We have an unparalleled opportunity to distinguish our
university, its programs and our faculty—to become one of the
best public research universities in the nation. In order to be
competitive with our peer institutions, we need to identify a group
of multidisciplinary priorities in which we can succeed instead of
striving to be all things to all people. This will allow us to
admit the best students, hire the best faculty and realize the best
opportunities for institutional prominence, giving UB an
institutional leadership role in higher education. President
Simpson and I have a shared vision for the success of this
The faculty are absolutely integral to our university's success, and the envisioning retreats and other meetings provide a forum in which our faculty—as subject-matter experts—can develop fully our areas of strategic strength. I encourage all of our faculty members to participate in this groundbreaking process.
Our planning process is moving forward in three phases. In Phase 1, which ended in December, we came to understand UB's existing and potential academic strengths, and we recommended a set of strategic strengths. Now we have begun Phase 2, which will create a vision for each strength, assess other programs and funding sources, and develop an investment plan for each strategic strength. As the first step of Phase 2, we are engaging in a substantial "envisioning process" with a broad cross-section of the UB faculty through a series of daylong envisioning retreats and follow-up sessions. We anticipate that the first part of Phase 2 will end in May. The remaining components of Phase 2 and their timetables are as follows:
In the third and final phase, which will start in November 2005, we will migrate toward our strategic strengths by beginning to enact the developed plans. The deans, guided by their college's or school's strategic plan, will begin to realign resources, make investments, develop partnerships and recruit new faculty. Concurrent and subsequent to this process, the deans will measure success and progress toward goals.
President Simpson and I are asking the faculty to define a vision for the fields of study under discussion: academic areas, resources and new faculty that we need to bring to the University at Buffalo. Our real expectation for faculty is to get involved with the planning process. In order for this planning process to be truly successful, we—as a campus—will need to be creative in our thinking, provide opportunities and venues to share our unique perspectives and think beyond traditional academic boundaries.
We expect the information gathered from each envisioning retreat and future planning sessions to result in a white paper from the Office of the Provost. Each white paper will be coauthored by three to five UB faculty members, with broad involvement from the other faculty who have participated in the planning sessions. Each white paper will contain several components including: (1) unique elements—a description of the unique factors that currently distinguish, and have the future potential to distinguish, UB within that strategic strength; (2) areas of focus—a summary of the academic, research and other elements on which UB should focus in order to become a recognized leader in that strategic strength; (3) resource plan—a description of the resources/capabilities that UB currently possesses, and those that it must possess, in order to achieve success within that strategic strength; (4) breadth of involvement—a description of the connection of the various elements within the strategic strength to current research, graduate and undergraduate education, and service efforts. This will give us a plan for multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary collaboration; (5) timelines and strategic-strength growth plans—a five-year plan with appropriate milestones and a vision for the stages of growth.
We realize that there are concerns about available funding. As the vision for each strategic strength is more clearly articulated, we will need to consider how to bring appropriate resources to bear. This responsibility will, in part, reside with the deans, who will need to consider allocating their existing resources to support the strategic strengths. President Simpson and I also will need to provide additional support for these strategic strengths, such as sponsored research grants and gifts from donors.
I would have asked, "How will this planning process affect existing academic programs?" My answer is this: Although the final results of the planning process will necessarily affect UB's budgetary, academic support and facilities investments, this process will not diminish our commitment to sustain the existing excellence of our research, scholarship and creative activities, as well as our undergraduate, graduate and professional programs.