By Nick Statt
President Samuel Stanley announced on August 3 that Dr. Dennis Assanis would be appointed Stony Brook University’s Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, as well as the Vice President for Brookhaven Affairs.
Assanis, who will be leaving his position as a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Michigan, will be filling the shoes of former Provost Eric Kaler, who resigned in July to become president of the University of Minnesota. Assanis’ appointment is effective October 1.
“I look forward to the opportunity to filling the more than 250 new faculty positions over the next five years, thanks to the passage of the 2020 legislation,” said Assanis. “This will have a catalytic effect that will really benefit all our students, as it will improve our student to faculty ratio from 28 to one to 22 to one, and Stony Brook’s four-year graduation rate.”
Assanis, who shares a background in engineering with his predecessor Kaler, has a long list of awards and accomplishments to his name, including three graduate degrees in different engineering focuses from MIT and one in management from the Boston school’s renowned Sloan School of Business. Assanis is also the founding director of the US-China Clean Energy Research Center for Clean Vehicles and director of the Walter E. Lay Automotive Laboratory.
Stony Brook’s David Ferguson, distinguished service professor and chair of technology and society, and Nancy Tomes, professor of history, co-chaired the search committee with assistance from search firm Russell Reynolds Associates. Assanis was picked, according to Tomes in the university’s official press release, because of his vision, which is easy to see when Assanis talks of the university.
“My initial sense of opportunities where the University can enhance its reputation and move to the next level are making the pursuit of academic excellence the pervasive culture across the campus…” he said. He went on to say that a significant increase in research funding and a stronger partnership with Brookhaven National Lab, alongside better financial models and strategic planning, would also establish a healthier future for the school.
When further discussing the passage of SUNY 2020, Assanis said that it does not change the painful cuts that Stony Brook, as well as other SUNY institutions, will have to keep addressing. But, “It does offer a reason to be very optimistic about Stony Brook’s future and helps us chart a better course for the future of Long Island,” he added.
As to whether Stony Brook’s obvious science and research focus severely hinders its ability to offer adequate arts and humanities programs in the face of budget constraints, Assanis said that that is also a goal for the future, especially for the Association of American Universities (AAU), to which both Stony Brook and his alma mater belong.
“I can also tell you that the College of Arts and Sciences is as comprehensive as what we offer at University of Michigan, where budgets are also strained,” he said. “Having said this, there is an active effort among many of the AAU’s to redefine the role of arts and humanities in the modern research University, and I would like to see Stony Brook play a pioneering role in this effort.”