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Frequently Asked Questions

Because the Communities of Excellence are a new initiative at UB, we may refine concepts as we progress and revise our responses below accordingly.  If you have a question about the Communities or application process that is not covered below, email

How many Communities will UB establish?

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. 

What exactly is a “Community”? Is it the same thing as a center or research institute?

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.

What do you mean by “big idea” and “grand challenge”?

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.

Are the Communities supposed to be directly organized around the UB 2020 themes (i.e. will there be a Community for Justice)? Will priority be given to concepts that impact all five themes?

No to both questions. Communities can impact any number or all of the themes.  Communities may also connect with the themes more indirectly or in different activity areas.  For example, a Community could use learning outcomes in one of the themes, while scholarly and engagement activities impact other themes.  We will leave it up to the faculty to define in their proposals how exactly the Communities will relate to the themes.  We do not expect that the Communities will be directly organized around any one theme or that they will impact all of the themes, and we in fact prefer that Community concepts focus on the grand challenge/big idea.

Do applicants need to have a full budget or team in place to submit a concept paper?

No.  At the concept paper stage, we really are just seeking great ideas from faculty members without having the Communities completely developed or participants decided.  We also encourage any and all tenured or tenure-track faculty members to submit provocative concepts.

Should applicants seek an endorsement or approval from deans before submitting a concept paper?

The concept papers are submitted directly by faculty applicants and there is no approval or endorsement from deans needed at the concept stage. 

At the preliminary presentation stage (for those concepts invited for preliminary presentations), we expect faculty applicants to know what schools might be involved and approach those schools to discuss their potential participation in the proposed Community.  At the full proposal stage (by invitation only), all of the details about how the Community will actually work and what schools will be involved need to be determined.  Therefore, commitment from deans and other interested parties will occur later in the process, after the concept paper stage and definitely by the full proposal stage.

Will applicants be required to collaborate with and seek commitments from schools and departments on scholarly and educational activities associated with the proposed Communities?

At the concept paper stage, applicants will not need to worry about this.  They likely will need to do this for the final full proposal, but in what capacity depends on individual Communities and their particular activities.  If Communities believe new courses or degree programs are needed, they will need to follow our standard processes – i.e. through departments.  Even if not needed for educational commitment, all Communities will likely need to involve deans and chairs because most scholarly and research activities will be aligned with what is happening in schools and departments (though this is not a requirement). 

What happens if there are several similar concepts submitted?

If similar or complementary concepts are proposed, the selection team may encourage those applicants to work together in a team.  That is, we may combine similar concepts at the concept paper stage.  This team forming may also occur at the preliminary presentation stage, if later similarities appear.  

Who are the potential reviewers of the proposals?

UB faculty and administrators, and some external experts.  The specific reviewers will depend on the area of the Community being proposed, and those reviewers will be knowledgeable about the area on some level.  

It should be noted that the reviewers of the proposals could play a vital role in the development of the Communities by identifying what about the proposal is particularly exciting and helping refine the concept for the Community.

Are Communities required to include an educational component? What does this educational component entail?

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.

Are Communities required to include an engagement component? What does this engagement component entail? Will the Communities be engaged in economic development?

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.

Can all of the participants in a Community come from the same academic department? Can a Community be a single faculty member?

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.

Can the Communities include people and institutions from outside of UB?

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. 

What funding does UB have available for the Communities?

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.

Are the Communities a hiring plan and means to recruit new faculty?

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.

What time frame should applicants use for proposed Communities?

Proposals should use a five-year funding timeframe.

Are applicants required to figure out all of the financial logistics in the proposal process?

We do not expect faculty applicants to determine all of the financial components or build a full budget for the proposed Community. We also do not expect applicants to know all of the steps involved in the activities they are proposing (e.g. building a new degree program). Academic Planning and Budget will help all applicants at the final proposal stage develop a budget for their proposed Communities.

Will there be a person to lead each Community and what will that leader be – a primary investigator? Will Community budgets include salaries for leaders?

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.

Will the Communities be designed specifically to benefit any one member of the Community?

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.

Will new hires belong to departments or Communities? What will be the impact of the Communities on tenure and promotion?

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.