Dr. Francis Battisti Joins SUNY Distinguished Academy

Dr. Francis Battisti, SUNY Broome Community College’s Executive Vice President, was recently promoted to the rank of State University of New York Distinguished Service Professor, and inducted into the ranks of the SUNY Distinguished Academy. The induction took place on May 21st at the second annual meeting of the Academy in Albany. This prestigious honor has opened the door for several of SUNY Broome’s professors to embark on a new level of service and scholarship.

Nominated for the new title by his colleagues about a year-and-a-half ago, Dr. Battisti’s nomination packet contained many letters of endorsement from individuals at the college and around the country.

Fellow SUNY Distinguished Service Professor, Douglas Garnar, received his honor in 2007. He explains that, when he and Fran were hired at Broome in 1971, “There were some very interesting people who were also hired that year. Many of them did some incredibly interesting things during their careers, but Francis was one of the most prominent in that group. He has done a great deal both on campus and in the community, and has truly earned this recognition.”

The Distinguished Service Professorship award is one of the highest honors that can be conferred upon faculty members of SUNY Colleges. It is granted to exceptional individuals who go “above-and-beyond” their job-requirements and who apply their intellect and scholarly research to suggest solutions to public problems. It is also important that they have solid reputations for serving their campus, state and nation.

SUNY Broome Professor’s James Antonakos and Dr. Richard Firenze, also share the honor of becoming SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professors. Both expressed their delight in seeing Dr. Battisit recognized. “I am always thrilled when anyone from Broome gets recognition. I am very proud of Francis and very happy for him,” commented computer science Professor Antonakos, who was recognized by the Academy in 2009. While biology Professor Dr. Richard Firenze, honored by the Academy in 2010, remarked, “No one is more deserving than Dr. Battisti.”

The SUNY Distinguished Academy was created in March 2012 to recognize exceptional faculty. However through its members, it also provides a structure for mentoring junior professors, finding ways to continually enhance the college teaching profession, and improving the overall scholarship of SUNY colleges.

As part of his membership with the SUNY Distinguished Academy, Dr. Battisti is now eligible for involvement in the academy’s initiatives. He plans on spending some time observing and learning about the academy’s programs, and anticipates being involved in at least one project a year. He also hopes that his involvement in these initiatives will offer him a broader and more valuable perspective to share with his colleagues.

Two of the Academy’s initiatives are particularly exciting to Dr. Battisti. The first initiative is its community engagement program.

Professor Garnar, a long-time promoter and coordinator of SUNY Broome’s community-focused endeavors, is not surprised by Dr. Battisti’s interest. “Civic engagement is a way to revitalize communities. Francis is a real ally for those of us on campus who want to see the college’s community focus ratcheted up, and hope to further extend our civic engagement activities.”

Dr. Battisti explains that, “Community colleges have unique experiences to share in regards to their service to the community. We have a long history of collaborating with businesses and community organizations that could provide a wealth of knowledge to our sister colleges.” He lists examples of SUNY Broome’s community engagement programs, such as the Civic Engagement Center, the Bridging the Digital Divide program, and the Dental Hygiene Clinic. “Because of our history and experience, perhaps we could come up with a template to assist other SUNY school’s in their community engagement initiatives,” he said.

The second SUNY Distinguished Academy initiative that appeals to Dr. Battisti is the SUNY Visiting Distinguished Scholarship Program. He explains that, “colleges will often have interest in a particular subject area. However they may not have anyone knowledgeable about that subject on their staff. Funding can limit access sometimes. But with this program, there is no cost.”

“This initiative allows for Distinguished Professors to lecture, instruct, and to provide their expertise at another SUNY school,” added Professor Antonakos, who also hopes to be involved in the SUNY Visiting Distinguished Scholarship Program. He explains that, “This is all being fleshed out now by the SUNY Distinguished Academy, with an idea to get it implemented sometime next year.”

Through this program, a visiting Distinguished Professor’s research and presentations can enrich another college. According to Dr. Battisti, “this initiative will be a fantastic way to share the wealth of SUNY throughout the SUNY system. I personally hope to share my background in childhood obesity research. It is the number one issue that is not addressed in the US –or we address it very superficially.” Dr. Battisti notes that this is also an important local issue as, “Binghamton was identified as the most obese city in the country”.

Professor Garnar sums up the shared spirit of scholarly contribution and community service, that all of SUNY Broome’s Distinguished Professors express. “We are here to be servant teachers and staff, and our ultimate goal must be to serve the students and the academic community. This needs to always be our focus. If we do that, good things will happen.”