This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

Team seeks input on plan

Published: November 18, 2004

Contributing Editor

Attention all faculty, staff and students:

Have you completed the "UB 2020" survey yet? Your feedback is very important. To complete the survey, go to and click on "UB 2020" survey.

The workshops and interviews team of the "UB 2020" strategic planning process is striving to count every voice at UB and ensure that every voice counts.

In addition to holding a series of workshops for targeted groups of faculty, staff and students, the team has emailed an online survey to 30,000 such members of the university community for completion by Nov. 30.


Vicki T. Sapp, coordinator of multicultural student affairs, filled out the survey and revises another pre-election slogan to encourage coworkers and students to do the same.

"Before the election, it was 'no vote, no voice.' Now I tell them 'no voice, no change,'" Sapp said Tuesday.

Sapp also attended one of 22 workshops being held across UB to gather input for the planning process "from as many UB constituents as possible," according to Cynthia M. Shore, associate director for graduate student recruitment services development and a member of the workshops and interviews team.

As many as 450 faculty, staff and students will have attended the series when it wraps up Dec. 3, said Barbara Mierzwa, workshops and interviews team leader who is assistant dean and continuing medical education director in the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

Meanwhile, the team emailed the online survey to all current students, faculty and staff, and is considering sending a similar survey to alumni, but "the pool size would be reduced, and not all alumni would be contacted," Shore said.

The team is hoping to hear back from between 3,000 and 4,500 UB constituents, for a 10-15 percent response rate.

"As of this past Sunday night, we had 3,701 responses, so we're right on target," Shore said.

The team will review the results of the survey and the information gathered during the workshops, prioritizing items based on how frequently they are mentioned, and then forward a report to the Academic Support Planning Committee and the Academic Planning Committee. Those committees are due to complete their initial reports of the overall planning process on Dec. 15.

"Basically we're using all of the methods—workshops, surveys, Web site—to gather as many ideas and perspectives as possible," Shore said. "We expect a number of issues to come up over and over again. The areas for improvement will be prioritized and reviewed in greater detail in the next phase of the planning process."

Shore said the workshops and interviews team is "thrilled with the level of response thus far to both the survey and the discussion sessions.

"Many participants have told us that they are pleased to be involved in the planning process and hope that UB leadership continues to encourage and invite feedback and ideas from our constituents," Shore said.

Like the survey, the workshops begin with a "problem statement," which asks participants where they see "the greatest opportunities for improvement in quality and efficiency" at UB. Each workshop is moderated by two UB staff members.

Sapp said the structure of the workshops encourages participants to say what's on their minds. One of 11 who attended a workshop held for minority faculty and staff members, Sapp said those present filled the entire hour and a half with nonstop discussion.

"It's never enough time when you're talking about issues that are passionate to you," she said. "What we tried to do is target issues that we are passionate about. If we had another one (workshop), I'm quite sure we could think of more stuff."

Jay R. Friedman, assistant director, Office of Special Events, who attended the workshop for support staff members and assistants to chairpersons, said the UB moderators "did a very nice job" of making employees and students feel free to express their views.

"They did not associate any names with the suggestions or complaints in the notes they took during discussion, so it made everyone at the session I attended feel comfortable," Friedman said.

Friedman, who also has filled out the online survey, said ownership and efficiency, especially in regard to processing payments to outside vendors, are two topics where he sees room for improvement.

"The biggest topic of discussion was UB pride, and what I mean by that is we talked a lot about how UB can do things to help the employees feel a sense of pride in UB, the place they come to work every day," he continued. "We also talked about decentralization issues here at UB. Each department seems to have its own IT people, its own accounting people, and the administration should do things to encourage these groups to work together, to share thoughts, ideas, successes and failures in how they do their work."

Andrew J. Wilcox, director of ticket sales and special events, Division of Athletics, who attended the same workshop as Friedman, said he was pleasantly surprised by the atmosphere of the session.

"Oftentimes, this type of session becomes a forum for people to voice complaints and gripes related to their individual area or domain, but what unfolded in the workshop was exactly the opposite. We had a room full of professionals from very diverse settings on campus who, for the most part, voiced opinions on what we could collectively do to improve our university, rather than focusing on what's wrong with the institution. The most surprising aspect of the session from the moderators' standpoint was the passion for UB exhibited by those in attendance. We didn't want to just offer solutions. We wanted to be part of the solution, and I feel that came across loud and clear."

Audrey Olmstead, interim vice president for university advancement, who attended the workshop for development staff, said members of the group felt free to air their opinions.

"As you would expect, there was some hesitancy at first and then suggestions came forward rapidly until at the end of the session, we had filled several flip-chart sheets with our ideas," Olmstead said.

Her group's suggestions included developing a stronger brand identity for the university, a uniform telecommunication system across the campuses, a facilities master plan and thinking about the university's next capital campaign.

Encouraging recipients to complete the online survey, Olmstead added: "I appreciate the opportunity to give feedback. The kind of planning that is taking place on campus, although time-consuming and very hard work, is exactly the kind of activity I would hope for UB."

Sapp feels that the survey is an effective way to reach a wider audience, and that it serves as a good follow-up technique for workshop participants.

"I thought it was important the survey went out and we were able to elaborate on the themes that you may not have elaborated on during the workshop," she said.

Sapp's group mentioned several areas it would like to see improved, including the university's Web site and phone system. They also suggested adding an information center near the university's main entrance, as well as a cultural center to more broadly address diversity at UB, she said.

"When we talk about making UB a quality, efficient and effective institution, if we ignore the diversity issue, we're going to be in trouble," Sapp said. "There are a lot of issues that need to be in the forefront and diversity is right up there with them."

Like many other UB staffers, Sapp is looking forward to the next steps in the planning process.

"That's the important part for me—the action. It's good to get people's ideas out, it's good to do that, but if there's no action and implementation, the work is lost," she said.