The University at Albany is working to create its own engineering programs as the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering breaks away to merge with SUNY Institute of Technology.
The State University of New York Board of Trustees voted to combine the CNSE in Albany and the SUNY Institute of Technology in Utica during a board meeting Wednesday.
CNSE and SUNYIT plan to complete an equal merger by January and create a new high-tech SUNY school focused on educating students in science, technology and engineering.
“We are bringing together two institutions with similar missions and existing partnerships to create a high-tech academic and economic-development juggernaut that does not exist anywhere else in public higher education,” said SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher. “This is a historic day for SUNY.”
This comes after the nanocollege received approval from the SUNY board in July to break away from UAlbany. The two schools are currently working on a services agreement for the 2014-15 academic year, which is expected to be finished “shortly,” according to SUNY.
That agreement will allow CNSE students to continue using UAlbany’s resources, including athletic facilities, general education courses, health services and other offerings.
At the same time, UAlbany is working to create a new undergraduate program in computer engineering for fall 2015. The university is also planning to establish programs in information systems engineering and biomedical engineering.
“As the only public research university in the Capital Region, we will continue to press ahead to increase the range of our degree and nondegree programs,” UAlbany President Robert Jones said in an email to faculty and staff Wednesday. “We will expand academic opportunities for a growing, diverse student population.”
Karl Luntta, spokesman for UAlbany, said the push for engineering programs at UAlbany is not a direct result of the split with the nanocollege. He said the programs have been a priority for Jones since he became president last year.
“We did not create or consider these programs as a reaction to the CNSE-SUNYIT situation,” Luntta said. “The reasons we’re doing this? To expand our profile, align with our other academic offerings, and address the president’s vision.”
UAlbany recently hired Ann Marie Murray, former president of Herkimer County Community College, to lead the project team to develop a curriculum and hiring plan for the new computer engineering undergraduate program.
In his email to faculty and staff, Jones stressed his goal “to forge a future of excellence” at UAlbany with expanded academic programs and deeper engagement with the Capital Region community.
“I have committed that UAlbany will do all we can to ensure a positive and seamless transition for the 302 current students in the nanotechnology degree programs,” Jones said. “At the same time, we remain focused on fulfilling the promise of academic excellence for our other 17,000 undergraduate and graduate students.”
Students currently enrolled in nanotechnology programs at CNSE will have the option to continue their degree, and receive a diploma from UAlbany, or transfer under the new combined school.
The merger will expand SUNYIT’s academics with the addition of Ph.D. programs in Nanoscale Science and Nanoscale Engineering. Nanocollege CEO Alain Kaloyeros will become chief executive of the combined schools.
Undergraduate students at SUNYIT will have an inside track to graduate programs at CNSE in Albany, said Robert Geer, acting president of SUNYIT. Students at CNSE will also be able to enroll in programs on the Utica campus.
“As the merger is finalized the students will have the opportunity to transfer into the program completely,” Geer said. “As the two campuses come together, there will be integrated programs that will leverage the strengths of both sites.”
SUNYIT is scheduled to open its computer-chip commercialization center at the end of the year. The initiative, called the “Nano Utica” project, was spearheaded by Kaloyeros and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The center will house six technology companies, including IBM and Tokyo Electron, who pledged to invest $1.5 billion to partner on research and development in Utica. The facility is expected to create 1,000 high-tech jobs.
“Governor Cuomo had already recognized the potential of our combined resources when he brought us together to realize his $1.5 billion Nano Utica initiative,” Kaloyeros said. “The merger will not only guarantee that all faculty and staff will maintain their current positions and portfolios but, more importantly, it will create countless exciting opportunities for growth and expansion.”