On Course Archives
On Course, September/October 2000
The cumulative attention of the Office of the Provost over the past three years has been directed to the careful development of a university-wide framework of academic initiatives.
From an in-depth focus on mission, to efforts to increase research, promote effective instruction, and facilitate the introduction of new programs, the Office agenda has been responsive to the principles of our Trustee’s planning document, Rethinking SUNY, and national trends in higher education. And importantly, we have already accomplished enough with respect to each of these initiatives that this academic framework has begun to stand on its own. For example, Mission Review will soon draw to a close, finalizing a clear and historic path for campuses in achieving goals in key academic areas. Implementation of the General Education resolution has gone into effect as scheduled at the start of the fall 2000 semester and Advisory Councils in the fields of teacher education and assessment are making tangible progress. The articles in this issue of On Course—from news on ground-breaking research at the College of Environmental Science and Forestry to an update on the SUNYConnect library project—highlight important examples of the University’s progress as well.
Thus, the 2000-2001 academic year marks an important turning point in our work as we begin to shift to initiatives designed to strengthen the academic infrastructure of the University. Priorities include faculty recognition and development, enhancements to the University’s online offerings via the SUNY Learning Network, creating new pathways for sharing information through the University’s libraries, and working to facilitate campus efforts to share even more academic information online.
As we look around the University and see dramatic growth in fund-raising and increasing external recognition of our work, we can take great satisfaction in knowing that not only are the aspirations outlined in Rethinking SUNY five years ago being met, but that under the leadership of Chancellor King and the tireless efforts of our campuses, we are building a better SUNY for tomorrow.
Following review by Chancellor King and the State University Board of Trustees, the University-wide Mission Review process is now moving into its final phase: implementation of a Memorandum of Understanding for every campus in the System. These documents, to be signed by Chancellor King and each campus president, will serve as historic and critical planning guides for campuses by outlining specific goals and benchmarks for success in key academic areas.
By way of background, Mission Review is a core academic strategic planning process grounded in iterative dialogue between SUNY System Administration and all 64 campuses. Designed to raise academic quality throughout the University, this effort was launched with very clear objectives: clarifying campus goals and market niche; enhancing the quality of academic programs; increasing opportunities for and support of intra-campus collaboration; enriching System knowledge of campus needs; and strengthening campus appreciation of System concerns. "The Memoranda of Understanding contain specific goals regarding size, selectivity, student retention and graduation rates, and sponsored research dollars," said Provost Salins. "They include campus program priorities, designate current and aspirational peers and identify benchmark institutions to help gauge campus progress as they go forward. These documents summarize more than two-years of intensive conversations with our campuses."
Provost Salins said that planning is currently underway for the scheduling of formal signing sessions.
Vice Provost Steven G. Poskanzer noted that an intensive evaluation process will follow the signing of the Memoranda. "We will be asking campuses for their input not only on how to make the process better when we do it again in 5-7 years, but how to effectively monitor progress between cycles." The Office is currently working on an Executive Summary for broad distribution, detailing the outcomes of Mission Review.
The SUNYConnect initiative, dedicated to significantly upgrading library services across the University, will take a major step forward this November with the installation of a new common library management system from Ex Libris—a leading vendor of library software—at six pilot campuses: Binghamton University, University at Buffalo, University at Stony Brook, College at Fredonia, College at Oswego, and Tompkins Cortland Community College.
The "Aleph 500" system, when fully implemented across the University, will provide the foundation for a virtual blending of the University’s 80-plus libraries—housing more than 18 million volumes—into a single, electronically accessible resource for the State University community. "SUNYConnect has tremendous implications for enhancing academic quality throughout the University, providing each student, no matter where he/she is physically located, access to enhanced electronic resources and to the assets of the University’s extensive library holdings," said Provost Salins.
According to Carey Hatch, Assistant Provost for Library Services, the new system will be implemented gradually—the next grouping of campuses to be upgraded to the new management system is scheduled to be announced in April of 2001. "SUNYConnect will open a broad range of possibilities for the SUNY community," said Hatch. "Once the new system is fully implemented, for example, students and faculty at Tompkins Cortland Community College in central New York can search through the holdings at the State University at Stony Brook, located on Long Island, from their campus or home computer via the Internet at any hour of the day, order the material they need, and have it in hand within two days."
The New York City water supply system provides 1.4 billion gallons of drinking water to almost nine million New York State residents every day, drawing on a network of 19 reservoirs and three lakes. When New York, like major cities all over the country, struggled with how best to improve water quality—evaluating the most efficient and effective way to comply with new filtration laws—it was a team of researchers from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) that was called in to help.
