The University at Buffalo is investing $25 million in an initiative that will harness the strengths of faculty from disciplines across the university to confront grand challenges facing humankind. This establishment of three new Communities of Excellence is an innovative and integrated approach to addressing critical societal challenges through impactful interdisciplinary research, education, and engagement. Through Communities of Excellence, teams of faculty, including those from the UB School of Public Health and Health Professions, 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:
The Community of Excellence in Global Health Equity will work to reduce disparities in health around the world, says co-leader Dr. Pavani Ram, associate professor in the department of epidemiology and environmental health and director of the Office of Global Health Initiatives. “The mission of our community is to reduce the sources and effects of inequity, and promote health and well-being among under-resourced populations,” Ram says. “Because of the different perspectives and strengths of faculty from all over the university — not only in the health sciences, but also in disciplines not routinely engaged in global health concerns but with the capacity for developing transformative solutions — we will have the ability to influence the influencers, the people who can take our solutions and implement them on the ground.” The community will address challenges such as access to sanitation for women and girls, exposure to air pollution among neonates, getting essential drugs to low-resource communities and access to sufficient quantities of high-quality food.
The university is investing $25 million over the next five years in these Communities of Excellence and RENEW (Research and Education in eNergy, Environment and Water), which was launched last year and was UB’s model for the Communities of Excellence. More than 300 faculty members from across the university are active participants in the Communities of Excellence; the initiative is expected to involve faculty from all UB schools, emerging from the UB 2020 plan to advance UB’s academic and research strengths in key areas. The three new Communities of Excellence were selected after a yearlong proposal process involving recommendations from external and internal expert reviews.