Thursday, September 8, 2011

Profile: University at Buffalo

Established in 1846, University at Buffalo, which is often referred to as UB, is a public research university and a flagship university of the State University of New York (SUNY) system.  Having multiple campuses and offering 84 bachelor’s, 184 masters, and 78 doctoral degrees, it is the largest of the four comprehensive university centers within the SUNY system.  UB is also considered the largest public university in the northeastern United States (comprising New York and the New England region).

The campuses are broken into North Campus and South Campus.  South Campus is much smaller than North Campus and is generally a medical campus.  The South Campus is also home of the WBFO radio station.  Even though most of the classes and activity occurs on the North Campus, about 20% of UB’s resident population continues to live in the original complexes located on the South Campus.
In 2004, President John B. Simpson created a massive strategic planning initiative called 2020.  Some of the goals are to add approximately 10,000 more students, 750 faculty members, and 600 staff members.  The strategic plan also recognizes the university’s contribution to the surrounding region, since most recent estimates report UB brings $1.5 billion into the local economy.
After having only been here a little over a week, I’m quickly learning how to get around the area.  The campus is very large! I’m not very impressed with it in terms of infrastructure or parking. Actually, the parking situation is nuts! I guess it’s not that much crazier than when I was in school, but I often times didn’t have to drive to campus and find parking in the middle of prime class hours—so maybe that has something to do with it. I was tempted to pull out my Penn State Faculty/Staff parking permit, hang it from my rear view mirror, and park in the faculty/staff lot, as if I were a special visitor. I would take the risk of getting a ticket if I believed even faculty and staff members have good parking available. It’s just crazy. 
In my opinion, the student culture here is much different than what I have been privileged to experience as an undergraduate.  One major way that it differs is that student organizations don’t seem to work together much; it seems more like one against the world.  I don’t think that was the case at Penn State Behrend -- most groups had members in other organizations and those in fraternity/sorority life were involved in many other groups.  The student life was pretty good at Behrend; it was -- and felt like -- an actual community. Perhaps the disconnect at UB stems from the large size of the school and the two campuses. Or maybe it is because they don't share a common pride for something.  From what I’ve heard, football games aren’t that big of a deal (and when you have a Division 1 team, they should be). I can’t put my finger on it, but I just thought I would see more happenings around campus considering the large amount of students here and the start of an exciting school year. Who knows... different folks, different strokes.
Like I said, Buffalo does have a Division 1 football team, which is exciting!  The Buffalo Bulls played (and lost to) the Pitt Panthers this past weekend, unfortunately at Heinz Field, but they will be hosting the UConn Huskies while I’m still here. I think it would be fun to go to a football game, even though the students say that football isn’t really taken seriously here.  But I would still like to experience it and see what all the fuss isn't about. So we’ll see what will shake out.
Oh, and University at Buffalo’s colors are blue and white. Awe.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Alumni on the Fly -- University at Buffalo

Notable alumni from University at Buffalo (starting with my favorite!):

Alan Zweibel ’72 is a comedy writer and one of the original writers for Saturday Night Live.
Wolf Blitzer ’70 is an award-winning journalist for CNN.
John Walsh ’65 is the host of America’s Most Wanted.
Ira Flatow ’71 is a science journalist and the current host of NPR’s Science Friday.
Abbe Raven ’74 is the CEO and President of A&E Television Networks and founder of the History Channel.
Nancy Nielsen ’76 was president of the American Medical Association.
John Alm ’73 is a former CEO of Coca-Cola Enterprises, while UB is currently a Pepsi campus.
Gregory Jarvis ’67 was an astronaut in the Challenger space shuttle.
Jeremy Jacobs is the owner of the NHL hockey team Boston Bruins and CEO of Delaware North Companies.
Mark Huddleston ’72 is the president of the University of New Hampshire.
John Hewitt is the co-founder of Jackson Hewitt and founder of Liberty Tax service.
Brad Grey ’79 is an American television and film producer and CEO of Paramount.
Millard Drexler is the CEO of J. Crew and former CEO of Gap Inc.

I had to narrow down the original list to the most interesting and noteworthy, but even on the original list, there were not many women. I’m sure all of these guys are doing good things in the world. But where are the ladies?!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Weekend Update!

