On a day when honored its past, President W. Hubert Keen unveiled his bold plan for the future.
The college Thursday with a morning ceremony at one of the oldest spots on campus: Memorial Oak Plaza next to Whitman Hall. Then Keen retreated to nearby Knapp Hall, where he spelled out a 10-point plan for propelling the SUNY school into the next decade.
That blueprint calls for the addition of a master's program, 1,000 new students while tightening academic standards, 70 more full-time faculty members and a campus building boom. It’s a further strategic shift for a school that as little as 27 years ago was known as an agricultural institution and moved to four-year degrees only in 1993.
“Farmingdale is such an asset to our region,” said Kevin Law, president of Long Island Association. “If we’re going to really grow our economy and transform it into an innovation economy, we need to tap assets. It’s where our future workforce will be educated and trained for a new type of economy. I think the goals laid out here are terrific.”
The realignment is evident in the master’s program. Beginning in 2013, Farmingdale State will offer a graduate degree in Engineering Technology Management and move to add Construction Management, Biotechnology, Criminal Justice and specialized areas of Information Technology.
“The industries here need to educate their bachelors-level employees as management,” Keen said. “They need to lift up their educational training.”
Five new buildings are planned, along with extensive renovations. Construction is already in full bloom. The in January. The School of Business is planned for 2014, followed by a Student Activities facility and two new academic buildings.
Creating an engaging environment will make the school more attractive to prospective students. At least one current student on hand spoke to unlocking the hidden potential of her Farmingdale State experience.
“When I first walked in, I thought I would go to school and come home,” said Wendy Velasquez, 23, a junior who commutes from Huntington. “But then I started getting involved. I’m president of Habitat for Humanity; I’m in the business clubs. The more I got involved the more I learned about the school and understood how much it’s changed.”
But all of that is meant to support the main mission. Bringing in more faculty and raising admissions standards are all part of the larger goal: Producing graduates who can keep the Long Island economy humming.
“The highest priority is developing quality academic programs that graduate students who go out to work in the businesses and industry of Long Island,” Keen said.
All this expansion comes at a time when the SUNY system has felt the budget squeeze in recent years. Keen expects funding to come in through modest tuition increases (which are set by the state), research grants, greater emphasis on fundraising and, of course, more students translates into more revenue.
Farmingdale Forward, as the 10-year plan is called, is an aggressive roadmap to the future (read more about it on the attached PDF). But as everyone connected to the school makes clear, the future growth of Long Island depends on it.
“The message about Farmingdale State is we are thriving,” said Pat Calabria, vice president for Institutional Advancement at Farmingdale State. “We’re doing well. We are popular. There’s new construction, new buildings, new laboratories. If you come to our campus you’ll see we’re breaking some eggs, but we’re going to make a very nice omelet.”
Note: Jason Molinet is an adjunct professor at Farmingdale State.