Campus News

Tripathi covers it all at PSS meeting

President Tripathi stands with a mic in hand during his annual visit to the Professional Staff Senate.

President Satish K. Tripathi answers questions from UB staff members during his annual visit to the Professional Staff Senate. Photo: Douglas Levere

By DAVID J. HILL

Published November 19, 2018

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“It is the president’s job to figure out, ‘Why are they digging near the flagpole?’ ”
President Satish K. Tripathi

As UB’s president, Satish K. Tripathi is accustomed to fielding all sorts of questions from faculty and staff. “What’s the budget looking like?” “How’s UB’s enrollment?” “What’s next with Heart of the Campus?”

But sometimes, employees just want to know, “What are they doing at the flagpole in front of Capen?”

That was among the questions Tripathi fielded Thursday during his annual visit to the Professional Staff Senate.

He gave a brief update on a range of topics — from the quality of this year’s freshman class, to campus construction, to Boldly Buffalo — before opening it up to a Q&A.

Among the hot topics is UB’s international student enrollment, which hovers around 5,000. Tripathi noted this is the 16th straight year that UB has ranked among the nation’s top 25 universities for hosting international students.

Responding to a question about whether UB’s international enrollment has been affected recently, Tripathi said there have been fluctuations among students from some countries, but overall international enrollment hasn’t taken a big hit.

“I think the attraction is always there. The uncertainty that comes in is really that every day we don’t know what the laws are going to be. This is a concern nationally,” he said. “The numbers are down a little bit, but it hasn’t really come to a stage where it’s down so drastically.”

This year’s freshman class is UB’s best ever, based on SAT scores and grade-point average, Tripathi said, noting the quality is improving every year. With that, more UB students are competing for the nation’s best scholarships and fellowships. For example, UB this year has 14 National Science Foundation graduate fellows. Several years ago, the university had only one.

“That’s the quality of the undergraduate that’s coming out of here now,” he said, crediting UB faculty and staff for working with the students. “It’s the staff working with the students to provide the extra edge so that they can compete nationally.”

As student quality increases, so too are UB’s four- and six-year graduation rates. UB targeted a 75 percent six-year graduation rate by 2020. “We’re already there,” Tripathi said. The university’s four-year rate is 57 percent, with expectations of eclipsing 60 percent in the coming years.

On the capital improvements side, Tripathi touched on projects such as the fifth floor of Hochstetter Hall on the North Campus, which was fully renovated over the summer, and the Murchie Family Fieldhouse next to UB Stadium, which is expected to open in April.

Meanwhile, the third phase of Heart of the Campus will bring One World Café, the much-anticipated international eatery on Founders Plaza, within the next few years.

In addition, relocation of the School of Social Work first, then the Graduate School of Education, both to the South Campus, remains on target. Both moves will free up much-needed space on the North Campus, Tripathi said.

UB’s Boldly Buffalo campaign is at about 73 percent of its $650 million goal, Tripathi pointed out, adding the university is on target to reach that goal in 2021.

As other funding sources tighten up, there’s greater importance to raise money for things that support students, faculty and buildings, he said. “Our last campaign ended in 2003. If you look at our peers, they are in perpetual campaign mode.”

To date, Boldly Buffalo has funded 226 endowed scholarships and fellowships for students, and 29 endowed chair positions.

“Those are very critical for our success and for us to continue to improve,” Tripathi said.

He also lauded the success of UB’s football team, which is 9-2 and vying for the MAC championship, as well as the men’s and women’s basketball teams. Success in athletics not only rallies the community; it serves as a conversation starter, paving the way for the university to talk about its research breakthroughs, he said.

Now, about that flagpole work…

“It is the president’s job to figure out, ‘Why are they digging near the flagpole?’” Tripathi said, drawing laughter from the PSS members in attendance.

“It happens that the president does his job. This morning, Laura Hubbard was in my office and I said, ‘What are we doing near the flagpole?’”

Turns out, there was a leak in a chilled water line underground that needed repairs.

“I’m so happy you asked the question because I know the answer,” Tripathi said to more laughter.