Stony Brook University, the SUNY system’s premier four-year college best known for its science, business and engineering programs, is writing a new chapter.
What started out in 2006 as a fledgling creative writing program called Southampton Arts, on an East End campus, has grown into a hub of aspiring novelists, filmmakers and television screenwriters, with a steadily expanding number of fine arts master's and bachelor's degree programs. Noncredit advanced training courses also are offered, and hundreds of undergraduates on the Stony Brook main campus are sampling its electives.
Now, Southampton Arts, on the Stony Brook Southampton campus, has outgrown its name and will be known as The Lichtenstein Center to reflect its expanded mission, according to Robert Reeves, associate provost of the Southampton Graduate Arts Campus.
“We’re establishing an institutional identity,” Reeves said. “It will give us a clearer identity and help elevate our national profile. ... The demand for creative content in the culture is overwhelming and we want to respond and be a part of that.”
The center is named after philanthropist Dorothy Lichtenstein, widow of famed pop artist Roy Lichtenstein. Her donations helped seed its growth since Stony Brook bought the Southampton College campus in 2006 from Long Island University. LIU took its existing creative writing program with it when it departed.
Many of the offerings are relatively new. For example, the master's in television writing accreditation was announced in December 2020, and the bachelor's in creative writing and minor in film were announced in 2019. The master's in film program began taking students in 2015.
Reeves said Stony Brook's program has grown from a "few courses in the English Department" to about 125 full-time faculty, adjuncts and graduate student instructors teaching 215 graduate and undergraduate courses.
Meanwhile, noncredit advanced professional training courses mentor aspiring novelists, children’s book writers and podcasters. Film and television screenwriter graduate students are based in the Stony Brook Manhattan Center for Creative Writing and Film.
U.S. poet laureate Billy Collins and writer Roger Rosenblatt are on the Stony Brook faculty, and teachers include novelists such as Susan Minot and Meg Wolitzer.
Last semester, the Lichtenstein Center's graduate master's programs enrolled 157 students. Undergraduate bachelor and minors enrollment totaled 255 — about 100 more will be added — and 779 students were enrolled in elective courses in creative writing, film or television screenwriting.
While other regional schools offer better-known and established creative writing, film and screenwriting programs, Reeves says annual in-state tuition of about $7,000 offered a lower-cost alternative to private universities.
Amy Gaipa, of East Yaphank, graduated in May with a master's in film studies. She teaches film part-time to Stony Brook undergraduates and is producing and acting in a graduate student's film project at the Southampton campus.
"The beauty of Stony Brook is it is such a melting pot of individuals from all over the world, bringing their experiences of being in the United States … their culture differences," Gaipa said. "All of that comes out in the narratives they create.”