Published October 5, 2022
One of UB’s top priorities is to increase the diversity of its faculty, with a goal of doubling the number of historically underrepresented minority faculty between 2020 and 2025. The university is making significant progress on that goal, A. Scott Weber, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, told the UB Council Monday at its first meeting of the academic year.
The provost reported that UB has welcomed 130 new faculty members this year, including 80 tenured and tenure-track faculty. Most of these hires are within the College of Arts and Sciences, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and Graduate School of Education, he said.
The percentage of underrepresented minority faculty, which represented less than 10% of faculty hires in 2019, has steadily increased over the past several years to more than 25% this year, Weber said, noting the increase is the result of strategic and aggressive recruitment efforts on the part of the deans.
He said among the innovative initiatives underway is the new Visiting Future Faculty Program (VITAL), which launched last spring with 22 VITAL scholars and will continue later this month with a second cohort of 34 scholars visiting campus.
The program, Weber explained, is designed to help build faculty pipelines, enhance departmental recruitment networks and increase the visibility of the cutting-edge research being done by scholars from historically underrepresented backgrounds. The VITAL scholars are PhD students from leading research institutions who are doing exciting work in their fields. While at UB, the scholars present their work, meet with UB faculty and students, engage with other scholars in the program, and experience the region’s many offerings.
Feedback from the first cohort of scholars, and the participating UB departments, has been “overwhelmingly positive,” Weber said, and the program is serving as a model for other institutions.
President Satish K. Tripathi noted that UB’s focus on recruiting the best and brightest faculty from a diverse pool of candidates is key to positioning the university as a Top 25 public research university. And to further that goal, UB is receiving $12.1 million in state funds to hire approximately 70 to 100 new faculty, Tripathi said.
“This is an important opportunity for UB to enhance the academic strength of our departments and move more of our academic programs into the Top 25,” he told council members. “To truly realize the impact of a flagship university, UB must compete nationally and internationally for the best faculty.”
UB also will receive $1.7 million in state funding to develop new initiatives to enhance student success, “always a top priority for our university,” Tripathi said. He explained that student success is measured quantitatively through retention rates, persistence toward degree and four-year and six-year graduation rates.
“If we want to be recognized as a Top 25 university, student success — retention, persistence and graduation rates — must be comparable, or better, than our peer institutions,” he said.
Monday’s meeting was the first for the council’s new student representative, A.J. Franklin. A senior psychology major, Franklin said he was pleased to represent the needs of UB’s 30,000 students.
In other business, Diana Aga, Henry M. Woodburn Professor of Chemistry and director of the UB RENEW Institute, presented an overview of UB RENEW, showcasing some of the climate science research and sustainability practices that brought Vice President Kamala Harris to UB last month to discuss the administration’s efforts to fight climate change, a key part of the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act.
Aga highlighted both faculty and student projects, among them UB’s GRoW House, a $2.2 million grant to develop eco-friendly insulation, COVID-19 wastewater surveillance and a wireless sensor network to monitor soil health.