Gurney's Inn
January 17, 2007

New Day Dawns for Stony Brook Southampton

It's back to school at Stony Brook Southampton.

Winds of change are sweeping across the campus and, with interim dean Dr. Martin Schoonen at the helm and a new logo in place, the educational facility is all about new beginnings.

Schoonen hosted a luncheon last week to outline new developments planned for Stony Brook Southampton. Registration for the institution's inaugural semester takes place this week, with courses designed for high school students, working adults, undergraduate and graduate students, and lifelong learners alike running the gamut from advanced fiction workshops to oceanography.

Since Stony Brook Southampton got the keys to the property on October 4, said Schoonen, there's been a bit of housekeeping taking place as demolition ensued and remnants of Long Island University were cleared.

A priority, said Schoonen, has been "getting the buildings up to speed," with Chancellor's Hall getting the first once-over.

All classrooms will be equipped with state-of-the-art audio-visual equipment, as well as laptops and the latest in electronic systems and computer technology. With today's modern practices, said Schoonen, "a student can get on the computer at 3 a.m. and get their curriculum," as opposed to the days when study time was limited by the time constraints of library hours.

In order to foster a competitive academic environment, classrooms need to be brought up to cutting-edge speed. "You can't have classrooms that are prehistoric," he said.

In areas such as Wood Hall, the school's student activity center, plans are in place for a wellness center and coffee bar. "We're going to look at this with a modern eye," said Schoonen.

Critical, he added, are revamping and gutting the dorms and bringing them up to modern standard with wireless technology and hi-speed Internet connections.

With an eye toward community involvement, Schoonen said the Fine Arts building will be renovated and cultivated as a center for theatrical events as well as classes.

The space will be used to bring the much-beloved Writer's Conference back to the East End, and to host events such as Pianofest and guest lecturers; Schoonen said the theater is expected to be operational by July.

Also key, he said, will be a new state-of-the-art library, with plans for completion in the next year. "It won't be your traditional, get-lost-in-the-stack kind of library," he said.

Of note, said Schoonen, is a plan to move a collection of Jackson Pollock's writings from the Pollock Krasner House in Springs to the school, with a series of corresponding lectures.

"Our vision at Stony Brook Southampton is that it's going to be a very different place," said Schoonen, which will combine Stony Brook University's world-class ranking with small-college advantages.

The theme of the new curriculum will be on sustainability. "It's not only what we do today," he said, "but what we do today affects tomorrow."

There will be a new, enhanced focus on core skills, such as negotiation and teamwork, necessary to produce leaders, so that the school "can move forward and strike an ecological footprint."

Ultimately, students will be able to study globally. "This campus is a learning laboratory," said Schoonen.

Expansion of programs will continue next fall, when things will be in full swing.

Five years down the line, the goal is to have a facility attended by over 2000 students.

Stony Brook University purchased the former Southampton College for $35 million, taking possession of the 82-acre property, after LIU announced in 2004 that it would close its undergraduate programs at the campus.

In September 2005, the SUNY Board of Trustees authorized the purchase of the campus. Stony Brook and LIU reached a final agreement on the conditions of the purchase in March.

There are plans in place for collaboration with the Shinnecock Nation, with an East End Council formed to examine pertinent issues. Also slated is a center for food, wine and culture.

Schoonen said whenever possible, the institution tries to hire locally. "If we're using caterers, we're going to hire from Southampton, not Huntington."

Down the line, a master plan will be developed for the school's future development.

Registration is taking place this week through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Room 242 of Chancellor's Hall.

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