In my last editor’s letter, I wrote about the outstanding alumni and faculty members we choose to profile in these pages—specifically, about how so many of them exemplify that rare ability to map out and follow an unconventional route to success.
What I didn’t address in that essay was our students, because they are, for the most part, at the beginning of their journey. We don’t yet know what they will do out in the world, whether they will be similarly bold and self-directed. But we do know this: The alumni we profile in At Buffalo were all once UB students. The fact that so many of them have shown the courage and wherewithal to take that uncharted course through life speaks, at least in part, to the student experience at UB. What is it about this place that sets people off on such exceptional paths?
I think the current issue provides some pretty good answers to that question. Take technical theater expert Jonathan Shimon, the subject of our cover story. As a student at UB, he tells writer Rebecca Rudell, he had experiences “that couldn’t have happened at any other institution,” including a “staggering” amount of responsibility production managing a Snoop Dogg concert for Spring Fest. The skills and self-confidence he gained at UB vaulted him post-graduation to theaters on Broadway and around the world, working his backstage magic and sharing his expertise, all before the age of 30.
Now, as an assistant professor of technical theater at UB, Shimon is bestowing even greater responsibilities on his students than he was given, essentially letting them run entire productions. One can only imagine how high they will soar in their careers.
Meanwhile, at the UB School of Law, students in Assistant Clinical Law Professor Jonathan Manes’ Civil Liberties and Transparency Clinic are handling cases with major real-world implications, from protecting veterans from online fraud to securing greater transparency in the federal court system (see story). Similar to Shimon in the Department of Theatre & Dance, Manes and the other professors who direct UB’s law clinics take a supervisory role, handing the reins to their students—who lead the cases, do the majority of the work and even litigate in court.
Experiential education is a buzzword in higher ed, but not all programs are equal. Look at any department at UB and you’ll see examples similar to those highlighted in this issue, where students, often undergraduates, are not just doing the work but calling the shots. That’s the kind of education that builds not just skills but also confidence, drive and strength of character—the very qualities that make it possible to blaze your own trail in life.
Laura Silverman, Editorial Director