By Fanny Belaud | October 30, 2023
President Rodríguez during his address.
Photo Credit: Shawn Ness / The ASP
On Oct. 26, the University at Albany held its annual Fall University address in the Campus Center Auditorium, conducted by President Havidán Rodríguez and Provost Carol Kim. The pair were introduced by the Chair of the University Senate, Alec Dawson.
“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,” President Rodríguez said.
“We should all be extremely 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,” President Rodríguez said. “Standing here before you today, there is nothing that I can say that will please everyone in this room, or alleviate the very real and justified anguish that people are feeling. In these moments of extreme trauma, it is important for the university to focus on the things that we can control for the benefit of our community, including faculty, staff, and students.”
“In the Spring Address, we took the time to highlight some of the successes at UAlbany that we have had in the past five years over the course of our most recent strategic plan, ‘Authoring our Success,’” Rodríguez said. “That strategic plan articulated our values to five clearly defined priorities that will drive the University at Albany to meet its full potential as a leading diverse public research university. Student success, research excellence, diversity and inclusion, internationalization, and engagement and service.”
To achieve these plans, UAlbany wants to position students for career success through experiential learning opportunities, strengthen research and creative work, create a social justice minor, and strengthen intercultural and international learning opportunities.
A report called “Marking our Milestone” was distributed at the end of the conference, highlighting UAlbany’s achievements and successes over the last five years while pursuing the plan.
“The accomplishments set forth in this book are a testament to each and every one of you in this room and a record of how far the University at Albany has come,” President Rodríguez said.
Some past achievements included in the report are; UAlbany’s rank among the top 10% universities nationally for the social and economic mobility of its students, the RNA institute receiving $1 million for its next-generation RNA technology package, and UAlbany’s partnership with IBM Research to explore climate and weather impacts on bodies of water, transportation improvements, and renewable energy systems in New York.
UAlbany also achieved a significant milestone by becoming the inaugural SUNY campus and the first research institution in the Northeast to be awarded the Seal of Excelencia in recognition of its outstanding support for Latina and Latino students. Additionally, the university introduced “Harvey House” on Dutch Quad, which serves as a residential space for LGBTQAI+ individuals.
Next, President Rodríguez introduced a new strategic plan called “Great Danes Rising: Unleashing our Potential.” This plan is meant to power the university’s momentum, research, and rising reputation. This plan is expected to run from 2024 to 2029. It was developed by Provost Kim, the Vice President of Student Affairs Michael Christakis, and counsel members using “institutional research, planning, and effectiveness” which worked to clarify the metrics of success for the university from faculty, staff, and student inputs.
An email will be sent out in regard to this strategic plan to students and faculty members with a link to access this information in more detail on MyUAlbany.
Linked to this strategic plan is another plan also led by Provost Kim, and Dr. Christakis on the development of UAlbany’s Strategic Enrollment management plan which will also be available on MyUAlbany.
“I mentioned this because enrollment is something that each and every one of us should be thinking about and the strategic plan and the enrollment management plan are closely intertwined. The strategic plan is the basis for our rising reputation and institutional goals but enrollment, how we serve, how we recruit, and how we retain students is of paramount importance to our institutional success,” President Rodríguez said.
President Rodríguez highlighted some of the university’s achievements within the nanoworld, such as UAlbany and the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) having reunited after 10 years. This college, new to UAlbany, will have the computing infrastructure to make contributions to next-generation semiconductor designs and other nanotechnology applications that require access to enormous computing power.
“The announcement and celebration on Aug. 17 marked the conclusion of eight months of close collaboration to transfer 10 academic programs, approximately 90 continuing students, 29 faculty and lectures, and more than 100 post-docs, staff members, and Research Foundation personnel back to UAlbany.” President Rodríguez announced.
This marks a significant milestone toward the realization of Gov. Kathy Hochul’s ambitious vision to double SUNY’s external research funding and cement the system’s four research centers as national and global epicenters of innovation and discovery.
President Rodríguez stated that Fall 2023 enrollment saw a modest increase from the year prior, seeing favorable increases in new first-year students, welcoming the second largest class in UAlbany’s history. New transfer enrollments also stabilized for the first time in six years, largely in part due to the return of CNSE. UAlbany also saw the largest increase in graduate enrollments since 2009, partly because of double-digit increases in new masters and new doctoral enrollment.
