By GREGORY ZELLER //
Engineers, start your education.
New York State on Thursday announced a major funding initiative that will help bring a cutting-edge engineering facility to the Stony Brook University campus. Albany will funnel $25 million to SBU, allowing the university to dive headlong into the initial planning and development phases of what Stony Brook is trumpeting as a $100 million, 100,000-square-foot mecca of engineering education.
The university’s engineering programs already have a strong reputation. In its 2018 rankings, U.S. News & World Report places SBU’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences in the top 25 percent of all U.S. engineering graduate schools, while SBU already ranks as one of the main producers of engineering-degree graduates throughout the entire SUNY system.
But “surging enrollments” and “aging, inadequate facilities” pose a serious threat – not only to SBU’s standing among engineering schools, according to the university, but to the regional economy.
Stony Brook cites a 60 percent growth among College of Engineering and Applied Sciences enrollment over the past five years, with more than 4,100 students enrolled as of 2017. The new, state-of-the-art engineering facility will be able to accommodate those students and 500 more, the university said Thursday.
State Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), who joined State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-Smithtown) on campus for the big announcement, called that a “critically important” expansion if the university plans to “continue to attract preeminent students.”
“The upgrading of the facilities is essential to meet the growing demand of the Engineering Department and provide the Long Island workforce with the talent necessary to succeed,” said LaValle, who chairs the State Senate’s Higher Education Committee.
Designed specifically to “support New York State’s workforce and entrepreneurship needs over the coming decade” and provide “engineering instruction that aligns with industry expectations,” the new facility will represent “significant growth in the engineering and computer-science fields” and focus heavily on “active learning,” the university said.
It’s just now wading into the earliest design phases, but the new facility will ultimately include “industrial-quality” laboratories, “entrepreneurial maker spaces” and copious resources “needed to turn student ideas into innovation and discovery,” according to SBU.
Stony Brook University President Samuel Stanley Jr. praised the state senators for “once again … [securing] needed funding for facilities that will enable Stony Brook University to continue on a path of attracting the best and brightest students and faculty.”
“A new engineering facility will help Stony Brook meet the demand for one of our fastest-growing schools … and will help foster a pipeline of engineering talent and innovation to the region’s workforce and economy,” Stanley added.
That pipeline of talent may well prove critical to the Long Island region’s socioeconomic hopes. According to SBU, engineering jobs in the Long Island/New York City region are projected to grow at a 16 percent clip between now and 2024 – four times faster than the national average – and 43 percent of all engineering-related job openings in New York State over that same timeframe will be in Greater New York.
By turning out graduates fluent in engineering-driven medicine, sustainable energy, ecosystem resilience, cybersecurity and AI-driven discovery, the new engineering facility will focus SBU’s Engineering Department on the most-critical pressure points of the future economy, according to Flanagan.
“This funding will help bolster the academic pursuits of the young men and women who come to Long Island to study while helping improve our economic climate,” the senator noted. “By creating the facilities needed to attract these talented young people and by providing them with the education they need to work and stay here, this new facility will help foster a brighter future for them and for our region.
“Under the leadership of President Stanley and the faculty, this funding will be put to good use,” Flanagan added.
Fotis Sotiropoulos, dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, also expressed gratitude for the $25 million state grant, and for Flanagan and LaValle’s “ongoing commitment to Stony Brook University.”
“[The new facility] will fuel the technology pipeline and drive economic growth here on Long Island and in New York State,” Sotiropoulos said in a statement. “In today’s era of extraordinary growth in engineering and computer science, Stony Brook must stay ahead of the technological advances to continue to educate the next generation of change-makers, global innovators and entrepreneurs.”