UB a finalist for national graduation rate award

UB is among five public research universities selected by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) as finalists for the 2015 APLU Project Degree Completion Award recognizing universities that embrace innovative strategies to increase undergraduate student retention and graduation rates, and create clear, accelerated pathways for student success.

The award is part of Project Degree Completion — a joint initiative developed by the APLU and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) — in which nearly 500 public colleges and universities pledge to collectively award 3.8 million more degrees by 2025.

The APLU will present the award at its annual meeting, November 15-17 in Indianapolis.

“We are committed to providing a transformative educational experience for all of our students and helping them succeed in their academic endeavors,” says Charles Zukoski, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “I am proud of our university community for their dedication to our students’ success and timely degree completion, and I am pleased that the APLU is recognizing UB’s efforts.”

APLU representatives cited UB’s Student Success Initiative and Finish in Four program in recognizing the university’s commitment to providing the resources needed for students to graduate in four years.

“UB’s Student Success Initiative and Finish in Four program provide students with enhanced support throughout their entire undergraduate career,” says Scott Weber, senior vice provost for academic affairs.

“They represent a far-reaching, multi-pronged approach to meeting our students’ graduation goals by helping them understand their responsibilities, and they demonstrate the university’s commitment to helping students earn their degree in a timely manner.”

Finish in Four has attracted national attention as a model program for increasing college affordability and was a catalyst for a 2013 visit to UB by President Barack Obama, during which he delivered a major speech on national higher education policy.

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UB invests in Communities of Excellence to address societal problems

The University at Buffalo is investing $25 million in an initiative that will harness the strengths of UB faculty from disciplines across the university to confront grand challenges facing humankind.

The university announced today the establishment of three new Communities of Excellence — an innovative and integrated approach to addressing critical societal challenges through impactful interdisciplinary research, education and engagement.

Through Communities of Excellence, teams of faculty will work together to find solutions, pushing the boundaries of human knowledge and understanding. Faculty leaders within communities plan to create new educational opportunities that cut across multiple academic disciplines in order to address the focus area of each community.

The three Communities of Excellence, chosen from nearly 100 initial concept proposals submitted by faculty teams, are:

  • Global Health Equity. This community will work to address the challenge of global health inequity by bringing together faculty and students from the health sciences and disciplines that are focused on the social, economic, political and environmental conditions that lead to inequities. This community will tackle problems ranging from a lack of access to sanitation for women and girls in poor countries to high rates of non-communicable diseases due to complex sets of factors, including tobacco use and the environment.
  • Sustainable Manufacturing and Advanced Robotic Technologies (SMART). This community will build upon UB’s reputation as a leader in advanced manufacturing and design by developing the next generation of manufacturing technologies, processes and education that enable sustainable, cost-effective production of high-quality, customizable products. SMART will leverage university and regional strength in manufacturing and partner with regional companies to educate future manufacturing leaders and shape national policy.
  • The Genome, the Environment and the Microbiome (GEM). This community will work to advance understanding of areas that will enable development of personalized medicine and empower individuals to have greater control over and understanding of their health, the human genome and the human microbiome — the trillions of microorganisms living in and on the human body. Through collaboration among the sciences, social sciences, arts and humanities, GEM will enhance UB’s reputation in genomics to make UB a national model for promoting and increasing genomic literacy.

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Anthropology freshman wins Fulbright to study in UK

A UB anthropology student just finishing her freshman year will take her passion for the “connections through time” to Durham University in Great Britain, one of three 2015 UB Fulbright Scholars poised for world travel and instant academic honor as they complete their semesters.

Anna Porter, who recently turned 19, will travel to England as part of the Fulbright Summer Institute, widely considered one of the most selective and prestigious summer scholarship programs in the world. Porter will spend four weeks on a major archaeological project, studying on site at the northern edges of the Roman Empire in Britain and exploring the culture and heritage of the United Kingdom.

For Porter, whose whirlwind freshman year has ended with acceptance at two of the three major summer fellowships she applied for — she’s also going to New Mexico as part of the National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates — it’s another step on an intellectual journey powered by a concept she calls “connectivity.”

Porter, whose hometown is the Syracuse suburb of Manlius, is another example of a UB student who competes and excels competing against the top students at any university, says Elizabeth Colucci, coordinator of fellowships and scholarships for UB.

“Anna participated in UB’s fellowship and scholarship development program called ‘Spark.’” says Colucci, whose program has enjoyed a particularly successful year finding UB students national and international fellowships.

“During this program, she learned about an exciting opportunity for freshmen and sophomores to travel to the United Kingdom with the prestigious UK Summer Fulbright Institutes. She had a chance to hear from UB’s first UK Summer Fulbright winner, Dylan Burns. So Anna is UB’s second student to win this prestigious award and I anticipate that more freshmen and sophomores at UB will become Summer Fulbrighters.”

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UB alumnus shares Pulitzer for coverage of Washington mudslide

Marcus Yam came to the University at Buffalo to study engineering. He left besotted by photojournalism.

