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Campus News

Interim President John R. Ryan’s Spring Report to the Faculty

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Interim President John R. Ryan
Interim President John R. Ryan

Thank you, Professor Pryse. Good afternoon, everyone.

Congratulations and thanks to each of you for ensuring that the University at Albany had another very productive year, a year marked by unexpected changes, opportunities, and challenges. I thank you for your constructive response to the dynamic events of the past few months…and for the warm and professional welcome I have enjoyed since coming to Albany. I am grateful for your wise counsel and unstinting assistance. You have made my temporary assignment stimulating and challenging-what more could an interim president ask?

At the outset of my report today, I want to take a moment to acknowledge the singularly important contributions and impact of two senior officers at the University.

As you are all aware, Provost Santiago has served in a variety of leadership roles over the nearly 16 years he has been at UAlbany, culminating in his appointment as Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. As the campus’s Chief Academic and Operating Officer, he has spearheaded efforts to diversify and expand Albany’s resource base, to introduce more effective management tools to support planning and resource allocation, to reorganize the University’s equipment assets and human resources related to information technology, to strengthen our enrollment profile, and to expand and revitalize the academic program. I have been personally very grateful for his assistance in introducing me to the University at Albany and in helping us to sustain the direction and momentum of your many dynamic programs during this interim period.

Provost Santiago will be moving on, as you know, to new opportunities later this summer as Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. As we bid him and Professor Azara Santiago-Rivera farewell, we thank them both for their exemplary dedication to this University and for all their many enduring contributions to the academic and research programs here. Please join me in acknowledging Provost Carlos Santiago.

I also want to acknowledge President Karen Hitchcock and her dynamic leadership of this institution, initially as Vice President for Academic Affairs and since 1995, as President. All aspects of the campus have changed substantially during these years. The size of the campus has increased, new facilities have been constructed, and older buildings are being renovated. Through its faculty, students, and programs, the University is linked to the surrounding communities, region, and state in new and invigorating ways. Albany is attracting national, indeed international attention and resources in response to its bold investments in materials and life sciences. The campus residential environment has been upgraded and expanded. The quality of student life has been increased through a variety of special programs, including the introduction of Division I athletics. Through all these initiatives Albany has developed a national reputation as a vibrant place, a center of excellence in research and education. This reputation is increasingly reflected in the quality of the faculty and students who are attracted to this institution.

We have planned a farewell event for President Hitchcock on Friday, May 7, at 3:30 p.m., in this space. I know each of you will make a very special effort to attend to honor an outstanding leader who has given so much to this institution. And in advance of that event, please join with me now in expressing our warm admiration and affection for this superb colleague and friend.

Let me continue today with the enjoyable task of recognizing some outstanding UAlbany faculty, staff, and graduate teaching assistants.

 

First, let me introduce this year's new Collins Fellows who have distinguished themselves with their superior records of university-wide service and numerous contributions to the University:

David P. McCaffrey, Distinguished Teaching Professor of Public Affairs & Policy

Glenna D. Spitze, Distinguished Service Professor of Sociology.

I am also pleased to introduce colleagues who have been selected for the 2004 President's Awards for Excellence. They are truly an outstanding group of University citizens who have performed their professional responsibilities with exceptional success. Please hold your applause until all the award winners have been introduced.

 

2004 President’s Awards for Excellence Recipients

Excellence in Academic Service

  • Carolyn MacDonald, Department of Physics

Excellence in Professional Service

  • Christine A. Bouchard, Division of Student Affairs
  • Arleen deGonzague, School of Criminal Justice
  • Charles A Rogers, Sr., Residential Life

Excellence in Research

  • Scott South, Department of Sociology

Excellence in Librarianship

  • Carol Anne Germain, University Libraries

Excellence in Support Service

  • Kim Comproski, Department of Economics
  • Kathy Gurney, School of Information Sciences and Policy
  • Anna Robles, Office of Undergraduate Studies

