9 ways the President's Circle impacted students this year

UB marching band members.

Each year, the President's Circle funds various initiatives that support our students, our faculty and our orld.

A circle is a universal symbol of unity—every point is the same distance from the center—just as the President’s Circle represents a select group of united, extraordinary donors, united in purpose. By investing in the university, they help shape the future of UB and ensure we will continue on a cycle of innovation and accomplishment.

Here are nine ways the President's Circle impacted our university in the 2018-2019 academic year.

1. Athletics environmental branding

UB spirit mark on a track.

Consistent, strategic branding leads to strong brand equity. For the UB Bulls, this has become more important than ever, as our teams compete for and win championships on the national stage.

Whether on uniforms, helmets, pennants, flags or stadiums, the UB spirit mark engenders pride, excitement and anticipation of a win.

President’s Circle funding continues to be vital to UB’s efforts to enhance and improve athletics facilities and the overall physical environments that serve as everyday homes for UB coaches and student athletes.

2. Marching band instruments

UB marching band.

Lab equipment, athletic equipment, laptops, backpacks and books: standard gear for most college students. And for some, add in a flute. Or a tuba.

For members of the UB Marching Band, instruments are an equally important staple. And to achieve the ultimate performance, build pride and support athletics and other university initiatives, band instruments must be in good working order.

Numbering 110 students, UB’s marching band is smaller than the majority of colleges and universities in the Mid-American Conference, which average 200 or more. In addition, most of the musical instruments the UB Marching Band owns are more than 15 years old, which negatively affects performance quality.

In order to stay competitive with our peers—a marching band is a recruitment tool—both participation levels and instrument inventory needed to increase. President’s Circle funding has permitted the UB Marching Band to purchase 66 new instruments to replace many of our older instruments, and to acquire new instruments for sections of need.

The higher the quality of equipment used also contributes significantly to the continued development of student musical performance skills. Thanks to members of the President’s Circle, this fall, the UB Marching Band promises to be an even stronger, louder and rallying symbol of campus pride, student excellence and engagement.

3. Study abroad scholarships

students and faculty studying abroad.

Countless research has demonstrated that sustained, meaningful global experiences—in the form of study abroad—are essential for students to acquire the knowledge of the larger world, critical cross-cultural and linguistic skills and a capacity for working in a highly challenging, complex and dynamic international working environment.

The President’s Circle Study Abroad Scholarship for Western New York students will help address long-term human resource needs of our region. Students with global skills are in high demand, and preparing the future workforce through experiences abroad will benefit the Western New York economy.

During the summer and fall semesters, 25 students from Buffalo and the surrounding area studied outside the U.S., with 11 others participating in study abroad experiences in the upcoming winter and spring 2020 semesters.

Study abroad programs enhance the student experience, and are also powerful recruitment tools, attracting students who otherwise might not consider studying abroad due to cost.

The President’s Circle Study Abroad Scholarship is part of UB’s success in the international arena and puts the university at an advantage in addressing the challenge of internationalizing our students, faculty and curricula to meet the needs of an increasingly connected global economy and society.

4. Digital scholarship studio network

students working at tables in a classroom.

Digital scholarship generally refers to projects that are collaborative in nature and require some combination of digital tools or techniques to solve a research or pedagogical problem. Those who work in digital scholarship emphasize that it is as much about the process of creating new forms of scholarship using digital tools and computational methods as it is about the products resulting from scholarly activities like research and teaching.

The University at Buffalo’s digital scholarship efforts run deep and broad, with many projects familiar to an international audience. And until recently, digital scholarship projects were decentralized, which diluted the discipline’s incredible potential. In order to continue making an impact globally, a coordinated and focused approach was needed.

Thanks to President’s Circle funding, a more formal structure and new physical space will be up and running in fall 2019. The UB Digital Scholarship Studio and Network (DSSN), located in Lockwood Library, provides ongoing collaborative, technical, curricular and coordinating assistance for faculty and students across the university who are building digital content and systems, bringing together potential research partners and creating new research opportunities especially for projects linking sciences, social sciences, arts and humanities.

The first two classes are being held in DSSN’s new high-technology classroom this fall, and the space also will be used for workshops. In addition, a new DSSN website was launched, which houses comprehensive information on the curriculum, current projects and areas of interest for future consideration.

5. Freshman retention initiative

students at orientation.

When students have a solid support system, their chance of success in school—and in life—increases. And for students identified as at-risk, a targeted and holistic system of support is even more influential in determining success.

UB has committed to achieving a first-year student retention rate of 91 percent, up from 87 percent. President’s Circle funding is helping students succeed by supporting strategies that begin with early identification of at-risk students, coupled with appropriate interventions.

The Student Success Strategies Committee has implemented a four-part plan for reaching students at risk and helping them get the resources they need to stay in school.