Another development currently underway at UAlbany is a new college that would encompass the Schools of Social Welfare and Public Health. UAlbany’s new nursing programs are also expected to be a part of a new College of Health Sciences that has yet to be named. Provost Kim has asked Interim Deans of the School of Public Health Ricardo Rizzo and Erin Bell to begin the planning and implementation of the new college that would include the two schools.
“This is not a merger, this is a creation of a new college that would include two schools, including the nursing program,” President Rodríguez said.
“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 (LACS) and African American Studies (AFS) has caused some members of the Students Association (SA) the University Senate and other faculty to ask questions and raise concerns,” said President Rodríguez.
“These administrative changes are meant to preserve limited administrative resources, and more importantly, encourage new program growth and innovation through interdisciplinary collaboration,” President Rodríguez said. “I have also engaged several members of my executive counsel to work with the Provost and Dean Altaribba to help alleviate anxieties and discuss with students, faculty, and staff these critically important issues. We know that there is always strong resistance to change in higher education, but we also know that we must move forward for the betterment of our institution.”
Following this statement, SA Senators uploaded an Instagram reel on the UAlbany Senate (@ualbany.sa) page, announcing their stance regarding this situation. “In his fall address, he [President Rodríguez] downplayed our resolution and protests against the merger calling it ‘resistance to change,’” the Instagram post read.
UAlbany’s ETEC Research and Development complex has been named the 2023 Green Building of the Year by the U.S. Green Building Council for Upstate New York. Researchers in the Department of Geography and Planning in the College of Arts and Sciences received a $5 million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to support a new project that aims to improve the health of Albany’s urban forests and educate the next generation of local climate leaders.
As for personnel changes, following a national search, Professor Julie Novkov has been appointed Dean of the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy. Doctor Erin Bell has been appointed as the new Interim Dean for the School of Public Health, Doctor Kevin Williams as Interim Dean of the School of Business, and Christine Wagner as Dean of the Graduate School.
President Rodríguez also expressed UAlbany’s excitement regarding the nearly completed renovations of the Broadview Center (previously known as the SEFCU Arena) which will hold the Signature Annual event. He also highlighted that the Broadview Center will hold the Winter Greeting Card Unveiling, and Community Coffee Hour in December.
UAlbany has also announced Women’s Rowing being added to its division of sports after being selected as the Great Danes’ nineteenth NCAA Division I sport. After a year of preparation, it is expected for regular season competition to begin during the fall of 2024.
Other things to be expected during the 2024 academic year are: UAlbany’s 180th anniversary, renovations to the former Albany High School Campus (now a part of the Downtown Campus), and the renovations of Paine and Zenger halls on Colonial Quad. The Colonial Quad renovations are meant to make the halls more comfortable, modern, and energy-efficient. These renovations will also transform the vacant formal dining hall into a recreation and wellness center, which will also serve as the new home of Campus Recreation by the fall of 2024.
The addresses concluded with a new ceremony for UAlbany’s faculty members, renowned scholars, and professionals to honor and support scholars who made a difference in UAlbany’s community.
Paul Grondahl (middle) receiving his medal from President Rodríguez (right) and Provost Kim (left).
Photo Credit: Shawn Ness / The ASP
Provost Kim took the floor to deliver these awards, joined by Dean Altaribba, Dean Williams, and the Dean of the School of Education Virginia Goatley.
Award honoraries were: The Esther Massary Endowed Professor Dr. Nai Dai, the Williams-Raycheff Endowed Professor in Biology Dr. Melinda Larsen, the Williams-Raycheff Endowed Professor in Chemistry Dr. Igor Lednev, the Carla Rizzo Delray ‘42 Endowed Professor Dr. Marina Petrukhina, the Standish Professor in Entrepreneurship at UAlbany’s School of Business Dr. Bill Wales, the Dorothy G. Griffin Professor in English Education Dr. Robert Yagelski, Opalka Endowed Director at the New York State Writers Institute Paul Grondahl, and the Ackner/Newman Professor of Practice Dr. Heidy Knoblauch.
Two members who were unable to attend the ceremony were also mentioned, Dr. Stephen Jay Gould and Dr. Rabi Ann Musah.