One of my favorite rituals as UB president is welcoming students to campus on the first day of the academic year. While I always look forward to hearing about their summer adventures and academic goals, no more did I appreciate these conversations than at the start of our fall 2021 semester.
Given the upended circumstances of the previous year, you can understand my enthusiasm. Whether flocking to classrooms that had been sparsely occupied the semester prior, gathering in conference rooms instead of on computer monitors, or engaging in shoptalk during impromptu hallway encounters, no one appears to be taking the status quo for granted. Although the persistence and uncertainty of the pandemic still loom in our collective consciousness—with the health and safety of our campus community top of mind—I would go so far as to say that, as we resume in-person instruction at UB, everyday activities feel like something of a triumph!
At the same time that we resurrect the rhythms and routines congruous with a place-based institution, we are embracing the changes that a new academic year brings, for they inevitably engender intellectual energy, vibrancy and innovation.
This year, for instance, we have welcomed a number of new leaders to our UB community—a highly accomplished cadre that includes deans in our schools of Social Work and Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, our vice president for student life and our vice provost for international education.
Our living-learning environment has undergone striking enhancements over the past year as well. On our South Campus, a renovation of Townsend Hall has transformed a long-vacant, turn-of-the century building into a state-of-the-art home for UB’s Human Resources Department. On our Downtown Campus, we have opened a business incubator to spur entrepreneurism. And on our North Campus, we have renamed a residential hall after the late Willie R. Evans, a star running back on UB’s historic 1958 football team and a longtime educator in the Buffalo Public Schools.
Speaking of history: With our university marking its 175th anniversary, it was a particularly exciting time to participate in one of UB’s most longstanding traditions—homecoming. The fact that we were able to hold in-person commencement ceremonies for the Class of 2020 on homecoming weekend made it all the more memorable.
You may recall that our 2020 commencement took place virtually due to the pandemic. At the time, I promised our graduates that we would invite them back to campus for in-person commencement when it was safe to do so. In making good on my promise, I was delighted to recognize a truly exceptional class in a manner befitting their accomplishments—at UB, crossing the stage in regalia, and sharing in this joyous occasion with those who have guided them on their personal and academic path.
If you have the opportunity to return to campus this fall, I hope you will join us in appreciating the everyday and the extraordinary at UB. After all that we have experienced, both truly deserve to be celebrated.