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UB’s achievements having a transformative effect on the university, Tripathi reports in annual address

President Satish K. Tripathi delivers his remarks during the 2017 State of the University Address

Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki

By MICHAEL ANDREI

Published October 9, 2017

“What I see today is truly transformational — an institution poised to take its place among the very best, premiere public research universities.”
Satish K. Tripathi
UB President

Looking back on a year highlighted by groundbreaking research, nationally and internationally recognized scholarship, an all-time high ranking among top public and national universities and a new home for the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Satish K. Tripathi told faculty, alumni and members of the UB community, “There is a momentum that I see here each and every day: UB is a university on the move, an institution on the rise.”

Delivering his sixth State of the University address, UB’s president went on to say, “When I first arrived here, in 2004, I saw a fine institution with great potential.

“What I see today is truly transformational — an institution poised to take its place among the very best, premiere public research universities.”

Speaking on Friday, in the Student Union Theater on the North Campus, Tripathi pointed to UB’s rise in the rankings of the nation’s top public universities.

“This year, in U.S. News and World Report, UB achieved its highest rank ever among the best public national universities, at number 41,” he said. “In the category of the nation’s best universities — public and private — we have risen 24 spots over the past decade: more than any other institution in the AAU (Association of American Universities).

“And according to the Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education College Rankings, UB is 24th among U.S. public universities — up four spots from a year ago.”

Tripathi told the audience, “In my State of the University address two years ago, I outlined a plan, in response to a steady surge in applications, to strategically increase enrollment.

“This year,” he stated, “we welcomed the largest freshman class in UB history.”

Noting the very best students are increasingly seeking out UB, Tripathi said: “We continue to attract ambitious students from across the country and from points all over the globe — 106 countries, to be precise.”

Tripathi went on: “Why? Because now, more than ever, students across the state, the nation and the world recognize that a UB education will equip them with the critical thinking and global perspectives they need to contribute meaningfully in a 21st century society.

“This bright, driven and engaged UB student body includes, among many others: a record number of Fulbright scholars, the winners of a prestigious national mock trial competition, and a group of future nurses and dentists who provided urgently needed care to hundreds of refugees displaced by civil war.”

Tripathi said the university’s research profile continues to expand, including the growth of federal research expenditures from $156 million dollars to $186 million dollars in the past year.

“UB scholars continue to compete for, and win, prestigious grants,” Tripathi said. Among the highlights:

  • Department of Pediatrics researchers are using a $2.8 million dollar grant from the National Institutes of Health to determine what activities could help prevent childhood obesity.
  • A $2.7 million dollar award from the National Science Foundation to a UB-led research team to develop a software tool designed to catch malfunctioning computers and data-entry errors that can skew data sets.
  • The School of Nursing received more than $2.4 million dollars to increase access to mental health care and substance abuse treatment among Native American communities.

Tripathi noted that UB’s faculty are recognized nationally and internationally as thought leaders and change-makers.

“From developing an inexpensive method for converting saltwater into potable water, to building implantable sensors to identify and monitor serious illness and establishing a link between gum disease and cancer risk in older women … the impact of their scholarship permeates the entire fabric of society,” he said.

Tripathi added that recognition of UB faculty’s scholarship also includes highly competitive CAREER awards, the National Science Foundation’s most significant award for early-career academic researchers.

Tripathi then spoke about the university’s commitment to community outreach: “Serving many, and serving meaningfully, has always been a centerpiece of UB’s mission. Our community outreach seeks to improve quality of life.

“So, what does ‘True Blue’ community outreach look like?” he asked the audience.

Tripathi’s answer highlighted several projects from the past year:

  • UB law students helping low-income clients navigate the legal system;
  • A free summer camp where girls tackle fun and creative exercises to help them achieve in math and technology;
  • UB future architects and planners constructing a sustainable future for a Costa Rican rain forest community;
  • UB community members training citizen-scientists to help solve environmental problems throughout Western New York.

