Utica College plans on number of new academic initiatives

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For Utica College (UC), 2020 was marked by efforts to combat COVID-19, plus various highlights including a major endowment gift commitment, key construction projects, steps to enhance diversity, and several significant grants.

Moving forward into 2021, UC’s plans include a number of new academic initiatives as well as further growth in its facilities.

Among details cited by the college:

2020 Highlights:

• UC said it “instituted a comprehensive plan to combat COVID-19 and allow students to learn in person for the fall semester.” Included were restricted access to campus, weekly testing, mask wearing, and strict social distancing enforced, with students also given the options of hybrid or online learning.

Also, the college purchased 248 Aeromed Upper-Room Germicidal Ultraviolet Fixture lights, designed to irradiate air that may be contaminated with virus particles including COVID-19 and the flu. The lights were installed in every classroom and in the Gary Kunath Fitness Center.

Thanks to the various efforts, “students were able to complete the fall semester as planned, with the college keeping COVID-positivity rates remarkably low,” UC noted.

• The college received its largest endowment gift commitment to date to establish the Institute for the Study of Integrative Healthcare, bringing together a range of practices in support of patient health and well-being. Anonymous donors pledged a total of $2.8 million for the endeavor.

• Ground was broken and construction started on the Science Annex. The 25,000-square-foot, $12-to-$14-million building will provide state-of-the-art classroom and lab facilities for majors including biology, chemistry, geoscience and physics, while also supporting health profession studies.

• UC received a $2 million lead gift commitment to expand facilities for its nearly 700 student-athletes with a new multi-purpose, synthetic turf athletic field and eight-lane outdoor track. Completely donor-funded, the $3.5 million facility will be located behind the Clark Athletic Center and will include lighting for evening events and bleacher seating for 200 spectators.

It will “provide a critically needed practice venue for multiple sports including field hockey, football, lacrosse, soccer, softball, and track and field, as well as a complementary competition venue to Gaetano Stadium,” according to UC. It also said the synthetic turf will allow athletes to train and compete regardless of weather conditions. It is to open this fall.

• Among diversity-related initiatives, a new minor in Africana Studies was approved and is set to begin in the spring semester. UC also hired its first Vice President for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Student Transitions and Chief Diversity Officer. Dr. Anthony Baird joined UC last summer and set to work on the college’s Strategic Advisory Committee for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, as well as the college’s DEI Collaborative. In addition, UC joined a national coalition of liberal arts institutions to examine race and equity issues at colleges across the country.

• Among grants received were $1.8 million from the National Science Foundation’s Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program to educate STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) teachers for rural school districts; a $1.3 million TRIO Student Support Services Grant to provide greater support for economically and academically disadvantaged students; $649,868 from the National Science Foundation’s S-STEM program to provide scholarships and academic support to undergraduate students studying biology, biochemistry, chemistry and geology.

Plans for 2021:

• Further expanding UC’s academic footprint in Florida, where the college currently operates nursing sites in the Fort Lauderdale and Tampa-St. Petersburg regions.

•  Opening a new intercultural and student organization center in the former Newman Center.

• Among new academic programs in the works are to launch a master’s in social work and a post-professional occupational therapy doctorate; introduce a new undergraduate general education program that better aligns with student career pathways; and plan for a new simulation crime lab that will provide experiential learning opportunities in criminal forensics for students from multiple majors, including criminal justice.

• UC will expand its Bridge program with additional partnering high schools. The program gives students the opportunity, through a combination of AP and Bridge program courses, to complete one year of college credit before coming to UC.

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