Published August 31, 2012
As the fall semester begins, I’m pleased to welcome both new and returning members of our campus community. As a new member of the UB family, it has been energizing to witness all of the activity on campus as a new academic year gets under way. Fall is always a particularly special time of year for everyone involved with the university.
My wife and I have learned first-hand why Buffalo is called “the city of good neighbors” and have found this to be true both on and off campus. I want to thank all of you who have already welcomed me, and I look forward to meeting many more of you, either at the university’s Celebration of Faculty and Staff Excellence on October 3 or perhaps during visits with faculty in each decanal unit, which President Tripathi and I will begin later this month. I would also like to extend my thanks to Interim Provosts Bruce McCombe and Harvey Stenger, whose strong leadership was invaluable to UB’s forward momentum during this recent period of transition.
This is truly a marvelous time to be at UB. We are a world-class university on the verge of even greater national and international impact. The passage of NYSUNY 2020 last year has generated tremendous excitement because it provides the critical resources needed to advance the UB 2020 vision of excellence, and realize its full potential.
While many universities across the country and, indeed, the globe, are experiencing flat or reduced budgets, we are now positioned to add 250-300 new faculty members and replace another 400 over the next five years. Combined, that represents a truly tremendous opportunity for growth at UB. Last week, I had the privilege of greeting many of the newest members of our faculty. Eighty-five new faculty members have joined UB this fall. This impressive cohort of new faculty members will – over the course of their careers at UB—play a major role in transforming our university.
Although our future is bright, we cannot ignore external factors and their impact on UB. The recent economic downturn, of historic proportions, has taken a toll on public higher education. The demands on public universities are growing and include an expectation that we will address student debt burdens. A precarious job market for graduates puts additional pressure on us to decrease time-to-degree. As a major research university, we are asked to define – and defend – the value of our research and the value of what we teach.
In an effort to improve our four year graduation rate and overall student experience, UB has embarked on an aggressive Finish in 4 program which guarantees that interested undergraduate students entering this fall will have the resources and support to earn their degree in four years, providing economic benefits as well as the ability to move on more swiftly either to further education or fulfilling careers. The response has been overwhelmingly positive: over one third of our incoming class has registered. In order to accommodate this tremendous response, we have added more than 12,000 seats in classes.
As we grow the ranks of our faculty and continue to attract accomplished undergraduate, graduate, and professional students, we are also improving the physical environment of all of our campuses. As you begin the academic year, I encourage you to consider what excellence means for you and your department; how you can improve the UB experience for our students; and how we might lead our colleagues around the nation in answering the challenging questions facing higher education today.
I look forward to working with President Tripathi and each of you to achieve great things for UB.
Charles F. Zukoski
Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs