President Highlights Milestones at Fall University Address
ALBANY, N.Y. (Nov. 23, 2021) — President Rodríguez’s Fall University Address began with a first.
“As we gather here today,” University Senate Chair Timothy Sergay told the crowd assembled in the Campus Center West Auditorium and joining via Zoom on Nov. 18, “I want to acknowledge that the University at Albany sits on the traditional lands of the Mohawk Haudenosaunee, known as the People of the Flint, and the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans, known as the People of the Waters that are Never Still.”
Sergay, an associate professor of Russian in the Department of Languages, Literature & Cultures, read the University’s land acknowledgement publicly for the first time as part of his formal welcome, recognizing UAlbany’s presence on the “homelands of sovereign Indigenous nations with rich histories and cultures that continue today.”
The land acknowledgement, President Rodríguez began, is both “a reminder of the history of the region where UAlbany is situated and the Indigenous peoples who were its original stewards” and “a tangible action demonstrating our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion — as we seek to create a university that welcomes every member of our communities.”
Milestones, such as the opening of the new ETEC facility the day prior, as well as major grants and research achievements, were the centerpieces of the president’s address. The speech itself, the first in-person address since Fall 2019, marked another waypoint on the campus’s return to normalcy.
Citing the University’s COVID-19 protocols and its high vaccination rate, the president echoed Sergay’s praise for the way the UAlbany community has handled the pandemic and achieved so much over the last year.
“We have a lot to be proud of,” he said. “And we’ve learned so very much about ourselves and our institution throughout a very challenging time.”
Despite the financial challenges caused by the pandemic, the University has continued to invest in its people, adding $9.8 million in undergraduate scholarships and allocating an additional $1.7 million for new faculty hires over the next two years, the president said. He also highlighted a University plan to increase stipends and institute partial fee scholarships for doctoral students with teaching duties, as well as increased support for the marching band and a new student success initiative to provide on-campus jobs to undergraduate students with the highest financial need.
The University also has distributed more than $38 million through the federal Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund to students in need.
“Everyone would like more resources, whether more faculty, more doctoral students, more scholarships, more staff or new equipment,” the president said, adding that increasing enrollment is the “primary path to the growth that we need to support our individual and institutional goals.”
Doing that, he said, requires the commitment of the entire University community. Some of the steps already being taken include new academic offerings, such as graduate programs in Digital Forensics and Cybersecurity, Emergency Management and Homeland Security, and Environmental and Sustainable Engineering.
It also means preparing the University to maximize the benefit of new federal research opportunities. To that end, Rodríguez used the speech as an opportunity to announce UAlbany’s new vice president for research and economic development, Thenkurussi “Kesh” Kesavadas.
He also congratulated the University’s newest SUNY distinguished professor, Chemistry Professor Igor Lednev. Lednev is the latest UAlbany faculty member to achieve SUNY’s highest teaching honor.