Now he can claim a Pulitzer Prize, widely considered the highest honor in the United States for journalism, for his role in The Seattle Times’ coverage of a horrific mudslide that killed 43 people in rural Washington.

The honor, awarded under the breaking news category, was one of 14 journalism Pulitzers announced last month. (The Buffalo News was a finalist for the same award for its coverage of last November’s historic snowstorm.)

“It has been a very humbling experience,” said Yam, a native of Malaysia who earned a bachelor’s of science degree in aerospace engineering from UB in 2007. “You don’t expect to win anything like that in your lifetime.”

Yam was the only Times photographer on-duty when reports of the mudslide surfaced on the morning of March 22, 2014. He rushed to the scene and encountered chaos. The mudslide engulfed an entire neighborhood.

He was soon hanging out of a helicopter, taking pictures that would be distributed worldwide showing the mudslide’s devastating effects. He spent days at the site, capturing images of residents, rescue workers and the landscape.

The award, Yam said, is bittersweet because so many people died. However, he is proud of the work that he and his co-workers did.

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Economics major wins prestigious Boren Scholarship

Casey Rothberg, only the second UB student ever to win the competitive David L. Boren Scholarship, fits the scholarship program’s profile on paper well. Her application is the picture of a practical-minded, sensible student who hopes to work for the U.S. government one day, traveling to China for 10 months to learn the language so she can help the U.S. and China collaborate in Middle Eastern affairs.

In person, that image of Rothberg seems incomplete. She’s a natural communicator, a great listener, a dancer, engaging and with wide interests ranging from her saxophone to “adventure.” When listing what she loves, she writes “FOOD” in capital letters.

And there’s a playful touch to her lifelong drive to learn Mandarin that will take her to Capital Normal University in Beijing. She wrote down the Mandarin name she chose for herself the first week of class: 吴凯西. The phonetic pronunciation is “woo kai she,” part of which sounds like Casey, her first name.

When asked to write something in Mandarin, she writes 我很喜欢饺子.

Translation: “I really like dumplings.”

The identity that is alive and well on her Boren scholarship essay certainly applies. Rothberg wrote about how her continuing expertise in Mandarin and experience in Chinese culture will be useful in dealing with countries crucial to the future security and stability of the U.S.

“The political positions and ideological principles of the U.S. and China, democratic and communist respectively, differ in many aspects,” Rothberg wrote to the Boren committee. “However, one thing we do agree on is a stable economic system.

“As an economics major, I understand the importance of this common interest in economic power that is bonding the two largest economies together. This economic bond must be strengthened in order to create political alignment and, in turn, alignment on many other issues. The capitalistic market of the U.S. will hopefully influence China, the most prominent Communist nation, to strengthen capitalistic and democratic ideas in their own market.”

Rothberg recognizes the more formal pose the scholarship committee is looking for. And she is willing and able to present herself this way, but with a qualifier:

“Only when I have to,” she says.

Either way, Rothberg — whose family lives in Beacon, a small city in Dutchess County, a short drive from Poughkeepsie — is another shining example of how UB students are successfully competing for national and international scholarships and fellowships.

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UB’s Fulbright Scholar has passion for teaching, cultural diversity

Abigail LaPlaca — award-winning Latin American dance team choreographer, lover of languages, worldwide adventure-traveler, University at Buffalo Presidential Scholar and 2015 Fulbright Scholar — saw her vision of the transforming power of education come to life in an 8-year-old Dominican Republic girl named Tainalis.

While volunteering to teach English through UB’s Honors College during spring break her sophomore year, LaPlaca first saw Tainalis as she ran into the makeshift classroom in the small city of Monte Cristi. Tainalis was one of about 100 young students who had come to learn English in a program that teaches what LaPlaca called “the local, eager children.”

Once again, LaPlaca found a lasting connection revolving around education, cultural diversity and a shared sense of humanity.

“She scampered into the classroom, headed straight for the books and darted over to me with one firmly in hand,” LaPlaca recalled. “It was none other than ‘Oh, the Places You’ll Go!’ by Dr. Seuss.

“We sat down in a corner together and began reading,” LaPlaca wrote in the personal statement that obviously spoke to the Fulbright judges. “I would say a word and she would repeat it. Soon, I realized that we were reading simultaneously.

“As my voice faded away, hers continued on alone, halting, yet clear: ‘Oh, the places you’ll go! You’re off to great places! Today is your day. Your mountain is waiting. So get on your way!’”

LaPlaca, who turned 22 in March, willingly recounts this story with the zeal and expression of someone who savors language and who admits she doesn’t dodge the limelight. She tells it with all its conflicting joy and heartbreak. The rustic classroom with the concrete floor was surrounded by a typical Dominican environment: “brilliantly hued flora disguising and distracting from the crumbling, barbed-wire fenced dwellings that lined the hard, mud-packed streets of Monte Cristi,” the small, poor Dominican fishing village bordering on the Gulf of Mexico where LaPlaca spent her week as a teacher volunteer.

The experience with Tainalis illustrates how LaPlaca views education: Schools and classes that reach students can merge imagination and opportunity. Education can transform lives.

