This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

FSEC hears description of inaugural events, international visitors

Published: September 23, 2004

Contributing Editor

On the eve of what Faculty Senate Chair Peter Nickerson called "a very important time in the university's history," the senate's executive committee yesterday heard an overview of the Oct. 15 investiture of John B. Simpson as UB's 14th president.

Inaugural cochairs Stephen Dunnett, vice provost for international education; Carole Smith Petro, associate vice president and general manager of WBFO 88.7 FM, and James "Beau" Willis, chief of staff in the Office of the President, went on to describe the array and diversity of inaugural events taking place throughout October.

A special highlight of the investiture ceremony, said Petro, will be the introduction of Simpson by his father, Barclay Simpson, who will travel from the West Coast to see his son officially take office.

A highlight of the inaugural celebration, added Dunnett, will be its distinctive international quality. Of UB's 60 exchange partners worldwide, a total of 41 will be sending inaugural representatives—a phenomenon Dunnett called "truly remarkable." Among the events, he added, is the Oct. 16 international forum that will feature higher education leaders from more than 15 countries; 10 participants are presidents of overseas universities. "We're quite delighted with this opportunity to showcase to the community, to the trustees and distinguished guests the distinct multicultural character of our university," Dunnett said.

Indeed, the forum is one part of an elaborate series of events that will include two exhibitions, an opera, a debate, poetry reading, symposium, homecoming, lectures, theater and dance performances, the dedication of a research center-even a masquerade ball, Dunnett said. Literally, "there is something for everyone," he added. The cochairs referred senators to a detailed inaugural calendar in today's print issue of the Reporter, and also the inaugural Web site at for more information.

When planning these events over the summer, Dunnett told senators, he and others were initially concerned they would have inadequate faculty representation. Instead, planners have had difficulty in choosing from all the event proposals put forward to collectively celebrate Simpson's inauguration. All but one school is represented, he reported, and this only because a speaker has cancelled. Many university research centers are represented as well.

"It's really quite an impressive array," said Dunnett. "From my perspective, I've never seen such a coming together of our colleagues."

Petro reported that nearly 1,000 persons have indicated they'll be attending the investiture ceremony at 3 p.m. in the Center for the Arts, which promises to be "a glorious event." More than 250 individuals plan to march in academic garb; she expressed hope that as many faculty as possible would participate in the ceremony.

Willis and others described student outreach, too, noting that a special block of tickets has been set aside for UB students.

Musical performances will feature UB faculty members, and speakers will include members of the national academic community chosen by Simpson. These individuals, said Willis, will frame their brief remarks in terms of their knowledge of Simpson and his work, treating of current issues in higher education. Simpson's own speech will outline his agenda as president.

Distinguished guests will include SUNY Chancellor Robert L. King, Thomas F. Eagan, chair of the SUNY Board of Trustees, and Robert M. Bennett, chair of the state Board of Regents. The audience also will hear greetings on behalf of elected officials, the national academic community and the UB community as well.

In other business, the FSEC heard a thoughtful discussion of themes and issues to be taken up by the senate's Educational Programs and Policy Committee, chaired by Kenneth J. Takeuchi, professor of chemistry.

In this setting, the group concentrated on how best to determine the number of undergraduate students availing themselves of opportunities to engage in university-level research, how to define what such research is, and the difficulties of doing so.

A key question, said Nickerson, is how undergraduates benefit—in actual practice—from attending a large research university. Then, assuming such interest, how do students find out about relevant opportunities, make an actual connection with a research professor and acquire such skills as might be needed to fully take part in the research opportunities?

Against this backdrop of discussion, Kerry S. Grant, interim vice provost and dean for undergraduate affairs, described the efforts of a soon-to-open corner office on the ground floor of Capen Hall. This office will centralize and review fellowship opportunities, making information available to students both via the Web and as walk-ins. Previously, said Grant, there was "no central location where students could look at (information on) a national fellowship, or even a state fellowship." The office will offer academic counseling, as well as help students learn how to apply for national fellowship opportunities, where UB is currently underrepresented.

Grant said the university hopes to improve its data on how many students, particularly undergraduates, are involved in research, while encouraging others to do likewise, thus stimulating the entire initiative. "It's a small but organized effort," he said.

The committee also heard a report from William Baumer, professor of philosophy who described a recent SUNY Senate executive committee conference call on the new budget allocation process, still preliminary at this point. The FSEC welcomed the new University Libraries representative, Cynthia A. Tysick. At the next Faculty Senate meeting on Oct. 5, Provost Satish Tripathi will deliver a report on the academic state of the university, Nickerson announced.