By JIMMY LAWTON
St. Lawrence County’s four colleges are expanding, rebuilding and introducing new programs as the fall semester draws near.
SUNY Canton classes begin this week. The fall semester begins next week at Clarkson University, St. Lawrence University and SUNY Potsdam.
At SUNY Potsdam, continued construction of the $45 million is the college’s largest project of the year, but upgrades at the athletic center and conference center are also underway.
SUNY Canton faces its fifth straight year of growth with an incoming class of 4,000 students and a record breaking 6,000 applications. The college is working to accommodate the growing student population with improvements on campus.
Clarkson University has recently wrapped up construction on the core of its largest residential hall, Moore House, but renovations are still underway on its East and Western wings. The modifications are expected to make the hall more energy efficient.
St. Lawrence University is not engaged in major construction this year, but is introducing new opportunities for students to study off campus both locally and abroad. For the first time, students in the first-year program can study in London, England.
Here’s a brief look at what’s happening at the area’s education centers:
SUNY Potsdam is welcoming approximately 920 freshmen in the fall, according to spokeswoman Alexandra Jacobs. She said nearly 4,500 undergraduate and graduate students are expected and residence halls will be full again in 2012-13, with more than 2,500 students living on campus.
Potsdam has been busy with a variety of construction projects designed to improve the schools offerings and reduce the impact on the environment.
Jacobs said the most exciting project is the nearly $45 million Performing Arts Building, which is growing next to The Crane School of Music complex.
Built to house the college’s growing Department of Theatre and Dance, the facility will have three new performance venues, including a proscenium theater, a black box theater and a dance recital hall, Jacobs said. Construction will continue until December 2013, with classes beginning in Spring 2014.
Another notable project, according to Jacobs, is the upgrade to Maxcy Hall, the athletic facility. Contractors are removing and replacing the building’s roof and insulation. In addition, the 2,500-seat Maxcy Ice Arena will undergo a complete renovation over the next year, with new systems for ice-making and snow melt equipment, plus new arena seating, new lighting and revamped locker rooms and support spaces, Jacobs said.
The ice arena is expected to be complete in Fall 2013. While construction is underway, the Potsdam Bears men’s and women’s ice hockey teams will compete at other area rinks, including Pine Street Arena in Potsdam and Roos House at SUNY Canton.
Jacobs said the school’s residential buildings are also being renovated. She said Bowman Hall, the colleges largest residential largest, will be gutted and improved.
The Knowles Conference Center is also completing its second phase of renovations, receiving improvements to the building’s fireplace, lobby, lighting, accessibility, security and energy efficiency, Jacobs said.
“Each summer, SUNY Potsdam gets a facelift, with most students gone and campus construction season at its peak. There are a number of projects in the pipeline,” she said.
SUNY Canton spokesman Gregory Kie said 2012-2013 is shaping up to be a recording breaking year as the college welcomes an incoming class of 4,000 students with approximately 1,000 freshmen and more than 300 transfer students.
“This year the college received more than 6,000 applications for the first time in the school’s history, breaking its all time record for applications for the third straight year,” he said.
Driving the increase in attendees are the new offerings at the college. Kie says the new bachelor degree programs, athletic teams and study abroad opportunities are attracting students.
New four-year programs start this year, including applied psychology and homeland security. Kie says both programs have a strong potential to advance students’ careers.
With its new programs included, SUNY Canton offers 23 bachelor degrees, 22 associate degrees, and seven one-year professional certificate programs, according to Kie.
SUNY Canton now offers more than 500 internet-based courses. Kie said eight bachelor’s degrees are available online, allowing students to enroll from anywhere with Internet access.
“Almost every SUNY Canton student takes at least one online class during their education,” he said.
The growth has also forced to the school to expand and renovate the campus for both living and leisure activities. Kie said the college is improving its footbridges with timber-framed walkways and has been beautifying the walking paths bordering the campus.
Kie said Cook Hall is being renovated to include brand new science laboratories, following a fire in February. The Nevaldine Technology Center is also being upgraded.
The college’s residence halls have been updated to make the campus more attractive, more educationally accommodating and more energy efficient.
He said the overall improvements follow the recent grand openings the College’s newest buildings including the Grasse River Suites, which offers students single occupancy rooms in apartment-style suites and the Roos House Athletic center, which has an ice rink, a field house, a brand new fitness center, and a four-lane lap pool.
The new improvements are expected to see some additional traffic this year as the college adds women’s ice hockey to its sports programs. The Roos anticipate nearly 300 athletes participating on 14 teams. Last year, the athletic department added men’s golf, women’s volleyball, women’s lacrosse, and men’s varsity lacrosse.
St. Lawrence University
While no major construction projects are under way at St. Lawrence University this year, spokeswoman Macreena Doyle said students have some new opportunities for studying off campus.
She said SLU requires all incoming students complete an on campus first-year program, but for the first time, students will have a chance to complete that program in London, England.
Doyle said students are often attracted to the SLU because of the wide offering of opportunities to study aboard, but some students aren’t willing to wait a semester before embarking on their journeys.
Doyle said many students take a gap year after high school to allow for travel, others are eager to start school, but want to travel while studying. This program, she says, allows students to experience a different country while beginning their education.
“It really meets a variety of needs,” she said. “It opens doors for a group of students we might not have traditionally been able reach. Many students just can’t wait a semester to go somewhere new.”
While it won’t be offered until January, Doyle said program similar to the University's Adirondack semester will be held at the Cornell Cooperative Extension in January of 2013. Students will live in a house leased by the university and participate in a variety of internships and sustainability projects.
“It’s an opportunity for students to get off campus and be immersed in what they are learning,” she said.
Doyle said another regional getaway for students is offered for arts and finance majors. This off-campus study program sends students to New York City where they can learn in an environment that their professions could likely place them.
She said this program was launched in the spring of 2012 but continues in the fall. The program allows students whose careers might take them to the city, to experience it first hand.
“For people who grow up or go to school in rural areas, the city can be intimidating. This allows them to experience the city in a guided way,” she said.
At Clarkson University this fall, students will have an opportunity to experience an “Adirondack Semester” where students will spend a semester in the Adirondack Park learning about sustainable living and the sociological and economic factors surrounding the park.
Clarkson spokesman Michael Griffin said the university will also be offering new a masters degree that merges environmental studies with social sciences - a masters of science degree in environmental politics and governance.
He said the program teaches students to the process of policy making that promotes science-based environmental legislation and regulations.
He said the program allows graduate students, pursuing environmental studies at Clarkson University, to approach issues from a social science perspective.
Aside from the new programs, Clarkson has completed or will soon be wrapping up several construction and renovations projects. He said students will return to modified classrooms and improved residence halls.
Griffin said the work on the New Moore House Residence Center core was recently completed. He said an existing wing was demolished and has been replaced by a new four-story residence hall that includes a new multi-purpose room.
He said the new room offers a view of the woods, higher ceiling and a new fireplace.
Students now have laundry facilities on each floor.
Griffin said renovations to the first, second and third floors of the East and West wings of Moore House are ongoing, but will include a variety of cosmetic and energy saving modifications.
At four of Clarkson’s Woodstock Village residence buildings, renovations involve updating both the interior and exterior of each building and incorporating energy reducing measures. The exterior of the buildings is being renovated with an “Adirondack style.” Griffin said.
As of this fall, all five buildings will have been completed.
While the new improvements to the residence halls are a nice addition, Griffin says students will notice some changes outside as well. The Southern Raquette River Walking Trails below the Riverside Apartments have been developed into walking trails, bike paths, and scenic overlooks.