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UB has transformed and continues to transform, Tripathi reports in university address

President Satish K. Tripathi talked about the academic excellence of UB students, the accomplishments of faculty members and the ways that UB is transforming not just the university, but communities regionally and globally. Photo: Douglas Levere

By SUE WUETCHER

Published October 20, 2014

“We have been pushing steadily in this direction for the past decade. And now we are on the brink of fully realizing our most ambitious aspirations for our university.”
President Satish K. Tripathi

When Satish K. Tripathi came to UB as the university’s provost in 2004, UB was “a very fine institution with a solid foundation and great potential.”

Now, a decade later, “I see a remarkable institution, a world-class university taking its rightful place alongside some of the best research universities anywhere,” UB’s president told members of the university community, alumni and friends on Friday during his third State of the University Address.

Speaking to an audience in Lippes Concert Hall in Slee Hall on the North Campus, Tripathi outlined the progress UB has made across the university and the many ways it is transforming both the local and global communities.

He began by noting recent faculty and research highlights:

  • UB hired 110 faculty members and 157 staff members in the past academic year.
  • Total research funding from all sources is at an all-time high of $388 million.
  • Faculty and staff members continue to receive national and international recognition as the recipients of major awards like National Science Foundation CAREER Awards and Guggenheim and Fulbright fellowships, as well as being named fellows in the prestigious scholarly associations in their fields, among them the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the American Psychological Association.
  • UB has had the “lion’s share” of appointments as SUNY Distinguished Professors during the past five years.

Having world-class faculty attracts world-class students, Tripathi pointed out, and UB is recruiting more of the best undergraduate, graduate and professional students.

“These are intellectually passionate, motivated students who know they want to use their talents to make a difference in the world,” he said.

And they come to UB “because they know they will find opportunities here that will challenge them to do just that, to the very best of their abilities.”

Those opportunities include the chance to receive hand-on experience in clinical and research settings, he said, and UB has implemented several initiatives “to bring the research enterprise closer to our undergraduate students,” among them the Academies, Discovery Seminars and the Honors College.

UB also has invested in support services for students, Tripathi said, citing in particular the Finish in Four program that pledges to provide entering UB freshmen with the academic resources they need to graduate in four years.

While it’s still too early to assess graduation rates resulting from Finish in Four, “within the first two cohorts, we are already seeing significant impact in the form of higher GPAs, better academic standing and improved freshman retention,” he reported, adding that students “are participating in record numbers.”

Tripathi said that perhaps the most visible transformation taking place at UB is in the physical environment on the North, South and Downtown campuses. Six state-of-the-art buildings have opened on the three campuses in the past three years, he said, and a longer-term restoration of the historic E.B. Green-designed South Campus is moving forward. And, of course, construction is moving ahead on the new home for the medical school on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

“Collectively, all this progress has an impact far beyond our campus borders. We are not just transforming our university,” he said. “We are transforming our larger communities — regionally and globally.

“That’s why engaging more deeply with our communities — near and far — is a key priority. And every day, we see the impact of this engagement.”

Tripathi noted that in Western New York today, “we are seeing many spheres coming into alignment,” with progress being made in major sectors including health care and life sciences, advanced manufacturing, arts and culture, and information technology. And this progress, he said, is focusing national attention on Buffalo, Western New York and UB.

“Our UB 2020 vision has positioned our university and our region at the forefront of major national trends in health care, the arts, and business and industry,” he said.

For example, in the area of genomic research and personalized medicine, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo established at UB the new Buffalo Institute for Genomics, which has the potential to revolutionize the treatment of such diseases as cancer, diabetes and multiple sclerosis.

And UB also possesses strength — both faculty expertise and supercomputing resources — in the areas of materials informatics and advanced manufacturing, which will help position Western New York “as a national leader in this field.”

Tripathi concluded his remarks by noting that “great universities don’t stand still.”

“What do we need to do to become even better — for the sake of our students, our faculty, our communities and our world?” he asked. “How should we direct our next steps?”

Work is well underway to restructure the general education curriculum with a focus on experiential learning and global perspectives, he said. The new curriculum will be connected to the university’s main research themes — humanity, justice, innovation, environment and health — “to encourage our students to look at the world and its challenges through a multidisciplinary lens,” he explained.

“We believe this will prepare our students to be active drivers in knowledge creation — to break ground into uncharted territory,” he said. “Our students will be the next generation of global leaders, shaping the future of their fields.”

On the research front, the interdisciplinary research paradigm that began with the Strategic Strengths has been brought to the next level through the Communities of Excellence, Tripathi said. The recently launched RENEW initiative in the areas of energy and the environment serves as a model for these multidisciplinary scholarly communities, he said, noting that faculty currently are developing proposals for other communities focused on large-scale societal challenges.

“Just imagine what UB can do when we enhance our scholarly framework to catapult their research and creativity to the next level,” he said.

“We have been pushing steadily in this direction for the past decade. And now we are on the brink of fully realizing our most ambitious aspirations for our university,” he said.

We are on the brink of a new future for our region as UB plays a vital role in Buffalo’s resurgence.”