Fall University Address

October 26, 2023



President Havidán Rodríguez gives the 2023 Fall University Address

Delivered by President Havidán Rodríguez 

Good afternoon, esteemed faculty members, staff and administration, colleagues, honored guests, and students. It is with great pleasure that I stand before you today to present the annual Fall Address.   

Before we begin, we must acknowledge that it is also a time of enormous grief and lingering shock for many in our community and around the world. 
The October 7 terrorist attacks by Hamas on Israel claimed so many innocent lives, as has the bombing and humanitarian crisis that has followed in Gaza. For the families of those still held captive, the fear and grief continue. 
The death of every innocent, both on October 7 and since, is an uncountable loss that we all feel deeply because Universities are special places built and sustained by the power of connection and understanding – across disciplines, generations, and cultures. 

In the weeks since, we have heard from some in our community that the University’s response to these events has been insufficiently supportive of Israel and our Jewish friends, colleagues, and classmates. 

We have also heard from those who believe the University’s response has been insufficiently supportive of the Palestinian people and their cause.  

However, we have also heard from those who feel the Universities response has been appropriate. 

No doubt, you may have seen recent reports of strife at Harvard, UPenn, and many other universities, or seen articles in the media questioning universities’ roles in making public statements. 

That said, we should be very proud of our students. In the past weeks, both Jewish and Muslim student groups have gathered in separate events at UAlbany to peacefully and respectfully honor the lives taken by the attack and throughout the conflict. 

Standing here before you, there is nothing I can say that will please everyone in this room or alleviate the very real and justified anguish people are feeling. 

In these moments of extreme trauma, it is most important for the University to focus on the things that we can control for the benefit of our community.  

Most often, that means supporting our friends and colleagues who are in pain and making sure every member of our community is aware of the resources that exist to support them. 

It also means choosing to engage with each other with a heightened measure of patience, grace, empathy, and understanding, which I know to be a hallmark of the Great Dane family. 

That is what it is within our power to control, and that is where we have and will continue to focus our energies as we hope for every person in harm’s way to be delivered to safety and for peace to prevail. 

Let us join together in a moment of silence for the victims of terrorism and of war.

Thank you.  

Today, we gather to reflect upon the remarkable journey of the University at Albany – past, present, and future. It is an honor to provide an update on the state of our institution, a place where innovation, knowledge, and community intersect to shape the future, where greatness is truly unleashed every day.  

The Fall Address is not just a report on the past year; it is a testament to our collective commitment to excellence, equity, and opportunity. 

It is also a moment of celebration and appreciation for everything, for our institution, for our students, and for our community. 

In this address, we will not only review the past but also look forward with hope and ambition. We will embrace the challenges that lie ahead, seek opportunities for growth, and reiterate our dedication to serving the educational and societal needs of our students, our region, and the world. And we will celebrate the achievements of some very remarkable members of our community.  

In the Spring Address, we took time to highlight some of the successes UAlbany has had in the past five years, over the course of our most recent strategic plan, Authoring Our Success.  

That strategic plan articulated our values, through five clearly defined priorities that will drive the University to meet its full potential as a leading diverse public research university: Student Success, Research Excellence, Diversity and Inclusion, Internationalization, and Engagement and Service. 

When you leave this afternoon, we will distribute a report called “Marking Our Milestones” that lays out the highlights and achievements of the past five years.  

The accomplishments set forth in the book are a testament to each of you in this room, and a record of how far the University at Albany has come. I encourage you to read through this report as a record of the many great initiatives and projects we together have successfully launched.  

Let's take a moment to celebrate our achievements and give ourselves a well-deserved round of applause for all the hard work and dedication we've put in.  

However, this Great Dane family is not one to rest on our laurels. There is more to do, students to serve, knowledge to advance, and communities to engage. We must keep moving forward. 

Now, we are gearing up to embark on a new strategic journey, one informed by the strategic plan we have just completed.  

The five core priorities of our Strategic Plan remain intact, as they collectively express UAlbany’s unique assets—and our aspirations for the future. They are the touchstones that will anchor the next chapters in our already long and rich history. 

