Fulton-Montgomery Community College graduated the largest class in its history Friday night at its 45th annual commencement ceremony.
Commencement speaker Mike Russo, the director of U.S. Government and Regulatory Affairs for GlobalFoundries, said 451 students received degrees from FMCC Friday. He said the youngest graduate was 17, the oldest 64, and he noted that 67 percent of the graduates were women. He said they all made a wise choice to pursue their education at FMCC.
“In a July report to [President Barack Obama], the president’s council of economic advisers came to the conclusion that two-year degrees will outpace four-year degrees in their value to first-time jobseekers,” Russo said. “That isn’t to diminish the value of four-year degrees or people with advanced degrees, but it sends the signal that you all made a pretty good decision to pursue your two-year degree at FMCC.”
FMCC President Dustin Swanger spoke before Russo and congratulated the class of 2010. He told them not to worry too much about the difficult economy; he believes the local economy is close to turning the corner, and the education they’ve received will help them thrive when it does. He said Russo’s company, GlobalFoundries, which is building a microchip fabrication plant in Malta, is a perfect example of how high-tech innovation is coming to the Capital Region and bringing with it jobs that will require the kind of education students can get at FMCC.
“Locally, I believe we are on the cusp of an economic rebirth,” he said. “The impact the [GlobalFoundries] plant will have on our region will be tremendous. FM is poised to prepare the work force for GlobalFoundries and other nanotechnology companies as our region becomes a world center for computer chip manufacturing.”
FMCC has been building its Center for Engineering and Technology, which includes “clean rooms” built on campus for training students how to work in a nanotechnology environment. Earlier this year, the college received a $500,000 grant for the facility.
During his remarks, Russo said his company, and the economic impact it creates, will bring hundreds of good-paying jobs to the Capital Region and likely all of them will require at least a two-year degree or equivalent.
“I’m sure the semiconductor technology courses they’re starting up here at FMCC will help supply us with some of those workers,” Russo said.
But not every student who goes to FMCC does so for job tranining. Bryant Barksdale, who received an associate of arts Friday night, spoke at the commencement on behalf of the class of 2010. He said students come to FMCC for many reasons. Some come looking for a bargain because of the economic downturn, others because they’ve lost their jobs. He said he came to the school because he didn’t know what he wanted to do. He said at FMCC he decided he wanted to pursue a career in history education on the college level.
“Whatever your reason for coming to FM, you’ve learned education and skills that will help you later in life,” he said.