GUEST COLUMN: SUNY Schenectady continues to thrive

Despite drop in enrollment, college isn't slowing down

For The Sunday Gazette

As I interact with students and colleagues on our SUNY Schenectady campus, I am filled with an overwhelming sense of pride, especially at this time of reflection as we celebrate our 50th anniversary.

I am proud of the myriad ways in which our faculty and staff work tirelessly to empower our students.

Whether it be professional development programming for faculty and staff or the college’s participation in the Achieving the Dream and Guided Pathways initiatives, our approach at the college is thoughtful, caring, innovative, student-focused and visionary.

This commitment to developing resources for students “here and now” while designing programs and strategic/academic plans that will serve generations of students in the future is the best way forward.

I would like to share the ways in which we build on the college’s culture of student success by:

* Adapting to the needs of our students.

* Expanding resources and academic programs to offer them pathways to higher education or to enter the workforce.

* Designing retention programs that nurture and educate.

* Providing financial assistance to break down the barriers to a college education.

* Designing a new Learning Commons to serve students for decades to come. 

Over the past year, we have added new degrees and certificates, including the Community Health Worker and Direct Support Professional (DSP) Certificates, gateways for those in the health care field.

Students in the DSP program receive tuition support and are apprentices, working full time at either Schenectady ARC or Living Resources, while taking courses for the registered apprenticeship with the New York State Department of Labor.

Our Mobile Classroom on Wheels (food truck) is a state-of-the-art teaching tool in our new Mobile Food Service Certificate program that was developed in response to the expanding food service industry in the Capital Region and beyond.

Likewise, the computer gaming industry is booming, and through our new Programming for Game Development A.S. degree, students take courses to design and code websites, learn programming languages and develop an electronic portfolio of game design elements.

Our approach to retention aligns with the national research, and more importantly is designed based upon our students’ specific needs.

For example, the college is successfully responding to research indicating that students who earn credits in English and math during their first year of college are more likely to persist.

Therefore, within the past year we have scaled our co-requisite English course and are seeing excellent results for students. As a recent recipient of the Strong Start to Finish Grant, in fall 2020 students will have the opportunity to benefit from specialized mathematics course programming.

Noting that mentoring fosters personal growth and may easily be a critical factor in student persistence, we designed a Student Mentoring Program and created the Student Success Center, offering one-to-one support for students as they travel through each semester at the College.

The college also instituted an early alert warning system that provides faculty, advisers and counselors with real-time information to intervene and assist our students who are struggling.

And in fact, our graduation rates are increasing and trending upward in the past three years. 

Right now, just as Schenectady is in the midst of a renaissance, so too is our campus, as we meet the needs of future students by building a new $10.1 million Learning Commons, one of the largest capital projects in the college’s history, to enhance support services with: 

* State-of-the-art equipment and learning tools

* Labs for math, writing and accounting

* A Tutoring Center

* The Center for Excellence in Teaching

* Study rooms

* Student collaborative spaces

* A Career Center

* IT support

We do all of this, and continue to offer the lowest tuition in the Capital Region, to inspire our students.

Donors to our recent Promise Of Our Common Future campaign have invested in our students just as we have. Through their generosity, we will offer an extra $125,000 per year in scholarships in perpetuity, bringing the annual total to $325,000.

We are privileged to educate thousands of students who strive to make their lives better, as we keep our fingers on the pulse of what our students need now and in the future. 

Steady H. Moono, Ed.D., is president SUNY Schenectady County Community College.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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