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SUNY investment funds to support three projects
March 1, 2016Tweet
Binghamton University will receive nearly $1 million in SUNY funds to initiate projects that will promote educational access, diversity and student success.
“We believe that the projects SUNY is funding will help us do our job better and help us serve the community more effectively,” Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Donald Nieman said.
SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher awarded $18 million to campuses across the state this semester through the SUNY Investment and Performance Fund. The fund was established by the legislature in the 2015-16 state budget.
Thirty-two proposals – featuring 22 SUNY campuses and nine collaborations with community colleges – will receive funding. Binghamton University’s three funded proposals are all collaborative: two are joint projects with SUNY Broome, while the third is a partnership with the University at Albany, the University at Buffalo and Stony Brook University.
In the first proposal, Binghamton University and SUNY Broome will receive $360,000 to provide college access and support services to Broome County residents.
Census data show that Broome County residents attain high school degrees at a higher rate than others in the state. But the bachelor’s (or higher) degree attainment for Broome residents is 26.1 percent, which is below the state rate of 33.2 percent. The proposal will invest in providing support to those residents to increase their higher-education levels. This, in turn, is likely to improve their economic prospects.
“It is an innovative proposal,” Nieman said. “If we can be successful with it, this could be replicable in many places across the state of New York.”
The program would work first to recognize people who have the potential and need to attend college. For example, staff in the Promise Zone Community Schools Project would target mothers or fathers from Broome County’s 11,847 single-parent homes.
“Part of the program is to counsel (potential participants): ‘Have you thought about going back to school for a degree? This is how you can make it work financially. Here are the services available to help you,’” Nieman said.
“Many adults who would benefit from higher education don’t return to school because they think, ‘I don’t have enough time. I’m too poor. I didn’t do particularly well in high school. This is just not for me.’”
Nieman said he is excited about Binghamton University and SUNY Broome reaching out and getting more non-traditional students into the higher-education pipeline.
“We think this will help them achieve better job outcomes in the long run, while also helping the community,” he said.
In the second proposal, Binghamton University and SUNY Broome will receive $350,000 to increase diversity among STEM graduates by providing an intensive research experience to undergraduate students from non-traditional pathways, such as community-college transfers and first-generation students.
Students who enter Binghamton University through non-traditional pathways often have a more difficult time pursuing STEM research and majors, Nieman said.
“If a student wants to transfer here and major in psychology or biology, they are going to be behind the curve in terms of getting involved in faculty-sponsored research,” he added.
To combat this, three additional research streams (biomedical engineering, genetics and environmental studies) will be developed for the Freshmen Research Immersion (FRI) and Summer Research Immersion (SRI) programs. This will create opportunities for a wider range of students to take part.
Priorities for the positions will be SUNY Broome students in the Binghamton Advantage Program and underrepresented students transferring from community colleges. Students taking part will be able to develop research methods and skills, Nieman said, while learning how to work in a lab and define and conduct a research project.
“This will open relationships with faculty,” he said. “By the time students graduate, they will have good research experiences that will make them more competitive for admission to medical school or doctoral programs.”
In the third funded project, Binghamton University and the three other University centers will each receive $250,000 to build common student-learning outcomes and assessments to increase completion in high-demand and high-impact “gateway” undergraduate courses.
Nieman pointed to classes such as CHEM107/108 and BIO117 as examples of “gateway” classes: pre-requisites to taking advanced courses. They can also be found in subjects such as physics, mathematics and economics.
Faculty teaching first- and second-year, high-demand courses (STEM or non-STEM) at the University centers will identify 12 courses and each campus will focus on three of them. For each course, a group of faculty from the four universities will work together to define essential and desirable learning outcomes.
The defined learning outcomes will set consistent achievement expectations for students to progress to a higher level. The gateway-course outcomes will be implemented first at the University centers, followed by other SUNY schools. The project is likely to take four to five years, Nieman said.
“From our perspective, it should help us ensure that our courses are what we want them to be – and that students learn what they need to know to be successful at the next level,” he said.