New alumni president is True Blue, through and through


Published July 10, 2023

Joseph Stefko.

Joseph V. Stefko, PhD ’03, MA ’99, BA ’97, began a two-year tenure as the new president of the UB Alumni Association (UBAA) on July 1. The UBAA is a volunteer-led alumni association representing the more than 293,000 UB alumni worldwide, working closely with UB’s Office of Alumni Engagement to keep former students engaged with their alma mater.

Stefko is president and CEO of ROC2025, an alliance of economic development organizations in the Greater Rochester region. He serves on the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, the Genesee Valley Club’s Board of Governors, the Rochester Area Community Foundation’s ACT Rochester Advisory Committee and as chair of the Partnership for Downtown Rochester.

UBNow recently spoke with Stefko about his new role, and how alumni can remain part of the UB community, just as he has. 

What are your goals as UBAA president?

Dharshan (Jayasinghe, immediate past president of UBAA) leaves very big shoes to fill. As an alumni association, we have incredible momentum that mirrors the momentum of the university around growing its visibility and prominence. And I think that our evolution, paralleling that of the university, has given the alumni association a real sense of our place in strengthening the connection that alumni have to UB.

Fundamentally, over the next two years, I am looking to build on that momentum and continue building on-ramps for alumni to either connect with or deepen their connection with the university. I also would love to see the alumni association expand our work to invest in and support future alumni through a broader portfolio of scholarships.

What is the main function of the UBAA board of directors?

To represent all graduates of this amazing institution, to advance and deepen their connection to UB or facilitate their re-connection, to help the alumni community connect with and support the university’s aspirations because this is an institution that over the past decade has been on the move, and there is a real palpable sense of excitement. I think one of the fundamental roles of the alumni association and the board is to leverage that excitement and to strengthen connections.  

UB aims to be among the top 25 public research universities in the nation. What can the board do to help achieve that goal?

The university’s reputation is ultimately a mosaic of the individuals and the work that is done on campus and those who have walked the campus before. As I think of our alumni community, they represent the best of the best in Western New York and around the globe: people who are quite literally changing the world. Continuing to engage them in the work of advancing the university, deepening those connections in ways that reinvest in the university and support its aspirations — be they academic, athletic, scholarship or other — those are ways that the alumni association and alumni at large can contribute to the Top 25 ambition.

You also serve as a volunteer for the Boldy Buffalo campaign. From your perspective, what is this campaign achieving for UB students, faculty and alumni?

The campaign had two fundamental impacts. The first is the immediate tangibles: the investment in world-class scholars and scholarship on campus, which benefits our students. I think what the campaign has been able to create is a new way of thinking about — both for students and alumni — their connection to and responsibility to the university and its future. One of the real takeaways I’ve had from the opportunity to serve on the Boldly Buffalo campaign steering committee, representing the UBAA board, is a very keen sense that the campaign has activated a new culture of giving that didn’t exist before. That is the non-tangible impact. We have, in fairly short order, been able to create a new relationship between the university and its many stakeholders. I think that new culture not only brings people closer to the university, but will serve as a really strong foundation for the university’s aspirations and endeavors going forward. It’s tough to measure, but you can feel it. That has me really excited about not just achieving President Tripathi’s Top 25 Ambition, but cementing our place there.

The Stefko family.

Julie, Miles, Mia and Joseph Stefko.

You met your wife Julie at a UB basketball game.

It was in March 1995. Julie was an undergraduate nursing major. We ended up being introduced by mutual friends at Alumni Arena. And the rest is history. Affirming how special UB is to both of us and our family, our oldest child, Miles, just finished his first year here. He’s in the Honors College and we’re super proud of the work he’s doing. And his sister, Mia, is finishing her junior year in high school, so she’ll be applying to UB. She’s only applying to one school, she says. We couldn’t be more excited to deepen the family connection!

What is it like to now experience UB as a UB parent?

It’s really fun to see the UB experience through the parent lens. The university is different in some really profound ways. The opportunities available to students and the holistic approach to supporting them — the student experience has only gotten better. As I look at it from the parent perspective now, as great of an institution as I’ve always known UB to be, I’ve gained a new appreciation for how much greater it has become. This is a place that can compete with any institution in the country.

For those who are not yet engaged with UB, what were your reasons for doing so? What might inspire them?

What brought me back was a chance encounter when our son was 9 years old. We decided to drive in from Rochester to see a UB basketball game. We were standing in line at the Alumni Arena ticket office, and I got a tap on my shoulder. A nice gentleman offered my son and me two tickets. We followed him down to his seats, and he proceeded to tell me about his experiences with UB.

I would find out later in the game that he was the immediate past president of the UB Alumni Association board of directors. And Tim (Lafferty, BS ’86) pointedly asked me: Are you involved with UB? Have you thought about how you would give back? About a year later, I was invited to be elected to the UBAA board. That really re-cemented my connection to the university.