Samuel Northrup, Editor-in-Chief
Student Senate President Ann Ciancia and Utica College President Laura Casamento went live on UC’s official Facebook page for a presidential summit, a first for the UC community.
The two presidents sat across from each other and fielded questions submitted by students and alumni through social media and email. Topics covered included but were not limited to the two campus leaders’ working relationship, the future expansion of UC’s campus and renewed diversity efforts.
One of the first questions addressed UC’s growing student body and the college’s plan to expand facilities off campus in the future.
Casamento, now in her second year as college president, did not give any specific information on upcoming development projects but said the administration “master plan” for future development and where it will occur will be reevaluated in the in the coming year.
“The city of Utica is just a terrific partner [for development] with us,” she said. “But I don’t see for us the need to acquire more land. I think [already] we have a significant amount to do what we need to do.”
Answering a question on future goals for UC’s athletic programs, Casamento mentioned that the Todd and Jen Hutton Sport and Recreation Center, popularly called “the dome,” should be reopening soon.
“We’re going to continue to invest in intercollegiate athletics, we’re going to try to make sure we have the best facilities possible,” Casamento said. “I can tell you that the dome will be back up, hopefully, within the next 30 days, it will be better than ever, and it will be a showcase facility. It’s important for us to have that so our student-athletes are practicing and competing in the best facilities possible.”
Now that UC is in its second year after implementing its tuition reset program, questions concerning the status and sustainability of the program were asked.
“Families’ ability to pay, student debt loads, those things are really important to us, and we want to minimize student debt burden moving forward as much as we possibly can,” Casamento said. “Utica has to stay relative in the market, make sure we are offering the programs that students want and need. Secondly, I think we have to be very, very good stewards of our resources. So, students pay tuition, how do we spend it? We have to be very disciplined, very focused, and every time we make an investment in something we have to say ‘Ok, what’s the return on this?’”
On UC’s effort to ensure an inclusive and safe campus, Casamento recognized the importance of reaching out to the campus community.
“Talking to students is really important, communicating with them, talking to them, hearing what they have to say,” she said. “We have had many community conversations, some organized by the administration and some recently organized by the students, and I think those conversations have lead us to change and lead us to thinking about things at a different level.”
One diversity-specific action Casamento mentioned the college is taking is changing the hiring process as it relates to faculty and staff.
“What we really want is a faculty and staff to look like our student body, and today they don’t,” she said. “It’s important for us.”
Casamento believes “major moves” could be made “in terms of training and development and changes in curriculum to move us along that way (towards a more diverse community).”
“Progress never seems to happen fast enough,” she said. “But I believe we are setting the stage hear to make some really terrific improvements.”
The full discussion is available on the college’s official Facebook page.