June 16, 2024
broken clouds Clouds 47 °F

President's Quarterly Report

With the warmer days of spring arriving, we are gearing up for the end of the semester, with only a few weeks of classes left — the last day of classes is May 4, followed by finals and Commencement ceremonies, beginning with our doctoral hooding ceremony Wednesday, May 8, and followed by our master’s and school ceremonies the weekend of May 12-14. It is a time of excitement for everyone on campus, and especially for our graduating students.

Earlier this month, we hosted our annual Grad Fest in the Mandela Room where students could purchase the accoutrements of Commencement — cap and gown, graduation announcements and class ring as well as partake in refreshments and get their photo taken with Baxter as a memento of their time here. We also had staff on hand to answer students’ questions about Commencement arrangements and tickets. Attendance was very good, with more than 1,300 students on hand, along with staff and administrators from the Fleishman Center and our Alumni Engagement Office to showcase their post-graduate services. Representatives from the University’s schools and colleges were also present to speak with students interested in extending their time on campus in Binghamton’s graduate programs. The excitement level in the Mandela Room was on high as students prepped for their ceremonies! This is also crunch time for faculty. Not only are there still classes and labs to run, but this is the time when grading of papers and presentations starts to build. I appreciate the hard work our faculty does, especially in these busy weeks before summer.

This year, March and April also mark the month of Ramadan for Muslim members of the campus community. This is a month of reflection and fasting for devout Muslims, and we know that hunger can sometimes interfere with students’ studies, so we are asking faculty to be flexible, particularly if they are teaching classes that take place during and after sunset when the daily fast is broken.

We have also asked for flexibility for our Turkish students, many of whom have been affected by the events in their home country, which is still reeling from the impact of a devastating earthquake in February that has claimed more than 50,000 lives. I want to recognize the outstanding fundraising and relief effort that our Turkish students have put together, particularly those in our Dual Diploma program and the Student Association-chartered Turkish Culture Association. Together, they have raised more than $6,000, along with two truckloads of supplies, that were delivered to the Turkish Consulate in New York City. And I especially want to recognize the work of School of Management faculty member and Senior Director for Global Partnerships Oktay Sekercisoy in helping organize a remembrance event for students who lost family and friends in the earthquake.

Faculty kudos

I appreciate that we have many great teachers at Binghamton who recognize the importance of ethnic, cultural and religious diversity, and I know that our students appreciate the extra steps you take to make them feel comfortable and welcome in your classes. In fact, we have recently received several notices of recognition that highlight Binghamton’s inclusiveness and commitment to students.

For example, Binghamton University scored a nearly perfect ranking on the latest national Campus Pride Index, which measures a university’s commitment to LGBTQ+ safety and inclusivity on campus by looking at LGBTQ-inclusive practices, programs, spaces and policy. The University received a 4.5 out of 5, an increase from the 3.5 scores received in previous years. This ranking is a recognition of the positive work we are doing to establish a campus where students are respected and where their safety and belonging are safeguarded.

We also learned that the School of Management has been recognized by Insight into Diversity magazine for its Transformational Leaders program, receiving the magazine’s 2023 Inspiring Programs in Business Award. The award highlighted the school’s emphasis on bringing diverse students into careers in business. Established in 2021 by the late dean Upinder Dhillon with the support of alumni donors, the Transformational Leaders program provides individualized guidance for SOM students from underserved populations or those who may be facing economic challenges. The program currently involves 39 students who receive training in focused, year-long topics including communication, accountability, teamwork and mentoring, including serving as mentors to new students in their final year.

Similarly, the University’s Harriet Tubman Center for Freedom and Equity, directed by History Professor Anne Bailey and Associate Director Sharon Bryant, an associate professor in our Master in Public health program, received recognition in the form of a $400,000 state grant to support the Downtown Freedom Trail project and to commission a sculpture of Harriet Tubman that will be located at the start of the trail. Gov. Kathy Hochul was in Johnson City near our Health Sciences Campus in February to make the announcement, while also announcing that Johnson City would receive a separate $10 million Downtown Revitalization award that will leverage progress the village has made since the Health Sciences Campus was developed. At a March 12 event — Harriet Tubman Day — at the University Downtown Center, the first of a series of markers for the Freedom Trail was placed, denoting key locations that played a role in the Underground Railroad that enslaved people used on their journey to freedom. At the same event, Binghamton Mayor Jared Kraham announced that the Tubman Center would also receive a $100,000 grant from the City of Binghamton to assist with the project, which includes erection of the Tubman statue at the UDC in addition to the trail markers and an educational program for five local school systems.

Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Donald Hall recently penned an op-ed that appeared in the Miami Herald that addressed recent efforts in Florida to marginalize gay and trans students and faculty, as well as challenges to academic free speech and attacks on the tenure system. He noted that these efforts go against a hundred years of academic tradition and make the state’s higher education system increasingly unwelcoming to students, faculty and staff. Hall also noted that campuses like Binghamton that embrace values of diversity and inclusion are increasingly looking to places like Florida to recruit students and faculty who are disaffected by the current attacks on higher education. His opinion piece has been cited in a number of other articles addressing the changing educational landscape in Florida, and I believe he is right — faculty and students will turn to places like Binghamton as the academic environment becomes less hospitable for marginalized groups.

