On January 11, members of the Stony Brook University leadership team took part in a panel discussion in Southampton to discuss the future of Stony Brook Southampton, the vision for the campus, and partnerships with the local community.
The sold-out event, hosted by the Express News Group and moderated by Joseph P. Shaw, executive editor of Express News Group, was held at Union Steak and Sushi in Southampton with an audience of about 50 community members in attendance.
Panel members included Jed Shivers, senior vice president for finance and administration, Stony Brook University; William Wertheim, MD, interim executive vice president, Stony Brook Medicine; Wendy Pearson, vice president for strategic initiatives, Stony Brook University; Christopher Gobler, distinguished professor, School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS) at Stony Brook University; Tim Bishop, the former Southampton College provost and former U.S. Representative; New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. and New York State Senator Anthony Palumbo.
Pearson, who joined the Stony Brook community eight weeks ago, emphasized her role related to Stony Brook Southampton. “My role is really to engage the community, both the campus and the wider Southampton community on what makes sense for the Southampton campus. I’ve been having a lot of conversations with some of you here today, and certainly with the faculty and staff, and next week with the students on what has worked in the past and what hasn’t,” Pearson said. Pearson acknowledged a commitment to more clear and frequent communication with community members about Stony Brook Southampton.
Campus Infrastructure and Improvements
Pearson addressed the campus infrastructure and recent capital improvements for which $40 million was spent over the past two years to renovate Atlantic Hall, initiate a design phase of improvements for the Natural Sciences research labs, fund the facilities master plan and support critical behind the scenes work such as boiler replacement, repair and maintenance.
In upcoming years, $25 million of the $100 million will be funded by the State to support renovations of research laboratories at Stony Brook Southampton, including the laboratories of distinguished professor Gobler, who is also endowed chair of Coastal Ecology and Conservation at SoMAS.
Gobler began teaching in Southampton College in 1997, prior to its being acquired by Stony Brook University and the acquisition transformed the marine science initiatives on the campus. “Stony Brook came in and built a $10 million Marine Science station. That’s an incredible investment that totally changed what was done on that campus,” said Gobler. “Stony Brook is what’s called an R1 — research one university — and so it went from a campus that was just doing undergraduate teaching to one that was doing cutting edge world class research that really is changing the way the whole globe is thinking about water and coastal ecosystems.”
Much of Gobler’s research is focused on the marine environment of the South Shore of Long Island, with current projects centered on restoring Shinnecock Bay and ensuring that the drinking water supply here in the South Fork is safe and abundant for community members.
Shivers detailed the difficult choices faced by the campus related to funding capital improvements and routine maintenance. “We continue to be challenged by a $2 billion backlog in deferred maintenance across all of the University’s facilities. Thanks to the efforts of Bill Herrmann, vice president for facilities and services, we are now receiving significantly more money for improvements and critical maintenance ($251 million in total this year as opposed to $20-30 million annually prior to 2020), but we must prioritize and make difficult decisions about building repairs which are based squarely on our academic needs and priorities,” said Shivers.
With recent support from SUNY and the State University Construction Fund (SUCF), Stony Brook University has secured greater access to capital funding to address critical needs. “We are immensely grateful for the partnership and collaboration with SUNY and SUCF as we identify new funding sources and opportunities to invest in our Stony Brook Southampton facilities,” said Herrmann.
Healthcare Access on the East End
Fundraising and planning is underway for a hospital on the Stony Brook Southampton campus. The campus currently houses courses in Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Applied Health Informatics, Physician Assistant Education, and Speech Pathology, in addition to the Lichtenstein Center (home to programs in creative writing and filmmaking and the FoodLab) and School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences programs. The new hospital will support the training of the Health Professions students, some of whom already live and attend classes on the campus and receive clinical training at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital.
“The new hospital will support our ability to continue training the next generation of healthcare professionals. We are already educating students on our Southampton Campus in our School of Health Professions, particularly in Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Applied Health Informatics, Physician Assistant Education, and Speech Pathology,” said Wertheim.
“We’ve brought a net of 22 new providers, new physicians and nurse practitioners to the South Fork in the last two years — almost 11,000 new patients who’ve been able to get care from the doctors that we’ve been able to bring out to the South Fork,” Wertheim added.
Plans for housing for healthcare working professionals at Stony Brook Southampton will “strengthen the hospital by supporting the recruitment and retention of medical professionals and opportunities for increased professional development that will inform the care they provide,” added Pearson, noting that the cost of living in the Southampton area remains a barrier to finding qualified healthcare workers.
Wertheim pointed out that while Stony Brook has made significant advances in access to quality healthcare on the East End of Long Island, there is still unmet demand for health services in the area. “Access to healthcare remains a challenge in the region, and we are actively working on improving our patients’ ability to acquire care in a range of high-demand specialty practice areas such as cardiovascular, orthopedics, neurology, women’s, children’s, digestive services and cancer,” said Wertheim.
In 2022-23, 639 students were enrolled in courses on the Stony Brook Southampton campus, with an additional 300 enrolled in non-credit course offerings. Stony Brook hopes to integrate the community in programs and campus events.
Moving ahead, Pearson will be working with the community and creating partnerships that serve the residents of the East End. “We’re going to be doing our best to amplify the programs that are currently happening with additional funds around marketing and advertising because there’s a lot of good work that’s happening that people don’t know about and we are making sure that that is no longer the case.” said Pearson.