In the latest of a series of projects done for New York City's Department of Environmental Protection, ESF student and faculty researchers, under the direction of Dr. James Hassett, Professor and Chair of ESF's Faculty of Environmental Resources and Forest Engineering, are examining water quality and color in the Muscoot/New Croton reservoir system. "Cities can receive an exemption from the portion of the 1986 Amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act that requires filtration systems if they can demonstrate that their water quality is sufficiently good and that their water protection plans—including management plans within the watershed—are effective," said Hassett.
ESF researchers are tracing water as it falls in the form of rain, and flows through New York's watersheds (streams, groundwater, lakes, etc.) and into reservoirs in an effort to identify what, if any, management interventions could be adopted to maintain and improve water quality.
Hassett explained that water color is a primary focus area for his team. "While water color is more an aesthetic concern than a health risk, it becomes critical when you recognize that people have a natural tendency to avoid discolored water, increasing their potential to turn to a truly unsafe water source as an alternative." The ESF team is also exploring the effects of disinfection by-products, compounds resulting from reactions of the chlorine used to disinfect water with its existing organisms, as a priority.
ESF is working with the US Geological Survey, the Upstate Freshwater Institute, and Syracuse University in this project which is expected to continue over the next year.
Faculty members at SUNY's College of Environmental Science and Forestry represent just 1 percent of the total SUNY faculty, yet ESF's sponsored programs account for some 6.1 percent of the total number of grants and 2.4 percent of the total direct and indirect funding for all of SUNY, according to 1999-2000 data from the SUNY Research Foundation. "There is no question that research is an essential component of our mission," said ESF Provost William Tully. "ESF engineers, biologists, chemists, resource managers, and landscape architects are working to address pressing social and economic problems of New York State and further, serve as a key resource in developing new technologies for the State's benefit."
Another project example, also ultimately providing benefit to New York's water supply, is work being done by ESF researchers in the development of safe, more effective pesticides. "Insects and other organisms communicate by emitting a distinct pheromone or chemical compound," said Dr. Fran Webster, ESF Professor of Chemistry. "The work we are doing at ESF not only identifies the specific pheromone associated with a given insect but uses that compound in a new mixture of pheromone and insecticide." A small amount of the new product, according to Webster, can be placed in a central location on a tree and will attract harmful insects directly to it, killing them instantly. "Because we are using a distinct scent attractive only to a distinct species, there is no danger to other harmless insects. Because the thick paste doesn't drip, it can't contaminate the food, ground water or air quality—it's also much safer for the farmer to apply."
Using the apple orchard and the coddling moth as an example, Webster said that typically farmers spray orchards 5-10 times per season to protect crops from insects, using upwards of 3,000 grams or 10 pounds of pesticide. Air quality, ground water and the food itself are all at risk. By applying a much smaller amount of this new mixture, which has the appearance of an axle grease type substance, orchard farmers in test cases have drastically reduced the amount of pesticide used to about 11 grams and have reduced crop damage caused by the coddling moth from upwards of 3 percent damage to about 0.2 percent.
Noting the vast potential benefit of this research, Webster said ESF is working with Oregon-based Integrated Pest Management Technologies (IPM) on the development of pesticides effective on other types of insects. IPM is currently marketing the coddling moth pesticide under the name Sirene in Europe and the state of Washington and has plans soon to bring it to New York.
Provost Tully noted that, "The foundation for this work—the ability to differentiate and identify pheromones—came from the ground-breaking work done by ESF Professor Robert M. Silverstein." Silverstein, who has been with ESF since 1969, was inducted into the National Academy of Sciences in May of this year—considered to be one of the highest honors that can be accorded a scientist or engineer. "Our thanks, admiration and appreciation go to Professor Silverstein for his outstanding contributions to ESF, the field of chemical ecology and the greater environment," added Tully. "He serves as an outstanding example to our faculty and students as we move forward into the 21st century with key research initiatives beneficial to New York State and beyond."
Consistent with the University’s commitment to growing its research enterprise, the University Faculty Senate— through its Graduate and Research Committee—has moved forward with an innovative mentoring program designed to facilitate communication and coordination among SUNY researchers.
The SUNY Research Partnership Program brings successful researchers at campuses well equipped to conduct state-of-the-art research, together with their SUNY colleagues who want and need to conduct research but may be looking for advice, information and/or encouragement to get started or to take their existing work to the next level. The Program uses GENIUS, the online InfoEd database listing international experts worldwide. By registering the SUNY Senior Research Partnership as an "institution," visitors to the site can limit their search to participating SUNY professionals or expand it to include researchers at non-SUNY institutions.
