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Building Community 

Interim President James R. Stellar makes a point at the Fall Faculty Address. (Photo by Mark Schmidt)   

ALBANY, N.Y. (Nov. 10, 2016) – Interim President James R. Stellar rallied faculty, staff and students around the central theme of community in his first fall faculty address since taking the reins of the University seven weeks ago.

“If I have heard one thing across all of my conversations in this listening tour, it is that for us to move forward, we must be a community,” Stellar said. “We must work together and turn our size and complexity into an advantage of strength and mutual support.”

This includes everything from research – like winning the recent $10 million National Institutes of Health grant for work on the elimination of minority health disparities – to maximizing the university’s impact, as students do by providing 900,000 hours of community service a year.

Much of Stellar’s brief speech centered on continuing to move toward goals set by former President Robert Jones, who left to become chancellor of the University at Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Stellar said the University will continue with an enrollment goal of 20,000 students through improved admission and retention strategies.

“And there is good news here: Freshman to sophomore retention is at a six-year high of 84 percent. Freshman applications are up 6.5 percent, and for the past two years we’ve had the largest-ever freshman class,” Stellar said.

He pointed to the University’s largest academic expansion in 50 years, saying there has been strong student interest in majors and minors in the two new colleges: Engineering and Applied Sciences and Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity.

This year, UAlbany hired 73 new faculty, about 25 percent of whom are in the new colleges, Stellar said, adding, “You are the best investment in our future that we could possibly make.”

The interim president spoke of doubling international recruitment and giving as many students as possible the chance to study abroad. He also talked about offering sophomores more opportunities for internships, undergraduate research and service.

Other priorities include implementing recommendations of the commissions on graduate stipends and contingent faculty.

Stellar said the university is on the move.

“We are rising at UAlbany, and with a commitment to remain as affordable as possible, keeping our public mission at the center of all that we do,” he said. “I have been here before. I was once dean of arts and sciences at a university that went from a U.S. News ranking of 165 to a current ranking of 39. My college doubled in size to 6,000 students even as the SAT scores rose 250 points. I know what is possible and I feel it happening here.”

Stellar said he feels strongly about the role of the arts and humanities in a public research university.

“In this time of growth in the STEM and professional fields, a commitment to the arts and the humanities is not just about producing engineers or project managers who can write,” he said. “It is also about attracting more students to major or minor in the arts and in the humanistic fields.”

He encouraged those present to come to the Concert of Ideas on Dec. 9 and 10. The event will use music to build a community of creative thinkers. Stellar said there is much evidence that the arts and humanities foster deeper and more creative thinking as a group and said this approach “could extend past its use in strategic planning … to help us build community.”

He also touched on the University’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. “We are blessed with a highly diverse student population and we need our faculty to more closely reflect that diversity,” he said.

Another important aspect of campus climate is the response to and prevention of sexual assault. Stellar praised the Empowered Bystander Training and Awareness program, noting the campus has set out to train 25 percent of UAlbany students in how to respond to violent situations.

Stellar urged the faculty and staff to participate in planning for the future of the University and closed by saying, “We rise to meet our challenges. We seize the momentum that we are creating as a community. Because we truly believe our time is now.”

Read the full text of Stellar’s talk.

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About the University at Albany
A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany offers more than
120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciences, business, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.