I strongly believe that Binghamton’s focus on being an inclusive campus helps us develop a depth of research and scholarship on campus that we might otherwise lack. Lately, we have been gaining recognition for the strength of our academic and scientific work. Most recently, a study out of Stanford University analyzed the work of more than 6 million scientists worldwide and ranked them based on their career-long or single-year output (as of 2021) within their field of study. Thirty-two of our faculty researchers ranked among the top 2% of researchers in their field for 2021. Significantly, these faculty come from disciplines across the entire campus, showing that Binghamton is the home to research excellence, both in terms of depth and breadth.

As a result, our individual schools and colleges are also climbing in the rankings — our School of Management, for example, has again broken the top 10 among public business schools in the most recent ranking by the online business education publication Poets & Quants. SOM also came in at number 26 overall, moving up a spot from the 2022 rankings, and ranked within the top 20 schools for academic experience and in the top 30 for admission standards.

Faculty Hiring Initiative

The strength of our faculty is making it easier to attract stellar researchers, scholars and teachers. I’ve mentioned previously that the state is currently supporting a $55 million SUNY hiring initiative, with Binghamton receiving about $6.5 million to hire new faculty in areas with the potential for external research funding. This is a great opportunity to enhance the University’s core research strengths and broaden our research impact, with new faculty in disciplines and fields as diverse as AI and data science, community schools, fragility and aging, physical therapy and computational mathematics. These investments will significantly strengthen our research programs and add to our reputation as an R-1: very high research campus.

Construction update

These new faculty will be coming to a campus that continues to grow its physical plant, providing them with greater resources and modern facilities. These changes will be noticeable from the moment they enter campus, as the main entrance on Bartle Drive is being enhanced by the new Charlene and Roger Kramer Welcome Center. Steel framing and utility work has been completed on the building with the work scheduled to be completed early next year.

Regarding the renovations to the third floor of Bartle Library, cranes have removed much of the previous mechanical work and replacements are being brought in. Ducts and piping, electrical and framing work is underway, which will be followed by new flooring, ceilings and lighting. This, too, is a multi-year project that is scheduled to be completed next year. Similarly, Old Rafuse Hall is being renovated, with new walls, private bathrooms, windows and lighting, as well as landscaping. This project will be done this fall.

At the Health Sciences Campus, exterior work on the R&D building is complete and mechanicals and electric are being roughed in. And at the Ford Family Wellness Center for Seniors, work is wrapping up, with an expected opening later this spring.

Budget and new chancellor

We are anxiously waiting to hear from the governor and legislature regarding next year’s budget, which is theoretically due out of Albany on April 1. While nothing is definite until the budget is settled, we know the governor’s proposal for a tuition increase has been eliminated from the Senate and Assembly one-house budgets released in late March. While they have rejected tuition as a revenue generator, both houses have indicated that they understand SUNY needs additional operational aid, and both houses of the legislature have proposed increasing support for campuses.

Both Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo and Sen. Lea Webb were on campus as the budget deadline approached, rallying with UUP and CSEA to try to generate support for these increases, along with proposals to increase assistance to the EOP program. While across-the-board tuition increases were rejected by both houses, we still hold out hope that the governor’s call for a differential tuition for the research centers may be acceptable at some point. While not all legislators are on board, many have indicated that they do recognize the added costs assumed by the SUNY research centers in terms of scholarship and research, and that the facilities and resources necessary for enhanced career opportunities for students add additional fiscal burdens to our campuses.

SUNY administration as well as individual campuses including ours are continuing to push for adoption of the governor’s proposals, but it is still unclear how many of these proposals will survive the budgetary sausage-making. One area where we are excited about is the recently approved legislation that allows nursing students to complete a greater proportion of clinical requirements in simulation labs, which will help alleviate the state’s nursing shortage. Decker College’s Innovative Simulation and Practice Lab is exactly the sort of training facility that this legislation now permits for our students to hone their clinical and patient-care skills.

I recently sent a letter to our Assembly and Senate leaders highlighting our overall successes and recent achievements so that they may have a clear picture of what we add to the state in terms of workforce preparation and economic development. I thanked them for their support for initiatives that have strengthened our campus and encouraged them to support the governor’s proposal regarding additional operating aid for all campuses.

In any case, it looks like Albany may not pass a budget by the April 1 deadline, so the conversations will probably continue.

SUNY’s efforts to gain support in the legislature have been spearheaded by our new chancellor, John L. King Jr. He is SUNY’s 15th chancellor and is an experienced education leader and policy maker. He was New York State Commissioner of Education from 2011 to 2014, and was named U.S. Secretary of Education under President Barack Obama from 2016 to 2017. Most recently he has served as the president of The Education Trust, a non-profit committed to removing racial and economic barriers for student success. He visited our campus in mid-January, touring our Health Sciences Campus, University Downtown Center and Innovative Technologies Complex. During our conversations, he indicated that his priorities for SUNY will be workforce development and student access, two strategic areas that correspond with Binghamton’s own emphases.

