2018 State of the University Address

Published October 12, 2018

President Satish K. Tripathi gives his 2018 State of the University address.

President Satish Tripathi delivers his 2018 State of the University address in Lippes Concert Hall in Slee Hall. Photo: Douglas Levere

2018 State of the University Address Highlights

UB has always leveraged our intellect and our creativity for a larger purpose—and we will continue to apply our knowledge, and our innovations, for the public good.
Satish K. Tripathi, President

University at Buffalo: Boldly Defining Excellence

Good morning! My thanks to our staff at the UB Production Group for that wonderful video, which showcases the exciting things happening at UB!

And what a great note to end it on! I hope you enjoyed reliving March Madness in October! Our UB Bulls men’s and women’s basketball teams certainly gave us plenty to cheer about!

As do our talented student musicians, who treated us to their beautiful playing this morning! I would like to thank our musicians: undergraduate student Conor Sullivan, on cello, graduate student Michael Tumiel, on clarinet, and graduate student Michael Serio, on piano.

I’d also like to extend a sincere thanks to their faculty mentors Jean Kopperud, Jonathan Golove and Eric Huebner.

What you just heard is one example of how our University at Buffalo faculty work diligently behind the scenes so that our students may shine for the world. This talented student ensemble, who will play for us at the end of my address, also exemplifies the harmonies we create at UB when we come together for a shared goal.

Whether that goal is to bring alive the music of Brahms, to build literacy skills among English-language learners, or to build homes that better withstand hurricanes, we recognize that beautiful moments and bold breakthroughs occur not by virtue of one, but by the dedicated intentions and efforts of many.

With that, I’d like to welcome all of you to my seventh annual State of the University address. I am pleased to report that the state of our University is strong!

I’m delighted to see so many faculty, staff and students with us today, along with many members of our larger community.

These include, New York State Assembly member Robin Schimminger, Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, Buffalo Common Council members Rasheed Wyatt and Ulysees Wingo, SUNY Trustee Eunice LewinUB Council members Michael Cropp, Pam Heilman and Jon Dandes, members of the UB Foundation, many UB alumni and friends, including members of the College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Advisory Council, the UB Alumni Association, and our Boldly Buffalo Campaign Volunteers, and, our regional, health-science, and business partners.

We’re so thankful for our strong partnerships with the broader UB community. When we come together as a community, not only does the University at Buffalo benefit, but our city and region prosper as well. It has been so exciting being at the heart of Buffalo’s remarkable resurgence.

Today provides us with a perfect opportunity to pause and reflect on how far we have come over the past year. And to consider the strides we have taken as a public research university: our progress, our achievements, and our evolution.

At the same time, we’re also here to celebrate our resolve.

What do I mean by that? From our founding as a private medical college 172 years ago, to our growth into a public research university of 30,000 students from across the U.S., and more than 100 countries around the world, we have always kept a clear-eyed gaze on our mission.

Our UB2020 strategic plan has been our concerted effort to move closer to fulfilling our mission. When we conceived UB2020, it was never about a fixed point in time. Rather, it was about the bold pursuit of academic excellence, research excellence and creating the supporting infrastructure for our institutional priorities.

Together, we strategically defined our institutional priorities for the purpose of having an ever greater impact on our world.

And, together, we have made so much progress in realizing this vision—this bold vision of excellence.

It happens every time we think critically, challenge assumptions, and question pre-conceived notions.

It happens every time we harness the power of informed, engaged citizenship to combat indifference.

And it happens every time we inspire our students—tomorrow’s leaders and innovators—to harness their intellect, their ideas and their talents for the greater good.

These may sound like lofty ideals. But at the University at Buffalo, they are everyday occurrences. And they occur in the context of—and in the pursuit of—academic and research excellence.

Indeed, not only are we achieving academic and research excellence.

We are boldly defining excellence—inside classrooms, libraries, and in research labs, in studios, out in the field, and well beyond—in the many communities we serve.

I see it every day. And the rest of the world is taking notice, too.

Just last month, we received the great news that UB achieved its highest ranking ever among the nation’s best public universities at number 38.

In the category of the nation’s best public and private universities we have risen 32 spots in just 11 years.

Because of the University at Buffalo’s reputation, we attract the most highly accomplished undergraduate, graduate and professional students from across the region, and around the globe.