Excellence in Teaching By Teaching Assistants

  • Jeffrey Gibson, Department of English
  • Suzanne McHugh, Department of Anthropology

Excellence in Teaching By Part-Time and Non Tenure-Track Faculty

  • Paul Cummings, Educational Opportunities Program
  • Paul V. Morgan, Sr., Department of Accounting
  • Kate Winter, Department of English

Excellence in Teaching By Full-Time Faculty

  • Ariel Caticha, Department of Physics
  • Ronald McClamrock, Department of Philosophy
  • David Smith, Department of Finance
  • David G. Wagner, Department of Sociology

 

It is also a great honor for me to introduce a member of the faculty whom the Board of Trustees has promoted to the highest academic rank within the State University of New York:

Distinguished Teaching Professor James Acker, School of Criminal Justice.

 

Please join me in congratulating all of these exceptional colleagues and thanking them for their dedication and contributions to our University.

Clearly, the dedicated work of these exceptional individuals and so many other of our colleagues help to attract and retain the increasing number of talented students who choose UAlbany. Although we won't have solid undergraduate admissions figures until after the May 1st deposit date, preliminary information suggests that application numbers compare closely to the 17,000 plus of last year, with average admit SAT's at 1191 and average GPA's at 91.2.

Our goal to recruit more selective students each year is a major annual test as we compete with our national peer institutions for the same pool of highly talented students. This year, we expect that 38 percent of Albany’s traditionally admitted freshman class will meet the SUNY Group I criteria, up from last year's 36.1 percent. I was with Senator Farley this morning. One of his key staffers announced that her daughter, a Presidential Scholars candidate, was dropping off a deposit today.

Unexpectedly, transfer applications are down by 9 percent at this time. Although we can expect to receive many additional transfer applications this spring, we have undertaken a more aggressive recruiting program at area community colleges to restore this excellent source of undergraduate students to its previous robust status.

At the graduate level, consistent with national trends in higher education, we are experiencing double-digit declines in the challenging area of international graduate students. We can expect some improvement in this graduate area as we get closer to the beginning of the fall semester. Importantly, domestic doctoral applications are up by 9 percent with over 800 applications on hand.

Many of our recently admitted students have distinguished themselves both in the classroom and on athletic playing fields and have contributed to outstanding UAlbany team successes. Let me cite just a few examples.

Victor Camacho and David Parks, two members of our championship football squad that earned a share of its second consecutive North East Conference championship, were named to the University Division Academic All-American Football team. Moreover, the University had 52 student athletes on the America East Conference all academic honor roll for possessing GPA's of 3.0 or higher, with 23 of them on the Commissioner's honor roll for earning 3.5 and above GPA's during the 2003 fall semester. Additionally, the women's volleyball and basketball teams produced their best Division I records ever--well done, ladies!; and the men's indoor track and field team won its second consecutive America East championship title while the cross country team placed second in conference championships. As of the 26nd of April, our exciting 2004 baseball team is leading the American East Conference and has a remarkable 26 wins-6 losses record. GO GREAT DANES!

And I am happy to salute football Coach Bob Ford for achieving the significant milestone of earning his 200th career win as a college coach during the 2003 season. Bob had the entire football team out helping cleanup yesterday. That is setting an example. Congratulations and thanks to all our student athletes and coaches for their notable achievements and for representing the University at Albany so well!

Under the capable leadership of Professor Marjorie Pryse, Chair, Professor Carolyn MacDonald, Vice Chair, and Professor Andi Lyons, Secretary, the University Senate discharged a productive year of standard activities and responsibilities. Please join me in thanking them and their colleagues for their hard work and service to the University.

In the 2004-05 academic year, Professor MacDonald will assume the Senate Chair and Professor Steven Messner of the Department of Sociology has been elected to serve as Vice Chair. Professor Lyons will continue to serve as the Senate Secretary. 2004-05 promises to be a most exciting and important year for the University, and our updated and expanded governance structures will be instrumental in addressing the policy and related issues that are bound to emerge as we continue our direction and momentum in the months ahead.

