Borden helps students find direction
“We do promote many UB events and try to hook students into leadership, service, study abroad and research opportunities.”
Back when Hadar Borden was an undecided UB freshman in the late 1990s, she visited the Department of Geography on a whim, and her education took an unexpected fork. Years later, after a bachelor’s degree in geography followed by a master’s degree in geography, the road forked again, and she found herself back at her alma mater.
Today, Borden is administrative director of UB’s Undergraduate Academies, and although she may have found her place in the world, she still can relate to the struggle students have navigating four years at a major research university.
While she worked as a work-study student in Financial Aid, Borden began to explore UB. “I started out thinking I wanted to go into architecture, then I switched to physical therapy, but the chemistry classes and I didn’t get along,” she says. At the time, she lived directly above the geography department in the Ellicott Complex. A friend encouraged her to check it out, so she went downstairs to speak with the department chair and never looked back. “It was like a breath of fresh air, being in such a small department at a large university,” she says. “I got to know the faculty well.” Her master’s degree concentration in international trade combined her growing interests in geography, logistics, business management and finance.
After graduating, Borden worked at ATTO Technology Inc., a computer data storage firm in Amherst, and then at Sonwil Distribution, a transportation, logistics and commercial real estate company in Buffalo.
Meanwhile, her memories of that “small, comfortable place” at college—in particular her relationships with faculty and staff—were slowly drawing her back to UB. “Even when I was at ATTO, I would drive past UB on the Audubon and wonder what was happening there,” she says. She remembers transportation expert Jean-Claude Thill, a former UB professor of geography, who helped her find an internship and develop an independent study in transportation before formal classes in the topic had been established. She formed close relationships with Sharmistha Bagchi-Sen, professor of geography, and Maureen Kanaley, her supervisor and “surrogate mom” in Financial Aid.
Borden says she has learned many lessons from strong, professional women. “As I’ve made my way at UB, I found that women collaborate and listen the best. They taught me to how to find connections and be resourceful.”
After returning to UB as a staff member, Borden spent two years in Undergraduate Admissions and then four years with the Honors College as an academic advisor. In 2008, she had the opportunity to shift jobs and lead the then brand-new Undergraduate Academies, a group of collaborative, interdisciplinary living-and-learning opportunities offered to all undergraduates at UB.
The Undergraduate Academies give students the freedom to explore various disciplines and opportunities to work closely with UB faculty, and to develop passions and skills that help them become engaged citizens after college. Each academy accepts around 30 students every year and focuses on a broad topic: civic engagement, global perspectives and research exploration. An advisory council made up of UB faculty and staff helps guide the academies and lead themed seminars, workshops, excursions and community building events.
Borden oversees all of the academies’ academic and social programming, including a series of workshops and lectures—from physics and global health care to campus diversity and fitness and nutrition—that are open to the entire university.
This past semester, an academies team got down and dirty at UB’s Oozefest, and another earned a bronze medal in UB’s Relay for Life competition in March, which raises money for the American Cancer Society. “We aren’t always the ones who create undergraduate programs—but we do promote many UB events and try to hook students into leadership, service, study abroad and research opportunities,” Borden explains.
A true “UB Believer,” Borden bleeds UB blue. While a student, she was a member of geography and marketing associations and served as vice president of the University Student Alumni Board (USAB), which sponsors Oozefest. She still volunteers at the event, and sits on a review committee for USAB’s J. Scott Fleming Scholarship, established to support students who show UB pride.
Borden stays busy outside of UB as well. A mother of two young sons, she is married to David Borden, BS ’97, MBA ‘01. He plays in a local Buffalo rock band, Patrons of Sweet (“I’m the groupie,” she laughs) and the couple is very active in their synagogue, Temple Beth Zion. Borden also volunteers with the Junior League of Buffalo, where she says she’s had the opportunity to work with another group of inspiring, accomplished women.
Borden’s training in geography may not directly influence her work in the Undergraduate Academies, but she says she keeps its metaphors in mind. “When I was at UB, it felt like such a huge place,” she says. “We try to make it a little smaller, a little more accessible.” Her career highs have come from watching students grow into lifelong learners as they move through school and then out into the world.