May 17, 2024
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President's Quarterly Report

December on campus is always an exciting time. Students have completed their class projects, written their term papers and prepared for final exams, all in anticipation of returning home for a well-deserved break. This year, the last day of finals week was made a little more challenging, as a major snowstorm enveloped the Northeast, including our campus. Finals continued as scheduled, however, as Bearcats are a tough breed. Fortunately, most students had completed their exams earlier in the week, and many of the remaining exams moved online. It was an exciting end to a very successful quarter, highlighted by a strengthening of the University’s research profile, growing campus recognition and alumni support, and new opportunities to work with partners in the community.

As one of the four research centers of the State University of New York (SUNY), Binghamton is pleased that the SUNY Board of Trustees has selected a new chancellor to guide the system. John B. King has been chosen as SUNY’s 15th chancellor, succeeding Interim Chancellor Deborah F. Stanley as leader of SUNY’s 64-campus system. King is an experienced education leader and policy maker, having served as New York state Commissioner of Education from 2011 to 2014, and as U.S. Secretary of Education under President Barack Obama from 2016 to 2017. Since that time, he’s been president of the Education Trust, a national non-profit advocacy organization that promotes high academic achievement, particularly for low-income students and students of color. Chancellor King has indicated that his priorities for SUNY will be workforce development and student access, two strategic areas that correspond with Binghamton’s own emphases. I’m looking forward to working with the new chancellor.

Homecoming and Family Weekend

The fall semester is always enlivened by a pair of campus traditions — Homecoming and Family Weekend. This year these events took place in the first weeks of October — almost always a beautiful time on campus. More than a thousand alumni participated in our Homecoming celebrations, while nearly 4,000 parents, grandparents and siblings joined us for Family Weekend.

These events provide an opportunity for members of the extended Binghamton University community to connect — or, in the case of alumni, reconnect — and to learn more about current goings-on on campus. And of course, there are fun and informative activities as well — everything from lectures and tours to fireworks and tailgating. This year, for the first time, we also took time at Homecoming to recognize four alumni for their outstanding service to the community and the University by presenting them with University Medals of Distinguished Service. Receiving this distinction were: Subhachandra Chandra, MS ’95; Tim Kelly ’94; Taris Rodney ’08; and Simone Sterling ’98.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the recognition received by another alumnus — Hakeem Jeffries ’92. Jeffries was named the House Minority Leader for the United States Congress following the November elections, the most prominent position among House Democrats. This is a remarkable achievement for a Binghamton University graduate, and his rise as a political leader has helped put Binghamton on the map. Jeffries attributes much of his success, as well as his political outlook, to the time he spent as an undergraduate at Binghamton studying political science and his activism as a leader of our Black Student Union. Jeffries was last on campus to help celebrate the COVID-delayed Commencement of our Class of 2020; in his remarks he praised the class’s resiliency, telling them: “When life knocks you down, don’t give up — get up!”

Admissions and rankings

While we take time during the fall semester to recognize our alumni, it is also the busiest time for our Undergraduate Admissions office as we identify the members of our next cohort of students. This is no small task, as by the end of December the University had received more than 34,000 applications — an increase of almost 50% compared to last year at this time. This year, SUNY has adopted a policy that allows students five free applications to SUNY institutions; this seems to have supercharged the number of applications we are receiving. Although it is still early in the admission process, we are seeing some positive trends, with both out-of-state and international applications increasing. This is a good sign for us, as it indicates that some of the challenges posed by COVID — particularly regarding international student enrollment — may be abating. The downside to this is that the competition for out-of-state students is increasing nationally.

While changes in SUNY’s application policies have helped drive the number of applications up, so too, has Binghamton’s consistently high rankings in national publications. We continue to receive notice for the quality of our teaching and academics, as well as the University’s commitment to sustainability. Most recently, the online business school publication Poets & Quants named two School of Management professors among their list of “Top 50 Undergraduate Business Professors.” Subimal Chatterjee, SUNY distinguished teaching professor of marketing, and Sara Reiter, professor of accounting, were both nominated as outstanding teachers by current students and alumni. The School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences also was recognized for preparing students for highly competitive residencies that, in turn, prepare its graduates for a wide variety of career options. In his Pharmacy Residency podcast, host Tony Guerra ranked Binghamton #14 in the nation for schools whose students get interviews for residencies. This is an exceptionally high ranking for a school that only began admitting students in 2017 and demonstrates the school’s support for students’ professional development. And finally, the entire University can be proud of the exposure Binghamton received by being named by Princeton Review to its “2023 Top 50 Green Schools” list, based on the University’s commitment to sustainability practices and education, as well as for providing a healthy quality of life for students on campus.

Faculty Hiring Initiative

Even as preparations for the next class begin, we also are busy adding to the faculty who will teach them. This fall, Binghamton welcomed 55 new tenure-track faculty. These new faculty members are active in a wide range of disciplines, but some programs have been especially strengthened this year. Disciplines that have seen two or more additional or replacement faculty include social work, environmental studies, leadership and organizational science, pharmaceutical sciences, computer science, and systems science and industrial engineering. We are especially pleased that the Thomas J. Watson College of Engineering and Applied Science has been able to hire two new Empire Innovation Scholars as part of a SUNY program to hire world-class faculty.