This is evidenced by our students distinguishing themselves with fellowships from the Fulbright Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress. As well, they are being awarded Critical Language Scholarships from the U.S. State Department.

In this regard, they are following the inspired model of our world-class faculty—scholars who are regarded nationally and globally for path-breaking contributions to their fields.

In the past year, our faculty were named fellows of the National Academy of Engineering, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Center for Hellenic Studies, the American Chemical Society, and the American Psychological Association, to name a few.

They received prestigious awards from the likes of the Modern Language Association, the American Educational Research Association, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Science Foundation, which recognized five junior faculty with CAREER awards for their exemplary role as teacher-scholars.

These awards and honors acknowledge that our UB faculty are taking on bold challenges and pressing problems.

They succeed in these endeavors by questioning the status quo, by exploring issues from angles unconsidered before, and by sheer persistence.

As a result, their scholarship and research are changing the way we think about the world, while improving the way we live our lives.

Here are a few examples to illustrate my point.

In the past academic year, our faculty research has resulted in new algorithms to help robots make sense of the environment, a new understanding of when schizophrenia develops, and a new theory on the disease, a novel way to channel the power of the sun to purify water, an original vaccine being developed that would represent the most comprehensive coverage of the bacteria that cause pneumonia, a radical way to regrow teeth, and, futuristic technology to eradicate cancer cells without harming healthy tissue.

New. Novel. Original. Radical. Futuristic.

This is how we are making our mark on the world.

And this is why the most competitive funding agencies – including the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education—acknowledge the path-breaking work we do.

Over the last year, UB has been awarded major, multi-million dollar grants in addiction science, geography, medicine, education, and physics.

This is by no means an exhaustive list.

In fact, just three weeks ago, we learned UB’s first Science and Technology Center Award had been successfully renewed with a $22.5 million grant.

This renewal allows us to continue our groundbreaking work with BioXFel—a research consortium led by UB, Hauptman-Woodward Institute and partner institutions around the country.

Through this consortium, we are developing new X-ray techniques to analyze targets for drug discovery.

This grant, which we first received five years ago, is the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious award.

Our BioXFel research center illustrates how, as we boldly define excellence, we are making an impact—and, in the process, distinguishing ourselves among the world’s foremost research universities.

Through the efforts of every member of our UB community, we are also boldly defining excellence in our bricks and mortar environment, in our teaching, and in our 21st century general education curriculum, which is rooted in integrative learning and meaningful, out-of-classroom experience.

To ensure that our students are learning in the most productive atmosphere, and our faculty can enjoy the very best facilities for their research and creative work, we must ensure that our buildings, our classrooms, our labs, our libraries and our studios foster an inspiring learning environment.

To that end, last December, we opened the doors of the new, downtown home of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

Being in the heart of our region’s biosciences corridor brings students, researchers and clinicians together into a collaborative ecosystem.

This highly synergistic environment creates space to share new knowledge, test cutting-edge interventions and make life-saving discoveries.

It is our strategic intent to make UB, and Buffalo, a world-class destination for medical education, research and clinical care.

This goal aligns with our fundamental commitment to enhance the quality of life for people in our community—and beyond.

Service—as a value, and as a practice— forms our identity as a public research university.

It is critical to our mission—every bit as important as education and research. And, indeed, across disciplines and decanal units, it permeates both of those endeavors.

Service means many things at UB.

It means improving student performance at under-performing Buffalo Public Schools, and improving affordable housing for underserved Buffalo neighborhoods.

It means providing legal aid to Hurricane victims in Puerto Rico, and providing health care services to rural villagers in Haiti.

It means bringing sustainable food systems to Western New York, and bringing the arts alive for Western New Yorkers.

And it means our faculty, staff and students mobilizing to complete impactful projects during Day of Caring, our region’s largest community service event.

UB has always leveraged our intellect and our creativity for a larger purpose—and we will continue to apply our knowledge, and our innovations, for the public good.

To be sure, these are bold ambitions.

But, we have always been driven to be bold—to boldly imagine, and to boldly realize, UB’s brightest future.

Our Boldly Buffalo campaign is helping us achieve these goals by increasing the availability of experiential learning programs, by making our transformative education even more accessible with scholarships and fellowships for our undergraduate, graduate and professional students, by investing in our world-class faculty through endowed chairs and professorships, and by building and modernizing the places and spaces where our students learn, discover and create.