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Pharmacy students, faculty made medical mission trips over break

Professors Gina Prescott and Alfred Reiman escorted groups of PharmD students on medical mission trips over winter break.

Prescott hosted four PharmD students on a trip to the Dominican Republic with SCORE International, where they saw 455 patients in SCORE International headquarters in Juan Dolio.

Reiman hosted nine students on a trip to Santa Lucia, Honduras, with the Shoulder to Shoulder Brigade. The UB team conducted workshops and offered counseling on maternal care, home health care and preventative strategies. The team also collaborated with other health care members on patient education and clinical care.

For more news from the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, visit http://pharmacy.buffalo.edu/news-events/publications/enotes/2015-march-enotes.html.

UB summit to promote empowerment of women in STEM careers

As part of its commitment to increase opportunities for female students and other women to build careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), the University at Buffalo will host its inaugural Women in STEM Summit.

It will be held April 23 from 8:30 a.m. to noon in the Student Union on the UB North Campus. The event is free and open to the public.

“There are terrific opportunities in the U.S. for young women entering STEM fields now; I want our current and future students to understand that,” said Liesl Folks, dean of UB’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “Ours is an increasingly technological society, and STEM education is a ticket to a great career. The Women in STEM Summit seeks to promote that, to get that message out.”

According to a recent U.S. Department of Commerce study, while women fill close to half of the jobs in the U.S. economy, they hold less than 25 percent of STEM jobs. The U.S. Census Bureau noted in a 2013 American Community Survey Report that among science and engineering graduates, men are employed in a STEM occupation at twice the rate of women: 31 percent compared to 15 percent.

April’s summit will focus on encouraging more women to enter the science and engineering workforce, and supporting those on the path already.

The event will bring STEM undergraduate students, scholars and educators from UB together with professionals from the WNY community to share academic and professional experiences.

It will feature panel discussions with local thought leaders representing various STEM disciplines. The keynote address will be delivered by Rachel Haot, New York State’s chief digital officer and deputy secretary for technology in the administration of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

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Kapoor Hall is UB’s latest LEED-certified building

John and Editha Kapoor Hall, the home of the UB School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, has been certified gold under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system, a green building certification program that recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices.

Kapoor Hall is UB’s ninth LEED-certified facility. Its green design exemplifies the university’s commitment to reducing its environmental footprint across all three campuses.

The pharmacy school officially opened its new home, named for alumnus John N. Kapoor and his late wife, Editha, on the South Campus in 2012 following a renovation.

The building includes many green design features. It provides plenty of natural daylight (75 percent of all space in the building receives natural light), reduces water use through features such as low-flow faucets, and lowers energy costs by more than 30 percent compared with a standard building of the same size that doesn’t implement eco-friendly design.

“This remarkable building is emblematic of our commitment to our pharmaceutical sciences and pharmacy students who will become leaders in their fields,” said James M. O’Donnell, professor and dean of the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. “Our vision is to be a leader in education, research, wellness, clinical practice and service — a commitment which extends to promoting the health and sustainability of our environment as well.

“We are proud that John and Editha Kapoor Hall has earned this distinction for green building leadership. It is a world-class facility, providing us with an opportunity to have an even greater impact on improving the health of our students and faculty as well as our community.”

The building houses a state-of-the-art Pharmaceutical Care and Teaching Center and has improved linkages between all of UB’s health science schools and the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

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Three UB engineering students win coveted Goldwater scholarships

Three University at Buffalo juniors will receive Goldwater scholarships, a prestigious national honor that supports undergraduates studying science, mathematics or engineering.

The students are:

·         Stephanie M. Kong, a chemical engineering major from East Amherst.

·         Sharon Lin, a chemical engineering major from Schenectady.

·         Kristina Monakhova, an electrical engineering major from Liverpool.

They are among 260 award winners chosen by the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program from a nationwide pool of 1,206 sophomores and juniors. Congress established the program in 1986 to honor Barry Goldwater, a five-term senator from Arizona.

Each award winner will receive up to $7,500 per year to cover educational expenses.

“The Goldwater scholarship committee could not have chosen three more deserving scholars than Stephanie, Sharon and Kristina. They have excelled in the classroom and laboratory, and set an example for other students to emulate,” said Liesl Folks, dean of UB’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “The awards are especially gratifying because of the emphasis UB places on encouraging women, minorities and other underrepresented groups to pursue careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields.”

Universities may nominate up to four undergraduates annually, and each of UB’s four 2015 nominees — all UB Honors Scholars — received recognition. Junior Dante A. Iozzo, a dual major in physics and mathematics from Lewiston, earned an honorable mention.

“Goldwater scholarships are extremely competitive. Fortunately at UB, we have the good problem of having no shortage of exemplary students to nominate. This is no doubt a reflection of the quality of our student body,” said Elizabeth Colucci, UB’s coordinator of fellowships and scholarships.

This year’s award winners are a point of pride for UB’s engineering school. Since 2012, six undergraduate engineering students – including five from the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering – have won the prestigious award.

Read more about UB’s Goldwater recipients.