By JAY REY
Published October 16, 2023
UB is experiencing a tremendous period in its evolution as a premier public research institution marked by rising sponsored research expenditures, record fundraising and the largest new faculty cohort in over 40 years.
And while there’s much to look forward to, there’s still more work to do.
That’s the message President Satish K. Tripathi delivered to the UB community during his 12th State of the University address on Friday in Slee Hall, where the president laid out a convincing case that the SUNY flagship is not only strong but becoming more so every day.
“And today, in scholarly fashion, I intend to defend my thesis with compelling evidence,” Tripathi said.
As proof, the president made two big announcements:
UB has surpassed its goal of raising $1 billion through its comprehensive fundraising campaign, Boldly Buffalo.
Pushing the campaign over the billion-dollar mark was a $40 million commitment to the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences from longtime benefactor and alumnus Russell L. Agrusa to support education, research and a new engineering building on the North Campus.
Agrusa was in attendance on Friday when Tripathi thanked him on behalf of the entire university community. Some $20 million will be used for education and research in the engineering school, while $20 million will be used toward the new building.
“In deep appreciation for Russ and his steadfast dedication to UB, we are naming our new engineering building the Russell L. Agrusa Hall,” Tripathi said.
Originating in 2013 and launched publicly in 2018, Boldly Buffalo surpassed its billion-dollar goal with eight months still to go until its official close date of June 30, 2024.
“When I announced the Boldly Buffalo campaign in 2018, I maintained that we must encourage more private philanthropy if we are to meet our ambitious goals,” said Tripathi, who thanked UB’s donors and campaign volunteers.
“Here again, we have done just what we set out to do,” he said. “In fact, in our 2023 fiscal year, UB achieved an all-time high in fundraising.”
Addressing the roughly 400 registered guests in attendance, the president spoke for more than 45 minutes in which he presented further evidence of a university on the rise.
Growing research dollars. Sponsored research expenditures — essential to UB’s goal of becoming one of the Top 25 public research institutions in the U.S. — increased 16% over the previous year to $232 million, the president said.
He pointed to UB research that will benefit people across their lifespan, promote equitable grading practices, care for patients in medically underserved areas and improve air-quality monitoring in the city.
“I always emphasize that our ambition is not motivated by pride, but impact,” Tripathi said. “Without a doubt our rising research expenditures validate the deepening impact of our disciplinary expertise.”
Historic faculty hiring. UB in January unveiled its plan to hire upward of 200 full-time faculty in areas of university strength and global importance, and welcomed this fall its largest cohort of new faculty in more than 40 years.
The president thanked Gov. Kathy Hochul and the Western New York delegation for the state’s investment in new faculty.
“To amplify our faculty strengths, I have long contended that we must increase their ranks,” Tripathi said. “Today, I am here to tell you we are doing just that.”
Steady enrollment: Given the number of higher-education institutions experiencing declining enrollment, UB has been fortunate to meet its enrollment goals, Tripathi said. This fall, he said, enrollment stands at nearly 31,000 students from more than 100 countries and almost every state in the nation.
A vibrant living-learning environment. Staff in capital planning and facilities have helped transform the living-learning environment on campus, Tripathi said, most recently with the renovation of Crosby Hall; a welcoming exterior plaza at Capen Hall; upgrades to classrooms and library study areas; the ongoing renovation to Goodyear and Clement halls; the rehabilitation of Foster Hall; and the redesign of Fargo Quad.
Commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. The president reiterated that pledge during his address while pointing to several initiatives, including faculty recruitment and enhanced opportunities for students from diverse backgrounds to connect.
“UB thrives because of our diverse perspectives, backgrounds, cultures and lived experiences,” he said. “It enriches our research, our scholarly pursuits, our academic discourse — indeed, all we endeavor to accomplish.”
A rise in the rankings. The president referenced some of UB schools as being among the best in the nation based on the most recent rankings.
“These rankings represent, in no small measure, the powerful contributions our faculty, and the strategic leadership of our chairs, deans and administrative leaders,” he said. “I am most appreciative for all you do on behalf of UB.”
In addition, the president spoke of faculty honors and contributions in their fields. He highlighted the “transformative education” being offered to students. He pointed to the university as a leader in sustainable practices. He mentioned UB’s evolution as a bastion of entrepreneurship. And he congratulated athletics for fostering a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion.
“My thesis has covered a lot of ground,” Tripathi concluded. “And if I have been successful in its defense, we have much to celebrate.”
But the president also spoke of the challenges ahead for UB.
He referenced the controversies over free speech on campus, the future of artificial intelligence, the Supreme Court’s ruling on race-conscious admissions and the need to do much more to foster student success to improve graduation and retention rates.
“As we are experiencing this tremendous period in UB’s evolution as a premier public research university, I would argue one more point: Namely, that we still have much to do — and even more to look forward to,” he said.
“So, at risk of cutting the festivities short, I suggest that we keep our congratulations to a minimum,” Tripathi said. “But then, isn’t that the UB way? We pause to applaud our accomplishments and then we get right back to work.”
A transcript of Tripathi's address can be found online.