This weekend was a great one in Buffalo, NY.  On Friday night, Alanna picked me up and we went to a local restaurant in Buffalo, the Shadow Lounge.  The food was delicious! I got the buffalo chicken macaroni and cheese, a key lime martini, and we shared a chocolate fondue. The walls and tablecloths were red while the accents were black. The waitresses were all tattooed up and had piercings—it was a pretty bold place. There was a band playing some awesome tunes too.  It wasn’t your typical rock and roll band though; this group had a saxophone and a trombone (I think?) and they were playing Santana and some other oldies.  People were dancing and having a great time! It felt so good to catch up with Alanna and to just chat about things.  We also discussed the advisory board positions for the colony I’m working with, and I was happy to hear she was interested in looking into it! I told her that if she didn’t introduce me (aka force me to look into) the sorority, I wouldn’t have the job I do now. It’s funny how things work out. 

After dinner, we went downtown and drove past the Peace Bridge (which connects  Canada to the United States).  It was lit up in red and blue colors for Labor Day weekend.  Downtown, we visited the memorial for President McKinnley.  He was shot on September 6, 1901 at the Pan-americ Exposition, a world’s fair held in Buffalo. He died on September 14 due to gangrene from the bullet.
McKinnley Memorial

City Hall

Peace Bridge
There were bugs all over this!!
On Saturday, two of the colony members invited me out to the 10th Annual National Buffalo Wing Festival at Coca-Cola Field.  The festival celebrates “Buffalo Wings”, which have become a national food icon.  Invented in 1964 at the world famous Anchor Bar by Frank and Teresa Bellisimo, Buffalo, NY is the official “Home of the Chicken Wing.” Last year alone, over 13.5 billion wings were consumed by Americans, with 1.25 billion consumed on Super Bowl weekend alone.

In 2001, actor Bill Murray playing Frank Detorre starred in one of his notoriously eclectic movies entitled, “Osmosis Jones.” In this film, Murray played the part of an average Joe addicted to fried food and other arter-clogging fare, who was heading to Buffalo, NY for a chicken wing festival.  As everyone knew, there was no chicken wing festival in Buffalo at the time… well, at least not yet. 
Buffalo News columnist Donn Esmonde heard about the Murray movie and wondered why there wasn’t a festival.  Esmonde wrote a column suggesting there should be a festival and then Drew Cerza, festival founder and “Wing King,” made a plan and asked the community for support.  The past ten years for the festival was filled with 575,000 people, almost 3 million wings weighing more than 150 tons, 191 participating restaurants, $200,000 in charitable contributions and even a wedding ceremony.  Last year, the festival tracked visitors from all 50 states and 34 different countries. I was the first person this year to inform them they had a visitor for Pittsburgh! So they added a little pushpin to the map.

The Wingfest has drawn the attention of media throughout the world, including many appearances on CNN, the Travel Channel, the View, Regis and Kelly, the Food Network, and the Today Show.  It was also the subject for a PBS documentary.
The benefiting charities for 2011 are the Western New York Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and Meals on Wheels for Western New York.
It was a very neat experience. They opened up the Coca-Cola field, which is used for the NY Mets’ minor league baseball team, the Buffalo Bison. The tents were set up down on the field and people were allowed to sit up in the seating area.  They had a stage where they were hosting sauce-offs, eating contests, bake-offs, and more.  Duff Goldman for Food Network’s Ace of Cakes was also hosting something late in the day on Saturday.  They even have a Miss Buffalo Wing Pageant and a Jimmy Buffet tribute band. Sadly, no one I was with knew who Jimmy Buffet is. That troubled me.
With the exception of Timmy Ho’s cookies and coffee, there unfortunately wasn’t much to eat for people who don’t eat wings (but that is a given for a wing fest.)  Until Saturday, I hadn’t had wings in about a year. Then I caved. There were so many vendors from across the United States and so many different types of sauces, and I just got caught up in the moment and the “living the culture” attitude. Oh well, decision made.  Two of my favorite sauces were Mango BBQ from Hurricane Grill & Wings (AZ, FL, IN, MI, NY, OH) and Jamaican Jerk from Fire on the Mountain Buffalo Wings (Portland, OR).
I did a load of laundry yesterday, and realized that within about a month’s time, I have done laundry in three different states. Woo. I tried for the first time the detergent/dryer sheets, and my clothes weren’t very fresh-smelling. AND I only had a $10 bill on me, so I ended up getting $10 in quarters for one load of laundry. That was a good time.
This morning, some of the women and I went shopping for recruitment and publicity supplies.  We have an event tonight where we will be making “save the dates” for recruitment events and talking about how recruitment has been going thus far.  I am looking forward to a little more relaxed event with the women. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

