Dr. Scott Weber discusses his transition into vice president of UB Student Life
Dr. Scott Weber loves backcountry hiking and making gallons of his own maple syrup.
He listens to Fleetwood Mac while rowing and plans to climb Mt. Vesuvius when he visits Italy this semester.
But when Weber isn’t at the top of a mountain, he’s on campus.
The Spectrum sat down with Weber in his Capen office full of family photos and artwork of inspirational quotes. Historical books on ancient Rome were stacked on his desk while he sipped a glass of soda. Weber, vice president of Student Life, discussed his transition into his new role and his plans for the university. He said he has always been “student centric” and he feels he is a natural fit for the job. But he said he still has “a lot to learn” in his position.
Weber assumed his new position as vice president on Jan. 3. President Satish Tripathi offered the position to Weber once former vice president Dennis Black resigned after being investigated for hundreds of thousands of dollars of expenditures during his time at UB.
Weber joined UB as faculty in 1983 and served as vice provost and dean of Undergraduate Education in 2010. He was later promoted to senior vice provost for Academic Affairs.
He said he wasn’t anticipating this job and has no set contract stating how long he will be in this position.
Weber said he worked closely and had a “very good” relationship with Black.
“We did a lot of work together and we had a lot of joint programs together, we met regularly, had lunch together regularly,” he said. “It was a pretty close, professional relationship.”
Weber said he does not know Black’s current status. He emailed Black about his new position and Black wished him well.
“I do think [Black] interacted extremely well with our students and I hope to be able to emulate that in this process,” Weber said. “I hope that students see me as an advocate for them as part of upper level administration and you’ll have to make the verdict later.”
For many, Black was considered as the “face” of UB. Weber hopes to be “one of the faces” of UB, but he said Tripathi should be in the forefront.
Weber said UB doesn’t have any flaws, but wishes students had more school pride and affinity.
“I’d like every student to be walking down with their Buffalo shirt or sweatshirt with that kind of pride in the institution. It’s not about selling the gear. It’s the identity of the institution and how proud you are,” he said.
He plans to be more visible on campus by eating dinner in the dining halls and having group sessions where students voice their concerns. He said he’s only had a couple interactions with students this semester because “time goes by so fast.”
Weber always feels pressure, he said. He wants to “strive toward excellence” in every department. He said he isn’t as “intimately familiar” with all of the units in Student Life, but he plans to explore more of Campus Living, student conduct and advocacy, and student wellness and dining.
“I think I’m pretty visible on campus. If I walked down the hall, you’d be amazed at how many people say hi,” Weber said.
But Weber misses arriving to class 10 minutes early just so he could interact with students and show them music videos before class started.
Weber said he understands what it’s like being a student. He went to Virginia Tech as an undergrad and he said he didn’t do as well as wanted to. He likes that the education system allows students a “second chance.” He later received his Ph.D from University of California, Davis.
“I often share who I am, what my journey has been and everyone’s is different. Nobody’s journey is probably a smooth one,” Weber said. “We all have some bumps, some ups and downs. Stay focused, be committed, set goals, have purpose, have fun.”
His past has had a great influence on where he is today.
Weber grew up on a farm in Stafford County, Virginia and his father, who was a civil engineer, inspired him. At 10 years old, he watched construction workers build the interstate highway system and realized he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps.
While growing up, Weber raised beef cows and sold calves every year. He said this profit helped him pay for college.
“Every place that I moved I always wanted to do something unique to that place that I haven’t been able to do anywhere else I lived,” Weber said.
He said he has always had an appreciation for wildlife and nature.
“I love the woods,” he said. “I love being able to sit out in the quiet and listen to the animals – chickadees flying like they could talk to you, mice come out and run across the snow – it’s an amazing thing.”
Weber is one of six children and has been married for 40 years. He intermittently brings his wife to meet students. He met her as an undergraduate freshman in a chemistry class and they have two children who are both civil engineers.
But his heart is set on improving student life at UB.
He describes himself as an inquisitor and has a “problem-solving mentality.” He said safety of students is of “paramount importance” and he is “very sensitive” to safety issues, particularly concerning sexual assault. He said he’s thought about the living conditions in the University Heights, but doesn’t have any solutions or answers just yet.
Weber thinks it’s important to have a student newspaper that’s “respected” on campus.
“I’ve always tried to be a supporter and have access to The Spectrum even in my former role. It’s not only a great training ground, we also have great alumni,” he said.
He expects UB to be a national leader among the top universities.
“I like all ideas,” Weber said. “I’m an iterator. That’s what engineers do. It’s not like everything you do has to be successful, as long as you try it... don’t be afraid to fail.
Hannah Stein is the co-senior news editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org