During the fall 2004 semester, the Academic Planning Committee received a charge from the Provost to identify an innovative institutional approach to addressing an old problem: how to best utilize UB's scarce resources and develop an academic plan that advances the entire institution. The committee made a call for "Foci of Excellence" proposals, and received 90 of them from UB faculty members, principal investigators, and center directors.
After an initial review, the committee realized that there were a number of notable areas of the campus that had not been identified in any of the proposals. This led the committee to solicit a second round of proposals. Thirty additional proposals were received.
In recognition of the fact that the evaluation of UB's strengths needed to consider more than the Foci of Excellence proposals, the committee requested information from the chair of each academic department, requesting a summary of what the chair considered to be the specific strengths of those departments.
The 120 Foci of Excellence proposals and summaries of departmental strengths were then evaluated using an objective set of criteria. The goal was to develop an evaluative process that would energize many components of the UB university community, rather than produce a small group of "winners."
The committee evaluated the 30 new proposals using the same set of criteria, grouped them into thematic areas called "Strategic Strengths," and then recommended a set of 10 strategic strengths to the UB 2020 Executive Committee.
Each of these strategic strengths was discussed in an "envisioning retreat" during spring/summer 2005. Provost Satish Tripathi invites all interested faculty members to attend these sessions. The first session, on Nanomaterials, was held on Monday, March 7, with nearly 70 faculty members from a wide spectrum of academic departments in attendance.