We support these five pillars with three main strategies, advanced through institutional initiatives that will be measured through concrete metrics. 

In this Strategic Plan, we build on the success of the prior plan and move forward with concrete plans based on the ideas we have already implemented.  

As I have shared previously, the Strategic Planning Advisory Council (SPAC), which includes faculty, staff, and student representatives, as well as representatives from the University Senate, began work on the plan’s revisions in 2022. 

Carol Kim and Mike Christakis, as Council co-chairs, hosted 11 forums in the spring 2022, which welcomed nearly 450 faculty, staff, and students across UAlbany’s schools, colleges, administrative divisions, and shared governance groups. 

Carol, Mike, and the council then took that feedback and revised the strategic plan so that it reflected the insights and perspectives shared by our campus community. Since then, we have worked to clarify the revised plan’s metrics of success, thanks to the work of Institutional Research, Planning and Effectiveness. 

We have also worked, together with the Vice Presidents and Deans, to identify initiatives that can help realize the intent and purpose of our five core priorities. 

Our name for this new plan, which will run from 2024-2029, is Great Danes Rising: Unleashing Our Potential.  And this strategic plan, with your help and input, will power the University at Albany’s momentum, research, and rising reputation.  

Our first priority, and the basis for all we do, remains Student Success. We have made a commitment that the University at Albany will be one of the nation’s leading and most diverse research universities, empowering our student body for a lifetime of achievement. 

We achieve this through three strategies, not dissimilar to the strategies we advanced in the first strategic plan. Today, we will look at just one strategy per core priority as an example. 

One of our three strategies calls for us to position every student for career success through experiential learning opportunities including research, internships, service learning, and education abroad.  

The metrics we will use to measure our success are the National Survey of Student Engagement and our survey of student outcomes. Through these, we will look at increasing the number of students who engage in high-impact practices, such as research, internships, or study abroad; and we will measure the number of our students successfully employed or pursuing an advanced degree. 

An initiative that we will launch to ensure we meet those goals is UAlbanyXEd For All, a push to make experiential education opportunities available and accessible to all students. 

The growing body of literature suggests strongly that engaging in high-impact practices gives students access to real-world projects and enables them to apply their academic knowledge while learning professional and technical skills. 

Being able to practice their skills in a supportive environment while engaging in the reflection required by the academic environment further increases knowledge, develops skills, and clarifies values. 

Let us work together to make UAlbanyXEd For All a part of each student’s undergraduate experience and provide our students with every advantage as they move into work or advanced study.  

This is just one example of how we move Student Success forward.  

The second pillar of our strategic plan is Research Excellence. UAlbany will be internationally known for our research and creative works impacting critical societal challenges.  

One strategy in the Research Excellence pillar is strengthening interdisciplinary research networks and collaborations across the academic enterprise.  

The initiative we will use to advance this is Uniting Frontier Research and Development. We already have several examples of interdisciplinary frameworks with which to move forward, such as AI Plus, which marries curriculum across the disciplines with research and supercomputing, and which already includes the Global Center for AI in Mental Health, with SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University and the United Nations Health Innovation Exchange as partners. 

The Institute for Social and Health Equity is another example of an interdisciplinary research center designed to work on some of society’s most pressing issues.  

Establishing interdisciplinary partnerships, both within the University at Albany and with educational institutions, corporations, and other entities, will amplify the reach and impact of research, and allow researchers to address complex, real-world problems more effectively.  

We will measure success in this area by increasing the number of large-scale interdisciplinary research proposals submitted and by increasing the number of research-active faculty.  

Our third pillar is diversity, equity, and inclusion. The University at Albany will be the preeminent model for embracing diversity, equity, and inclusive excellence in all facets of university life.  

UAlbany’s diversity, in our people and our ideas, drives excellence in everything that we do. 

Here, we will consider how we will advance our national reputation for creating social mobility for first-generation and historically underrepresented students—and for empowering a new generation of allies, leaders, and changemakers.  