Tripathi went on to tell the audience that the past year saw numerous — and dramatic — enhancements to the physical landscape across all three of UB’s campuses.

He noted the completion of the second phase of the Heart of the Campus project, with 1Capen and 1Diefendorf: “These are our one-stop shops for essential student services, where UB staff provide assistance with everything from parking passes to financial aid to transcripts.”

On the South Campus, Tripathi said the School of Dental Medicine is undergoing a remarkable transformation. Once completed, the multimillion-dollar renovation will enhance students’ education and patients’ treatment.

“And tomorrow, a short walk from where we are gathered today, we will break ground for our UB fieldhouse,” he said. “Thanks to a generous donor – former UB student-athlete Tunney Murchie — this facility will build upon our tradition of developing student-athletes who succeed in the classroom and on the field.”

Tripathi then told the audience that, over the past four years, the UB community — and Western New York — has been watching the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences rising up on the university’s downtown campus.  

“A decade ago, as part of our UB2020 plan, we envisioned moving our medical school downtown,” he said. “Today, we have realized that vision.

“Faculty and staff are moving into the new building this semester. And classes will begin there in January.”

With each year, Tripathi said, UB’s impact on our nation and our world is greater than  before. This, he added, is a tribute to the collective accomplishments of UB’s students, faculty, staff and graduates.

“As a community, we have dedicated our lives to bringing the benefits of our teaching, research and creative activities to our local and global communities,” he told the audience.

It is also why, he said, the university community felt a collective sense of betrayal with the news that trusted employees had abused their role as public servants.

“Their actions demonstrated a brazen disregard for our university, our students, our faculty, our employees, our alumni and all the communities we serve,” he said.

Tripathi said he took action to tighten financial controls, assigning authority for all financial decisions and transactions in the Faculty Student Association and the former University Life and Services organization to the vice president for finance and administration, while expanding UB’s internal control system with additional policies and procedures.

Tripathi added, “We worked to ensure that the Faculty Student Association is in compliance with all state policies, regulations and requirements. This includes re-constituting the FSA board and remedying any financial irregularities.”

Over the past six years, Tripathi noted, UB has built its reputation as one of the nation’s leading public research universities.

He stated, “We have done this by strengthening our undergraduate, graduate and professional programs; dramatically enhancing UB’s undergraduate curriculum; growing our research portfolio; engaging in interdisciplinary research that develops strengths in key fields; building faculty expertise across disciplines and improving the physical environment across all three campuses.

“The evolution that is taking place, right here, is unmistakable.

“And yet,” Tripathi told the audience, “If UB is to join the ranks of the very best public research universities, we must encourage and inspire more private philanthropy.”

He added: “It means the difference between being very good and being in the highest tier of research universities.”

To accomplish this, Tripathi said, we must harness the power of philanthropy from every corner of our community.

“And so, next spring, we will formally announce a comprehensive campaign,” he said.

The campaign will focus on supporting faculty through endowed professorships, increasing student scholarships and improving the physical environment for teaching and research. Tripathi noted the campaign has already attracted a number of private commitments.

“Thanks to Jeremy Jacobs and his family, UB is weeks away from opening the doors to the new home of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. A magnificent, 21st century medical school in the heart of the Buffalo medical corridor.”

Tripathi thanked Stephen Still, a UB graduate who said the university changed his life, and who has given $4 million to the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Tripathi was also grateful for campaign commitments such as those from Lucky Davis, whose gift was made to smooth the transition to college life for returning veterans.

As he concluded, Tripathi told the audience: “It is our mission that unites us as a university community.

“We recognize that building a great university hinges not on the work of one — or a few. By coming together as a community of staff, students, faculty, alumni, UB friends and community partners, we gather the momentum to act upon our boldest and brightest ideas.

“To lead the way in public higher education and to better the world around us.”

The full text of the State of the University can be found here: http://www.buffalo.edu/president/from-the-president/speeches/state-of-the-university-2017.html.