Officials at SUNY-Cobleskill held an early ground-breaking ceremony Tuesday to capitalize on a visit from new SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher.
Upon her appointment, Zimpher promised to visit all 64 state university campuses within 100 days, and her arrival at the College of Agriculture and Technology marked her 41st stop.
College officials, faculty and legislators gathered to highlight plans for a $41.7 million Center for Agriculture and Natural Resources, a segment of the campus that serves roughly 1,000 of the college’s 2,600 students.
The facilities to be replaced — which currently house the fish hatchery, greenhouses, meat processing laboratory, livestock building and classroom space — date back to the early 1960s, said Michael J. McCaskey, dean of the college’s School of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Today, students considering colleges look to see whether the facilities are up-to-date and offer a contemporary learning experience, he said.
“It’s going to mean a lot,” McCaskey said.
He said college officials are learning from architects that the project itself will be unique because of the goal of combining several different types of structures in one building, or in several buildings that are connected.
“Never have they tried to combine them,” McCaskey said.
Plans for the new Center for Agriculture and Natural Resources are part of about $100 million in work included in the college’s Facilities Master Plan.
Other projects in the planning stages include the development of a Center for Environmental Science and Technology to house a new biowaste-to-bioenergy facility funded with roughly $4 million in federal money.
State Sen. James Seward, R-Oneonta, said plans to invest $100 million in the college shows strong support for agriculture, one of the state’s biggest industries.
“I think that makes quite a statement. It says that agriculture is important to the state,” Seward said.
Zimpher, who was named chancellor of the SUNY system in February, said she’s developing an “ambitious and visionary plan” she expects to present to the SUNY trustees early next year.
“Agriculture and natural resources will be a big part of that presentation,” Zimpher said.