Since I announced the campaign this past spring, I have been delighted to see so many of you embracing our bold goals.

In fact, since the quiet phase of the campaign began, donors have supported 226 endowed scholarships and fellowships, and 25 endowed chairs and professorships.

As the largest campaign in UB’s history, Boldly Buffalo will ensure that we continue to take the lead in building a future of discovery, innovation and impact.

We are so proud to see our students and our alumni realizing their aspirations. They embody our ethos of academic excellence.

Academic excellence grounds us as an institution. But it is our innovation that propels us forward.

Innovation drives everything we do.

It is how we are charting our course for excellence in the 21st century.

We see innovative approaches being used by our librarians, by our information technology staff, by our advisors—indeed, by staff across the university.

In their commitment to supporting our students’ education and overall UB experience, our dedicated staff have created new and progressive ways to help international students settle in to UB and Buffalo, improve policies and communications within their respective schools and respond to students and families in crisis.

And within our departments, our academic leaders have created new and progressive degree programs, including those that prepare our students to mitigate global health disparities, determine sustainable transportation logistics and develop the most effective pedagogies for K-12 learners.

During my State of the University address last year, I emphasized our commitment to strengthening our academic departments.

In order to elevate our national stature, we must ensure that our departments are nationally competitive. 

This includes recruiting and retaining the very best faculty, and providing a robust environment that spurs research and creative excellence.

In addition, an important part of this strategy involves successfully competing for the best and brightest graduate students.

In order to attract the finest students, our academic departments have implemented a multi-year process to increase graduate stipends that are not nationally competitive.

And our academic departments are making progress because, in the end, we want to ensure that our academic departments are among the very best in the nation, and that our graduate students have every opportunity to succeed in their scholarly pursuits.

As a university community, we recognize that our most innovative ideas do not emerge from a silo. Most often, they arise through collaboration.

In the model of shared governance, UB administration, faculty, staff and students have collaborated to achieve a number of university priorities.

This includes the UB Breathe Free “No-Smoking” initiative to make our campus healthier, safer and cleaner.

I want to thank our entire UB Breathe Free committee for your dedication.

We have also collaborated on an empirical study to examine whether salary by gender is equitable across our ladder faculty.

The study found no evidence of gender inequity for salaries.

But this does not mean our work is done, so we will continue to ensure that bias does not exist in the compensation of faculty and staff.

Again, I would like to thank our faculty and staff who collaborated on this study. Your work is essential to our university. 

Fostering a culture of innovation means inspiring our entire university to think creatively when tackling big issues and vexing problems.

At UB, we have done this by launching competitions where students can showcase their entrepreneurial ideas, partnering with industry to help students and faculty commercialize technology and developing business support to help launch start-ups and spin-offs.

As our high-caliber students both attract new companies to the region and create the recruitment pool for existing industries, we are the foundation of Western New York’s competitive workforce.

And as UB attracts hundreds of millions of dollars in research funds, and generates hundreds of inventions, patents and start-ups, we can truly call ourselves the region’s center of innovation.

As such, we are being recognized for helping spark the renaissance of our region.

This past spring, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that UB would facilitate $32 million investment from New York State to launch an Innovation Hub.

The Innovation Hub will accelerate the growth of Western New York start-ups, and support commercialization of technologies generated by UB and our partner institutions, including Hauptman-Woodward, Roswell Park, Kaleida Health, and the Jacobs Institute.

We all share the same goal—to enhance the health and vibrancy of our region.

Accomplishments such as these underscore the incredible progress we have made as a university.

That does not mean we have bypassed every obstacle along the way.

The biggest challenge, I would contend, is the lack of sufficient resources to pursue all of our priorities and opportunities.

Of course, you could ask university presidents across the country to identify their biggest challenge. The answer, invariably, would be the same as mine.

For over a decade, UB has incurred major cuts to our state operating budget while, at the same time, we have incurred multimillion dollar mandated budgetary expenditures.

This has significantly strained our financial resources.

In spite of these challenges, we have a public mandate to move forward.

And that is why we will continue to express how absolutely integral the University at Buffalo is to the well-being and prosperity of our region, and our state.

As we boldly advocate on behalf of our university, and clearly demonstrate the impact of our work, we must also continue to be innovative, entrepreneurial, strategic, and good stewards of our precious resources.

Ultimately, this is the most effective way to respond to any challenge.

