This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

Questions &Answers

Published: March 24, 2005

Satish K. Tripathi is provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.

Why are we engaging in the UB 2020 planning process now?
We have an unparalleled opportunity to distinguish our university, its programs and our faculty—to become one of the best public research universities in the nation. In order to be competitive with our peer institutions, we need to identify a group of multidisciplinary priorities in which we can succeed instead of striving to be all things to all people. This will allow us to admit the best students, hire the best faculty and realize the best opportunities for institutional prominence, giving UB an institutional leadership role in higher education. President Simpson and I have a shared vision for the success of this effort.


Why does this process include envisioning retreats and other meetings?
The faculty are absolutely integral to our university's success, and the envisioning retreats and other meetings provide a forum in which our faculty—as subject-matter experts—can develop fully our areas of strategic strength. I encourage all of our faculty members to participate in this groundbreaking process.

What is the timetable?
Our planning process is moving forward in three phases. In Phase 1, which ended in December, we came to understand UB's existing and potential academic strengths, and we recommended a set of strategic strengths. Now we have begun Phase 2, which will create a vision for each strength, assess other programs and funding sources, and develop an investment plan for each strategic strength. As the first step of Phase 2, we are engaging in a substantial "envisioning process" with a broad cross-section of the UB faculty through a series of daylong envisioning retreats and follow-up sessions. We anticipate that the first part of Phase 2 will end in May. The remaining components of Phase 2 and their timetables are as follows:

  • Assess other programs and funding sources (June 2005). UB will identify competitive programs at other institutions and external funding sources.

  • Create a plan for continuously growing each strategic strength (July-August 2005). A cross-functional team of UB faculty and staff will develop a model for operating each strategic strength.

  • Develop a strategic strength investment plan (September-October 2005). UB will create a plan for university investment in the strategic strength areas, identifying realistic investments that need to be made during the first year, within three years, five years and longer time periods. UB also will identify key areas in which both the deans and the Office of the President will make strategic investments.

In the third and final phase, which will start in November 2005, we will migrate toward our strategic strengths by beginning to enact the developed plans. The deans, guided by their college's or school's strategic plan, will begin to realign resources, make investments, develop partnerships and recruit new faculty. Concurrent and subsequent to this process, the deans will measure success and progress toward goals.

What do you expect the faculty to do?
President Simpson and I are asking the faculty to define a vision for the fields of study under discussion: academic areas, resources and new faculty that we need to bring to the University at Buffalo. Our real expectation for faculty is to get involved with the planning process. In order for this planning process to be truly successful, we—as a campus—will need to be creative in our thinking, provide opportunities and venues to share our unique perspectives and think beyond traditional academic boundaries.

How will the information be formalized?
We expect the information gathered from each envisioning retreat and future planning sessions to result in a white paper from the Office of the Provost. Each white paper will be coauthored by three to five UB faculty members, with broad involvement from the other faculty who have participated in the planning sessions. Each white paper will contain several components including: (1) unique elements—a description of the unique factors that currently distinguish, and have the future potential to distinguish, UB within that strategic strength; (2) areas of focus—a summary of the academic, research and other elements on which UB should focus in order to become a recognized leader in that strategic strength; (3) resource plan—a description of the resources/capabilities that UB currently possesses, and those that it must possess, in order to achieve success within that strategic strength; (4) breadth of involvement—a description of the connection of the various elements within the strategic strength to current research, graduate and undergraduate education, and service efforts. This will give us a plan for multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary collaboration; (5) timelines and strategic-strength growth plans—a five-year plan with appropriate milestones and a vision for the stages of growth.

What resources will be available?
We realize that there are concerns about available funding. As the vision for each strategic strength is more clearly articulated, we will need to consider how to bring appropriate resources to bear. This responsibility will, in part, reside with the deans, who will need to consider allocating their existing resources to support the strategic strengths. President Simpson and I also will need to provide additional support for these strategic strengths, such as sponsored research grants and gifts from donors.

Where can I get more information about UB 2020?
We have just completed major updates to our Web site at ub2020, and we will continue to add new information in the weeks to come. In addition, we encourage all UB faculty, staff and students to send us emails by using the feedback form on the Web site at http://www.

What question do you wish I had asked, and how would you have answered it?
I would have asked, "How will this planning process affect existing academic programs?" My answer is this: Although the final results of the planning process will necessarily affect UB's budgetary, academic support and facilities investments, this process will not diminish our commitment to sustain the existing excellence of our research, scholarship and creative activities, as well as our undergraduate, graduate and professional programs.