Admissions

This is the busiest time of year for both our Undergraduate Admissions Office and our Graduate School as they are now receiving and reviewing applications for next fall. Currently, we’ve received over 49,000 undergraduate applications, up 19% over last year, with out-of-state applications up 28%. Most promising is an increase in international applications, reversing a trend that saw international applications severely curtailed over the past several years. International applications are up 11%, and transfer applications are increasing as well. Regarding graduate admissions, we’ve received almost 6,097 applications — up 33% from last year — and international applications for graduate study are up 50%. We also are seeing more interest from domestic graduate students, with applications from this group up about 14%. These numbers are very good and tell us that we should hit our enrollment targets at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.

Scholarships and the School of the Arts

For a select few of these new students, we have some very good news. Beginning this fall, the University will be awarding scholarships out of a new $25 million endowment provided by the anonymous donor that has already supported the construction of our Baseball Stadium Complex and fieldhouse project. These scholarships will eventually support 100 students annually, as each year we will authorize 20 scholarships of up to $10,000 annually to first-year students, renewable for up to three years. In addition, each year five first-year students will receive in-state resident, full-cost scholarships (approximately $30,000), renewable for up to three years. These scholarships will help Binghamton increase student access and compete for the best high school students in the nation.

In addition, the donor is providing an additional $12.5 million to support Graduate Students of the Arts (GSA) Scholarships for master’s students in our new School of the Arts. Each year, 15 scholarships will be granted, covering two years of full tuition for selected students showing exceptional skills in the performing, writing, musical, design and visual arts. This gift will help establish the School of the Arts as a leader in the disciplines and will bring truly outstanding graduate students to our campus. These gifts, which are by far the largest ever given to the University targeted toward scholarships, have given a boost to our ongoing EXCELERATE comprehensive gifts campaign.

Previously, I’ve mentioned that the campaign’s goal was to obtain $220 million in private support for student access, faculty research and scholarship, and educational excellence. With these gifts, the campaign has currently raised nearly $200 million of our goal — with more than a year left to go.

Regarding the School of the Arts, we recently announced the appointment of the new founding director for the school — Christopher Robbins, who is currently director of the School of Art+Design at Purchase College, SUNY. Robbins received bachelor’s degrees in psychology and Asian studies from the University of Virginia, a Collegiate Teaching Certificate from Brown University and an MFA in digital+media from the Rhode Island School of Design. He has taught at Purchase College, SUNY, since 2010, and prior to that at the Rhode Island School of Design and the University of the South Pacific - Fiji.

We also are taking steps to develop the school’s academic structure, as the Faculty Senate has approved the restructuring necessary to create the school, and we are finalizing a master plan for renovation of the Fine Arts Building.

We are also moving forward in the search for a new dean of the Libraries, with candidates on campus the last week in March for interviews; we should be deciding shortly.

The successes of athletics on campus

Lastly, as we come to publication of this quarterly report, much of the nation is following a thrilling March Madness for men’s and women’s college basketball. Unfortunately, neither of our Bearcat teams made the tournament, despite having one of the best seasons in recent years for Binghamton basketball. However, Binghamton was proud to recognize our first volleyball All-American — Tsvetelina Ilieva, who led the Bearcat volleyball team in winning the regular season in the America East Conference.

We also can be proud that one of our teams has claimed the national championship — the Binghamton University men’s hockey club team recently won the national club hockey championship with a 6-3 win over Fairfield University, having defeated the previously unbeaten University of Tampa to enter the finals. Congratulations to them!

While much of our campus’s attention (as well as that of our alumni) is focused on the exploits of our NCAA athletic teams, it is important to recognize the role that our club and intramural sports play. These programs give all our students the opportunity to compete and participate in healthy activities — which contributes to a better mindset and better grades. All told, approximately 2,000 unique students participate in club sports, with half of them playing more than one sport. There are opportunities for students in virtually any sport you can think of, as our club sports program has teams competing in more than 40 different sports. In addition, more than 3,000 students participate in intramural sports, with teams ranging from flag football and badminton to water polo and dodgeball. These activities go a long way to ensuring that Binghamton is a healthy and sustaining campus.

It’s been a very busy and successful quarter for the University, and with spring making its appearance (at last) I hope that everyone has a great end to the semester.

Harvey Stenger

Road Map to Premier Update

Strategic Priority 4 (SP4), Engagement, is focused on fostering community engagement that benefits faculty, students and community partners. In its deep dive Thursday, March 30, the SP4 team updated the Road Map Steering Committee on its goals and metrics.

Academics

Binghamton University Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Donald Hall is pleased to announce that Christopher Robbins has been appointed the founding director of the new School of the Arts.

Advancement

The campus community joined together to celebrate TAG (Thank-a-Giver) Day Feb. 15.

Communications and Marketing

The Division of Communications and Marketing has made it a priority to incorporate what has been learned from higher-education marketing firm Carnegie into University messaging across the board.

Research

Psychology major Derek Order’s mission is to improve the lives of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder

Student Affairs

NYC CONNECT includes a student and alumni Network Night and a series of Employer Treks, held throughout the week at employer sites throughout New York City.