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Student Affairs Receives Three SUNY Awards for Outstanding Programs in 2021

Students in the award-winning Seawolf Outdoor Adventure Program (SOAP) enjoyed a day of fun kayaking in Southampton.

The State University of New York (SUNY) system recognized Stony Brook’s Division of Student Affairs with three Outstanding Student Affairs Program awards. The Chief Student Affairs Officers organization from state-operated campuses appoints a panel to review nominations, and this year Stony Brook’s Student Affairs was recognized for its innovative programs and initiatives that have demonstrated a positive impact on students’ development and serve to better student life with unique and practical solutions to common issues.

Students in the award-winning Seawolf Outdoor Adventure Program (SOAP) enjoyed a day of fun kayaking in Southampton.
Students in the award-winning Seawolf Outdoor Adventure Program (SOAP) enjoyed a day of fun kayaking in Southampton.

Student Accessibility Support Center (SASC) was recognized for its Virtual Proctoring Program: Making Online Exams Accessible, in the International, Multicultural, Cultural, Gender, LGBTQ, Spirituality, Disability, and related category. As classes moved to remote learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this change had a significant impact on testing for students with accommodations. The various software used for virtual exam proctoring did not leave room for several types of student accommodations, and to overcome this challenge, SASC implemented a Virtual Proctoring program, using widely available tools such as Zoom and Google Calendar, establishing clear protocols for test-takers and training for virtual proctors, as well as developing a close working relationship with faculty and teaching assistants. 

Through this plan, SASC was able to proctor almost 900 exams for students with disabilities since the program was first piloted in Summer 2020. This Virtual Proctoring program showcases the ingenuity of the team who, in this challenging situation, was able to find a solution to successfully administer exams utilizing existing tools to ensure academic integrity and benefit both students and faculty.

Next to shine was the Spring Brook Staycation Program for winning the award category, Student Health, Wellness, Counseling, and related category. When SUNY schools made the difficult decision to cancel the traditional Spring Break week due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Stony Brook implemented Spring Brook Staycation as a way to give students outlets to destress and unwind. Spearheaded by the Center for Prevention and Outreach in collaboration with many other Student Affairs departments, Spring Brook Staycation was a series of fun and engaging activities during the last week of March where students on campus could connect and appreciate what the local community had to offer. Sixty in-person, virtual and hybrid activities were offered the week of March 29, 2021. 

Inspired by the vacation packages offered by travel agencies, students were free to choose to participate in as many activities as they desired from the following “staycation packages”: Artsy Adventures, Active Escapes, Entertainment Escapades, Foodie Fun, Environmental Energizers, Games and Playcation, and Relationship Refreshers. Spring Brook Staycation was a huge success with more than 90 percent registered attendance for all 60 activities. Students were able to relax and connect with each other in real time and virtually, all while following health and safety protocols.

Lastly, the Seawolves Outdoor Adventure Program (SOAP) was recognized in the Enrollment Management, Financial Aid, Orientation, Parents, First-year, Other-year, and related category. SOAP was developed by Recreation and Wellness with the goal to increase first-year students’ sense of belonging and connection to the university and support their successful transition into college life. After an initial brainstorming session, SOAP began in Fall 2021 as a pilot program aided by the generous support of two Stony Brook alumni, introducing six outdoor activities from which students could choose to participate: Kayak Adventure, Scenic Boat Tour, Horseback Riding, Outdoor Adventure Course, Yoga and Meditation, and Hiking.

The three-day program was an opportunity to create safe, small and supportive groups of new Seawolves focused on learning about Stony Brook, to participate in team-building activities, and to have the opportunity to go off-campus and experience the beauty of Long Island. In total, more than 400 new students expressed interest in participating in the SOAP program and 60 first-year students — from various backgrounds, majors and geographic locations — were selected to participate. Based on the post-event assessment, the program was highly successful and attained the goals of making students feel more equipped to transition to and navigate their new college environment, engage with a diverse group of students, and build friendships. For instance, 73 percent of participating students said they felt a greater sense of belonging after having gone through the program and that many have found friends and lasting connections.

“These awards reflect the student-centered efforts of our entire team, and I am honored that so many colleagues in the Division of Student Affairs were recognized at the SUNY level for their hard work, creativity and initiative,” said Vice President for Student Affairs Richard Gatteau. “I am immensely proud of the tremendous work done by Student Affairs and their commitment to our students,” he continued.

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