A critical factor in moving ahead is, of course, the issue that dominates New York and our campus at this time each year, the State Budget. Although the 2004-05 State Budget has not been passed by the Legislature and the Governor, I want to bring you up to date with our best summary of what we anticipate in terms of its impact on UAlbany.

Currently, New York State is looking at a $5.1billion budget deficit. This follows the application of several one-time revenues, which has become a common feature of the State’s budget-making process. To begin to close the gap, the Executive Budget proposes to impose 5-10 percent spending reductions on virtually every state agency.

In terms of SUNY, the Executive Budget increases the System’s core instructional budget by $26 million (up 1.4 percent) over 2003-04. A broad-based tuition increase is not proposed. The Executive Budget also proposed (again) to restructure the State’s Tuition Assistance Program and an $820,000 reduction in EOP funding - both of which SUNY and we oppose.

Significantly for Albany, indeed for all of SUNY, the Executive Budget proposes a new, multi-year $1.8 billion plan to repair and improve academic facilities at senior institutions with a focus on critical maintenance. This second phase of the State’s capital investment plan for higher education is sorely needed, and incorporates an increase of $320 million over the unfunded 2003-04 proposal. The plan is also presented differently in that projects are specifically identified for each campus in the appropriation legislation, leaving no undistributed capital lump sums.

The Chancellor and the Campus Presidents have been working diligently to enhance this package. An additional $50 million has been requested in tax dollar operating support for the system, on top of restorations to TAP and EOP. The State University Construction Fund is also working to have undistributed capital lump sums restored.

Let’s move now to the more particular impact at Albany. The Executive Capital Budget contained $79 million for our campus capital budget, but failed to include funding to equip the Life Sciences building and several other critical maintenance projects on campus. I am working diligently with the Legislature to increase capital funding to the campus. In terms of operations, for the increasing percentage of our workforce appointed to IFR, DIFR, and Research Foundation funding sources, we will have to absorb substantial increases in the cost of fringe benefits driven by rising health care costs.

Happily, CSEA members ratified a new labor agreement last night and UUP's new labor contract could be approved by the membership shortly. The cost of the salary provisions in the first year for the Albany campus is $4.1 million, which we assume will be funded by the Governor and Legislature. The continued impact of tuition increases on enrollment - especially at the graduate levels, which we are already observing - and the uncertainty of the SUNY allocation methodology (BAP) outcomes will continue to complicate our budget planning, both next year and beyond.

As you may recall, last year’s state budget shortfall was $12.3 million for UAlbany, which was addressed by imposing a reduction plan that yielded a $7.4 million permanent resource. Other permanent solutions, including energy savings, produced an additional $1.7 million in recurring revenues. To close the gap, we used $3.2 million in one-time campus reserves.

Although the picture has improved slightly, we must contemplate a similar strategy for the 2004-05 year. Our projected state budget shortfall is slightly more than $7 million. There are three main components. The first is the $3.2 million structural deficit that was addressed last year with one-time funds. The second is a projected $1.05 million cost increase in our scholarship accounts that is related to the last year's tuition increase. And the third critical component is $2.8 million in strategic investments required to keep advancing critical initiatives with energy and focus throughout the next year. Investment in faculty recruitment, library acquisitions, technology, and other infrastructure improvements are essential, especially in a challenging fiscal environment, if we are to continue to be successful in recruiting and retaining high quality faculty and students and enhancing the University’s academic and research programs.

As you can see, the next year will continue to test our ingenuity and commitment to the core mission and values of this institution. Each of us should expect to face and engage this challenge in everything we do. As we move forward, it will be important for all of us to keep our focus, to be open to change, and to be pro-active in identifying and developing more efficient and productive ways to do our important work.

