This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

Henderson outlines UB's impact on Western New York communities

Published: August 24, 2006

Reporter Staff Writer

A sample of programs and initiatives through which the University at Buffalo impacts local communities in Buffalo and Western New York were highlighted Aug. 17 in the final presentation of the 2006 UBThisSummer lecture series.

As a public institution and fellow stakeholder in the Western New York region, Marsha Henderson, vice president for external affairs, said UB shares a common interest in the success of Buffalo-Niagara. She pointed out there is a close relationship between the region's prosperity and UB's own strength and development.

"We want a vibrant, engaging community to attract top faculty and students," she said. "We're interested in the health and welfare of all the infrastructure of Western New York."

She said a number of the major initiatives in place at UB that aim to improve local communities fall into four general categories: education, neighborhoods, economic development and health and wellness.

In terms of education, Henderson explains UB encourages the establishment of a "pre-K through 16 education continuum"—an educational pipeline that sets students on a seamless track from grade school to graduate studies.

"Our city system . . . has a lot of challenges to good student outcome [and] experiences," she said.

One of the programs Henderson points to as part of the solution is the UB Center for Applied Technologies in Education (CATE), a service that provides on-site, in-service training to local teachers on various classroom technologies. "CATE has assisted with securing more than $75 million in educational initiatives applied to school systems in Western New York," she said. In 2003-04, it's estimated the organization's "Push-In Technology Training Program" trained more than 3,500 Buffalo school teachers.

She added UB's Buffalo-Area Engineering Awareness for Minorities (BEAM) encourages students in underrepresented minorities to pursue careers in engineering and its partnership with the Native American Magnet School (Buffalo Public School 19) teaches students there about science.

Neighborhood communities are encouraged with programs such as UB's University Community Initiative (UCI) Home Loan Guaranty Program, said Henderson. Established less than three years ago, she notes the program, which provides home loan assistance to UB employees, has been responsible for the purchase of 15 homes in the University Heights neighborhood. The initiative is an important part of UB's efforts to nurture and stabilize neighborhoods that surround the South Campus, she said.

As a former KeyBank Western New York District president, Henderson said she has a particular interest in UB's efforts to spur economic development in the region. She said the construction of UB's New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences is a great contribution to local revitalization. Henderson called the Center of Excellence a "wonderful resource" that turns discoveries in the lab into "commercial applications and jobs in the community." The process is achieved through an innovative model that encourages collaboration between scientists and business experts, she said.

UB graduates comprise a significant portion of the local professional and medical workforce, Henderson added. UB estimates 93 percent of dentists, 82 percent of attorneys, 68 of pharmacists and 28 percent of physicians in Erie County are UB graduates. Close to 100,000 UB graduates reside in New York State.

Henderson said UB's contribution to health and wellness in the region also includes projects that get medical students and professors out of the classroom and into local schools and businesses. Over the last five years, she estimates the School of Dental Medicine's "Give Kids a Smile" program has organized hundreds of volunteer dental students, faculty and alumni to provide free treatment to thousands of disadvantaged grade, middle and high school students. Also, she said UB is involved the Western New York Wellness Works project, which benefits local businesses and employees with initiatives that encourage workers to exercise and eat right.

UB works hard to communicate its impact on communities in Western New York, said Henderson. "Some get better recognition than others," she said, "but all are important as ways which UB interacts with the community."

She notes an important resource for people who want to learn more about the services available to them is the "Your UB" Web site that launched in May.

Other projects are in the works to widen the lines of communication between UB and local communities, she said. "We hope to have some better touching points to make it easier for people in the community to access us," said Henderson, noting interactive elements are slated for integration into the "Your UB" Web site and neighborhood newsletters are in the pipeline for communities near the South Campus.

In addition, Henderson said there is a major initiative—"just getting off the ground"—that will involve extensive communication with local government. "The university is embarking on a master plan process for all [its] properties," she explained. "[Amherst Town] Supervisor [Satish] Mohan has been contacted to be part of a high-level planning group and we're also meeting with each of the planning departments in the Town of Amherst, city and county . . . to let them know what we're looking at in terms of out future growth and how that might impact those communities." She said the initiative will take place over the next several years.

One of the issues the project will consider is where to create spaces where people can better access and gather on campus, she said.

"We see a lot of growth potential and want to make sure that it's done the right way," said Henderson.