90 East to Bu-, Bu-, Buffalo

Last week was my last week at home and last weekend was my last in Erie for a bit.  My last week at home was filled with some quality time with Faith and family, and then I headed up to Buffalo, while staying in Erie for two nights to see some friends before it seems like I fall off the face of the earth. The weekend in Erie was wonderful! It was exactly what I needed to begin this string of chapter visits, and I wouldn’t have traded any minute of it. Except my favorite place downtown was not living up to the high standard it set for itself over the past two years. Who cares if I got tackled and didn’t hear Sweet Caroline or Living on a Prayer (as usual)? When the company is good, what you’re doing and where you are matters less. It was probably one of the best weekends I've ever had.

Before I left Erie for Buffalo on Sunday, I stopped by my collegiate chapter’s car wash fundraiser for some support, but mostly for a car wash ;-)  Then realized my car’s left turn signal was broken! So after a trip to the auto shop (and being told it would be an hour’s wait to get it fixed), I met a nice man at Auto Zone who showed me which bulb I needed and even installed it for me. Now that I know what to do, I won’t freak out as much next time. It’s definitely less complicated as I thought it would have been, but there was no way I was driving to Buffalo without a turn signal.
When I arrived in Buffalo, five of the women gave me a delightful tour of their campus, went with me to grab some supplies for the upcoming events, and took me to dinner at El Palenque Mexican Grill – which was very similar to El Canelo, minus the gaudy d├ęcor. After I got back to the hotel, I put on SNL and ironed just about every article of clothing I brought (which was a massive amount since I had the ability to drive and the luxury of what seems like limitless space). The hotel staff has been nice and accomodating; however, I think they are tired of continuously providing me more hangers.

Megan, another of the three consultants, arrived on Monday, and we got some more supplies and lunch.  We then prepared for the evening’s program—where we met the women as a whole, introduced ourselves, set expectations for both parties, and began with the first education lesson. It was a good meeting, but I recognized some things I can do better for the upcoming education lessons.

Since Megan was leaving Thursday, we decided to take a few hours and visit Niagara Falls on Tuesday. Megan had never been there before and the women were mostly in class all day, so we took a few hours off to sightsee. I never realized how close Buffalo was to the falls!

The rest of Tuesday was spent meeting with women and planning for Wednesday’s recruitment workshop.  It was fun and I think the women had a good time and learned some valuable skills! Megan ran a lot of the program, since she’s great with motivating others to recruit. I chimed in and facilitated the portion about examining the values the women are looking for in potential new members and if those align with what our organization stands for. They hit it spot on and it seems like they had a good time reminding themselves about the type of women they’re seeking for the organization.
Last night we had a sisterhood program.  During the event, I threw in some things I picked up along the way, both from training and from being a collegian.  I had the women send me an email stating something they like about each and every member, and then I compiled them all on a pretty piece of letterhead and distributed them at the end of the night.  Unfortunately, in the commotion of working the printer and MS Word 2003 in the hotel’s “business room,” I accidentally printed them upside down! I don’t think anyone will really notice, but that’s just a great example with my attention to detail some (most) times.  This was something we did in our chapter, and as I was packing up to move out of my old apartment, I found mine. It brought a huge smile to my face and almost brought tears to my eyes to read again what nice things everyone had to say about me.  I told the women I want them to have these memories and feelings flood back to them as they stumble upon this paper when they're packing up to move onto another chapter in their lives. Along with that, we also did a Post Secret activity where everyone got a notecard and anonymously wrote down a secret, either funny or serious, and I read them aloud.  That's a neat activity to do, even in a group where members think they know everyone extremely well.  There is always someone who catches you off guard and throws a curveball secret.  Everyone seemed positive after the event; in my opinion, anything ending with a power clap and a group hug is a good thing!

After a little under a week on the job, I'm liking it and can already see some good things happening.  I'm looking forward to the coming weeks.