You can locate a SUNY Senior Research partner online by:
(1) going to the InfoEd International website at: http://www.infoed.org/GeniusSearch/genius.asp
(2) clicking on Advanced Search; and,
(3) clicking on From Institutions, selecting SUNY Senior Research Partners. Field-specific criteria can also be designated.
According to Stephen Gilje, chair of the Faculty Senate’s Graduate and Research Committee and Vice President for Research at SUNY Binghamton, this program can be a key professional development tool. "The SUNY Senior Research Partnership Program opens an important door for SUNY faculty; facilitating easy access to the information they need." Faculty interested in signing on as a partner, joining more than 140 faculty who have already done so, should visit: http://srp.infoed.org.
The State University of New York Press, a constituent unit of the Provost’s Office, is one of the largest public University presses in the nation—second only to that of the University of California. SUNY Press maintains an active backlist of 2,700 books in print and is internationally recognized for its series in the fields of education, political science, philosophy, religion, sociology, and Asian studies; areas reflective of particular State University strengths.
"SUNY Press is unique in that we are one of the few self-sustaining university presses in the country, operating solely on the profits made through the sale of our books," said Press Director Priscilla Ross. "As a result, we carefully target niche focus areas and diligently study market demand for potential projects." On average, according to Ross, the Press turns away 90 percent of submitted manuscripts.
This focus on specific subject areas, combined with recent efforts to identify books that are likely to have long shelf lives and broad appeal, has allowed the Press to move from a high of 264 books published several years ago to 203 this year, with no drop in sales. Ross also said that over the past two years there has been vast improvements in the look and feel of the books themselves, and an even greater commitment to top-level copy editing and proofreading. "We are doing fewer books, are doing a better job with the books we publish, and are clearly seeing the results of those efforts in the sales numbers and in our level of public recognition." Provost Salins said that strengthening SUNY Press and making it the most highly regarded press in the nation has been one of his highest priorities. "I am so pleased with the work being done at SUNY Press and look forward to continued progress."
SUNY Press takes great pride in being able to advance the SUNY name and the expertise of its faculty. "When one of our books is reviewed in the New York Times, the SUNY name gains incredible exposure," said Ross. "Likewise, when our marketing department is promoting the work of a SUNY faculty member, the expertise of the State University takes center stage." Press staff present workshops to SUNY faculty on a broad range of topics, including how to get a manuscript published and how to respond to changes in the publishing industry.
In terms of target audience, Press books are often sold as supplementary text books at the graduate level, to academic libraries and at professional and/or trade association meetings.
SUNY Press, like the rest of the publishing world, strives to adapt to new and rapidly changing technologies and the challenges associated with the increasing use of the internet as a publishing tool. A recent venture with netLibrary, a leading provider of books online, has allowed SUNY Press to take a prominent role in selling electronic versions of its books to libraries. "Because of careful foresight early on, we had the appropriate copyrights and permissions already in place to transfer many of our printed publications to electronic text almost immediately," said Ross. "In addition to helping us keep pace with technology, our involvement with netLibrary clearly increases overall access to our books, making them available to libraries struggling with limited physical space and, via the web, to those patrons who may be place bound."
With its staff of 36, the Press manages the entire publishing process: from initial evaluation of the manuscript and solicitation of outside reviewers, to collaboration with the author, extensive copy-editing, oversight of the cover design and printing process, and even marketing and sales (see center inset). "We have a very dedicated and talented staff and supportive editorial board," said Ross. All books pass through a twelve member editorial board comprising SUNY faculty with demonstrated experience in the focus areas of the Press. Faculty members are appointed by the SUNY Chancellor and serve a three-year term.
New efforts for the Press in the coming year include solicitation of manuscripts to launch a new regional series on New York State. "Taking on a new series is an exciting venture for us. We are looking forward to expanding regional efforts," said Ross. The Press also plans an increase in titles targeted to the general reader. The Spring 2001 catalog includes a novel about academic life, a memoir of an Israeli immigrant woman, a new book on the work of Kurt Vonnegut, and a hard-hitting examination of how partisan politics is alienating Americans from their government. Additional priorities include expansion of electronic publishing efforts and generally, exploring new ways to maximize the benefits of technology. "And importantly, we want to become even more involved in promoting the SUNY name and highlighting the work of its talented faculty," said Ross. "Our association with the Provost’s Office will be key in expanding our visibility within the University and in allowing us to make an even greater contribution to SUNY’s scholarship."
SUNY Press accepts manuscripts over the transom and solicits new projects consistent with its developing series. Additional information on manuscript submission can be found at: www.sunypress.edu