Most of the students at Schenectady County Community College on Friday went about their day as usual, grabbing a soda with friends and ignoring the tables set up in The Commons where suits with nametags were mingling.
Upstairs, a handful of students were elegantly dressed, playing keyboard or bass for a group of college and community officials who waited inside the Lally Mohawk Room.
“Being right in the midst of the students and faculty and staff who are going about their daily work here at the college really just reminds us of our core business,” said SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher from a podium at the head of the room not too much later.
SCCC played host to the Regional Campus Showcase Days for colleges of the Capital Region. Now in its third year, “The Power of SUNY,” a strategic plan for the SUNY system spearheaded by Zimpher, has given college leaders an opportunity to gather at the showcases and brag about their schools.
It was also an opportunity for schools to share the ideas, developments and successes coming out of their communities. The regional showcases began in October 2011, with exhibits put on by the Long Island, mid-Hudson, North Country, New York City and Mohawk Valley regions so far. The Capital Region showcase was the sixth of 10 to be held through June.
The Capital Region hosts some of the finest educational institutions in the state, but what it’s best known for, said Zimpher, is the workforce that its colleges produce. They produce leaders in the scientific, automotive, agricultural, culinary, musical and small business fields.
The six school representatives on stage at the Friday showcase were each given only three minutes to brag. Every one of them exceeded the limit.
When Drew Matonak came to the Capital Region seven years ago, he thought of the area as a hub for intellectual capital. The Hudson Valley Community College president added that the students coming out of his school are experts in pretty much every sector within the Capital Region: business, arts and sciences, industrial technologies and allied health.
“We really work hard to provide for the workforce in this area,” said Matonak.
In his allotted time, he bragged about the school’s Educational Opportunity Center, which provides students with academic and workforce development programs and support services. Essentially, it prepares students for that next step — whether it be a four-year college or a first career.
Although its Great Dane mascot was getting the most attention from the crowd, it was University at Albany President George Philip who spoke on behalf of the school. And he chose to spotlight its RNA Institute, Cancer Research Center and Small Business Center.
Launched in June 2010, the RNA Institute has already made what Philip called “tremendous progress” in early phase RNA-based drug discovery. It also was the recipient of a $2 million economic development grant through Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “New York Open for Business” initiative launched in January 2011
Research expenditures at UAlbany, including those by the school’s Cancer Research Center, totaled a record $450 million last year — the highest among public universities in the state, Philip boasted.
“This includes significant funding for research development at our College for Nanoscale Science and Engineering,” he said. “It is clear that UAlbany’s research enterprise is a major contributor to the economic vitality of this region.”
SUNY Cobleskill was represented Friday by Candace Vancko, the school’s officer-in-charge and SUNY Delhi president.
As an agricultural leader in the state, SUNY Cobleskill is unique and is fueling growth in the state’s environmental and energy technology fields, said Vancko. Examples are the students who come out of the school’s Center for Environmental Science and Technology with specializations in water resource management, renewable energy technologies or waste management technologies.
As host of the showcase, SCCC President Quintin Bullock was the last to speak, following Columbia-Greene Community College President James Campion and SUNY Adirondack President Ron Heacock.
But Bullock didn’t have to rely so much on words when it came to boasting about SCCC. Students in the Culinary Arts Department had prepared a meal for the select group of college officials, and students from the music school, currently under expansion, could be heard playing in various rooms and hallways.
“Increasingly, SCCC is becoming a first-choice college for those who have just graduated from high school,” said Bullock, “as well as older adults returning to college to develop their skills, expand their knowledge and increase their marketability to employers and four-year institutions.”
The next regional showcase will be held in Syracuse on March 5 for colleges in the Central New York region.