Published January 27, 2014
Happy New Year! And welcome back for the start of the spring semester.
If you’re like me, you’re probably still trying to thaw out after making your way to the classroom, lab, or office this chilly morning. But as I joined the crowds of people crossing Founders Plaza this morning I couldn’t help feeling that we are ushering in the new semester with a very warm welcome. While the heavy snow and icy temperatures we’ve been experiencing lately might make it tempting to start planning early for a spring break in warmer climes, the energy and excitement we’re feeling on campus right now make a little cold weather much easier to bear!
2013 was an unforgettable year for our university community, and 2014 is already off to an equally promising start. We made history together in many ways this fall—beginning the term with a major policy address by President Obama and capping it off with our second football bowl appearance in university history. Bookending the fall semester, these events are two recent examples of the national and international attention that is increasingly focused on UB’s leadership as a premier research university.
Between those milestones, we celebrated countless more incredible achievements by our faculty, staff, and students, whose scholarly, creative, and professional contributions exemplify our academic mission.
We celebrated landmark university events that will shape a new era of progress and possibility for our university, our region, and far beyond—including the historic groundbreaking for a world-class new home for our medical school in downtown Buffalo, a $25 million grant from the National Science Foundation for a pioneering collaboration that will transform the field of structural biology, and UB’s selection to lead a major statewide effort to accelerate advances in genomic medicine directly into clinical care.
And we continued to enhance the distinctive academic experience we provide our students as we prepare them to be thoughtful, globally minded leaders in the 21st century. To take a very recent example, this January saw the highly successful launch of UB’s first winter session, offering extraordinary new educational experiences to our students. Many used this opportunity to study abroad in overseas destinations like Tanzania, Turkey, and Moldova. In Buffalo, many used the three-week winter session to get ahead in their classes or explore new academic interests like comparative politics, medical technology, and virtual media arts. Others gained invaluable experience outside the classroom through unique opportunities like an urban studies service learning program and an entrepreneurial “boot camp,” several of whose participants recently were awarded fellowships providing seed money and start-up support for their proposed businesses.
Today marks the first day of Spring 2014 classes for our undergraduates and many of our graduate and professional students. As I reflect on the exciting year behind us and look forward to what the spring holds in store, I am struck by how many different ways our faculty, staff, and students realize our university’s vision.
Here are just a few recent examples.
Because of the discoveries, innovation, and mentorship of our faculty, we are making a meaningful difference every day in the world around us—and the world is taking notice.
Over the past few months, our faculty have been honored as fellows in the most prestigious scholarly organizations in their fields, including the American Academy of Nursing, the National Academies of Practice and the Social Work Academy. They have received international awards for their research, from an honorary doctorate from the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden, a Fulbright-Hays Award supporting Mandarin language and cultural education, a prestigious visiting fellowship in history, and a national mentorship award from the American Psychological Association, to first place in an international digital architecture competition and a major prize recognizing efforts to promote healthy cities. And this fall, five UB professors accounted for more than half of all new appointees to the SUNY Distinguished Professor ranks, the highest faculty rank in the system.
Because of the achievements and leadership of our accomplished students—both past and present—the distinctive educational experience we provide at UB is enriching communities locally and around the world.
This December one of our outstanding undergraduates won a highly competitive Marshall Scholarship—the first UB student to receive this prestigious international honor since 1988. One of our student-athletes was recognized as a member of the 2013 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team, which honors college football players demonstrating extraordinary commitment to public service. And earlier this month, a chemistry doctoral student interested in reviving Rust Belt economies through advanced manufacturing was selected for a prestigious national fellowship in science and technology policy.
And because of the vision and dedication of our staff, UB continues to draw notice as a model of excellence among major universities across the nation and around the world.
This fall, UB repeatedly made headlines because of the exceptional physical environment we provide across our campuses; our globalized university community and our increasing visibility as one of the world’s great research universities; the exceptional education we provide our students; and our success in balancing excellence and affordability in higher education. These achievements are all feathers in the university’s cap. Above all, they point to the extraordinary dedication and innovation that our employees—from facilities staff and international education officers to faculty, academic advisors, and financial aid personnel—bring to their work each day.
Looking ahead, now is the time to ask how we will build even further on these achievements in 2014. The possibilities are nearly endless as our UB 2020 vision continues to bear fruit, and as we implement the most recent phase of this vision, the Realizing UB 2020 effort. In the months ahead, we will continue to see great progress in our ongoing efforts to enrich the student educational experience and enhance the research enterprise even further—from real-world learning experiences for our undergraduates to professional development opportunities for our staff.
The essence of all these efforts is about connecting our academic mission to the world around us—taking our good ideas and sharing them for the greater public good. Each member of our UB community plays a key role in building these bridges.
To our students, this spring I encourage you to continue to seek out new and unexpected ways to deepen your knowledge and connect it to your daily lives. To our faculty, I hope you will continue to embrace new opportunities for sharing your scholarly expertise across and beyond the academy, and for mentoring the next generation of scholars. And to our staff, I invite you to explore new avenues for collaborating with colleagues across the university and new points of intersection with fields beyond your immediate area of expertise.
When we focus collectively on connecting what we do best with the world around us, the sum total of what UB is able to achieve and contribute because of your contributions is extraordinary. Thank you for all you do to help make the University at Buffalo such a special place and to deepen our impact locally and globally.
On this cold and bright January day, warmest wishes for much continued success and achievement in 2014!