A plan for the plan
Zukoski releases UB 2020 preparation draft
Published: Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, January 22, 2013 21:01
Provost Charles Zukoski has a vision for UB’s future, and it begins with UB 2020.
In November, Zukoski held two open forums to announce a new, comprehensive plan that will help guide UB 2020’s ambitious goals for the next five years and asked for faculty, staff and student feedback. The document would spark the change the university needs, he said.
He has since published the first draft of “Realizing UB 2020: A Window of Opportunity,” a document that outlines how the university will fulfill its aspirations. This guide will clarify the goals of UB 2020 and what steps the university needs to take to get there. Zukoski sat down with The Spectrum last week to discuss how the draft is laid out and what needs to be done before the final draft is published in May.
The 2020 plan, as first imagined by former President John B. Simpson five years ago, called for $5 billion in renovations across UB’s three campuses over two decades, creating “enduring prominence” for the university. Simpson knew he wanted to expand the university and he knew that required a substantial amount of funding, but the question became: how?
Realizing UB 2020 is the answer, according to Zukoski.
“[UB 2020] was comprehensive, not just for UB, but for the entire [Buffalo] community and how the university would play a key role in the community through engagement, economic development and education,” Zukoski said. “And the legislation had trouble making that happen.”
In June 2011, about six months after Simpson’s retirement, the New York State Senate approved NYSUNY 2020 – a scaled-down version of Simpson’s original plan. With this new law, UB is able to raise its tuition by $300 for the next five years – or 8 percent, to add up to $100 million – while receiving $3 billion is state funding from taxpayers and from private partnerships.
As UB grows this considerable amount of capital, the New York State government has expectations and wants to know when objectives will be completed.
“[The state said] we’ll let you grow your revenue by increasing tuition monies,” Zukoski said. “And if the university doesn’t deliver and we aren’t seen as marching down the path to deliver that … they’ll stop [funding]. And then we’ve made all these plans and it collapses and we’re not able to move forward.”
To prove to the state that a framework model exists, Zukoski came up with this prioritization system. The draft is simple but extensive and is more of an implementation of the UB 2020 plan that already exists, according to Zukoski. It ranks the importance of the changes being made and puts the remodeling of curriculums across the university as the first step.
The most important piece of Realizing UB 2020: the concept of themes.
“The programs that will come out in this document will tend to be pretty high-level,” Zukoski said. “The concept of themes is based on the idea that we’re presenting a strategy that says we can be distinct by being known for working on large challenges facing mankind.”
The four themes – health, the environment, creativity and justice – will challenge faculty and students across disciplines and force them to think outside of their niches and more about the challenges facing society as a whole, according to Zukoski.
By thinking “out of the box,” faculty will be able to alter and improve their curriculums. In turn, students will begin to develop the traits of a “distinctive” UB graduate. One of the tangible ways students can see these themes in action are the objectives and outcomes tables included on every university course syllabus.
What hasn’t been developed yet, though, is the system to measure this progress. This action will come following discussion with the draft’s stakeholders – faculty, students and staff.
“Exactly how we’re going to measure it, we’re still working on,” Zukoski said. “What are the metrics that you would use for that competition? Those have to be built because of the expectations put on us by the state … in the end, I’ll have to do some measuring and sort of be the cop and make sure we’re marching toward it and move resources if we’re not.”
Zukoski wants to change the worth of a UB degree in 2020. He wants to change the culture of UB and how graduates are viewed in the post-graduation job search. While students studying at UB today will not see immediate effects of the 2020 plan now, they will see the value of their degrees increase.
"It’s a civic duty – we’re asking you to help us think about how to develop programs that will help the next generation,” Zukoski said. “Your career will be based on what people think when they see that you got your degree from UB. And by increasing the visibility and the rankings, the value of your degree goes up.
"Just from the self-interest point of view, you want UB to be known as the university that created the new world.”
Zukoski created the Realizing UB 2020 plan by looking at other universities, but he based his blueprint mainly on what is distinct about UB – primarily looking to the Buffalo and Western New York communities for inspiration.
“We do have a culture and we do value certain things, and I’m expecting those to be captured here,” he said. “Because if they’re not, they’re not us. We don’t want to go down that road.”
The 2020 plan calls for a new medical school in downtown Buffalo, 250 new faculty members, a “Heart of the Campus” initiative and curriculum reform to be completed within the next two decades. It plans to reform and rethink the way UB operates across all disciplines to attract the brightest and most talented faculty and students in the new generations.