This University has dealt with more severe fiscal challenges before, and I am confident we have the creative talent, the bold ideas, and the deep sense of shared values to meet this test successfully. We will adhere to the reduction planning principles we adopted previously. Those priorities are to continue our strategic focus on faculty recruitment, academic programs, health and safety issues, and increasing /diversifying our revenue streams.

The Vice Presidents and Deans have had an initial meeting to review our current situation and to begin the process of developing next year’s financial plans. We will, of course, initiate the consultation process with the University Resource and Priorities Advisory Committee shortly. We will continue the strategy of managing our reduction, at whatever level, over two years, and to address as much of the shortfall as possible with permanent base resources. Various reduction scenarios will be developed for broad consideration and eventual action, and we will continue to husband cash reserves. We will propose increases to DIFR rates and have already consulted with student leaders about a modest increase to the comprehensive fee.

As we proceed, deans, chairs, and directors, and through them faculty and staff, will be engaged as in prior years in developing budget scenarios and identifying priorities for your individual units. We will seek, in so far as possible, to keep you informed about our budget and planning environment. I also invite, indeed urge you to keep in touch, particularly over the summer months, so that we can take full advantage of your valuable perspectives and experience.

I referred some moments ago to critical strategic investments that the campus must make to maintain our momentum into the future. In formulating that list, I want to put a special emphasis on our facilities. Albany launched a substantial and successful initiative last summer to upgrade and improve our teaching spaces. In Phase I of this effort our facilities staff renovated 21 classrooms in the Humanities Building and six lecture centers. These spaces were selected for Phase I because of their poor condition and the fact they serve over 25% of the University’s total class section enrollment. In the Summer 2004 phase of this project, we will put the final touches on last summer’s Humanities Building renovations, reconfigure and renovate the eight classrooms in the Humanities Building basement, leverage a matching gift to create a second “premier” classroom, named after Emeritus Professor Ron Forbes, in the Business Building, and renovate two more lecture centers. On the downtown campus, we are completing the second phase of a three-year renovation project of Milne Hall, the location of the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy. Finally, we will commence planning to begin cyclical renovations of the University’s teaching laboratories. I think many of us have seen what a difference more modern, refreshed, and equipped teaching spaces can make to faculty-student interaction and learning on this campus. I want to commend and thank our facilities staff and faculty for their commitment to this initiative and for their creativity and hard work in making so much progress on it within a very compressed time schedule. We will accelerate our efforts in this area if at all possible.

In addition to a stimulating teaching environment, we will continue to invest in our student living environment. As some of you may know, I have direct experience of this aspect of Albany’s program and can attest to its importance in continuing to attract and retain high performing students. Our residence hall renovation program will move forward as scheduled this summer when we will complete the renovation of Oneida Hall, our 118 bed low-rise on Indian Quad. In the past seven years, the campus has expended almost $50 million dollars from the dormitory fund for renovations and furnishings. Melville Hall with 106 beds is scheduled to be taken off line for renovation next fall. Thanks, again, to the facilities staff and to Vice President Doellefeld and the residence hall staff for all their focus and fine work to this on-going, important effort.

Some of the most spectacular construction at UAlbany is reflected in the new buildings and renovations underway on all three campuses. The construction of the Life Sciences Building has been completed. We will also begin to empty the Husted Building on the downtown campus in preparation for the long-awaited renovation of that structure into a state-of-the-art teaching and student center. On the East Campus, The Gen*NY*Sis Center for Excellence in Cancer Genomics is on track for completion in spring 2005. The 16,500 square foot NanoFab 300 South Annex is just about complete; and the NanoFab 300 North with 225,000 square feet should be online this summer. These three facilities, along with the new Life Sciences building, will greatly expand our research partnership opportunities for our faculty and students. And, finally, work is well under way in constructing the new Entry/Administration Building, which will house a new visitors center and the senior administrative staff, all of whom, I am pleased to note, are very eager to return to the heart of the main campus.

