We will establish up to eight Communities over the next five years. During that period, we will have an annual call for proposals for Communities of Excellence concepts.
The Communities will be similar to centers or especially institutes – since like institutes they will probably house activities that cut across decanal units and thus report to the Vice President for Research and Economic Development. We do not envision that the Community will be a radically new type of entity, but while it may be like a center or institute, it also will be different and more complicated because there are learning and engagement components, which centers or institutes may or may not have as part of their focus.
The Communities will approach significant and pressing challenges facing our society, humankind, and the planet. The activities they pursue will meaningfully impact our local and global communities and may push the boundaries of human knowledge or understanding. An example of an entity approaching a grand challenge/big idea is UB’s recently launched Research and Education in eNergy, Environment and Water (RENEW). There could be Communities that approach provocative ideas that challenge the way that an institutional or societal system operates, or that aspire to change what art is and who participates in it. Our expectation is that the “big ideas” will be what UB is internationally known for five or ten years from now. It is up to the UB faculty to define and propose those ideas.
A required component of the Communities will be “education” or “learning.” However, what exactly this entails will vary from Community to Community. “Learning” could range from a conventional approach to something more innovative. It could range from certificate to new degree programs. It could be new course development at the department level or it could be student involvement in the lab, but it may go beyond this. For example, it could be in the formation of an Undergraduate Academy that is supported by the Community. We will have ranges of Communities that are doing different things. It is up to faculty applicants and Community members to pursue what is most appropriate for their particular Communities.
A required component of the Communities will be “engagement.” However, what exactly this entails depends on the specific Community. For example, this could be along the lines of economic development, if this makes sense for a particular Community and its thrust. However, we do not expect every Community to commit to delivering economic development. We will have ranges of Communities that are doing different things.
A Community of Excellence must include more than one member. The concept of the Communities is that we are bringing together individuals who are strong in their own particular areas to work in teams. This could mean that the teams are interdisciplinary or multi-disciplinary. The reason for this is that the challenges the Communities are approaching require diverse perspectives, skillsets and tools, beyond what are available in an individual department. If an applicant genuinely believes that it is possible to effectively approach a grand challenge from a single department, she/he is able to make a single-department proposal, but we envision that most – if not all – Communities will include participants from multiple departments and/or decanal units.
Yes. We encourage the Communities to engage with people outside of UB and partner with other institutions when appropriate. For example, Communities can invite outside experts to participate in collaborations. If Communities choose to bring in outside experts, we urge them to consider how bringing that expertise to UB can benefit student learning. It also would make sense for Communities to use needed resources available at other institutions if UB cannot provide them. However, while we would encourage collaboration with outside organizations, we would not provide any Community funding to those institutions.
UB will be making a multi-million dollar investment in the Communities. More importantly, the amount of funding will vary and be sufficient for each Community.
While the Communities of Excellence may involve hiring, they are not a hiring plan. Funding for the Communities could also involve support infrastructure including staff and student support, vital instrumentation/infrastructure, development of shared resources, or dedicated space to house a Community.
The Communities are a way for us to empower and invest in our existing outstanding faculty and, as needed, to recruit faculty who are critical for ensuring a Community’s success. That is, new faculty will be hired in order to fill identified gaps, but there may be Communities in which there is no hiring. Applicants should propose what is appropriate for their specific Communities.
There does need to be leadership for each Community, but we leave it up to the Communities to determine what exactly that leadership structure is. The leadership does not have to be a single individual. It could be a team or different people could be responsible for different Community activities. Whether or not the leaders will be paid through the Community budgets will be up to the individual Communities and what they work out with decanal units. This would be the kind of question to ask Academic Planning and Budget while developing a budget in the final Community proposal stage. Applicants will not need to worry about determining this until the final proposal stage.
UB is not using the Communities to invest in any particular faculty’s research agendas. Communities need to determine collectively what infrastructure and resources they need in order to most effectively approach the challenges they have selected. However, infrastructure that Communities build should benefit faculty research. All the individual faculty members will have access to the Community’s resources. This builds strength for all of the Community participants, which in turn benefits our entire university community.
All Community participants will be faculty members of departments – this includes any new hires associated with the Communities – and all faculty have to do certain things to earn tenure and promotion in their particular fields. We are not trying to create a structure that encourages generalists. We are trying to create a structure that encourages incredible depth in a field, but also the ability to communicate and work across fields. This means that the participants will be very strong in their fields, which will earn them tenure. Furthermore, participants in the Communities will likely benefit professionally by increasing scholarly productivity and output and benefit intellectually as a result of interacting with other Community participants, both of which will also benefit individual Community member’s academic careers.