One of the ways we will reach this goal is through the creation of a social justice minor in the School of Social Welfare for the fall 24 semester. 

The Social Justice minor is interdisciplinary, preparing students to engage in personal change, dismantle inequitable systems, and advocate for a just society.     

Our fourth pillar is internationalization. At UAlbany, we will continue to infuse international perspectives across our research, teaching, learning, and service to promote the global common good.  

One strategy is to deliver intercultural and international learning opportunities across the disciplines.  

We will measure success here by the growth of student and faculty participation in study abroad and the growth of courses and programs offered.  

Our road to success is UAlbany Go Global, an integrated campaign of four actions: strengthening advisement capabilities, curricular integration, scholarship and University-wide support, by providing additional support for navigating and financing the transformative but complex study abroad experience. 

Our fifth pillar is engagement and service, to build transformational partnerships that strengthen the University and our local and global communities. Through community engagement, UAlbany fulfills our educational, research, and civic responsibilities while fostering relationships with our neighbors in Albany, the Capital District, and beyond.  

In strategy three, we look to increase community member participation in University events and programs. We will measure this through attendance and a community survey. 

We will invite the community to campus through Open to the Community, a series of both new and expanded events that invite the community to explore what our campus has to offer. 

Events include Showcase, Research & Entrepreneurship Week, and the Big Event community service day, and new events such as a Community Partners Thank You for Capital Region organizations and agencies; a Community Block Party in connection with an athletic event; and Nanovember, public programming to highlight nanotechnology.  

Our goal, with illustrating just one initiative and strategy from each pillar, was to show you how we could make a difference and move the needle forward in each of these areas. Our hope is that each of our academic and administrative departments take these as examples of how you can engage and play a role in advancing the University at Albany.  

Early next week, we will open the new strategic plan website, the public face of the plan. A few weeks later, you will receive an email from Provost Carol Kim and Vice President Michael Christakis with a link to a more detailed document on myUAlbany that will outline the metrics and initiatives in greater detail.  

Each of us has a role to play in this strategic plan. I look forward to hearing your ideas and thoughts as we begin 2024 by working on our shared goals.  

As you probably know, a parallel strategic process is being led by Provost Kim and Vice President Mike Christakis, the development of our Strategic Enrollment Management Plan. This draft will also be available on myUAlbany soon. 

I mention this plan because enrollment is something each of us should be thinking about, and the strategic plan and the enrollment management plan are intertwined. 

The strategic plan is the basis for our rising reputation and institutional goals, but enrollment, how we serve, recruit, and retain students, is key to institutional success. 

You do not have to be an admissions counselor to play a role in enrollment. All of us help to create an inclusive and nurturing campus, and all of us help our students thrive and make our research excellent.  

Now I will present some of the highlights of the past few months. And for the first one, I would like to turn to the screen, and a video that can tell the story more powerfully than I can alone.  

The announcement and celebration on August 17 marked the conclusion of eight months of close collaboration to transfer 10 academic programs and approximately 90 continuing students, 29 faculty and lecturers, and more than 100 post-docs, staff members and Research Foundation personnel back to UAlbany. 

I would like to ask the faculty and staff joining us here today in the new Department of Nanoscale Science and Engineering to stand and be recognized. 

Welcome back to UAlbany!  

The fact that we were able to complete this complex transition four months ahead of schedule is a testament to the hard work of the dedicated employees at UAlbany, SUNY Poly, NY CREATES, and SUNY who were committed to ensuring our students, faculty, and staff were well served and could begin the fall semester with the reassurance of knowing the transition was complete.  

The reunification is already bringing UAlbany back into the national conversation about semiconductors. 

You may have seen the coverage last month, when the U.S. Department of Defense awarded $40 million to a research and development consortium led by Albany NanoTech to establish one of eight regional hubs across the country that will focus on developing a pipeline of computer chip workers and new technologies. 

The funding for the New York consortium — which includes UAlbany, RPI, NY CREATES, Cornell University, and IBM — is among the first grants to be awarded under the $52 billion CHIPS and Science Act authored by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer and signed into law last year. 

This accomplishment combined with our AI Plus initiative places UAlbany at the forefront of two technological revolutions.

Just two weeks ago, we had a very big announcement in our AI space. Gov. Kathy Hochul was here to announce the Center for Emerging Artificial Intelligence Systems, a $20 million collaboration between UAlbany and IBM that will power new AI research projects through advanced cloud computing and emerging hardware out of the IBM Research AI Hardware Center.

This collaboration is an extension of and powered by IBM’s research at Albany NanoTech.  

The new research collaboration was announced at the inaugural SUNY AI Symposium at ETEC, which convened leading AI researchers from across the SUNY system.  

In September, I joined SUNY and international leaders for an event to discuss our new initiative on AI and mental health at the SUNY Global campus downstate. 

This initiative was extraordinarily well received by the researchers, United Nations representatives, and foundation and industry leaders in attendance.  

Thanks to this commitment to AI Plus, both Provost Kim and I have been asked to present at two different sessions at the upcoming meeting of the Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities, as we are leading the nation in integrating artificial intelligence research and education into the academy.  

In addition, we were very pleased to welcome 19 new faculty members this semester, specializing in artificial intelligence across many academic disciplines, including engineering, emergency management, public health, education, public policy and business, among others. 

The total number of new AI faculty, once the searches are complete, is expected to be 27.  

They were part of a cohort of 40 new faculty who joined the UAlbany faculty this year, one of our largest cohorts in recent years.  

I would like to ask our new faculty, including our new AI faculty, who are here today, to stand and be recognized. 

As you may have heard, the University at Albany is rising among the top public colleges in the nation.  

For example, U.S. News and World Report 2024 “Best College Rankings,” listed UAlbany at No. 70 nationally among public institutions and No. 133 nationally overall, up 48 spots from last year. 

UAlbany was again recognized by U.S. News as a top performer in social mobility, within the top 10 percent of all ranked institutions. 

The week prior, the Wall Street Journal listed UAlbany at No. 40 among public institutions in the “Best Colleges in the U.S.” rankings, the second highest among SUNY schools, and No. 114 nationally. 

UAlbany also ranked No. 21 nationally for social mobility, the highest among SUNY campuses and the second highest among all New York institutions. 

And the month prior, Washington Monthly, which ranks higher education institutions for their contribution to the public good, ranked UAlbany within the top 15 percent, at No. 61, the highest among SUNY campuses.    

The University at Albany is committed to offering life-changing opportunities, and these new rankings further prove that we are fulfilling that mission. 

While I sometimes think the conversations and the focus around rankings are counterproductive, I am very proud to see our University recognized as a powerful engine of opportunity for all students, regardless of background or social status. 

And as I mentioned during a conversation with reporters from Inside Higher Education, it’s about time that US News and World Reports caught up with UAlbany, and recognized the importance of social mobility in these rankings.  

We have good news on the enrollment front. Our fall enrollment saw a modest increase over last year. 

We saw favorable increases in our new first-year students, welcoming the second-largest class in UAlbany’s history this fall.  

New transfer enrollments also stabilized for the first time in six years, largely due to the return of CNSE.  

We also saw the largest increase in graduate enrollment since 2009, due in large part to double digit increases in new masters and new doctoral enrollment.  

While overall favorable news, similar to other colleges and universities – especially in New York State and SUNY, we continue to struggle with transfer enrollments. 

Recognizing the challenge of recruiting, retaining and graduating our transfer students, SUNY has established a system-wide Task Force on Transfer Enrollment, with representatives from UAlbany serving on various committees and work groups. 

We also continue to focus our efforts on identifying strategies to continue to improve transfer recruitment and enrollment in the near-term, and have prioritized transfer enrollment in our forthcoming strategic enrollment management plan. 

We are also participating in SUNY’s free application weeks, which are going on now through October 29. 

Of course, we continue to focus on and develop new strategies to increase our retention rates, as we want all students to be successful and graduate from UAlbany. 

