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Campus Update

by Greta Petry (October 6, 2006)

Portch Outlines BOV Vision for UAlbany

Stephen R. Portch, chair of the University at Albany's Board of Visitors and chairman emeritus of the University System of Georgia, said he's "never seen the UAlbany campus looking better." Portch said he sensed the University's "tremendous energy" as he arrived on Wednesday, Oct. 4, to address the Fall Faculty Meeting in the Campus Center Ballroom.

Portch and the Board of Visitors were brought in by the late President Kermit L. Hall, Provost Susan Herbst and the Executive Committee this past spring to assess the University's future from a national perspective. View the complete report >> (PDF file, requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)

Stephen R. Portch, chair of the Board of Visitors, addressed the Fall Faculty Meeting

Stephen R. Portch, chair of the Board of Visitors, addressed the Fall Faculty Meeting Oct. 4 in the Campus Center Ballroom, saying the University at Albany needs to be "intensely focused" on the future. Seated, at left, are Diane Dewar, chair of the University Senate, and, at right, Provost Susan Herbst, who introduced Portch. (Photo by Mark Schmidt.)

"You have weathered pretty tough conditions extremely well," Portch said, after being introduced by Provost Susan Herbst. In spite of budget cuts and a sometimes bureaucratic system, the University has forged ahead in nanotechnology and continues to build strength in policy areas.

"Our board felt this place is a lot better than it sometimes thinks it is," he said.

The Board of Visitors report notes the real strength in the University's compact planning process is "the new faculty positions to be added over five years – that is where the ‘bang for the buck" will come from." Indeed, Portch said, "Ultimately, the greatness of this University will depend on the quality of the faculty it brings in."

Portch gave the example of the University of Illinois, which is "three hours between cornfields," and yet has produced two Nobel Prize winners because it has "stockpiled faculty talent."

Continuing to add faculty lines in difficult financial times is critical to long-term academic strength. Encouraging interdisciplinary connections in compact planning proposals is also a factor, Portch said. The BOV report suggests that even greater interdisciplinary collaboration can be achieved in compact planning. "Towards that end, this value must be stated clearly up front, and potentially even made a criterion that, if met, will increase the likelihood of funding," the report said.

Portch noted there is "great potential" for interdisciplinary collaboration in the "high-profile" but "somewhat controversial" field of nanoscience, which "is clearly something that is part of a University signature."

 In assessing the compact planning proposals, Portch said he sensed a bit of "constrained ambition," and believed some of them to be overly modest in scope.

He said there are possibilities for greater ambition and optimism.

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