At this juncture, let me take a moment to comment briefly on the Harriman Campus project, and reassure you that UAlbany will continue to be involved at the highest levels in the planning discussions related to the development of this strategically important parcel of property. The Harriman Campus, a once in a lifetime opportunity, has the potential for accelerating the development of a number of programs and initiatives that will be important to this institution’s future.

The sheer scope and quality of these new facilities are uplifting. And their addition to the University’s physical fabric is already being reflected in the expansion of the institution’s research and outreach programs. In terms of both new research awards and research expenditures, Albany has posted remarkable growth. The value of new research awards increased by 63 percent, to $193 million in Fiscal Year 02. As you know, the growth in the value of new research awards is a leading indicator of the research and development expenditures to follow in FY03 and thereafter.

The level of expenditures for research and training (through RF, HRI and all other fiscal agents) showed equally healthy increases, reaching a level of $143 million in expenditures for FY02.

Much of our research and development expenditures are an outgrowth of faculty efforts to compete for large federal grants in the sciences and other disciplines. In the past year, four principal investigators received federal awards in excess of $1 million.

While we forge ahead with efforts to expand our federally funded research programs, we continue to encourage (and maintain) diversification of funding sources through a combination of federal, industry, state, foundations and other sponsors. It is noteworthy that three principal investigators received funding in excess of $1 million from sources other than the federal government during the past year, and we expect this trend to continue.

The effort to diversify the institution’s revenue base is being supported and assisted in central and important ways by many on our campus. Vice President David Gilbert and his staff, for example, have worked tirelessly and successfully throughout the past year to secure State funds for the School of Public Health and to promote the very ambitious research agenda that will be advanced through the Gen*NY*sis Center for Cancer Genomics. Their efforts have also been instrumental in securing funding for other centers and institutes that will pursue other research and education projects in nanosciences, forensics, autism and related disabilities, Latin American and Caribbean studies, public security and literacy. As some of you may know, after spending more than 7 years here leading UAlbany’s outreach initiatives, Vice President Gilbert has recently accepted a position at the University of Wisconsin that will take him to Milwaukee later this summer. He has made an important difference to this institution’s reputation and visibility among important decision-makers and representatives at both the state and federal government levels. Please join me in expressing our gratitude to him for the many contributions to his alma mater.

The importance and quality of the work being conducted here is also reflected in the investments and giving we are receiving from constituencies in the private sector. Alumni, faculty, staff, individuals and organizations feel very positive about the direction and momentum being created at this institution, and they are beginning to respond. The investments in nanotechnology and biotechnology have received lots of attention. Let me mention three examples in other important areas:

  1. A lacrosse alumnus has donated $250,000 to the program for our new turf field, as part of the Athletics Master Plan. Once approved through SUNY Central, the field will be named in his honor.
  2. The University was recently informed of an anonymous bequest intention, current valued at $1.9 million. Upon the death of the donors, the bequest will establish a trust which will fund the Grenander Scholarships, providing full tuition, room and board for four Humanities students in the Colleges of Arts and Sciences. What a nice legacy!
  3. And lastly, Robert Wann, Jr., a Presidential Scholar and graduating senior in business administration, through his family foundation, has recently donated a $42,000 gift to establish two scholarship endowments to support scholars majoring in finance/marketing and East Asian studies. The first students to receive the merit-based scholarships are being selected this spring. Thank you, Robert for both your generosity and your example.

Of course, the essential ingredient that makes all this possible is UAlbany’s outstanding faculty. The incredible number of outstanding achievements permit me to mention a few examples of excellence. Just in the past year, three of you received prestigious early career awards from the National Science Foundation, representing a five-year investment in your research and future productivity. A fourth faculty member received a three-year early career award from the U.S. Department of Education. You have received the MacArthur Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, Fulbright awards and prizes for distinguished contributions to your disciplines’ professional literatures. You have received patents and generated inventions. One of you has invented a new national monthly index that measures output through the transportation sector. And several of you have been elected to leadership roles in your national professional associations.