It is an approach that helps us both rise above present challenges, and orient ourselves toward UB’s most promising future.

Our sights are very clearly set—and strategically set—on our forward-thinking priorities.

Beyond continuing to elevate the national reputation of our academic departments and programs we will enhance our national research prominence and success, and we will create a more robust living-learning environment by realizing our campus master plan.

These priorities complement, and further, our mission.

With regard to research, when we enhance our prominence and success in this domain, we position ourselves to make an even more profound impact on the communities we serve.

To achieve this goal, we need to anticipate and prepare for future challenges, and nimbly adapt when faced with evolving current challenges.

So we are transforming our Research Institute on Addictions to expand our research focus. The new Clinical and Research Institute on Addictions—or the CRIA—integrates clinical care, research, and education to combat substance abuse, from alcohol to opioids.

Through research and clinical interventions, the CRIA will respond regionally and systematically to substance abuse, with a concerted focus on the opioid crisis.

And, because we know that the most effective place to solve complex problems is at the intersection of numerous disciplines we are breaking new ground with the establishment of UB’s Artificial Intelligence Institute.

This institute builds upon UB’s pioneering history of A.I. research, which dates back decades.

Back then, our computer scientists developed a handwriting recognition system that transformed the mail and shipping industry.

Today, we are boldly harnessing A.I.’s capabilities to develop and refine interactions between humans and machines.

UB’s A.I. Institute is intent on creating the next generation of autonomous and intelligent transportation, and customizing treatments for patients.

With regard to our living-learning environment, more and more of our students are telling us that they would like to live on campus.

And we know our students perform better academically when they do, are more likely to complete their education at UB, and are more likely to graduate on time.

So we are going to study the possibility of building new residential housing.

We believe that by further integrating our students into the fabric of our UB community, their UB experience will be equally enhanced.

Following the successful renovation of Silverman library, we are also actively engaged in the process of reimagining all of our library spaces so we can meet the academic and research needs of our faculty and students of today and tomorrow.

Since we began implementing our master plan, we have transformed our North, South and Downtown campuses.

From the renovation of Hayes Hall, to the redesign of Silverman Library, from the opening of Greiner Hall, and the new building for the Jacobs School, to the soon to be opened Murchie Family Fieldhouse, we are innovating in our built environment so we can build up every aspect of UB, from athletics to academics.

A key step in achieving our vision is to complete Heart of the Campus, our multi-year initiative to impact our students’ experience in a lasting manner.

So we are moving forward with the building of One World Café to meet the demand for expanded dining facilities while celebrating UB for the diverse and global community it is.

The move of the Jacobs School downtown gives us the opportunity to re-envision our historic South Campus as the academic hub for our professional schools.

With the completion of Parker and Townsend halls’ renovation we are moving our School of Social Work, in its entirety, to the South Campus.

As part of this transformation, as are also initiating the planning and design to move the Graduate School of Education to the South Campus.

We are embeddingthe schools of Social Work and Education into the heart of the community because that is where our faculty and students conduct research.

These moves allow us to collaborate with our partners to improve outcomes, and to improve lives.

In keeping with our master plan, these moves also will create more space on our North Campus and lend a distinctly 21st century identity to the South Campus, while preserving its historic grandeur.

The intention of these capital projects is to ensure that our faculty can produce their finest work, and our students can make the most of their UB experience where they study, where they socialize and where they succeed.

Seven years after my first address, I stand before you today, so excited to see how much we have achieved together.

UB is realizing our mission—in all of its brilliance.

Students from around the state, nation and world want to attend UB.

Our world-class faculty are among the most creative researchers and scholars.

And our national rankings have never been higher.

As a diverse, inclusive, international scholarly community, we are bringing the benefits of our research, our scholarship and our creative activities to communities near and far.

And thanks to all of you, we are providing our students with the finest education, and we are creating an environment that upholds their aspirations.

It has been this way since we were founded as a private medical school 172 years ago.

Our road map as an institution is direct.

How we progress, achieve and evolve takes imagination, persistence and innovation.

At the University at Buffalo, this is who are we are.

We are breaking ground across the disciplines.

We are undaunted by even the most vexing challenges.

We are at the forefront of innovation.

At the University at Buffalo, this is how we are distinguishing ourselves.

At the University at Buffalo, this is how we boldly define excellence:

It is our past. It is our present. It is our future. Thank you.