This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

Simpson lauds UB staff

Professional staff called critical to academic planning process

Published: October 7, 2004

Reporter Editor

The involvement of the UB professional staff is critically important to the success of UB's strategic planning process, President John B. Simpson told members of the Professional Staff Senate on Sept. 30.

"UB's professional staff, in my view, play a critical and vital role in the university's success, in its achievement and in its academic enterprise," Simpson said in remarks during the senate's monthly membership meeting in Diefendorf Hall on the South Campus. "I think individually and as a group, you are critical to this university's success."

He noted that he used to hear people, mainly professors, divide universities into two separate groups—academics and non-academics. Those who did not teach were labeled "non-academics."

Simpson said he was not comfortable with that terminology. He uses the term academic support staff "for people who may not carry the title of professor, yet are every bit as involved in the academic enterprise—which is what we do—as are people who provide the lectures for the graduate or undergraduate students. In my view, there is a fundamental cohesion that exists—a partnership that exists—between a variety of people with different types of jobs in a university like this."

Some teach classes, some provide support in terms of getting those classes ready, he pointed out. Some keep the buildings and grounds functioning, while others keep the students' minds working.

"Again, our purpose is academic—it's all academic, no matter what kind of position you're in."

As a public university, UB must do more than just react to "the rapidly changing landscape of higher education in the 21st century," Simpson said.

"We must become a proactive, forward-looking university that determines its own destiny; in short, if we don't have our own agenda, someone else will create it for us."

Simpson remarked that he was surprised when he came to UB that the university did not have a comprehensive academic plan or a master strategy for the campus.

"To my mind, an academic plan with a supporting campus strategy is nothing less than an imperative for a major research university in the 21st century," he said.

That planning process is well under way, Simpson added, pointing out that assessment efforts began in the spring and continued over the summer within the schools and colleges, as well as within three task forces addressing the issues of government, university and industry relations; bioinformatics business planning, and community engagement.

An intensive, day-long retreat on July 14 led to the formation of three committees—Executive, Academic Planning and Academic Support Planning—to develop and implement the strategic plan, he said.

While these committees are focused on the planning efforts, the success of the process and resulting academic plan "will rely upon the participation, dedication and intellectual investment of the full academic community," Simpson noted.

He encouraged staff members to visit the Web site dedicated to the institutional planning process— ub2020. The Web site is intended to serve as a resource and public forum for the planning effort, and is designed to share information, as well as elicit feedback and promote community discourse, he said.

"I hope you will visit the Web site often, and that you will employ it to share your perspectives and ideas for the future of our university," he said. "This is an important initiative for our university, and I hope and expect that this will be a community-wide discussion.

"The quality, as well as the success of these planning efforts, will turn on the degree of involvement and commitment of the university's stakeholders, including, importantly, the professional staff."