  • Step one was to form the new, integrated Student Success Strategies Committee, composed of individuals from various units on campus. The committee identified and conducted targeted outreach to a small group of at-risk students this spring, and the effort has been scaled up for the larger fall 2019 freshman class.
  • The committee also created a Student Success Strategies Series, a five-week workshop to give struggling students timely support.
  • Because research indicates that success in the required UB seminar course has a bearing on retention, new materials were created to help improve the pass rate.
  • Peer mentoring is known to have a powerful positive influence on persistence. UB students now have like-minded mentors who meet with them weekly to offer advice and help connect them to services.
The tools and experiences the program provides students as freshman are applicable to their second year and beyond, contributing to the goal of higher retention rates.

6. Technology lending library

faculty member speaking to students.

Without the right tools, it’s hard to get the job done.

Thanks to President’s Circle funding, students who need a specific piece of hardware or software to help solve a challenge they are working on can borrow it from a technology lending library, which significantly reduces barriers of entry for hands-on, innovative work. The library is not limited to engineering students; in fact, students from the School of Management and the College of Arts and Sciences also participate on cross-functional project teams.

The funds have been used to develop a system to determine technology needs, a process to manage the equipment and ways to advertise so students know the resources exist and are available for loan.

To date, equipment from the lending library has helped students working on different projects of varying natures, from mobile app development to building a music player to developing a prototype device that assists the vision impaired. In one course, students worked on an Alexa programming project with Echo Dot smart speakers.

In fall 2019, the lending library will be located in the Student Association for Computing Machinery club hack space, which will create additional value and provide better visibility for the technology resources.

Now that the lending library is functioning, it will be scaled up to support even more students. In addition, a group of students has started work on an asset management program that will help track what equipment is available and manage the checkout process.

7. UB Heals Foot Clinic

UB student helping a Buffalo man.

If you’ve ever gotten a blister from ill-fitting shoes, or suffered from any chronic foot condition, you know how painful it can be. For the homeless, who can be on their feet up to five hours a day, foot conditions such as infections and frostbite are pervasive. Often times this means a trip to the emergency room for relief.

UB HEALS (Homeless health, Education, Awareness and Leadership in Street Medicine), which reconnects the homeless population with the health care system in Buffalo, deals with foot complaints on a nightly basis, and the area’s harsh winters make foot conditions even harder to manage. That’s why UB HEALS and President’s Circle funding are addressing this community need by instituting regular foot clinics. The clinics will improve health and quality of life for homeless individuals in Buffalo, and aim to make significant reductions in inappropriate emergency room visits.

The first step is to distribute waterproof winter boots and foot care supplies, including those specific to diabetic patients, during UB HEALS’ foot clinics. The program will grow based on its lessons learned and successes achieved, including building community partnerships with businesses and suppliers. These collaborations also have provided opportunities to educate about the needs of Buffalo’s underserved population that will inform future UB HEALS programs.

8. Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedial Science scholarship

UB students working inside the Jacob's School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

UB is committed to attracting and retaining physicians to Buffalo, to help combat the region’s outdated approach to delivering health care, a shortage of primary care physicians and limited access to high quality care in the neighborhoods that need it most.

This year, President’s Circle funding supported a scholarship for a deserving medical student, Elena Pezzino to study at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Because of the scholarship, the Western New York native says, “I am now able to focus on gaining a well-rounded medical education and serve the future community of Buffalo the best way I can.”

Elena received her undergraduate degree in psychology from Boston College, where she worked side-by-side with researchers in the arts and mind lab and cognitive and affective neuroscience lab; here in Buffalo, while earning her master’s degree in biological sciences, she worked at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in a lab that focuses on breast cancer genetics and the mechanisms of human carcinogens.

Though she is undecided about her area of specialization, Elena is slated to graduate in 2022 and is eager to begin improving health care in her hometown, thanks in part to her President’s Circle scholarship.

9. LeaderCORE™ program

UB management students working together.

When the University at Buffalo School of Management queried corporate recruiters, they learned that business school graduates must have core competencies beyond industry knowledge and technical ability. In response, the management school developed LeaderCORE, a program that trains our MBA students to acquire the skills considered vital by the business community for effective performance and successful leadership.

Through customized personal development plans and guidance from a team of faculty, staff, external coaches and alumni, MBA students identify the skills they wish to strengthen for success in today’s business climate, such as strategic thinking, relationship building, self-motivation, teamwork and collaboration, and then engage in a learning environment focused on theory, practical application and personal experiences targeted to prepare them for future leadership roles.

Because of President’s Circle funding, a number of improvements were made to the LeaderCORE program, including coaching enhancements, incorporating new video feedback mechanisms, introducing social media platforms for community-building, offering personal development workshops on diversity and creative problem solving, and implementing new assessment tools.

These enhancements are being measured and already have produced positive results as well as ways to further modify and improve the program. In fact, a micro-credential in leadership development is in the works because of the strength of LeaderCORE.

About the President's Circle

To make the most impact, President’s Circle funds are allocated carefully and deliberately. Programs are reviewed rigorously, and only the most distinctive projects receive funding, all to expand opportunities for students, heighten the academic reputation of the university, and build our intellectual capacity.