Praising Stony Brook University as “an elite — but not elitist — institution,” Interim President Michael Bernstein delivered the annual State of the University Address on Wednesday, October 16, on Staller Center’s Main Stage.
“We are well poised to do cutting-edge research, scholarship, and art-making in all areas of concern in our world precisely because of who we are,” Dr. Bernstein said.
“Our university demonstrates, not only the best of what American higher education has to offer, but the array, and indeed the total 360-degree richness, of what American higher education has to offer,” he said. “That is part of our mission, our legacy, and indeed: it’s our story.”
Addressing an enthusiastic audience representing all areas of the university, Dr. Bernstein emphasized the importance of shared governance in planning the university’s future. He was hailed with a standing ovation at the conclusion of his remarks.
“We need always to facilitate faculty, staff and student success,” he said. “Where our faculty’s mission is secured, our students are graduating on time and securing the education they need, where our staff are effective and fulfilled in their roles, our university flourishes.”
Bernstein shared key strategic initiatives for the coming year, including facilitating the success, accomplishment, and advancement of faculty, staff, and students; promoting diversity and inclusive excellence; and demonstrating prudent stewardship of all resources, human, financial, and environmental.
He stressed the University’s commitment to enabling research that will impact lives and better the world we live in. Additionally, he spoke of enhancing the economic development and vitality of the region and state, striving to be an outstanding employer-of-choice, and remaining a worthy and thoughtful neighbor to surrounding communities.
Stony Brook continues to be a vital contributor to the Long Island economy, he noted, making reference to a recent report showing that the university’s overall economic impact exceeds $7 billion annually.
Bernstein laid special emphasis on diversity and inclusive excellence, noting that the university will invest in enhanced recruitment and hiring as well as the creation of a Center for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Education and Instruction to assist with implicit bias awareness and training.
“We are committed to diversity and inclusive excellence, first and foremost because we are committed to equity and fairness,” he said. “We resolutely believe — as scholars, as scientists, as educators, as artists — that a diverse and inclusive population generates optimal results.”
In light of inclusiveness, the Interim President took note of International Pronouns Day.
“My pronouns are he/him/his,“ he said, marking the observance as “a day to respect, share and educate about personal pronouns.”
Bernstein painted an optimistic picture of the University’s budget situation, noting progress made in stabilizing the budget despite the pressures, challenges and difficulties required to enhance revenue and control costs. He identified budget priorities including diversity and inclusion initiatives, student success, growth in research, scholarship, and art-making, and institutional efficiency and effectiveness.
“We will invest in our students, we will invest in our faculty, we will invest with a view toward sustaining and strengthening diversity and inclusion across our organization,” he said.
Bernstein highlighted the University’s recent national rankings and recognition, including its designation by the Wall Street Journal as the No. 1 public university in New York State.
As is customary at the State of the University, the President welcomed newly hired faculty and congratulated new members of the leadership team. He also listed an impressive roster of prestigious awards and honors granted to faculty and students during the previous year, such as Heather Lynch’s Blavatnik Award, Peter van Nieuwenhuizen’s Breakthrough Prize, Il Memming Park’s Discovery Prize, and a record 10 Fulbright scholars among the student body.
In conclusion Bernstein reflected on the university’s historical roots, highlighting the centrality of public higher education to American history and the critical importance of interdisciplinary endeavors to address global issues.
“We’re Stony Brook University, and the operative word there is universe,” he said.