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Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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Undergraduate Academies brings feel of community to UB

With the University at Buffalo's undergraduate population at almost 19,000 students, first year and transfer students coming to UB for the first time can feel overwhelmed at the size of the campus and the sea of students flooding the Academic Spine during the opening week of classes. At a large research university such as UB, it is easy to step foot on campus and feel like only a number.

This year Undergraduate Academies, a new program launched by Student Affairs, aims to offer students a smaller community feeling on UB's large campuses. The program is meant to offer students and faculty the opportunity to be involved in a smaller academic community.

In conjunction with the Vice Provost, Student Affairs created the new program to help improve the undergraduate educational experience.

Jacob Sneva, the administrative director of the Undergraduate Academies, said that the program was designed to offer students a smaller atmosphere for learning.

"We wanted to create a smaller community of students, faculty and staff that was based on a common theme," Sneva said. "The common theme is a focus on strengths of UB."

According to Sneva, the two strengths of UB have developed into two academies within the program for this first year; one being the Research Exploration Academy, and the other being the Civic Engagement Academy.

The program is designed to allow students to get to know others in their same field of interest and serves to create a personal relationship between faculty and staff members who opt to participate in the program.

"One of the more convenient aspects of the program is that students are able to decide on how involved they want to be with Undergraduate Academies," Sneva said. Students have the opportunity to engage in many different opportunities and be as involved as they'd like to be.

"Students have an opportunity to take seminars as a two-credit academic course," Sneva said. "They have an option of living on a residential floor where the (hall) programs are specific to the Academies."

According to Sneva, there are also activities and events that students are able to participate in, which are posted on the Undergraduate Academies' Web site.

Amanda Dotterman, a freshman English major, is a member of the Research Exploration Academy and decided to join the academy after reading a flier she received in the mail.

"I joined because I am interested in a career in research," Dotterman said.

Dotterman is enrolled in the Research Exploration Seminar. Besides participating in the course, she attends certain events that are offered, such as a screening of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11.

"I like the program because it is a small community within a large university and because the seminar challenges you to think and discover things on your own, instead of memorizing information," Dotterman said.

Chase Harvey, a freshman pharmacy major is a member of the Civic Engagement Academy.

"I first learned about the Academies when I was filling out my orientation form," Harvey said. "I was interested in any opportunities that might enhance my experience at UB."

Harvey said he was drawn to the Civic Engagement Academy because he wanted to continue participating in community service projects like he did in high school.

Harvey resides in the Civic Engagement residential hall, located in Red Jacket.

"On the Academies' floors, we are always having a good time," Harvey said. "My floor mates and I were developing personal and meaningful relationships before students on other floors were even learning their next door neighbors' names."

Harvey is also enrolled in the Civic Engagement seminar, which has helped him learn more about diversity and taught him to be accepting and open-minded.

Dr. Tracy Gregg, the overseer of the Research Exploration Academy, said that any student has the ability to join the academies to obtain a meaningful experience. Gregg said this is because the programs are created based on overall philosophies, not on specific topics.

"There is quite a bit of overlap," Gregg said. "The extracurricular activities reach a broad range of interest."

Gregg said that the Research Exploration seminar discusses aspects of research that are useful for any major. Issues covered include finding research topics, identifying good and bad research, and discussing ethical issues.

Currently, the Research Exploration Academy offers students the opportunity to make research portfolios that will help them get into graduate schools or in research based careers.

Gregg said that students eventually would be able to get recognition for their work in the academies either through their transcript, or as a certificate program.

If students are unable to fit the seminars into their schedules, or prefer not to reside in the residential halls, there is still the option of participating in events.

Through the Academies, students have the opportunity to attend film screenings, lectures and trips off campus, according to Sneva.

In the Fall 2008 semester, a third academy will be added to the program. The International Academy will be a learning community that focuses on international issues.

The Undergraduate Academies program hopes to continue growing, and is anticipating a class of each academy, as well as developments of more seminar options and events.

"We understand that we are a work in progress and we will continue to develop this program as we go," Sneva said.

According to Sneva, there has been a lot of positive feedback, thus far.

"I really love the academies and would definitely encourage other students to be involved," Harvey said. "The Academies are not only a great place to learn and expand your abilities and skills, but also just a great place to live."

For more information, or to become involved with the Undergraduate Academies program, students can visit the office in 17 Norton, or go to the Web site at



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