This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

Tripathi updates PSS on UB 2020

Published: March 31, 2005

Reporter Editor

Satish K. Tripathi, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, updated the Professional Staff Senate on the UB 2020 academic planning process at the group's monthly meeting on March 24.

For More Information

go to the UB2020 website

Tripathi opened his remarks by thanking members of the professional staff for their hard work on UB 2020.


Throughout the planning process, professional staff members have been called upon to work in teams and on committees "to provide us with the professional help, in terms of gathering, mining and analyzing data that we have on the campus, as well as helping in various committees to draft committee reports," he said.

"I want to take this opportunity to thank you all for helping us. In many situations, some of you have worked full time on your jobs and full time on those committees—you've been doing double duty. And I want to thank you all for doing that."

Tripathi noted that the planning process began almost a year ago with a call for proposals for "foci of excellence" to determine "what are the good things going on on the campus."

Last fall, a group of faculty and staff members was formed to examine the proposals for the foci of excellence that came in, and to collect more data about departments and research that already was going on at UB. The goal of that committee, he said, was to identify the "strategic strengths" of the campus.

The 10 strategic strengths that the committee identified "grew out of established strengths and the foci of excellence proposals, and have roots in the distinctiveness of the faculty's research and creative efforts," Tripathi noted. In many cases, but not all, the areas are multidisciplinary and also have high social relevance and a connection to emerging fields of discovery, he added.

The 10 areas, among them nanotechnology, aging and chronic disease, bioinformatics and health sciences, and civic engagement and public policy, come from both North and South campuses," he said. With almost 60 percent having roots on both campuses, he added, "we can see quite a bit of interdisciplinary nature to the strategic strengths."

"If you look at the research in the past 15-20 years—both the cutting-edge research and the most highly impactful research going on around the country and the world—you'll find that the real problems actually exist at the borders of the disciplines," Tripathi said. "Nature does not create problems for the chemistry department, for the physics department, for history or medicine. The issues are interdisciplinary—that's why the major research efforts are going in an interdisciplinary nature."

However, that doesn't mean that departments are not important, he said, pointing out that individual faculty members reside in given departments.

"One has to balance how faculty members in different departments come together and work in an interdisciplinary fashion and get recognized for that. That's really the challenge being faced by most research universities at this time," he said.

Now that the strategic strengths have been identified, the next step is to "give those 10 areas back to the faculty" to determine what it means to be excellent in each area and what resources and further investment are needed to go further—"to become one of the very best in the world in those areas," he said. That process already has begun, with the first "envisioning retreat" being held on March 7.

Tripathi said he attended that first retreat, on nanomaterials, during which 70 people crowded into a small room in Capen Hall. "We didn't expect that kind of participation. It was very exciting," he said. "These retreats will bring the faculty together—some are meeting for the first time—who work in similar areas to think about what the focus should be in those respective areas—what is our niche."

Tripathi said the envisioning retreats will be held throughout the spring and summer, with faculty in each area developing a report outlining the investments that are needed

After that, the next step will be to determine how to invest in these areas. Tripathi said that the university will be instituting an annual budget process in which the deans and vice presidents will present their budgets, outlining what they did with the resources allocated in the previous year, how much progress has been made in the areas they wanted to invest in and what other investments need to be made.

"That's where we will look at the deans' investments going in the direction of the 10 strategic areas," he said. While there naturally will be other investments—he noted that there are issues at the decanal and departmental levels that must be addressed—from the campus viewpoint, "what we want is some level of direction (from the deans). I don't see a provost investing in an area without the deans and department chairs saying 'this is where we need the investment.' I don't believe the provost's job is go and hire faculty," he said, adding that faculty have to be hired by the department.

"The faculty will help to achieve excellence in those areas we have identified. It sounds complicated," he said, "but this is really a long-term process. This is how we want to make sure we achieve academic excellence in the areas we're talking about."