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Provost updates PSS on UB 2020

Provost Zukoski speaks at the February Professional Staff Senate meeting

Provost Charles F. Zukoski updates members of the Professional Staff Senate on UB 2020. Photo: David J. Hill

By DAVID J. HILL

Published March 3, 2014

“Altering Gen Ed really reaches into the inner workings of UB, and that’s what we’ve challenged ourselves to do.”
Provost Charles Zukoski

Conversation has turned toward action when it comes to UB 2020, Provost Charles F. Zukoski told members of the Professional Staff Senate while offering an update on the university’s ambitious strategic plan during the group’s meeting on Thursday.

Numerous campus conversations took place last year while the provost and other university leaders gathered feedback from the campus on “Realizing UB 2020.” Those discussions led to the creation of seven task forces — headed by vice provosts, deans and vice presidents — that began meeting last summer to develop recommendations for priorities and specific programs to be implemented, with the overall goal of enhancing UB’s distinction as one of the world’s top research universities. They range from restructuring the university’s General Education program to increased professional development and training for faculty and staff. Each task force’s final report is available on the provost’s website.

The plans were analyzed in December and were followed by two retreats that identified priorities the campus would commit to and how those plans would be put into action.

Time is of the essence, Zukoski noted. “We’re on a fast track. The window associated with the rational tuition policy is rapidly closing. We’re in our third year of five,” he said. The rational tuition policy, under NYSUNY 2020 legislation, allows some SUNY campuses to raise tuition for undergraduate students in a modest, predictable way over a five-year period to provide a stable revenue source amidst dwindling state aid. “There are funds available for the initiatives that we’re talking about,” Zukoski said in response to a question about funding.

The task forces produced two signature initiatives, among seven bold institutional priorities, that will be launched: Communities of Excellence and Curricular Distinction.

Communities of Excellence “are focused on solving large challenges facing mankind, thinking about those problems and bringing together skills from across the campus,” Zukoski said. The provost unveiled the first of these communities in early February with the announcement of RENEW — Research and Education in eNergy, Environment and Water — a major interdisciplinary research initiative that will address the most critical environmental issues of our time.

There will be a call for proposals in April for other Communities of Excellence, followed by a review period in the fall, Zukoski said.

Curricular Distinction seeks to address the “why” of UB: why students study here and why faculty and staff work here. “We’ve made a series of commitments that we’re working toward,” Zukoski said, adding that the Curriculum and Assessment Task Force produced the initiative on revamping UB’s General Education program. Zukoski called it “the first big initiative that could really transform this campus.”

Andrew Stott, dean of undergraduate education, is chairing a committee that will develop the new Gen Ed curriculum, expected to be launched in fall 2016 so that the Class of 2020 is the first to graduate with the new program.

“Altering Gen Ed really reaches into the inner workings of UB, and that’s what we’ve challenged ourselves to do,” Zukoski said. “It’s a very exciting project. Andy has 80 faculty and staff working with him now in building the Gen Ed program.”

To help achieve greater Curricular Distinction, the university will require UB undergraduates to engage in experiential learning opportunities on campus or in the community and participate in a program or coursework that offers significant international experience.

The Infrastructure Task Force is creating plans for employee and professional development, which includes a recommendation for “paperless HR” by 2015.

UB’s health sciences schools already are working on another task force recommendation that focuses on inter-professional education, which allows students to interact with peers across the health sciences to develop a better understanding for each discipline.