As we consider our administrative structures, creating opportunities for interdisciplinary teaching and research, especially among our signature strengths, is a key university priority.  

After much consideration and consultation, including a 52-page report authored by a neutral consultant, it was decided that the School of Social Welfare and the School of Public Health, including our new nursing programs, would form a new college.  

The Provost has asked Interim Deans Vicki Rizzo and Erin Bell to begin the planning and implementation of the new college that will include the two schools. 

Forming a new college to house these schools will deepen the interdisciplinary nature of our course offerings and research opportunities and will allow us to develop new programs in the health sciences, creating a new draw for students and faculty while fostering pedagogical innovation. 

The provost has been engaging the deans, the schools’ faculty, and the University Senate to discuss the new college and the opportunities before us, and addressing questions and concerns as they emerge.  

The formation of this new college, as well as the merger of two departments in the College of Arts and Sciences — Latin American and Caribbean Studies and Africana Studies — have caused some members of the Student Association and the University Senate to ask questions and raise concerns. 

These administrative changes are meant to preserve limited administrative resources while encouraging new program growth and innovation through interdisciplinary collaboration.  

I have engaged several members of my executive council to work with the provost and Dean Altarriba to help alleviate anxieties, and to discuss with students and faculty these critically important issues. 

There is always strong resistance to change in higher education, but we must move forward for the betterment of our institution. 

In recent months, we have also had much to celebrate. I’d like to highlight some great announcements recognizing the University and our priorities.  

The University at Albany’s EXCELlence in STEM Program received the 2023 Inspiring Programs in STEM Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, the largest and oldest diversity and inclusion publication in higher education. 

The Learning Commons, and the EXCELlence in STEM program, are the culmination of years of planning by UAlbany’s Academic Innovation and Student Success office, led by Dean of Undergraduate Education JoAnne Malatesta, and other units across campus, to create a comprehensive and transformative model for student success. 

We also appreciate the hard work and leadership of Dr. Rabi Musah and her staff in the successful development and implementation of our new and innovative Learnings Common. 

UAlbany also received its 6th consecutive HEED Award for its Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion. 

UAlbany’s ETEC research and development complex has been named the 2023 Green Building of the Year by U.S. Green Building Council of Upstate New York. 

Researchers in the University at Albany’s Department of Geography and Planning in the College of Arts and Sciences received $5 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to support a new project that aims to improve the health of Albany’s urban forest and educate the next generation of local climate leaders.  

In August, we announced a new weather and climate collaboration led by researchers at the University at Albany and the University of Connecticut, which will help safeguard the energy industry. 

Backed by a grant from the National Science Foundation, the Center for Weather Innovation and Smart Energy and Resilience, or WISER, is an Industry-University Cooperative Research Center. 

Following a national search, Professor Julie Novkov has been appointed dean of the University at Albany’s Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy. A professor of political science, she has served as interim dean of the college since July 2021. 

Following the departure of Interim Dean Mary Gallant, Dr. Erin Bell has been appointed interim dean of the School of Public Health. 

And I would also like to thank Dr. Kevin Williams, who has taken the helm of the School of Business as interim dean, and Dr. Christine Wagner, who has stepped in as the interim dean of the Graduate School.   

National searches for the deans of the School of Business and the new college for the School of Public Health and the School of Social Welfare will be underway very soon.  

Fardin Sanai, CIEGS Staff, and I recently returned from a weeklong trip to China, to cement our partnership with Chongqing University of Posts and Telecommunications, one of our dual degree partners, and then to Beijing for meetings with government agencies, such as the Ministry of Education.  

Strengthening international relationships is important for UAlbany’s future. 

I also had the opportunity to present at the 2023 International Conference on the Cooperation and Integration of Industry, Education, Research and Application in Chongqing, where I met many other university leaders from around the world. 

We heard from our colleagues in China that we were among the first institutions to visit post-pandemic.  

But even more meaningful to our delegation was the opportunity to meet with students and alumni. At one reception, one alum traveled more than three hours by plane and brought along with him a photo that he and I had taken, in front of the Unleash Greatness chevron, at our “This is Our Time” capital campaign kick-off in 2017.  