Maintaining and adding to our excellent faculty will continue to be a high priority in the months ahead. Next year’s cohort of new faculty will bring with them truly impressive credentials, training, and experience. I congratulate Provost Santiago, the deans, and all of you for your success in attracting these new colleagues from the nation’s premier research universities. We will be taking steps to keep this momentum going in the next recruitment plan, which I know is already in the early stages of discussion.

In conjunction with this year’s recruitment effort, Albany launched a campus-wide IT Commons initiative, which seeks to support world-class research and educational programs in information-related studies. This program, which has my full support, will assist faculty participating in discipline-based and interdisciplinary research in areas related to information technology. Other areas, in which we are engaged in multiple strategic searches, include the life sciences, nano-scale sciences and engineering, and public health. Well done!

And speaking of program expansion, I would be remiss not to acknowledge the creation of the College for Nanoscale Sciences and Engineering, which promises to be a most significant and important development for the future of the University at Albany. In establishing this pioneering, new academic unit at Albany, the Chancellor and the Trustees are reaffirming their confidence in the traditions and quality of this institution to support and nurture innovation in graduate education and the pursuit of new knowledge. My discussions with Vice President Kaloyeros and some of our faculty and students in nanosciences have been very stimulating and encouraging. We can anticipate many more positive and exciting developments from this fast-growing part of our campus, development that will serve further to raise our national visibility and reputation as an international center of excellence.

In addition to faculty and student recruitment, our agenda for the summer and fall will include focused attention on UAlbany’s next SUNY Mission Review document. This SUNY-wide process, as you may recall, seeks to establish a mutual understanding, between the President and the Chancellor, of each campus’ mission and performance objectives for the next 3-5 years. Consultations have been initiated through the academic deans in preparation for a larger, campus-wide dialogue that will engage representatives of all the major campus constituencies very early next fall.

We are conducting this process in conjunction with preparing for the required five-year periodic report to the University’s accrediting body, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, which you know will have a key focus on assessment. UAlbany has made important in-roads to developing a campus culture of assessment, in both general education and in the major. Seven programs designed their assessment plans in 2002-03, and eight programs have or are now designing plans in this academic year. Your exemplary work is laying a firm foundation for future success in this area.

We also expect to make further progress in strengthening our infrastructure and student service systems, building on the notable achievements this past year in transitioning the student records and registration systems to PeopleSoft. Technology is an important element in our efforts to modernize and upgrade all the University’s teaching spaces. A research IT group is being established, as well, to acquire high-performance computing resources to support your efforts in the Life Sciences and other disciplines.

As I have studied the individual strategic plans for the schools and colleges, and as I meet individually and in small groups with you, I am increasingly impressed with all that you are doing and with your aspirations for the future. The College of Arts and Sciences continues working on the creation of a potential new honors college, which will figure centrally in our goal to attract and retain a higher proportion of high-achieving undergraduate students. I am pleased to note that each of the professional schools is engaged in other important curricular and research development initiatives. Our University Libraries, ranked as the best among SUNY research libraries in terms of student satisfaction, is expanding its participation in information literacy education and serving as a testing ground for a future wireless campus environment. All of our academic and administrative support units are re-thinking our business systems and practices, looking for ways to improve services and operate more efficiently. It’s an ambitious agenda, but one worthy of the effort. I feel privileged to be working with you to keep moving forward on all these projects for the duration of my service as your Interim President.

As we look forward together to the future, I want to thank each and every one of you for your dedication and commitment to this exciting and vibrant institution. It was wonderful yesterday to observe and participate in our University Clean-Up Day, which brought together many 100s of students, faculty and staff to help spruce up the campus for our end of semester and commencement celebrations. There was a strong sense of community, pride in place, and teamwork that should give all of us confidence and enthusiasm for the work that must be done in the months and years ahead.

I look forward to seeing many of you on Commencement weekend. And I wish all of you an enjoyable and productive summer…and a safe and revitalized return for the fall semester. Thank you.