Construction of the new Downtown Medical School building.

UB 2020: Our Journey of Transformation

The Formative Years (2004-2007)

In May 2004, UB launched the most comprehensive and ambitious strategic planning process in its history. This process began with a comprehensive self-assessment. This evaluation revealed the following strategic challenges:

  • UB had an excellent but undersized faculty compared with peers
  • UB attracted great students but needed to do more to ensure timely degree attainment
  • UB’s administrative operations required substantial improvement
  • UB had no capital plan and limited funds to remedy deferred facilities maintenance
  • UB had limited financial capacity to address its key challenges

What followed was a two-year, campus-wide strategic planning effort, from which emerged UB 2020 and its four pillars of action: achieving growth, excelling in academics, transforming operations and building UB.

Early Initiatives (2004-2011)

Building Faculty Strength

Through the UB 2020 planning process, the university identified eight cross-disciplinary areas of distinction and potential where strategic investments could further enhance faculty strength, productivity and impact. The eight areas of strategic strength were:

  • Artistic Expression and the Performing Arts
  • Civic Engagement and Public Policy
  • Cultural, Historical, Literary and Textual Studies
  • Extreme Events
  • Health and Wellness Across the Life Span
  • Information and Computing Technology
  • Integrated Nanostructured Systems
  • Molecular Recognition in Biological Systems and Bioinformatics

Enhancing faculty strength in these areas encouraged interdisciplinary research and collaboration, adding to UB’s research reputation and attracting research funding and awards.

Excelling in Academics

UB 2020 made recommendations to enhance the educational experience of students at all levels at UB. Among the early programs and initiatives that emerged from UB 2020 and continue to have an impact on UB students are:

  • Creating a small residential college experience for students while allowing them to take advantage of the resources of a large research university through programs like the Undergraduate Academies, living/learning communities, and the expanded and enhanced University Honors College.
  • Increasing experiential learning opportunities across campus for all students and increasing opportunities for undergraduate students to work with exceptional faculty in challenging research and creative projects.
  • Developing innovative, interdisciplinary programs
  • Establishing a university-wide Comprehensive Program Review process for all degree-granting programs
  • Improving postdoctoral scholars’ experience and support through the establishment of the Office of Postdoctoral Scholars.

Transforming Operations

UB invested in a series of initiatives that strategically transformed the delivery of academic and academic support services across the university. This has allowed UB to save money, time and resources, and improved the experience of all members of the campus community. The operational transformations included Information Technology, Student Systems, Environmental Stewardship, Digital Communication, Human Resources and Sponsored Programs.

Building UB

UB’s “Building UB: The Comprehensive Physical Plan” imagines Downtown Campus growth, the medical school relocation, a transformed South Campus and a North Campus that serves as UB’s dynamic undergraduate center. It proposes new and more collaborative research facilities to support increased interdisciplinary efforts and the development of public and shared campus spaces. Published in 2009, “Building UB” continues to serve as the guiding document for specific campus plans and investments.

Budget Challenges and the UB 2020 Advocacy Campaign (2007-2011)

In 2007, UB engaged stakeholders and supporters across Western New York, SUNY and New York State in securing the legislative and policy tools to help realize the UB 2020 vision. As part of this advocacy effort, UB sought the authority to implement modest and predictable tuition increases and to have access to capital funds and the legal means to implement the Building UB physical plan. What followed over the next four years was an intensive advocacy campaign engaging broad-based support across the Western New York community and beyond. At the same time, New York State and the country endured the worst fiscal crisis in decades, with UB absorbing $80 million in budget reductions over that period.

With these challenges, the university needed to evolve its expectations for growth and physical campus planning as envisioned in the original UB 2020 plan. Despite budgetary constraints, the UB 2020 planning process did much to provide the university with the strength and flexibility to overcome these obstacles and create new opportunities for advancing the university's vision and expanding its impact. The UB 2020 advocacy effort also generated a strong and sustained base of support for UB and its vision of an even better, stronger university with an even greater impact on its communities.

In 2011, New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the historic NYSUNY 2020 legislation, a five-year commitment that established a fair, predictable, and responsible tuition policy for SUNY’s campuses, enabling students and families—for the first time in SUNY history—to plan for the cost of college education in a predictable way while providing UB with critical resouces to invest in student education and academic excellence. 

Over the course of the next five years, the NYSUNY 2020 program enabled UB to expand its impact in powerful ways. Among other accomplishments as part of this program, UB implemented the Finish in 4 program enabling on-time graduation for all students; hired nearly 300 ladder faculty in high-demand areas; expanded experiential education programs; and substantially increased financial aid for TAP-eligible students.

By authorizing capital funding from the governor’s NYSUNY 2020 Challenge Grant program and other sources, this legislation also allowed UB to move forward with its plans to relocate the university's medical school to downtown Buffalo, where UB medical education, research and clinical care will be aligned more effectively with regional hospitals and research partners. The new downtown home of the Jacobs School of Medical and Biomedical Education will open its doors in 2017, ushering in a new era of medical education, clinical research and patient care.

Realizing UB 2020 (2012-present)

In October 2012, President Satish Tripathi asked Provost Charles Zukoski to lead the development of an implementation plan for UB 2020. What followed was a campus-wide conversation about the future of higher education, how to make UB more competitive in a changing world, how to prepare graduates to be active and responsible global leaders, and how UB can enhance its local and global impact. This conversation resulted in the publication of “Realizing UB 2020: Achieving Academic Excellence” in October 2013, which continues to influence institutional plans and investments.

Realizing UB 2020 focused on two signature initiatives:

  • Communities of Excellence, which address large-scale societal problems with cross-disciplinary research, education, engagement and economic development activities
  • Curricular Distinction, the heart of which is the signature UB Curriculum, UB’s new general education program, and which includes experiential learning, interprofessional education and significant international experiences

In addition, Realizing UB 2020 recommended strategies for enhancing diversity on campus; strengthening student support and professional development programs; improving student services and campus experience; expanding and enhancing community and economic engagement activities; engaging alumni, donors and friends; building strategic relationships and a campus communication strategy; and enhancing campus infrastructure to support 21st-century research and education.