In nautical terminology, a flagship assumes the lead position in a fleet of vessels. In the domain of higher education, a flagship refers to a public university that sets the standard for other institutions. In case you hadn’t heard, it’s also now the official designation of your alma mater!
As you can imagine, this news, which New York State Governor Kathy Hochul announced earlier this year, has brought immense pride to our scholarly community. Although UB has long been considered a de facto flagship of the SUNY system, the formal distinction underscores our reputation as a premier public university, recognizing both our leadership in higher education and our steadfast commitment to bringing the benefits of our research, clinical care and education to the communities we serve. What’s more, it positions us to make an even more profound impact, as it enhances our ability to attract the best faculty and students, secure highly competitive federal research funding and catalyze growth and innovation across business and industry.
Simply put, the flagship title carries both great clout and great responsibility. According to the higher-ed scholar John Aubrey Douglass, a modern flagship university should be “grounded in its historical purpose, but remarkably different in its devotion to access and equity, to the quality of its teaching, research and public services mission, and to meeting national and regional socioeconomic needs.” To me, this description crystallizes our motivation as a scholarly community. From UB’s founding, our dedication to the public good has been central to our identity. With changing times, new societal challenges have emerged, asking us to reimagine our research, scholarly and creative endeavors so we can productively engage with contemporary learners and effectively respond to contemporary concerns.
Everywhere I look, I see how our response is furthering UB’s relevancy. Through the Community Health Equity Research Institute, our faculty are collaborating with local leaders to alleviate health disparities in underserved neighborhoods. In our new Department of Environment and Sustainability, students are mastering multidisciplinary approaches to tackle climate change. The just-founded Center for K-12 Black History and Racial Literacy Education seeks to improve how Black history and race are taught and learned in schools around the world.
It is incredibly rewarding to know that our faculty and students are putting their expertise to its best use, and I am so gratified that our collective work has been acknowledged with a flagship designation. As the meaningful accomplishments of our alumni uphold UB’s mission of excellence, I hope the news puts wind in your sails, too!