Rockwell tower through the trees

Good morning, colleagues.

There are many issues I could address this morning, but I would like to focus on the one I think is most important to us all as I stand before you at the convening of this first academic meeting, marking the beginning of a new academic year. I promise you we will get to all the other issues as the semester evolves.

I want to express my profound gratitude to each of you. Your dedication, resilience, and commitment to Buffalo State University and its students are what will fuel our institution’s progress toward its ultimate destiny. As we prepare to welcome a new president, it is a time of transition, hope, and opportunity. As the interim president, I am humbled to have been asked by the chancellor to return to Buffalo State and am privileged to serve alongside you. But I stand here today to remind you that the power to transform Buffalo State University does not reside solely within the President’s Office, nor with its occupant. Instead it lies in the collective strength, wisdom, and dedication of the College Council; the College Senate; the administrative, professional, and clerical staff; and the faculty.

The academics of teaching, researching, grant writing, and curriculum development are our core business, and you, the faculty, are both the vanguards and protectors of this academic enterprise. Likewise, our academic staff plays an indispensable role in our institution’s mission. Your work provides crucial support to our faculty and students and is essential to the success of our academic endeavors. You are often the unsung heroes, ensuring the smooth operation of our academic machinery and facilitating the best possible learning experience for our students.

I am excited to share with you the strategic outcomes for my interim presidency. We have three key focus areas: (1) addressing our enrollment challenges, (2) increasing alternative sources of revenue, and (3) improving the campus cultural climate and morale. Each of these objectives requires not only my leadership but also your active involvement and participation. They represent a collective call to action.

First, on the subject of our enrollment challenges, we have the unique opportunity to transition Buffalo State into an engaging hub for students across the region, the state, the nation, and abroad. Our classrooms must become more than just spaces for knowledge transfer; they should also be vibrant environments that spark curiosity, promote exploration, and provide an inclusive and supportive atmosphere. The power of education expands beyond the traditional degree programs, syllabi, and lesson plans. It’s your innovative approach, your passion, your dedication, and your personal touch that will be pivotal in attracting, keeping, and graduating students in a timely fashion.

As faculty members, you play a critical role in not just drawing the “high performers” but also in attracting average, and even marginalized, students. Authentic leadership is about creating an environment that is conducive to learning, welcoming for all prospective students, and supportive of diversity and inclusivity. The quality of education you offer and the nurturing environment you foster in your classrooms are the primary factors that will make Buffalo State an appealing choice and a comfortable academic home for all students.

In this respect, the academic staff is also vital, as you help bring these environments to life, ensuring that our programs are efficiently run and well managed, and that the educational environment is well equipped and conducive to learning. Together, these elements will enable us to address our enrollment challenges and transform Buffalo State into a beacon and destination for eager minds.

Second, as we explore alternative sources of revenue, our aim is to establish Buffalo State University as a wise choice for investment, whether it be through taxpayer dollars, backing from SUNY, or philanthropic support. Moreover, we are looking to attract external businesses and organizations to use our superb facilities, presenting another avenue for generating income. Our innovative research, cutting-edge pedagogy, and dedicated community-engagement initiatives serve as strong selling points. Every research paper we publish, every grant we secure, and every success story from our students not only underline the value of investing in our institution but also illustrate the potential benefits for businesses and organizations. Here, too, our academic staff plays a vital role. Your work in managing our resources, supporting our research, and engaging with our community contributes significantly to the overall value and appeal of our institution. As an anchor institution, and by offering our top-tier facilities for use, we provide a mutually beneficial opportunity, reinforcing the integral role of Buffalo State University in education, research, and community involvement while also supporting the operations and growth of external entities.

While the enhancement of our campus climate and morale is the last strategic goal I’m addressing, it is arguably the most critical to our future success. As faculty and academic staff members, you hold the power to shape our culture. We must prioritize fostering an atmosphere of respect and inclusivity for each other and for our students.

We must also strive to break down the walls between the divisions and collaborate with our colleagues on the other sides of the house who are subject-matter experts in their fields and support your work in Academic Affairs. It’s through this culture that we can truly succeed.

While we strive to achieve all our strategic objectives, let us never forget that a positive and empowering campus climate that values every voice, nurtures every talent, and celebrates every achievement is at the heart of our ability to deliver on our mission. This is not merely a finer point, but rather, it must become a cornerstone of our institution.

As we embark on this new academic year, let us rise together to meet these challenges, embrace our roles as leaders, and commit to achieving our strategic outcomes. I implore each of you to embody the principles of authentic leadership—being true to yourselves, upholding integrity, and leading with both your heart and your mind.

Remember, leadership transcends position or title and is about influence and impact. Your influence as faculty members and academic staff members is considerable and far-reaching. Let’s approach this academic year with a renewed sense of purpose and a commitment to our strategic outcomes. Together, we can create a Buffalo State University that serves as a beacon of academic excellence, a hub of innovation, and a proud testament to the power of higher education.

So, here’s to a successful academic year and a prosperous future for Buffalo State University and our students. Onward and upward. Cheers!

Thank you.

Interim President Bonita R. Durand, Ph.D.
SUNY Buffalo State University