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Campus News

Ryan Address Highlights Quality of Incoming Freshman Class, Innovation in Education, Increased Research Funding

by Greta Petry

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

Noting the importance of maintaining “our momentum into the future,” Interim President John R. Ryan focused his April 28 report to the faculty on the steps UAlbany is taking to recruit and retain high-quality faculty and students, and enhance academic and research programs.

Ryan highlighted University progress in attracting a talented freshman class, faculty success in garnering research funding and awards, and significant investments in both new and renovated facilities. He also outlined challenges facing the University.

“This year we expect that 38 percent of Albany’s traditionally admitted freshman class will meet the SUNY Group 1 criteria, up from last year’s 36.1 percent,” said Ryan. With about 17,000 applications in, average SATs at 1191 and average GPAs at 91.2, the academic profile of the incoming class is similar to last year’s.

Ryan, who was tapped to lead the University at Albany on an interim basis on February 24, noted that while the New York State Legislature has not yet adopted a budget, the Executive Budget increases SUNY System’s core instructional budget by $26 million, or 1.4 percent over 2003-2004. The president said that along with Chancellor King, he is “strongly” advocating against restructuring the Tuition Assistance Program and for restoration of the proposed $820,000 reduction to the statewide Educational Opportunity Program.

While the Executive Budget included $79 million for UAlbany’s capital budget, it did not include funding to equip the Life Sciences building and several critical maintenance projects, Ryan said, adding that he is “working diligently with the Legislature to increase capital funding to the campus.”

Overall, Ryan said the fiscal picture has “improved slightly” for UAlbany, although it is still “an attention grabber.” The projected shortfall for 2004-2005 is slightly more than $7 million. The strategy is to continue “investment in faculty recruitment, library acquisitions, technology, and other infrastructure improvements… 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,” he said.

“As we move forward, it will be important for all of us to keep our focus, be open to change, and to be proactive in identifying and developing more efficient and productive ways to do our work,” Ryan said, adding that the institution will continue its strategic focus on faculty recruitment, academic programs, health and safety issues, and increasing and diversifying revenue streams.

Many improvements to academic buildings will go forward this summer, including the renovation of eight classrooms in the Humanities Building basement, leveraging a matching gift to create a “premier” classroom in the Business building, and renovating two more lecture centers. On the downtown campus, the second phase of a three-year renovation project of Milne Hall will take place. The Life Sciences building is completed, and Husted Hall downtown will be emptied out in preparation for renovations.

For students, Oneida Hall on Indian Quad is currently undergoing renovations, which are about 75 to 80 percent complete. Roofing work will be conducted after students leave for the semester, and construction is expected to be finished by mid-July. Melville Hall is slated to be taken off line for renovation next fall.

During his speech, the president noted 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.”

Ryan thanked Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Carlos Santiago for his leadership at UAlbany over the past 16 years. He wished Santiago and Professor Azara Santiago-Rivera well. Santiago has accepted the position of Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Ryan also thanked Vice President for Outreach David Gilbert for his work in securing funding for the School of Public Health and a research agenda for the Gen*NY*sis Center for Cancer Genomics, among others. Gilbert has also accepted a position at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

In his speech, the interim president announced the May 7 farewell event for President Karen R. Hitchcock, president of UAlbany since 1995, and said as a result of her leadership, “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.”

In addition to introducing the previously announced winners of this year’s Excellence Awards, Ryan announced that Professor James Acker of the School of Criminal Justice has been named a Distinguished Teaching Professor, the highest rank in the State University of New York system.

He also announced this year’s Collins Fellow Award winners, Distinguished Teaching Professor of Public Affairs and Policy David P. McCaffrey and Distinguished Service Professor of Sociology Glenna D. Spitze. The Collins Fellow Award, named for the late Evan Revere Collins, is presented to senior members of the teaching faculty to recognize “extraordinary devotion to the University and the people in it over a sustained period of time.”

In the area of research funding, Ryan noted that the value of new research awards increased by 63 percent, to $193 million in fiscal year 2002. “The growth in the value of new research awards is a leading indicator of the research and development expenditures to follow in fiscal year 2003 and thereafter,” he said.

While discussing the achievements of athletics this past year, Ryan said he was impressed to see the entire UAlbany football team helping out at Campus Cleanup Day on April 27. “That’s leadership,” he said.

For the complete text of Ryan's speech, got to: www.albany.edu/news/campus_news/2004/apr2004/ryan_spring_faculty.htm.