Building Strong Geoscience Departments > Workshops > Strengthening Your Geoscience Program > Participants and their Contributions > University at Buffalo

Department of Geology, University at Buffalo

by Tracy Gregg and Bea Csatho


Strengths

By far, our greatest strengths are our faculty and staff. Our faculty are internationally recognized researchers, and all faculty have currently active research grants. Similarly, we have a robust graduate program, and most of our M.S. and M.A. candidates are employed prior to their thesis defense. Our staff are wonderfully competent; the Assistant to the Chair actually received her M.S. in geology through UB, so she is particularly attuned to the inner workings of the department. Perhaps most importantly, the department as a whole places a high value on collegiality. Every one gets along, and all major decisions are reached via heart‐felt discussion involving the entire faculty.

Weaknesses

We do not have enough full‐time tenure‐track faculty, and we do not have a permanent physical home.

Universities of comparable size and scope—our "peer institutions"—employ 16 – 18 full‐time faculty. We have 12 full‐time tenure‐track faculty, and must hire 1 – 2 lecturers every year to fill in the gaps. Our small size means that each faculty member must wear several hats simultaneously, and that it is difficult to protect junior faculty from excessive service. Most pressing is the challenges in balancing our graduate and undergraduate course offerings.

Although this is a "temporary" problem, the University is in the process of moving our department from one building to another. Unfortunately, there isn't enough money to move the entire department at once, so our faculty, staff, and teaching resources are currently scattered amongst 5 buildings on campus. The current plan is to have us all moved, and into one building, by 2013. Meanwhile, the lack of coherency is causing strain amongst faculty, staff and students.

Planning Process

We hold an annual "faculty retreat" where the entire faculty, and full‐time lecturers, meet for a full day to discuss department long‐term and short‐term goals. These goals and resulting plans are reviewed on an annual basis, or when we perform a search for a new faculty hire, whichever comes first.

Departmental Review Summary

The last external review was performed in 2003, and we are preparing for our next review in the 2009‐2010 academic year. Overall, the review indicated that our department was "outstanding" in terms of research and teaching. The external reviewers pointed out that our department is too small, requiring faculty to wear too many hats at a given time. I am pleased to state that our department is still outstanding: we have nationally recognized graduate programs; a high retention rate of undergraduate majors; and all faculty are actively engaged in advising graduate students and funded research projects. I am less pleased to state that we are still too small, making it difficult to balance the needs of the department with those of individual faculty and with those of the university. Currently, our challenge lies in finding enough instructors for the required undergraduate courses without negatively impacting our graduate and research programs.

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