What struck me was the impact that we as educators have on students and our community, and how important it is for us to reach out and connect with them. You do not always realize how the things you do and what you say have an impact on our students and the UAlbany community.     

Now to discuss a few events of the fall semester. We arrived back from China just in time for UAlbany’s inaugural Research & Entrepreneurship Week, a weeklong celebration of research, creative expression, and start-up culture.  This series of events was a fantastic success, thanks to Vice President Kesavadas and his team.  

The New York State Writers Institute, celebrating its 40th anniversary, hosted the very successful 6th annual Albany Book Festival, on Sept. 23.   

The evening before, we had a ceremony to recognize the new State Author and State Poet — Jacqueline Woodson and Patricia Spears Jones, respectively, who will serve in those roles from 2023 to 2025. 

Another highlight of the fall semester, indeed the entire year, is The University at Albany Foundation’s Citizen Laureate Awards dinner, which you are invited to attend. 

Our 2023 Citizen Laureates are most deserving of this honor: Community Laureates James K. Reed and Robert W. Lazar, and Academic Laureate Roberta Bernstein. 

To date, we’ve raised more than $342,000 toward student scholarships, a new fundraising record for this event. 

We are delighted to honor these three distinguished individuals and we hope to see all of you on Thursday, November 16. Most of all, we are thrilled that this signature annual event will be the first held in the newly renovated Broadview Center.  

We are very excited about both the name change to Broadview Center and the opening of this extensively renovated facility, which will provide a great venue for our basketball programs, for large campus events such as Commencement, and for signature regional events, such as the Citizen Laureate Awards Dinner.  

We also hope to see you all at the Broadview Center for the winter greeting card unveiling and community coffee hour in December.  

In July, we announced that women's rowing has been selected as the Great Danes' 19th NCAA Division I sport. 

After a full year of preparation, we expect that the regular season competition will begin in the fall of 2024. 

Also coming up in 2024 – preparations are underway to celebrate UAlbany’s 180th anniversary. More information on this celebration will be forthcoming. 

We will also open the first phase of what is commonly known as the Former Albany High School on the Downtown campus. This facility will house some of the engineering and computer science programs in the College of Nanotechnology, Science and Engineering. More on this soon as well. 

And, we will complete the transformation of Paine and Zenger halls on Colonial Quad, which has included a gut renovation of the two residence halls to make them more modern, comfortable, and energy efficient while also converting the vacant former dining hall into bright and spacious recreation and wellness facilities that will also serve as the new home of Campus Recreation by the fall of 2024. 

Much like the recent renovation of the Health & Counseling Services Building on Dutch Quad, this project brings critical services closer to our students and fills an important unmet need on our campus. 

You may have noticed that the lettering atop what was known as the Massry Center has been taken down, and a new sign heralding the Massry School of Business has been installed facing the Collins Circle fountain.  

We are very pleased to name the School of Business in honor of the Massry family’s decades-long history of giving.  

This naming has been approved by the SUNY Board of Trustees and the University Council.  

We will celebrate the naming properly during the Spring semester, and we hope you will all join us as we mark this momentous occasion.  

We are very grateful to the Massry family for a lifetime of generosity, especially their dedication to the business school.

It is because of donors like the Massrys that we are able to provide the resources and support for our academic programs and the distinguished faculty who move the University at Albany forward.

Finally, in the past several years, Advancement, under the leadership of Fardin Sanai, has focused on creating endowed faculty and administrators to honor and support those scholars making a difference here at the University at Albany and in their fields.  

Thanks to the generosity of the Massry family and generous bequests from the estate of Margaret Raycheff-Williams ’44 and Roy O. Williams, today we announce five new endowed professors and a new professor of practice. 

And, we honor all of our faculty members and administrators who have received this type of recognition in the past several years, for a total of 10 awards. 

I am now pleased to announce and celebrate these distinguished individuals. 

I will ask Provost Kim to join me at the podium, as well Dean Altarriba, Dean Goatley, and Dean Williams, to recognize each of these renowned scholars and professionals.  

