguished professor of biomedical engineering. Promotion to the distinguished ranks is reserved for faculty who have conducted path-breaking research and whose service to their discipline has changed the direction of their field of study. Congratulations to them.

We received further confirmation of the strength of our research programs when we learned that Binghamton was again named an R1, “very high research activity” University, by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. Achieving this status is based on the number of PhD students graduated and the external funds received for research programs. From the start of the Road Map process in 2013, being named to this list was one of our strategic priorities and we were delighted three years ago when we finally reached this goal. The fact that we have been able to maintain this level of research productivity — even during the past two years of COVID — is a measure of the strength and consistency of our research programs, and places us among the top 146 research universities in the nation. In fact, we currently are ranked in the top 80 among R1 universities, which was our original Road Map goal — so now we are now in the process of setting new metrics for Strategic Priority 1: Engage in path-breaking graduate education, research, scholarship and creative activities that shape the world.

We know that our doctoral students are a vital part of our research efforts. Many of these students have expressed concerns about the broad-based student fees that they have been required to pay, and the impact that these fees have on their ability to complete their degrees. These fees are in addition to their tuition costs and include charges for transportation, health, technology and academic excellence. We recently have decided to pay for these fees for full-time, fully funded doctoral students by providing a scholarship equal to the cost of their fees. We believe this is the right thing to do for our doctoral students and will enable them to complete their degrees in a more timely manner — which is in all of our interests. Currently, the campus will absorb these costs, though this is an issue that has been raised by SUNY and the state legislature. We are hopeful that the cost of waiving these fees may be addressed by future legislation.

Doctoral work is both time consuming and expensive, and we have been working to reduce these costs for students. Over the past five years, the University has invested $2.3 million each year to enhance PhD stipends, while adding $750,000 per year to support additional Provost Summer Fellowships.

Health Sciences Campus and Johnson City development

Of course, research in the pharmaceutical sciences was one of our key priorities in the Road Map as well. These efforts will be given a boost in the coming year as we move forward on our new research and development facility at the Health Sciences Campus, which recently broke ground at the intersection of Corliss Avenue and Willow Street. You will recall that the University previously submitted a Request for Proposal for this building, but the bids came in over budget, so we went back to the drawing board. Now, the new facility will be a single-story, $15 million facility that should be completed sometime next year (2023). The new facility will be an excellent resource for our School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences faculty and graduate students working with industrial partners engaged in pharmaceutical development.

Since we started work on our Health Sciences Campus in Johnson City, private investors have shown interest in developing the area surrounding our campus. In fact, we estimate that since 2014, when construction began on the Health Sciences Campus, Johnson City has seen more than $200 million in active and proposed private investment. This includes: $29 million in investments in the Century-Sunrise buildings, $25 million in the Ansco Camera Factory Apartment Buildings, $6 million in housing development on Grand Avenue as well as commercial investments on Main Street. In addition, UHS is investing approximately $132 million in its Wilson Medical Center and surrounding campus. And most recently, we learned that the 100-year-old “Victory” Shoe Factory building in Johnson City — the enormous six-story, 40,000 square-foot white building north of Main Street — is being renovated by a Syracuse-based development company. This is a $35 million project that will transform this perpetual eyesore into 156 lofts and commercial spaces for mixed-use development.

Campus construction

We have additional construction underway across campus — including renovations for Science 2 and Science 4 that are nearing completion, as well as replacement of the cooling towers for Academic B. We also are moving forward with long-overdue renovations of Bartle Library’s third floor, which will modernize the lighting, flooring, mechanicals and energy systems, and connect the currently little-used south stairway to the third floor.

In March, we celebrated a milestone with the opening of our new baseball stadium. It is a great facility that rivals the very best of college baseball facilities in the nation. It is a beautiful place with great training and academic facilities for our players — something that will strengthen our program and have carryover effects for our other teams. For the opening series, the Bearcats faced the Maine Black Bears. And while the outcome of the games wasn’t what we’d hoped, the opening proved a good showcase for the stadium.

Searches

As the January to March quarter ended, I was pleased to announce that Donald Hall has been appointed executive vice president for academic affairs and provost after a nationwide search. He will begin his new role July 1. Hall comes to Binghamton from the University of Rochester (UR), where he serves as the Robert L. and Mary L. Sproull Dean of Faculty of Arts, Sciences and Engineering (AS&E), the largest academic unit on the UR campus, since 2018. Prior to that, Hall was the Herbert and Ann Siegel Dean of the Arts and Sciences and professor of English at Lehigh University from 2011 to 2018, and before that he was the Jackson Distinguished Professor of English at West Virginia University. His work as an administrator has been distinguished by an emphasis on diversity and internationalization, based in part on his own experience in the Peace Corps.

Hall will be replacing University Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Donald Nieman, who will be returning to a faculty role in the History Department. I appreciate the decade of outstanding service Provost Nieman has provided the University and look forward to working with Provost Hall. I also want to thank the members of the provost’s search committee, chaired by Vice President Karen Jones and Professor Barry Jones, for their outstanding work.

We also are moving forward on our current searches for the deans of the School of Management and the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

It has been a very busy and productive quarter, highlighted by growing recognition of our faculty and the quality of education they provide. We see the campus returning to normal following the long darkness of a global pandemic, and we look forward to an exciting and rewarding close of the spring 2022 semester.

Harvey Stenger


Road Map to Premier Update

The March 24 meeting of the Road Map Steering Committee saw Strategic Priority 4 — enhance the University’s economic, social and cultural impact through engagement from the local to the global level — present its deep dive.

Academics

Julia Rumsey, a graduate student at Binghamton University, wins Outstanding Master’s Student award from the American College Personnel Association Graduate Students and New Professionals Community of Practice.

Advancement

A newly upgraded dining hall, renovated residence hall and now fundraising for The Hinman Hill capital project is underway to further enhance the Hinman community at Binghamton University.

Diversity

Pathways to Inclusive Leadership program launches

Student Affairs

More than 1,200 students from the Class of 2022 attended Grad Fest Wednesday, March 23.