This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

Academic planning update

Faculty Senate hears about progress of "UB 2020"

Published: November 4, 2004

Contributing Editor

President John B. Simpson joined colleagues Satish K. Tripathi, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, and James "Beau" Willis, chief of staff in the Office of the President, in updating the Faculty Senate Tuesday on the "UB 2020" academic planning process.


A primary focus of their presentation was the university Web site devoted to the process (, which the trio of administrators encouraged faculty, staff and students to visit in order to learn more about UB's planning goals, as well as to share their comments or questions.

"We have a Web site available to you, to anyone actually...please provide input as much and as often as you want to," Tripathi told senators. "Also (use it) to learn about things that are going on.

Simpson, who spoke only briefly, noted that it's important to him that the planning process be "transparent" and that it involve "the university as a whole... in thinking about who we are, where we want to go and how we want to get there."

Tripathi, who leads the Academic Planning Committee, one of two principal committees in the process, praised its members and subcommittee leaders for the amount of time they are putting into the effort.

Planning committee members have dedicated up to 15 hours per week to working on the process, whereas subcommittee leaders devote as many as 20-30 hours per week to the effort, according to Willis, chair of the second "UB 2020" committee, the committee on academic support planning.

The committee, Tripathi explained, is charged with creating "a comprehensive, coordinated and integrated academic plan," a process, he added, that will "take the whole academic year" to complete.

"We need to look at the academic areas where we can make investments, where we already have the strategic strength that we can further and make the university known for those areas," he said. "Not that we're not going to invest in the other areas, but the university has to decide... on certain areas where we could obtain excellence."

He emphasized that the committee has not yet finalized a list of which areas will be priorities for the process, noting that it will finish information-gathering by mid-November and submit a first report on Dec. 15.

"We're looking at (all areas) more deeply and making sure that we're not missing out on anything on campus and getting the faculty, as well as the staff and the students, involved in the whole process," Tripathi said. "We need to have coordination across all campus academic endeavors in order to highlight the university's talent and emerging and strategic strength. That is the whole objective."

Diane R. Christian, SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Department of English, College of Arts and Sciences, and a member of the Academic Planning Committee, noted that proposals and input from faculty and staff are still being accepted and can be submitted directly to each planning committee.

The committee has been examining UB schools, departments, centers of excellence and other interdisciplinary programs, as well as the university's external environment, Tripathi said.

"You can't really plan in isolation; you need to look at what's going on outside, what are the areas that are going to be important in the next few years. If you think about the sciences, engineering, medical field and so on, what is the road map for the next generation of research to come?"

The Academic Planning Committee is divided into four subcommittees, or teams: foci data review, departmental strengths, academic strength indicators and quality of education.

Willis, who heads the Academic Support Planning Committee as interim executive vice president for finance and operations, said that 12-member committee is examining "what kind of support infrastructure is going to be required to achieve the academic goals that are set through the academic planning committee." Its four subcommittees are focusing on the areas of services costs, services mapping, workshops and interviews (to be presented to the university community), and metrics and benchmarking (how UB rates with other institutions, including those in the SUNY system).

"We're going across all functions and we're trying to pull all of this together so that instead of having a divisional, school sense of the campus, we have a functional sense," Willis said. "We're trying to do this in a collaborative way and in a way that's transparent as well."

Willis also emphasized that he wants to hear from members of the university community.

"My email is, my door is always open if there are ideas or concerns, please, I'm accessible," he said.

In response to questions from senators regarding how "UB 2020" compares or intersects with Mission Review II, a five-year plan that UB is required to complete for SUNY, Tripathi indicated that the goal is to present consistent objectives in both processes. In terms of rewriting the university mission statement, he added, nothing precise has been drafted as of yet.

"There was some attempt to put together a mission statement. We really haven't got a precise mission in terms of what exactly it is. Let me just paraphrase the president, what he's talked about as our mission, and that is, taking a good university to a great university And so to translate that a little further, we are part of a group of universities that are supposed to be the leader in research and academic leader in the country and that is the AAU. The question is, 'Where are we in that group?'" Tripathi asked.

He also answered a question regarding how UB can "catch up" to other members in the AAU that rank higher in university standings.

"That's the next level of implementation. We need to learn from them, but we need to outsmart them, too, to really move forward," he said.

Tripathi said the Academic Planning Committee also is identifying a group of student leaders and scholars to meet periodically with the committee to provide feedback. Students, he stressed, ultimately are the focus of the entire "UB 2020" process.