Next year will see even more faculty hiring. Gov. Kathy Hochul has announced a new $53 million initiative to support faculty research in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields that will increase the number of research faculty at SUNY institutions. Binghamton’s share of these appropriations — approximately $6.5 million — will fund 36 new faculty for the upcoming academic year. The provost and deans have prepared a list of positions they would like to fill, and we are beginning departmental searches. Every school should have at least one new hire, with disciplines ranging from environmental microbiology and public health to systems science and industrial engineering to educational leadership. The University also will be conducting 30 additional searches to replace faculty who are leaving or retiring, so we should see a net increase of about three dozen new tenure-track faculty next year. Even more promising, however, is Gov. Hochul’s proposal that this initiative could extend for five years, meaning that Binghamton could see as many as 175 new faculty on campus in that period. This will not only boost the University’s research output, but will also reduce the student-to-faculty ratio, which is an important measure of class size and interactions between faculty and students.

Nonetheless, these additional faculty will also put pressure on campus space and require significant startup costs. While faculty will be spread throughout several schools and colleges, cumulatively, 175 additional faculty will require the equivalent of an entire building’s worth of laboratory and office space. We are already beginning to identify a location and to discuss which programs might find a new home in the proposed building. We also are looking for financing for the startup costs these new hires will entail; startups in STEM fields tend to be greater than those in other disciplines and can range from $200,000 to over $1 million per faculty member. Obtaining these funds will require a strong commitment from the SUNY Research Foundation and will be a priority for our current comprehensive gifts campaign, which has identified faculty support and equipment as a key campaign goal.

EXCELERATE: Moving at the speed of Binghamton

This campaign has galvanized support from campus alumni and other donors. With the University now well into the public phase of the seven-year campaign, EXCELERATE has already achieved 74% of its $220 million goal. (For context, this goal is more than twice the goal of our previous campaign a decade ago.) The campaign has already received more than $160 million in commitments or gifts received and has several seven-figure gifts pending to support endowed scholarships and endowed faculty positions, as well as an expansion of our internationally recognized Institute for Genocide and Mass Atrocity Prevention. As we enter the final stretch of the campaign, we have recently strengthened the EXCELERATE campaign’s administrative structure with the hiring of Lynn Marie Jones as executive director for major gifts, principal giving and gift planning.

We are already seeing the impact of some of the gifts given to the campaign. For example, a recent gift from John and Cheryl Mirabito to support the Watson Scholars program is now providing scholarship support to promising engineering students from underrepresented minorities.

We saw another outpouring of support for the University in October, when the School of Management hosted a memorial for former School of Management Dean Upinder Dhillon, who died earlier this year after an illness. This memorial was held in New York City, where Dean Dhillon had developed a strong network of school supporters among alumni and friends of SOM. It was a sad and nostalgic evening, with several speakers including Kimberly Kelly ’13, MS ’14, chair of the SOM Young Alumni Advisory Board; and Laura Roth ’10, former chair of the board, who each spoke of the impact Dhillon made on students.

Howard Unger ’82, LHD ’19, chair for the University’s EXCELERATE fundraising campaign, announced the University has received over $1.3 million in commitments from friends of the school to establish the Dhillon Family Faculty Fellow Endowment, which provides annual support to a SOM faculty member who is both a groundbreaking researcher and inspiring instructor. This is a fantastic legacy for Dean Dhillon, who was deeply committed to the students in SOM and who served as an inspiration to us all.

Strengthening community partnerships: Build Back Better and the Health Sciences Campus

Last quarter, the University was named a winner of the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s Build Back Better Regional Challenge, with a federal award of $63 million matched by a state grant of $50 million. Since then, the University has been working with our partners in the community to gear up for this New Energy New York (NENY) program. We are currently looking to lease 40,000 square-feet of space on the Huron campus, adjacent to the property that houses our Center for Advanced Microelectronics Manufacturing (CAMM). Meanwhile, our industrial partners are preparing workforce development projects to bring labor force requirements up to speed, with initial job postings for positions across 16 coalition member organizations, including 27 positions at Binghamton University. And in October, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Alejandra Y. Castillo, assistant secretary of commerce for economic development, were on campus to conduct a roundtable discussion with community partners as a formal kickoff meeting for the NENY team with the goal of quickly bringing a pilot manufacturing center at Binghamton University online.

But we also have received word of two other developments that will impact both Binghamton University and the broader community. Shortly after the Build Back Better award was announced, Micron Technology, Inc. announced that it would be investing up to $100 billion over the next 20 years to build four factories for computer chip manufacturing in the Syracuse, N.Y., area. This announcement was quickly followed by a visit from President Joe Biden to Poughkeepsie, N.Y., to announce a similar $20 billion effort by IBM. This, of course, is great news for Upstate New York, but it is also good news for Binghamton University and its graduates.

