Published June 19, 2014
UB has an opportunity to address and adapt to the pressures and challenges facing higher education in order to optimize what the institution will become and how it will achieve its goals, President Satish K. Tripathi told those attending Tuesday’s annual meeting of the voting faculty.
“That’s what Realizing UB 2020 is all about,” Tripathi said.
Higher education is facing pressure from many sides, including questions of access and affordability to emerging and developing delivery models. Tripathi said UB has long been exploring answers to these questions, but with the five years of budget stability guaranteed by the NYSUNY 2020 legislation, the university can use the current boundary conditions to move to the next level and ask how UB can become distinctive and remain true to its mission of academic excellence.
“We are already on our way,” said Tripathi.
UB recently placed among the top 200 universities in the world, but Tripathi said that it’s important to improve in all directions.
“We want to be a top destination for innovative research and discovery, and a place where we attract bright students to remarkable opportunities,” he said.
UB is pursuing three key objectives, including bringing more of the world’s best faculty to the university across all disciplines. The plan is to grow ladder faculty by 250 over the next five years while increasing research expenditures by 40 percent.
Tripathi said the university also is looking at trends in online education as a potential delivery method, but acknowledged that current models have yet to be perfected. On Monday morning, in fact, Georgia Tech’s promise to deliver a class to 40,000 students simultaneously failed when its website crashed.
“Yet, we still know that it’s important to be part of the process of online education to figure out where it’s going,” Tripathi said. “This technology could be used to improve higher education and we are looking at it very carefully.”
While the possibilities for online education are examined, the student experience at UB continues to be deepened. The Honors College and the Undergraduate Academies are providing transformational experiences, while Finish in Four, a pledge made by undergraduates to the university to finish their graduation requirements in four years, saw 40 percent of this year’s freshman class sign up.
The university’s physical presence, meantime, is seeing growth and renovation on all three campuses. In just over a year’s time, UB completed work on Greiner Hall, the Solar Strand, Davis Hall, the Clinical and Translational Research Center, Kapoor Hall and Crossroads Culinary Center, with plans to finish the Educational Opportunity Center building at the UB Downtown Gateway this spring.
All of these factors come together at what is a critical opportunity for UB and for the region.
“There is an ethical responsibility to play a leadership role in the social, economic and cultural vitality of our region,” said Tripathi. “UB is recognized as an economic development anchor, not only with respect to our economic impact, but also with respect to intellectual property; with arts and culture, which enriches the environment and encourages people to come to the region; and with respect to the students that we educate, which in turn attracts industry.”
UB is at a good place and has the opportunity to continue to develop its distinctiveness and provide the best education for its students, he said.
The president delivered a similar message to members of the Professional Staff Senate last Thursday, stressing that staff members have had, and will continue to have, an instrumental role in advancing UB’s mission and strengthening its impact.
Tripathi said that the only way to transform the university is to have the best faculty. “A world-class university needs world-class faculty” who drive the curriculum, harness research and make an impact, he said.
But faculty cannot do their work without the support of staff, he noted, adding that in addition to increasing the number of faculty by 250, UB also plans to increase the number of staff by a similar number.
“This is an exciting time to be at UB,” Tripathi said, telling staff their contributions and dedication are “critical” to the university’s success.