"A different world cannot be built by indifferent people.”
Over the years, this quote has been ascribed to several notable figures, including former U.S. Senate Chaplain Peter Marshall and the 19th-century educational reformer Horace Mann, who asserted that public schools should cultivate civic-mindedness. Although its provenance is up for debate, there’s little question that the sentiment in these words continues to reverberate. As UB president, I interpret this timeless statement as a powerful charge: Through our mandate as a public research university, we are called to instill the core value of informed, engaged citizenship as the antidote to indifference.
When I talk with our students—across disciplines, decanal units and degree programs—it is clear they are taking this responsibility to heart. Whether they are helping veterans find jobs or designing affordable housing for underserved neighborhoods, they are putting our deeply held values into action, and I couldn’t be prouder.
With the new academic year unfolding, I’m eager, as always, to learn how these projects are taking shape—from the planning and logistics to the incredible impact they will have on individuals, families and communities in need. When I ask students what motivates them to undertake such ambitious initiatives, a common theme invariably emerges: They want to apply their classroom learning to real-world challenges. They want to make a difference.
As you can imagine, that is music to my ears. After all, what greater hope could I have for our UB students than that they put their precious knowledge to its best use?
As smart and driven as our students are, I see, time and again, that they’re equally compassionate and empathetic. They’re not looking at service as a way to burnish their résumé. They’re looking to leverage their talents for a larger purpose.
And every day, our faculty serve as their role models, inspiring our students to think critically, challenge their assumptions, and bring their intellectual and creative capacities to bear on our global society’s most pressing challenges. The result is nothing short of transformative. It ripples from the immigrant schoolchild trying to read English to the small-scale farmer trying to improve yield to the concerned neighbor trying to preserve a historic landmark.
Service forms our identity as a public research university. It is essential to our tripartite mission—every bit as important as the other two pillars, education and research. Indeed, it permeates both of those endeavors. By making the world our classroom and our lab, we become more aware of the contours of our shared humanity. We better appreciate our interconnectedness across cultures, across borders.
To foster a sense of social stewardship in our university community is to uphold the public purpose of higher education. Every day, I see ample evidence that you, our alumni, continue to cherish this core UB value by the difference you are making in our world.