John Blashke, Staff Writer
Utica College was recently named a College of Distinction for its exceptional programs, faculty, staff and community.
The titles awarded were in the fields of business, nursing, education and career development, besides being recognized in the state of New York and nationwide in general.
For 19 years, the National College Resource has been awarding schools that stand out and assist prospective students in finding the college that best suits them and their goals. The academic institutions are ranked on four different distinctions: engaged students, great teaching, vibrant community and successful outcomes. There are over 370 schools nationwide recognized annually, and now UC joins their ranks.
Beth Samuels, associate director of student success at UC, has been collaborating with her coworkers in an attempt to overhaul a student-focused environment.
“We have blended the idea of success coaching, financial aid and career and professional development to create a holistic model for students,” Samuels said. “[The students] have people they can go to that are here to support them and focus on not just short term planning, but long term goals as well.”
This blend is referred to as care teams and are new as of this year. A care team consists of a faculty advisor, a success coach, a career coach for each area of study and a financial aid advisor. The program is individualized for each student to get the resources they need, which played a major role in the Colleges of Distinction selection process.
Halina Lotyczewski is the director of the Center for Career and Professional Development. She gives credit to the college’s high-impact programming and the Professional Readiness Employment Programs practices.
“We make sure that students are engaged in challenging and meaningful work,” Lotyczewski said. “The skills that they learn are the skills that employers want the most in our graduates, so the Colleges of Distinction were really impressed that we had these programs where students could connect classroom theory to applied practice.”
President Laura Casamento said she could not be more proud of the UC community. She spoke at length about how UC is unique and touched on the strength and resiliency of the community even during troubling times.
“Each institution has their own thing that sets them apart, but the people here, our people, make us different,” Casamento said. “The way that we are able to come together, it’s incredible.”
According to Casamento, the award itself is not what makes us special, but it reaffirms beliefs already held by her and many others in the community. “It’s easy to toot your own horn, but this is validation of the good work we have been communicating to the market,” Casamento said. “When you have external validation it’s powerful, and students know that what they are seeing is real.”