Over a medley of steamed vegetables and cheese ravioli, Provost Elizabeth Capaldi discussed a variety of issues with UB students at an informal question-and-answer dinner session Tuesday night. Professors Peter A. Nickerson and John Boot also attended.
Approximately 50 UB students gathered in the Governors Residence Halls cafeteria to ask questions about subjects ranging from the provost's own educational background to the university's plan to improve on-campus student life.
"I just want to know what ideas [Capaldi] has to move UB forward," said attendee Keith Smith, a political science major.
"I'd like to ask about the Skinnersville complex," said Dave Ellison, a senior mechanical engineer. "The controversy related to the environmental concerns surrounding it concerns me."
After briefly chatting about her education in psychology at the University of Rochester, Capaldi discussed one of the hottest university-related topics, the recently proposed Lee Road complex. The provost said she considers the complex's location near the Audubon Parkway, the highway stretching between Ellicott and the Spine, one of the project's largest potential obstacles.
"No matter what, the large road is still there," said Capaldi. "That type of complex would bring much more pedestrian traffic, and crossing that road is an issue. Some sort of bridge would have to be built."
Some students were concerned about UB plans to improve North Campus' aesthetic appeal. The provost said allocating significant budgetary funds to the appearance of the campus instead of channeling the funds into academic programs poses a dilemma for the administration.
She added that a large sum of money was earmarked for maintenance of classrooms and educational buildings, something that is currently, and always will be, a top priority at UB.
Conversation then turned toward what students will be able to expect in UB's academic future. Capaldi said UB's department of biological sciences had received a certificate of merit from Gov. George Pataki for its research and study of the human genome.
Mentioning the certificate served as a catalyst for discussion about the new economy job market and the need for new majors. One student noted that competence with software applications is a minimal requirement for virtually every job.
"Majors like bioinformatics are the next wave," Capaldi noted. "It's that type of cross-education which is really going to meet the demands of the new job market. Every major, whether it be psychology or chemical engineering, needs not only people skills but also computer ability, which is why cross-schooling is going to be so important."
At the meal's conclusion, Travis Bono, a junior chemical engineering major, expressed dissatisfaction with the session.
"I wanted to ask a question, but I couldn't," said Bono. "I didn't know there was no formal question session, or I would have just approached her."
Other attendees appreciated the meeting's open format.
"I liked the relaxed atmosphere," said Adam Bavifard, a freshman biology major. "For a short overview, it was just right."
"It's always nice to talk with the students," Capaldi said. "It's a good way to see what's going on."