Stony Brook University is hiring 25 professors this academic year as part of a large-scale effort to grow its research faculty and launch the school into a class of elite public universities, officials announced.
The initiative will cost $60 million annually -- using both private and public funding, and including tuition increases -- and result in the hiring of 250 professors by the year 2020.
The goal is to raise the school's academic ranking to be among the top research universities in the country, Stony Brook officials said.
"This is an unprecedented investment in intellectual capital at the school," said Provost Dennis Assanis, who is leading the first round of hiring. "If you have the best and brightest faculty, you'll attract the best and brightest students and solve the problems in the world. And you will be known for it."
The hiring is part of a long-term plan, called Stony Brook 2020, partially funded with a $35 million state grant. A tuition increase of 30 percent over the next five years will help pay for the hiring at Stony Brook and similar initiatives at the state's three other university research centers -- Albany, Binghamton and Buffalo.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislators approved the multiyear tuition hike at SUNY campuses. The increases, which began in fall 2011, are capped at $300 per year, for five years.
The 25 new Stony Brook faculty members will work in five emerging fields of study: behavioral political economy; biomolecular imaging; coastal zone management and engineering; photon science at the Joint Stony Brook-Brookhaven National Laboratory Photon Science Institute; and smart energy technology, officials said.
They will conduct research and teach undergraduate and graduate classes starting in the fall 2013 semester, Assanis said.
Stony Brook is hiring the scholars as part of interdisciplinary clusters, not through individual departments, based on research proposals submitted to the university. The accepted research proposals were selected for their national and international relevance and how they might affect the academic world and the Stony Brook community, Assanis said.
A call for proposals was issued Wednesday to hire the next interdisciplinary cluster of professors for 2014, he said.
Kevin Stump, higher education advocate with the New York Public Interest Research Group, said while all students in the SUNY system are paying the tuition increase associated with the hiring, not all campuses are getting new faculty members.
"We're happy to see the increasing number of faculty at Stony Brook, but unfortunately this isn't extended to all the other schools," he said Friday. "What about the other SUNY campuses, the CUNYs and the community colleges? This is much-needed across SUNY and across the state as well."
At Stony Brook, private donor money such as a $150 million gift from billionaire James Simons, chairman of the investment firm Renaissance Technologies and a former chairman of Stony Brook's math department, will also help pay for the hiring initiative.
As part of Stony Brook 2020, the school intends to build a new medical research center, hiring 400 staff and enrolling 1,500 more students. The university has a total enrollment of 24,500.
There are currently 800 faculty members at Stony Brook University, excluding the medical and dental schools, Assanis said.