Published September 28, 2018
Professional Staff Senate meetings tend to be more internally focused, with guest speakers ranging from the president and the provost to the director of athletics providing updates to professional staff members.
But Thursday’s PSS meeting had a very outward focus, as four guest panelists from the University District discussed UB-community partnerships. There also was an update on the South Campus revitalization plan.
The South Campus has steadily evolved with the move of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences to downtown, and the campus will continue to change over the coming years. That presents more opportunities for the university to engage with the surrounding community. Panelists said Thursday they are looking forward to building on the strong partnerships that have been forged in recent years.
“I believe we can co-exist when we work together,” said panelist Rasheed Wyatt, the University District representative on the Buffalo Common Council. Wyatt praised the efforts of UB’s Office of Government and Community Relations and Tess Morrissey, director of community relations.
Wyatt said UB students are an important part of the University District, and added that his office plans to work toward making students feel more welcomed and involved in the community. A series of meetings Wyatt had with President Satish K. Tripathi when Wyatt was elected to the Common Council helped set the right tone toward mending a relationship that some in the University District felt was broken.
“Having that first conversation was the beginning of a process of reconnecting UB with the community because sometimes we can put up these walls because we think someone has offended us or ignored us, and we don’t move forward,” Wyatt said.
The eventual move of the School of Social Work from UB’s North Campus to the Main Street campus as part of the South Campus revitalization project will have a tremendous positive impact for both the community and social work students, he added.
Other panelists included Darren Cotton, a UB alumnus and director of community development and planning at the University District Community Development Association; Wil Green, East Side Community School Zone leader at Say Yes to Education Buffalo; and Ellen Kost, assistant planning director for the Town of Amherst.
Cotton spoke about ways UDCDA is involving UB faculty, staff and students in meaningful projects in the University District. “We’ve had a great number of successes over the past couple years that I’m really excited about and I think bode well for the future, both of the University District, as well as UB South Campus,” he said.
UDCDA recently worked with Wyatt’s office and two UB graduate students to compile a historical context of the Bailey-Kensington neighborhood. The project allowed UDCDA to partner with the state’s historic preservation office to obtain a grant for a consultant study that is likely to result in the nomination of several new historic districts in the neighborhood.
“This is a real project with real impact. Homeowners will be able to take advantage of a 20 percent tax credit. That all started with a student project,” Cotton said, adding that UDCDA is also working with UB students to examine ways to revitalize the Main Street and Bailey Avenue business districts.
Green noted how the UB community can participate in programs available within Buffalo Public Schools’ Community Schools. These are buildings across the city that have extended school hours, including weeknights and weekends, and that have become hubs within the neighborhood, providing a variety of resources for community members, students and families.
“We can offer a space in the community with access to students, families, community members that allows you to have organic interactions and it’s mutually beneficial,” Green said. He suggested that people come to one of the Saturday academies with the intent not of helping but of participating in the activities.
Kost talked about how the Town of Amherst is working with the developers of new off-campus student housing developments to ensure the new facilities provide safe connections for students to get to campus.
Prior to the community panel, Kelly Hayes McAlonie, director of campus planning, updated PSS members on the ongoing South Campus revitalization project.
“We’re trying to provide order to all of these disparate places and locate them within one complex,” Hayes McAlonie said.
Other plans include renovating Crosby Hall for the School of Architecture and Planning, relocating the Graduate School of Education from the North Campus, and continuing the incremental Heart of the Campus projects. In addition, the series of buildings that flank Kimball Tower, known as “The Triad” and which closed in 2011, are currently being demolished.
All of the planned moves are contingent upon available funding.
The panel with local officials was great! It is very beneficial for the PSS to have these direct dialogues with the larger WNY community. I hope we do many more so that we can exchange ideas and concerns, and work together in meaningful ways.
Dialogue at the PSS meeting also addressed the deplorable condition of Clark Hall and the lack of quality recreation and wellness space on the South Campus, as well as at the downtown medical campus.
There is, according to the panelists, a wellness task force that is in the formative stages that will be addressing those concerns.