By JOHN DELLACONTRADA
President Satish K. Tripathi delivered his annual State of the University Address Friday, congratulating faculty, staff and students for their numerous accomplishments in the 2012-13 academic year and outlining new and ongoing efforts contributing to a growing momentum at UB and in Buffalo.
"There is tangible excitement building around what we're doing at UB. And that is thanks in large part to your achievements," Tripathi told the audience in UB's Lippes Concert Hall in Slee Hall. "Because of your efforts, the University at Buffalo is establishing itself as one of the world's great research universities."
Tripathi began his speech by describing the pride and excitement generated by President Obama's visit to UB on the first day of the fall semester. Obama's policy address at UB focused on issues "very close to UB's heart ... access and affordability and graduation rates," Tripathi said.
"These are important issues, to be sure. But we are not talking enough about what happens in the vast space in between entering and exiting higher education. We need to be talking more about the college experience itself.
"Our first concern must be for the quality and innovation of the education we are providing to our students," he said.
Creating a learning environment that prepares students to be leaders in this world, Tripathi said, is one of three interconnected goals the university must focus on to achieve its mission of "changing the world for the better through our ideas and our actions." The university also will continue to focus on advancing research that responds to the century's critical issues and engaging more effectively with local and global communities, he said.
"In pursuit of these goals, we have focused on strategic investments in faculty excellence, in the student experience and in the physical environment that supports excellence," he said.
Tripathi pointed to Tuesday's groundbreaking for the new medical school in downtown Buffalo as a major milestone in pursuit of these goals; one that "represents a bold new era for our university and our region." He also noted that the university in the past year welcomed 180 new staff and 150 new full-time faculty, including the largest group of new tenure-track faculty in decades.
A significant portion of Tripathi's talk focused on ways "Realizing UB 2020"-the next evolution of the UB 2020 vision led by Provost Charles Zukoski-will build upon the university's momentum, "taking it to the next level." The undergraduate student experience will be a major focus of this effort, Tripathi said.
"Our goal is to provide current and future students with a rigorous, relevant education that prepares them to lead in their communities as critical thinkers, as collaborators in responding to complex problems and as citizens of the world who have learned from many cultures and life experiences."
The university will transform its curricula, Tripathi said, so that all students gain significant global experience, participate in experiential learning and complete a capstone project. "Teams of faculty and staff are working now to implement these major shifts across the curricula," he said.
Through the Realizing UB 2020 plan, the university will apply "a thematic approach to how we organize our curriculum, pursue research and approach challenges." These themes, he said, are environment, health, humanity, innovation and justice.
"This thematic approach is about enhancing how our students and faculty engage with broadly defined social challenges," Tripathi said. "These five themes build on and advance our strategic strengths in a university-wide context-not only in terms of interdisciplinary research, but across all aspects of the university, from campus operations to our engagement with our communities."
As an example, a RENEW institute will be launched to addresses a broad range of scientific, political and social issues related to energy, water and the environment. "UB has great faculty capacity in a wide array of fields that intersect with these issues, from environmental engineering, to law and management, to public health," Tripathi said.
A video highlighting the university's achievements over the past year preceded Tripathi's address. His address touched on some of these achievements. Among them:
- More than 7,200 people were on hand in Alumni Arena as Obama unveiled his ambitious plan for ensuring greater access to higher education.
- Over the summer, the university celebrated the grand opening of the new home for the Educational Opportunity Center-the sixth building opening on the university's three campuses in the past two years.
- UB's student and faculty entrepreneurs and its business incubators are achieving international recognition.
- The university's innovative use of alternative energies and green design across its campuses, and introduction of hands-on learning opportunities like those in the new undergraduate Sustainability Academy.
- Students and faculty earned several international awards and honors, such as Goldwater, National Science Foundation and Fulbright scholarships, and fellowships with American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Mathematical Association.
- UB now has the largest total enrollment in UB history, including the largest international enrollment.