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President Ryan to Faculty: UAlbany Maintains High Standards; Will Meet Challenges in the Coming Year

(November 5, 2004)

Interim President John R. Ryan at the podium

Interim President John R. Ryan at the podium

Highlighting campus successes and challenges, Interim President John R. Ryan updated the University at Albany community October 28 on student enrollment, sponsored funds performance, and budget issues in his fall speech.

For the third year in a row, the University has seen an increase in the academic quality of students entering the freshman class, he said. Forty percent of this year’s freshman class of 2,022 students have academic credentials that place them in the “Group 1” category of top students as defined by State University of New York standards.

“Since 1998, the number of Group 1 students in the entering freshman class has grown from 470 to 651, a 35 percent increase,” Ryan said. The freshman class boasts 180 Presidential and 23 Frederick Douglass scholars as well as two National Merit finalists. There are 15 valedictorians (up from 12 last year) and 10 salutatorians.

Ryan said, “UAlbany enrolled both the valedictorian and salutatorian of South Seneca High School in Ovid, N.Y. We’re doing well there.”

UAlbany has strengthened academic quality without losing diversity. “We have maintained the student diversity of which UAlbany is justifiably proud – with African-American, Asian American, Hispanic American, and Native American students constituting 24 percent of the class,” the president said.

Focusing on selectivity has brought with it the challenge of accepting and enrolling fewer students into the freshman class, and the University must therefore concentrate enrollment efforts on retaining upperclassmen. “We can do better in this area,” Ryan said.

One way to retain high-achieving students is through the development of honors options for undergraduates. Discussions are under way for “an exciting new honors college within the College of Arts and Sciences, as well as new or much strengthened honors options in several undergraduate majors,” Ryan said. The new Information Technology Commons Initiative, and planned offerings in communication, journalism, neuroscience, and art history are also promising ways to meet the needs of undergraduates.

Recent new programs and emphases have been added in broadcast meteorology, materials science, forensics, functional genomics and molecular structures, the life sciences, and information technology.

At the graduate level, “international enrollment, as you are undoubtedly aware, has seen a nationwide decrease particularly at the graduate level, and our experience has mirrored the national trend,” he said. “There is some evidence on the horizon to suggest that this trend may be beginning to reverse itself in the coming year; nevertheless, we must be careful and strategic in our graduate enrollment planning to ensure that we don’t continue to suffer unduly from its impact.”

The University faces a $7.7 million budgetary challenge this fiscal year. Enrollment is a factor, as well as the state’s tight budget, and a deficit of $3.2 million that was rolled over from last year.

Ryan said plans are in place to partially mitigate the revenue shortfall through selectively increased enrollment, energy cost savings, and the use of cash reserves.

Principles used in planning the budget include: maintaining health and safety; continuing to invest in strategic instructional and research programs; protecting and increasing revenue streams; improving and maintaining campus buildings; and increasing external funding through philanthropy.

Ryan also gave an update on the status on Advancement efforts.

“The Bold.Vision. Capital Campaign to date has received nearly $286 million in total University support. And over the past year, the University has learned that it will share in future bequests from 23 alumni and friends. Once realized, those documented bequest intentions will provide UAlbany with $2.2 million,” the president said.

Ryan reported that research funding for the University continues to grow. Among the examples he cited:

• Funding for the division of Special Education to increase the numberof doctoral candidates in the School of Education

• Through collaborative efforts of the College of Arts and Sciences, School of Education, School of Social Welfare, and School of Public Health, the NIH/National Center on Minority Health and Health Systems awarded a $1.24 million three-year grant for a project titled EXPORT Center on Health Disparities in Smaller Cities.

• The School of Public Health has won a $5 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control to fund the University’s Center for Public Health Preparedness.

• The Center for Social and Demographic Analysis and the Lewis Mumford Center received a $1 million grant over three years from the National Institute of Children’s Health and Development (NICHD), titled The Albany Population Center.

• The Center for Legislative Development has successfully competed for renewal of its program in Lebanon, Strengthening Foundations for Governance. Funds will total more than $17 million over three years and are provided by the United States Agency for International Development.

In his speech, Ryan also called attention to the work of the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering. He said the college recently received more than $1.5 million in public and private funds to establish nanotechnology education and training programs for under-represented groups in science and engineering. “What a great project,” he said. “Additionally, Albany NanoTech, Infineon, and Genus have entered a $12 million research and development partnership to create an atomic layer deposition center of excellence at UAlbany.”

On the subject of building regional and state strengths, Ryan discussed his vision for the Harriman Campus. “One partnership that promises a significant impact on the region and the state is our evolving role within the Harriman Campus Development Corporation and our partners, the City of Albany and the New York State Office of General Services. UAlbany is poised to expand its R&D collaborations with business, industry, and entrepreneurs at this new research park.

He said the “new” Harriman Campus will provide a direct boost to economic development for the region and state, and will be an R&D showpiece that will attract high-tech industry to the area and accelerate the campus’s redevelopment process. “I believe UAlbany’s prominent and central role in this enterprise will be a transforming benchmark in the evolution of our University and its status among research universities,” he said, adding there are plans for a roadway to connect the main UAlbany campus with the Harriman Campus.

Regarding physical improvements on the main campus, Ryan said, “The emerging Entry Building, the new ‘signature’ building for the campus, is transforming the area just north of the Art Museum.”

This will be the primary point of orientation and entry to the main campus and is a “distinctly sculptural counterpoint to our existing, late modernist campus.” The Entry Building is scheduled for completion in summer 2005, and will house administration functions as well as a visitors’ center.

Turning his attention to the Gen*NY*Sis Cancer Research Center being built at the east campus, Ryan said the building is scheduled to be completed in summer 2005. It will house the University’s Center for Functional Genomics, the Gen*NY*Sis Center for Excellence in Cancer Genomics, and other biotechnology tenants.

“Yesterday [State]Senator [Joseph] Bruno and I announced the formation and membership of the Honorary Committee for Memory and Hope to support the center’s commitment to research into the genetic origins of cancer that will lead to finding cures for this disease that will strike one of every two men and one of every three women in their lifetime. The initial fund-raising goal is $25 million and the centerpiece of the center building will be the Wall of Memory and Hope,” Ryan said.

The president also reported restoration of the first and second floors of Milne Hall on the downtown campus is complete, and third floor planning is under way. The Page Hall auditorium and lounge are being upgraded also, to the delight of their many campus and community visitors. The Draper entrance beautification project is in progress, and the design for the modernization of Husted Hall is done.

Complete text of speech>>