Binghamton, along with several other SUNY institutions, is part of a consortium that is developing a proposed National Semiconductor Technology Center (NSTC) that will conduct research and advanced prototyping for these initiatives. A second proposal would create a new National Advanced Packaging Manufacturing Program (NAPMP) that focuses on putting advanced designs into useable circuit boards for commercial and military purposes. Binghamton’s Watson College is widely recognized for excellence in these areas, and thus will play an important part in future chip development. We also have very strong working relationships with many of the firms that are most involved in this project, including Micron, IBM, Analog Devices and Microsoft, along with the other academic institutions that are involved in the initiative.

We also are excited about what this means for our graduates. One of the key selling points for Micron choosing Upstate New York is the quality of the workforce — and Binghamton is right at the top of the list as far as qualified specialists in computer science. These new multi-year initiatives are expected to produce perhaps 10s of thousands of jobs — and our graduates will be well-positioned to take leadership roles in this project.

The University’s role in healthcare research and education was the focus of an October visit by New York State Commissioner of Health Mary Bassett and Assembly Higher Education Committee Chair Deborah Glick. Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo hosted their tour of the Decker College of Nursing and Health Sciences Innovative Simulation and Practice Center. This facility allows students to participate in realistic simulations that provide students with hands-on skills training, high-fidelity patient simulations, standardized patient experiences and virtual-reality scenarios. Following the tour, there was a brief roundtable discussion with Decker Dean Mario Ortiz that addressed the benefits of simulation training and made the point that Decker’s training program is far more rigorous than many others in the state. Pharmacy Dean Kanneboyina “Raju” Nagaraju also participated, focusing on the research being conducted by faculty and students at our School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. Bassett and Glick both praised the work we are doing here and called the Health Sciences Campus a great asset for the community and for the state.

Construction

Since the start of October, we’ve made significant progress on a number of construction projects, and are in the initial development stage for several other projects that will transform the campus. At the Health Sciences Campus in Johnson City, we are moving forward on the School of Pharmacy’s Research and Development facility, with most of the exterior work completed and interior work focusing on the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems underway. Construction of the Ford Family Wellness Center for Seniors is nearly complete as well, and the facility should be opening in the next month or two. On the main campus in Vestal, we have begun utilities work and site preparation for the Charlene and Roger Kramer Welcome Center, and steel framing is going up. Demolition work and asbestos abatement is underway in Old Rafuse Hall, which will eventually see new corridor walls, bathrooms, exterior windows, and interior doors and lighting. We also are in the middle of a major renovation of the third floor of the Glenn G. Bartle Library, which is expected to be complete in summer 2024.

Upcoming work includes rehabilitation of the plaza decking between Bartle Library and the Engineering Building, as well as a major renovation of the middle section of Science 3, both of which are in the design phase. We also are planning an expansion of our Campus Recreational Center at the East Gym, and a field house at the Baseball Complex. And, as the fall semester ended, we learned that the University’s request for funding to build a new $60 million lecture hall and classroom facility has been approved by the State University of New York Construction Fund (SUCF). The gradual increase in enrollment over the past decade has created a shortage of teaching space on campus; this facility will play an important role in alleviating this crunch. The new building will add two large lecture halls, an active learning classroom, two learning studios, 23 general purpose classrooms, three computer classrooms and an Information Commons to the educational space on campus. The building will be located across from Academic A adjacent to lot M.

Changes to the administrative team

December saw a new addition to the University’s leadership — Eugene “Gene” Marshall Jr. was named our new athletics director. He will be serving as Binghamton’s 11th director of athletics and the fourth since Binghamton joined NCAA Division I. He brings a great deal of experience to the table — with 38 years spent in every level of collegiate athletics administration, most recently as AD at Hampton University in Virginia. Prior to that, he served in athletics programs at the College of Staten Island, Ramapo College, the United States Military Academy at West Point, Iona and Queens College. This is a big win for Binghamton, and I look forward to working with him to strengthen the Bearcat program. I also want to thank Interim Athletics Director Dennis Kalina for his leadership over the past 18 months.

We also learned that Jill Dixon, interim dean of libraries, will be stepping down in June. Harpur Dean Celia Klin and Health Sciences Librarian Neyda Gilman are serving as co-chairs on the search committee to find our next dean of libraries and we expect to have someone in the position by the end of the spring 2023 semester.

This has been a long and eventful semester, and students, faculty and staff are due a well-earned winter break. Holiday wishes to all, and I hope that everyone returns to campus reenergized for the spring semester.

Harvey Stenger

Academics

Binghamton University has an unprecedented number of faculty searches in the works for fall 2023, for 30 replacement hires and 36 new hires supported by a $53 million SUNY-wide faculty hiring initiative.

Advancement

Momentum continues to build for the EXCELERATE campaign to advance Binghamton University. Support ramped up to approximately $162 million as of Nov. 30, thanks to generous donors.

Communications and Marketing

The Division of Communications and Marketing continued its work this quarter, supporting Binghamton University’s admissions and recruitment efforts and working to develop consistent messaging.

Research

The spark of inspiration behind Marisol Marcin’s business concept happened in 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Student Affairs

Binghamton University recently served as the host of the Association of College Unions International (ACUI) Region VII Conference in The Union, welcoming 100+ attendees from 29 different institutions.