Published September 28, 2022
It’s morning on the North Campus and a group of students were huddled together outside between Bonner and Bell halls when two men in suits strolled over to strike up a conversation.
It was President Satish K. Tripathi and Provost A. Scott Weber.
“How’s everything going?” Weber asked the students. “Have you met the president?”
The students, who looked a bit surprised by the sudden encounter, recognized Tripathi and said hello.
“This is Provost Weber,” the president said, returning the introduction.
President and provost spent the next couple of minutes chatting with the students about UB, what they’re studying and how they’re managing the semester before the two said goodbye and continued along Mary Talbert Way.
The scene has become a familiar one for the campus as the president and provost have made a 30-minute morning walk together part of their day — rain or shine — while they discuss university business, stop to chat with students, staff and faculty, and take the pulse of UB.
“It started with the pandemic,” Tripathi explained.
“We used to meet before the pandemic in the office for a half an hour every day, as long as we were in town,” he said. “And then, the pandemic started. Rather than being cooped up in a room, we decided, ‘Let’s walk.’”
Two years and eight months later, they have kept their routine. While times may vary and there’s the occasional cancellation, it’s a standing meeting — and the campus has noticed. In fact, Weber has recommended the idea to fellow provosts at other universities.
“We spend a lot of time talking about university business, but we also spend a lot of time talking about our families and just life, so that’s really helpful to our relationship, which is important for the campus,” Weber said. “I also think it’s a signal to the campus that we’re unified in our approach to moving forward.”
The best part, they said, is interacting with the campus community. Along the way, the two try to engage as many students, staff and faculty as possible, asking about their experiences at UB and what the university might do to improve. Students are sometimes apprehensive, they said, but for the most part, their comments are positive and insightful.
“When we first started this, many of the students were really sad they couldn’t get to classes and had to learn online, but then they were really thankful the faculty adopted this model and they could continue to study,” Tripathi said. “So really, there was a good appreciation for the people working to make sure they continue to progress toward their degree.”
The two take an indoor route during inclement weather, but on this September morning they exited Capen and headed down Mary Talbert Way, where they stopped to chat with the group of students outside Bonner and Bell. Among them was Drashti Thummar, a graduate student in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
It was the first time she had met the president and provost, and was shocked — as well as delighted — that they had stopped to talk.
“They asked me and my friends about our experiences here at UB, what difficulties we have faced and our opinion to improve the learning environment, facilities, academic curriculum and teaching scopes,” Thummar said. “We discussed things with them. They are very humble and genuine individuals.”
The president and provost passed Furnas Hall, where Weber asked two students if they had time to talk. The two students were paying little attention, mumbled something about being late for physics class and passed without breaking stride. Weber shrugged — that happens sometimes.
Outside Starbucks, Tripathi and Weber stopped to say hi to three university employees sitting at one of the outdoor tables. They chatted with them about student support, retention and how nice it was to have some semblance of normalcy back on campus amid the pandemic. Then, the two continued up the incline toward Clemens Hall.
There, on the sidewalk, they introduced themselves to sophomores Shawn Frans and Herah Musa. The two students are from New York City and just switched their majors to accounting, they explained. Frans, a presidential scholar, reminded the president and provost he had met them during a class last fall, which Tripathi remembered.
“How have things changed for you from last fall to this fall?” the president asked.
“Honestly, I think classes are a little easier to manage because we’re used to it now,” Musa said.
“Right, the first semester is always hard — new place, new environment,” Tripathi said. “But you still have to work hard.”
“Of course, of course,” Frans agreed.
Afterward, Frans and Musa said they appreciated the chance encounter.
“I was very surprised when they came up to me,” Frans said. “It was a funny coincidence, as I was discussing how the two professional-looking adults in front of us were the president and provost. Since I had met them prior, I was planning on saying good morning and hi out of respect. However, a full-blown conversation was unexpected.”
Both seemed very personable, Musa said.
“It was nice to see them and know that they were interested in how students were doing and how they are adjusting to campus,” she said. “In all, they seemed to ask questions I had not expected to hear, since many other principals or higher-ups I had met outside of UB seemed to carry themselves with a harsher or more serious tone.”
In between greetings and introductions, the president and provost talk business on their walks. On this day, the provost updated the president on his recent meeting at the Association of American Universities, an organization of the nation’s leading research institutions, including UB.
“I was with all the AAU provosts the past couple days, so you have a sense of what’s going on at other campuses. When Satish goes to the president’s meetings we share that information. So, it kind of keeps us current on both sides of the thought process,” Weber said.
“Other times, I’m often asking his advice on things: ‘Here’s where I’m thinking about going on this, what do you think about that?’” the provost said. “We’re going to be hiring a lot of faculty, so we talk about the strategies we might think about in terms of that process. We talk about our students and how they are doing.”
The duo walked at a brisk clip as they cut across to the Center for the Arts and in front of Alumni Arena. They stopped to talk to a staffer outside and inquired about some fencing set up on the sidewalk.
They continued along Mary Talbert Way — passing Baird Hall and Lockwood Library before they stopped at Paula Agrusa Plaza, outside the Jacobs Management Center, to introduce themselves to a student sitting alone in front of her laptop.
As they rounded O’Brian Hall, the two were right on time — re-entering Capen just about 30 minutes after they first left. They made one last stop in One World Café to chat with a few more students before taking the elevator back to their offices.
They have come to look forward to this part of their day, randomly interacting with the campus.
“We also get in some steps,” Tripathi said with a smile.
I absolutely love this article and what it stands for. Interaction with the UB community is so important. Personally, I think this small gesture will make such a positive impact on the university, even more than anyone could have ever imagined!
Good move! It would also be helpful if they each tried getting around the three campuses in a wheelchair.