Ask Your President

In each issue, an undergrad chosen at random gets to pose a question to President Tripathi

If you could give one bit of advice to every student at UB, what would it be?

President Tripathi and Alex Detlef

President Tripathi and Alex Detlef

We have extraordinary students at UB, representing an incredible range of perspectives, talents and interests. So it’s hard to find “one size fits all” words of wisdom for such a wonderfully diverse group.

But I would like to share a simple guiding principle that has served me well: Whatever your field of study, always seek out new ways of connecting what you have learned in the classroom with the world around you. If you can do this—whether you are studying to be an aerospace engineer, an architect or an archaeologist—your life will be richer and so will those of countless others.

I believe strongly that nothing can be learned or taught in a vacuum. Meaningful knowledge is created through dialogue and collaboration. And this knowledge comes to life only when it is shared with the world around us.

While my own field is computer science and statistics, I’ve had a lifelong interest in trying to draw connections and build bridges across disciplines. Throughout my academic career—first as a student, then as a faculty member and administrator, and now as president—I’ve had the opportunity to engage with increasingly broad groups of scholars, faculty and students, all working together in very different ways.

This experience has taught me that the truly big ideas and important discoveries take place at the intersection of fields. They involve many minds working together and many points of view approaching the same challenge from different angles. The result is transformative, not just for those directly involved in the work but for all those whose lives are enriched as a result.

Take Google, for example—part of the daily fabric of life for many of us. The company was founded by two young computer scientists while they were graduate students at Stanford University. But to turn it into the global phenomenon it is today, they needed the collaboration of many minds and hands—not only other computer scientists, but also artists, educators, engineers, business professionals and experts from countless other fields.

These collaborative principles are at the heart of what makes our university a distinctive national leader. Our faculty come together across the disciplines to solve the most pressing issues of our time. And our students reap the benefits through a rigorous, relevant curriculum that prepares them for leadership in responding to whatever unimaginable challenges await us in the 21st century.

We want you, as a student, to have firsthand research experience in the lab and field, working alongside faculty at the forefront of their disciplines. We want you to bring your classroom learning to life through vital real-world experience—whether through study abroad, clinical experience, internships or community service.

So, my best advice to you and all of our students is to make the most of these opportunities—and turn them into new ones, for yourselves and others. As our alumni prove every day, lives will be richer, communities will be stronger and the world will be a better place because of the ideas and discoveries you share.

About our student, Alex Detlef

Detlef, a freshman aerospace engineering major, was second in his class of 250 at Buffalo’s Hutchinson Central Technical High School. A commuter student, he takes a combination of buses to get to and from classes (his family doesn’t own a car). When he mentioned at the photo shoot that he hopes to work for NASA or an aerospace company one day, Tripathi informed him of summer internship opportunities at the Goddard Space Flight Center. Later, the two chatted about the Italian restaurant where Detlef works as a busboy. “Is the food good?” the president asked with a smile. Detlef offered a classically diplomatic response: “It depends on what you get.”