Before we begin, I want to say that it’s a great privilege to honor these faculty and professionals who make UAlbany the extraordinary research university it is. I am so pleased to pay tribute to these scholars and thinkers who contribute so much to our community. 

Please join me in welcoming our first honoree, the Esther Massry Endowed Professor, Dr. Na Dai.

Dr. Dai is a professor of finance whose expertise in private investment in public equities has greatly informed our understanding of entrepreneurial finance, venture capital, and hedge funds.  
She is the author of two books and her research papers regularly appear in influential journals.  
Dr. Dai has been the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions, and will be visiting the University of Naples in Italy as a Fulbright Distinguished Scholar this year.  
Please join me in congratulating the Esther Massry Endowed Professor Dr. Na Dai.

Please join me in welcoming the Williams-Raycheff Endowed Professor in Biology, Dr. Melinda Larsen.  

Dr. Larsen’s distinguished research in salivary gland development examines the contribution of the microenvironment to tissue formation during development, tissue repair and regeneration.  
Her work, which has the potential to help us better understand how adult tissues can be repaired or regenerated, has led to further study in stem cells and tissue engineering.  
She is a co-PI on the prestigious, one-million-dollar Project SAGES grant, which aims to create an academic environment where women faculty in STEM fields can develop their careers to the fullest potential. 

Please join me in congratulating the Williams-Raycheff Endowed Professor in Biology, Dr. Melinda Larsen.  

Please join me in welcoming the Williams-Raycheff Endowed Professor in Chemistry, Dr. Igor Lednev.

Dr. Lednev uses Raman spectroscopy and advanced chemometrics to study forensic science, medical diagnostics and fundamental biochemistry.  
His work has led to new ways of identifying and characterizing body fluids, gunshot residue and other trace evidence recovered at crime scenes.  

He has also developed laser-based screening tools to detect early Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.  
Dr. Lednev is a Distinguished Professor, the highest academic rank in the State University of New York, and recently received $1 million in support from the National Science Foundation to bring a laser-based forensic investigation tool to market. 

Please join me in congratulating the Williams-Raycheff Endowed Professor in Chemistry, Dr. Igor Lednev. 

Please join me in welcoming the Carla Rizzo Delray Endowed Professor, Dr. Marina Petrukhina.  

Dr. Petrukhina, a professor of chemistry, has been the Carla Rizzo Delray Endowed Professor since 2019.  
A global expert in the organometallic and coordination chemistry of curved and twisted molecular nanographenes, she has published 190 original articles in refereed journals and earned 6 patents.  
In 2017, she was named the August-Wilhelm Scheer Visiting Professor and Honorary Fellow of the TUM Institute in Munich, Germany.  
Dr. Petrukhina has received multiple honors, including the National Science Foundation CAREER Award and both the President’s Award and the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities.  

Please join me in congratulating the Carla Rizzo Delray Endowed Professor, Dr. Marina Petrukhina.

Please join me in welcoming the Standish Professor in Entrepreneurship, Dr. Bill Wales.  

Dr. Wales, the associate dean for Research in the Massry School of Business and the Management Department chair, has been the Standish Professor in Entrepreneurship since 2015.  
Widely published, he currently serves as an editor of Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, which is consistently ranked as a top academic journal by the Financial Times. 
Dr. Wales serves on the editorial boards of two other leading journals, including the Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal that recently honored him with an Outstanding Service Award.  

He is also a two-time recipient of the United States Association of Small Business and Entrepreneurship’s Best Empirical Paper Award. 

Please join me in congratulating the Standish Professor in Entrepreneurship, Dr. Bill Wales. 

Please join me in welcoming the Dorothy G. Griffin Professorship in English Education, Dr. Robert Yagelski.

Dr. Yagelski has been the Dorothy G. Griffin Professor in English Education since 2021. 
He directs the Program in Writing and Critical Inquiry and is a professor in the Department of Educational Theory and Practice and an affiliated faculty member in the Department of English.  
An influential voice in the transformative power of writing, Professor Yagelski is the former director of both the Capital District Writing Project and the Writing Center at UAlbany.  

