March 9, 2016

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Tech Sector chapter members, students seek support

uupdate 3-9-16

Edward Perri, a fisheries and aquaculture major at SUNY Cobleskill, is used to professionals he encounters at conferences and environmental agencies assuming he’s a graduate student, because the projects he’s tackling as an undergraduate are so advanced.

“We learn from the best,” said Perri, third from left, a senior who has just completed a study of the Hudson River’s diverse fish population. In the photo above, Perri listens as Cobleskill Chapter Officer for Contingents Kevin Moore, right, asks for more funding for tech sector campuses during a March 9 meeting in the office of Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Sunnyside).

Perri was one of more than 60 students and UUP members who turned out for the union’s Technology Sector Advocacy Day March 9. The event highlighted the hands-on expertise and top-notch career preparation available at SUNY’s five technology sector campuses, at Alfred, Canton, Cobleskill, Delhi and Morrisville.

Students and campus representatives set up displays, some of them interactive, in the Empire State Plaza concourse to promote their programs.

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Led by UUP VP for Academics Jamie Dangler, above, center, the delegation fanned out through the halls of the Capitol and the Legislative Office Building, where once again the combination of students telling their stories alongside faculty and staff resonated, as it has throughout UUP’s advocacy efforts this budget season.

“The work that you’re doing today is incredibly important,” UUP President Fred Kowal told the advocates before they started. “Most legislators don’t really know what goes on at SUNY. We need to educate them.”

Green energy education

One initiative that UUP hopes will become a reality at tech sector campuses is a new green energy technology program that would partner educational programs with local businesses specializing in this field. UUP first proposed the idea in December as part of its legislative agenda; Gov. Andrew Cuomo signaled his approval for the plan by putting $15 million into his executive proposal.

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“That’s a good step, but that’s just a start,” Kowal, above, told members and students. He reminded them that for all the good they do, too many tech sector programs are using outdated equipment, and too many faculty are paid significantly less than their counterparts at other colleges.

“I actually took a pay cut to come to Cobleskill because I’m very passionate about teaching,” said Julie Casper Roth, an assistant professor of communications, whose comments reflect the dedication that faculty feel about teaching. Professors like Casper Roth could command much higher salaries in the public sector than those they earn at SUNY.

Tech sectors in upstate economy

At the same time, the tech sector campuses play a far-reaching and vital role in the economy of upstate New York. Alfred has an annual economic impact of $111 million, more than 10 times the total annual state allocation for the college. Cobleskill is the major employer and cultural center of Schoharie County.

Nearly 80 percent of Delhi’s faculty and staff live in Delaware County, where they shop, contribute to the housing market and support numerous service businesses. Canton's economic impact in the North Country region totaled more than $175 million.

Or, as Joan Nicholson, an associate professor and director of the dietetic technician program at Morrisville noted. “We employ upstate New Yorkers in places where there is not a lot of employment.”

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