From the President

UB's Commitment to Service

As I write this message, UB's colleague institutions in Florida are bracing themselves for hurricane Wilma, while our fellow campuses in the Gulf Coast area are slowly rebuilding after the devastation wrought by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. While some have recovered sufficiently to resume normal classroom and campus operations, many others are now deeply engaged in intensive campus rehabilitation efforts, working steadily to ready their campuses in time for the start of the spring semester. These campuses have been coping not only with extensive damage to buildings and facilities, but also with profound personal losses within their academic communities.

This fall, UB opened its doors to a number of undergraduates evacuated from Gulf Coast institutions and enrolled them as visiting students. We also dedicated ourselves to reaching out to graduate and professional students in need. For example, the UB Law School made its fall courses available to law students from Tulane and Loyola universities, at the same time working closely with these institutions to ensure that these visiting law students would be able to return to their home campuses as soon as possible.

Our faculty and researchers also responded to the call. In the immediate aftermath of hurricane Katrina, reconnaissance teams from UB's Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research (MCEER) traveled to impacted areas in Mississippi to assess the specific structural damage caused by Katrina. A follow-up team from MCEER traveled to New Orleans with a similar mission in early October. The findings of these teams will ultimately enable engineers to design improved disaster-resistant structures capable of better withstanding a wide variety of hazards in the future, from hurricanes to earthquakes to potential
terrorist attacks.

Major national and international events such as the natural disasters we have witnessed this fall are a
powerful reminder that our actions and contributions as a public university have a profound impact, with the potential to make a meaningful difference here in Western New York as well as on the other side of the globe. As a case in point, just as UB's leadership in assessing and responding to catastrophic events provided us with the means of responding quickly to Katrina, it was also seen with the outpouring of support for our global neighbors in Pakistan, where the devastating earthquake in early October has left thousands feared dead and many others without shelter, food or water.

It is impossible to predict what the state of affairs in the Gulf Coast or overseas in Pakistan will be by the time you are reading this message in the winter issue of UB Today, just as it is impossible to foresee what new events may be on the horizon. But it is possible—and, indeed, it is our imperative as a public institution committed to serving the public good—to prepare ourselves for the unexpected, so that we may always stand ready to offer assistance to those in need, whenever our service and our support may be called upon.

That commitment is clearly articulated in every act that defines our campus community. We see it in the actions of the structural engineering researcher who traveled to the Gulf Coast to better understand the impact of this disaster, and to apply its lessons in planning for future emergency response. We feel it in the ready response of the staff member who acted quickly and attentively to ease the way of a visiting student temporarily stranded from her home campus by Katrina. We sense it in the empathy and compassion of each UB student who worked to ensure that his or her new classmate or roommate found a warm and welcoming academic home for the semester. And we hear it in the communication of the faculty expert who shared her expertise in catastrophic event response with the news media to contribute to our better understanding of such disasters and their environmental and social implications.

Just as meaningfully, UB's commitment to public service is also clearly articulated by you—in the actions of the alumni and university friends who exemplify the ideals of volunteerism and service that distinguish our academic community. Thank you for joining UB in reaching out to those in need, and for standing with your alma mater in our commitment to serving the public good.

John B. Simpson

President, University at Buffalo