He has authored two books and numerous articles and essays. He is also the author of several writing textbooks and co-editor of “The Relevance of English: Teaching That Matters in Students’ Lives.” 
Please join me in congratulating the Dorothy G. Griffin Professorship in English Education, Dr. Robert Yagelski.

Please join me in welcoming the Opalka Endowed Director at the New York State Writers Institute, Paul Grondahl.  

Paul Grondahl has been the Opalka Endowed Director since January of this year and is the third director in the Writers Institute’s 36-year history. 
Mr. Grondahl is an author and an award-winning journalist who worked for 32 years at the Times Union for whom he continues to write a weekly column.  
He is the recipient of numerous state and national writing prizes, including:  

  • the Society of Professional Journalists’ Sigma Delta Chi Award for Feature Reporting for a series on transgender issues 
  • and the Scripps Howard National Journalism Award for a project on the impact of HIV/AIDS that took him to Malawi in Africa.  

Mr. Grondahl, who earned his master’s degree in English from UAlbany, has authored books that include “Mayor Corning: Albany Icon, Albany Enigma” and “I Rose Like a Rocket: The Political Education of Theodore Roosevelt.” 

Please join me in congratulating the Opalka Endowed Director at the New York State Writers Institute, Paul Grondahl. 

Please join me in welcoming the Ackner/Newman Professor of Practice, Dr. Heidi Knoblauch. 

Dr. Knoblauch is the senior director of entrepreneurship development at Empire State Development and a lecturer in the School of Business.  
In her current role, she connects entrepreneurs to Empire State Development’s Division of Science, Technology and Innovation program portfolio.  
She is a specialist in government-backed lending programs and mixing public and private capital sources to fuel economic growth.  
She is on the Finance Committee at the Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region where she helps steward $100 million of private capital.  
She is passionate about helping underrepresented founders gain access to resources and is the board chair of Hearst Media’s Women at Work. 

Please join me in congratulating the Ackner/Newman Professor of Practice, Dr. Heidi Knoblauch.

Before we close, I want to mention two members of the community who were unable to join us today. 

One is Dr. Sanjay Goel, the Morris Massry Endowed Professor in the School of Business.  
Dr. Goel is also the director of research at the New York State Center for Information Forensics and Assurance at the University.  
His expertise in information security and digital forensics has garnered more than 20 major grants and research funding that totals more than $12 million.  
He is currently leading an effort launched by the IEEE Communications Society and the IEEE Standards Association to create a technology roadmap for the Smart Grid leading up to the year 2030 and beyond. 

And the other scholar unable to be here today is Dr. Rabi Musah, the Williams-Raycheff Endowed Professor in Chemistry.  
Dr. Musah is also associate vice provost for the Learning Commons, which formally opened earlier this week.  
Dr. Musah’s research examines the forensic identification of plant- and animal-derived materials using ambient ionization mass spectrometry and artificial intelligence.  
She is the principal investigator of the HHMI Driving Change grant and the founder of UAlbany’s CARSS Center. 

Both Dr. Goel and Dr. Musah send their regrets, but let’s still give them a round of applause.

And will you please join me in giving another round of applause to our endowed and distinguished scholars and professionals.

Thank you and congratulations to our honorees. 

I also want to thank all of you for joining us for this very special Fall Address. 

Each of you helps make this university extraordinary and embody the character that makes the Great Dane family special. 

At the University at Albany, notwithstanding our challenges, we are experiencing incredible momentum, thanks to the work of all of you here. 

I also want to thank our VP for Communications and Marketing and all her outstanding staff (including Jill) for their work and support in this and many other presentations; my Chief of Staff, Claudia Hernandez; my excellent staff in the Office of the President; my Executive Council; as well as all of you – our faculty, staff, and students for all that you do to continue to move this great institution in the right direction. Thank you! 

Please keep this celebration alive and join us for the reception outside.  

Today is indeed a great day to be a Great Dane. Thank you!