HERKIMER — Both academics and athletics will continue and expand at Herkimer College, which plans to also step up their pandemic safety measures in the new spring semester.
“Considering the circumstances, things seem to be going fairly well. We’ve been very focused on the COVID response,” said Rebecca Ruffing, director of public relations for Herkimer College.
“Basically, academic and business continuity have been our focus for almost the past year.”
Like all academic institutions across the country, Herkimer College was forced to do more with their students online in the pandemic. Ruffing said the school now operates with three modes: in-person classes on campus, for courses that require a hands-on experience; virtual classes in real time; and traditional online classes, which can be done at any time.
“We have a very robust internet academy,” Ruffing stated. Herkimer College offers 21 complete degree programs entirely online, and their internet academy has been part of the school for more than 20 years. She said the school has seen a noticeable increase in online students since the start of the pandemic.
“Those classes have not changed,” Ruffing stated.
There were roughly 200 students living on campus for the fall semester, and Ruffing said they expect the same for the spring semester. There were five positive COVID-19 cases in the fall, two of which were caught on move-in day.
Along with the usual safety measures, such as masks and sanitizer, Herkimer College also uses a group testing method. Ruffing said they collect saliva from groups of students at a time and test the material together. If there is a positive test within a group, then the school knows to focus on just those students.
Ruffing said this group testing was done every two weeks in the fall, and will now be done once a week for the spring semester.
“Our students are really great about following the rules and understanding the importance of it, so that we don’t end up having an outbreak on campus,” Ruffing stated.
“I think things, overall, are going well.”
In the new year, Herkimer College recently announced a new psychology program that “covers a lot of subject areas within the field of psychology,” Ruffing stated. The new program is meant for students who want to transfer to a four-year college once they receive their associate’s degree from Herkimer.
“It gives them all the general education classes. It gives them an idea of the areas of psychology that they might want to focus on as they advance in their education,” she explained.
Herkimer College has also introduced a new corrections officer certificate program, similar to its police academy. The new corrections program is being offered in cooperation with the Herkimer County Sheriff’s Office.
Ruffing said the program is pre-employment, meaning the students do not need to have already been hired as a corrections officer in order to take the classes.
There are also new electronic technology courses being offered, complete with a new smart grid laboratory that opened in 2020, Ruffing said. The courses and the lab were done in cooperation with the New York State Power Authority.
On the athletic side, Ruffing said several of their teams will be returning to competition this spring. Herkimer College is also excited to launch their new esports team, which will compete on a college level as an NJCAA team.
“We have had an esports team that was a club, so now we’re making that an official intercollegiate sport. There will be a lot more opportunity for competition for esports. It’s really big, it’s growing; there’s a lot of people involved in it,” Ruffing stated.
“We look at that as something really positive for our students, especially right now, during the pandemic.”
Herkimer College is also offering a new, cheaper alternative for students to buy their necessary text books. The campus bookstore is run in partnership with Barnes & Noble. Ruffing said the new Book Market initiative will have students pay a flat fee based on their credit hours instead of buying each book separately.
“This is to help students to get their course materials in a streamlined way, and to help them save money on books and other course materials,” Ruffing said.
“It’s meant to really make it a lot more affordable for students. They’ll have all their materials before the first day of classes, and that’s really important for students to be successful.”