Winter is upon us as I write this, but Carol and I are filled with thoughts of spring, looking ahead to the coming semester with great anticipation. Spring 2004 will bring both of us the opportunity to connect with our UB community in ways that are both familiar and new, as well as more time to spend with our family-four children, their wonderful spouses and 13 energetic grandchildren. Both Carol and I also look forward to being able to enjoy all the cultural events that Buffalo Niagara has to offer-most especially the arts at UB-and to continuing to contribute to the region through community service.
Spring will find me reunited with my colleagues in the Law School and preparing to return to my first love-teaching. I look forward to debate and discourse that will challenge me and my students to both understand and examine the role of the law in defining and protecting our democratic institutions, as well as extending these benefits to all who value intellectual freedom and accept individual responsibility for the commonweal. And, as a University Professor, I will be privileged to teach not only students from the Law School, but also students, both undergraduate and graduate, from across the university.
The 21st-century classroom has benefited from numerous advances in educational and information technology made since I last devoted myself full time to teaching, and learning to use this technology is a challenge I also eagerly anticipate. The explosion of knowledge facilitated by these technologies has wrought enormous change in our social, political and cultural institutions. I hope to learn from and with my students about how these changes have affected their lives-and all our lives-both for good and ill. At the same time, I'm aware of what hasn't changed greatly throughout my time at UB. Our pursuit of innovation, our dedication to making knowledge relevant to contemporary needs, and our determination to remain in the vanguard of forward-looking higher education have always been part of the UB experience. And, as I talk with my faculty colleagues about approaches to higher education in the 21st century, I am reminded of another of the foundational tenets that make UB unique: our focus on education as first and foremost a collaborative endeavor.
When UB-then the private University of Buffalo-was granted its charter from the New York State Legislature in the spring of 1846, it had only one academic unit, the medical department, and all of its classes were taught in a handful of lecture rooms by a largely volunteer faculty drawn from the Buffalo community. That pattern of community support and collaboration in building UB persisted for over 100 years, and was still very much a feature of the institution when we joined SUNY in 1962. Today the University at Buffalo is the flagship of the SUNY system, the largest and most comprehensive public research university in New York State, offering more than 300 degree programs and educating students of all ages, interests and backgrounds in state-of-the-art facilities that cover two campuses as well as a number of sites across the region. Now we have a very large and very accomplished full-time faculty, but still the spirit of community involvement and collaboration remains an important and integral feature of the UB experience.
Among the hundreds of disciplines represented at UB-and between our university and our research, business and educational partners in the community-exists a spirit of collaborative inquiry that invigorates our academic mission and helps us to give back to the many constituencies that make us strong. On campus, faculty of a wide range of academic fields partner with each other in team-taught courses and in collaborative research projects, while students engage in dual-degree academic programs and study in cutting-edge interdisciplinary fields like bioinformatics, media study and Caribbean studies. Off campus, our faculty, students and researchers are teaming up with their counterparts in local businesses, government organizations and community foundations to translate knowledge into practical benefits for our community through technology transfer initiatives and social service programs. And we still have wonderful part-time and volunteer faculty who enrich our teaching mission.
This is what public higher education should be about; this is good stuff-and it's what UB is all about. Our innovative, cooperative model of teaching, research and service is an important constant that has fueled our development over the past 157-plus years, and it will continue to stimulate our growth in the 21st century and beyond.
From my new post in O'Brian Hall, chalk in hand (or laptop at the ready), I look forward to collaborating with my colleagues to provide the best education possible for the next generation of leaders-our students. Carol and I look forward to collaborating with you, too. We hope to see you at the next UB game, concert, gallery exhibit, theater opening or lecture. Until then, all the best, and go Bulls!