Two programs added to Undergraduate Academies
Published: Thursday, September 13, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
Rachel Stern didn’t give the invitation to join the Undergraduate Academies a second glance when the she sorted through her mail the summer before college.
She threw it out.
It was not until her mom picked the flyer out of the garbage pail and put it on her desk that Stern looked into the opportunity.
“It was the best decision I’ve ever made in my life,” Stern, a UB graduate, said. “The Academies made my college experience what it was.”
The Undergraduate Academies are a living and learning community in which students of all majors and ages can dorm and collaborate across disciplines in shared-interest groups. There are three academies: Global Perspectives, Civic Engagement and Research Exploration. This semester, UB added the Entrepreneurship Academy and announced the Sustainability Academy will open next fall.
Stern said she is jealous she graduated before the two new academies were added.
Yet not all students are satisfied with the organization.
“The professors come off as judgmental,” said Alyssa Waldron, a freshman business administration major in the Entrepreneurship Academy. “It’s their way or no way in how to be successful.”
Matthew Scholze, a junior electrical engineering major, was in the Research Exploration Academy his freshman year, but didn’t like it.
“I think they tried to be a little too structured and told you what to think,” Scholze said.
He found he preferred his Theta Tau engineering fraternity, where he found people more similar to himself.
“The Academies have diversity among members, which is good, but it’s also problematic in that it may be harder to find people you truly bond with,” Scholze said.
Yong Li, an associate professor of operations management and strategy, directs the Entrepreneurship Academy.
Li said the one-credit seminar will walk students through the entrepreneurial process – from first generating the idea to designing a business strategy and implementing the plan. The curriculum will include marketing, financing and legal aspects as well.
“Entrepreneurship is not just for students in management,” Li said. “Some people might say that one needs the business skills to start up a company, but at the same time entrepreneurship starts with a good idea or opportunity.”
According to A. Scott Weber, vice provost and dean of undergraduate education, entrepreneurship has a new meaning.
“It’s not just the tinker,” Weber said. “It’s not just the widget. It’s services like Google and Facebook.”
The Entrepreneurship Academy will also prepare students to compete for the Western New York Prosperity Scholarship. UB will give a full scholarship to students who need financial aid and show commitment to the local community, according to scholarship’s website.
The Sustainability Academy, which will open in fall 2013, will welcome students who are interested in maintaining an eco-friendly community.
Kenneth Shockley, an associate professor of philosophy and the director of the sustainability program, feels one of the reasons he was chosen to lead the seminar is because sustainability is a combination of humanistic and scientific endeavor.
Throughout the semester, Shockley hopes his class will explore environmental ethics, the nature of human existence and the future of the planet.
Weber said UB has a good track record for environmentally friendly buildings. The next step is developing an academic curriculum.
Next fall, students in the Sustainability Program will be introduced to the Massachusetts Avenue Project, an organization that is collaborating with Dr. Samina Raja, an associate professor of urban planning, to improve the local food system. Their work has been nationally recognized.
Like the three academies before them, Entrepreneurship and Sustainability were created to further interests of both the university and its students.
Undergraduate Academies Administrative Director Hadar Broden said the organization provides a way to bring these interests to the forefront.
She said the Undergraduate Academies allow students to see UB as a large town, rather than a small city, which makes students more aware and involved in campus life.
“As a student, it’s very difficult to see everything that is happening across campus,” Borden said. “We are trying to highlight what is being done on campus and make it available and accessible to all undergraduate students.”
In addition to exploring passions and networking with faculty, students may have the opportunity to add participation in the Academies to their transcripts.
Transcript Notation, a program currently in development, will allow participating students to show their involvement with the academies on curricular and co-curricular ideas in a portfolio.
According to Weber, this is just what an undergraduate education should be like.
“This is what I think education is about,” Weber said. “Not just getting the certificate that says you can go to this or that, but the ability to think and have a larger perspective of the world that allows you to be the informed citizen who makes ethical choices in life – to be a citizen who is prosperous and thinking about how to make the world better. The Academies put students on this path.”