An innovative new program called "Pathways" is offered by Genesee Community and Empire State colleges. It gives Genesee students the opportunity to earn bachelor's degrees by spending an extra semester at Genesee and three semesters pursuing study at Empire.
Jonathan R. Franz, Ph.D., dean of Empire State College's Genesee Valley Learning Center, told the Genesee Community College Board of Trustees about Pathways on Monday evening.
Under the program, Genesee students can earn up to 83 credits toward a bachelor's degree at the Batavia Campus, at any of the college's six campus centers or via the online equivalent of five semesters of study. Most Genesee associate's degrees require between 62 and 64 credits of study.
Students then enter Empire State's program of individualized study for the balance of their baccalaureate education. They can complete their studies at Empire through independent study, group studies or online studies, all guided by highly qualified local mentors. Those who have gained college-level learning through the workplace or other experience may apply for college credit by evaluation.
Although Empire does not offer traditional "classes," the Empire program is rigorous and requires a high level of academic commitment.
"We expect a lot of writing and a lot of reading," Franz told the trustees. "Students are expected to engage in critical thinking, and participate in discussions with mentors and other students, whether face-to-face or online."
The program is especially appropriate for students who may not have the flexibility to drive to a distant campus for classes or participate in a fixed class schedule, Franz said. Students will be able to complete coursework in their own communities, usually on their own schedules. They will participate in designing their own Empire degree programs. The most popular degrees are in Community and Human Services, Business Administration, and Human Development.
Empire State College, a college of the State University of New York, was founded in 1971 to serve motivated adult learners. Originally dubbed a "college without walls," Empire has become widely recognized as an innovative and respected college focusing on the needs of mature students.
Empire State College has about 19,500 students enrolled statewide but does not have traditional "campuses." Instead, it houses operations in seven "learning centers" located throughout the state. In turn, these centers sponsor local "units," which bring Empire services to their respective service areas.
The Genesee Valley Learning Center, which Franz leads, is based on the east side of Rochester and has about 1,200 enrollees. It sponsors units in Canandaigua, Alfred, Corning and Batavia.
The Batavia Unit was originally located at Genesee Community College's Batavia Campus, but moved to Ellicott Street three years ago due to space constraints. It serves almost 200 students each year.
"The quality of GCC students is excellent and GCC students who come to Empire are very well prepared," said Edward Warzala, Batavia unit coordinator. "I feel great confidence when I see a student with a Genesee Community College transcript. I know that if they can succeed at Genesee, they can succeed at Empire."
Warzala noted that Steven Schutt, Genesee's student trustee, will be one of the first students to enter the Pathways Program after graduating from Genesee next month.