By Shawn Ness | April 17, 2023
CNSE’s sign outside their Albany campus.
Photo Credit: Shawn Ness / The ASP
The College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) is rejoining the University at Albany. The State University of New York (SUNY) Board of Trustees decided that a comprehensive transition plan needs to be finalized by December 2023, according to UAlbany’s roadmap.
“I am very excited to share with you that yesterday, the SUNY Board of Trustees voted to set in motion the process that will officially reunify CNSE with UAlbany,” according to a press release from UAlbany’s President Havidán Rodríguez. “CNSE was born at UAlbany two decades ago, and there could not be a more exciting time in our university’s history to welcome our colleagues back to the UAlbany family.”
CNSE was created as a “college within University at Albany,” according to the resolution, before being transferred under the administrative authority of SUNY Polytechnic Institute, although the administrative functions of CNSE moved to Utica to be on SUNY Polytechnic’s (SUNY Poly) Marcy campus, the physical location of CNSE, its students and staff stayed in Albany and have been there since 2014.
CNSE rejoining UAlbany is something that Governor Hochul mentioned in her State of the State address to “streamline management and promote research excellence.” Hochul also wants to invest more in SUNY Poly Utica’s campus to strategically grow the university’s engineering and nursing programs and make the university a sought-after destination for nanotechnology and computer chip technology.
All CNSE students will have the opportunity to finish their programs as SUNY Poly students or transfer to UAlbany, according to SUNY Poly’s Director of University Marketing & Communications, Steve Ference.
The resolution was given to the members of the SUNY Board of Trustees by interim SUNY Chancellor Deborah Stanley. SUNY Poly faculty also expressed support for the decision in a memorandum sent to Gov. Hochul, President Rodríguez, and Stanley, among others.
A steering committee was convened to “guide the master planning process,” according to the roadmap. The steering committee will ensure the transition of CNSE to UAlbany is successful, provide direction and oversight to different workgroups, and review and approve the master plan to the SUNY Board of Trustees.
The committee is designed to provide recommendations to “five working groups focused on the core academic and administrative functional areas essential to successfully and efficiently reintegrating CNSE with UAlbany.” The committee will examine academic affairs, finance and administration, research and economic development, student affairs and student success, and strategic communications and marketing.
The committee consists of UAlbany’s President Rodríguez, the Provost and Senior Vice President Carol Kim, Chief of Staff Claudia Hernández, the Vice President for Research & Economic Development Thenkurussi “Kesh” Kesavadas, the Dean of CNSE Andres Melendez.
“I think it’s a good thing. I think there really needs to be some sort of change [to CNSE], so I think working together with UAlbany towards that change is a good thing,” Abhrajit Ghosh, a senior at UAlbany who took computer science classes at CNSE during his sophomore year. “Most people will still complain about it at the start, but maybe in five or 10 years, people will realize that this was worth doing. I think if both UAlbany and CNSE can efficiently use their budgets, then everything will be fine, I think it might just encourage more people to work and take classes at CNSE.”
“The UAlbany-CNSE reunification process will no doubt be complex, but my leadership team and I have been preparing for this moment and are ready, with your support, to move forward with the critical next steps,” President Rodrĺguez said in a press release. “Governor Hochul is committed to cementing SUNY’s reputation as the nation’s premier public university system, and reunifying CNSE and UAlbany will leverage each institution’s considerable strengths to build a truly formidable research and teaching powerhouse at one of the most diverse public research institutions in the country.”
“The Board of Trustees resolution that began this process set a deadline of December 2023 [for the reunification to be finished]. It’s fair to say that the Steering Committee is keen to complete its work sooner than that,” Director of Communications and University Spokesperson Jordan Carleo-Evangelist said.
The reunification is supposed to allow for both universities to “capitalize on their geographic proximity,” according to the resolution. It would also allow for broader nanotechnology research and economic development. UAlbany is classified as an R1 institution, which designates it with “very high research activity,” by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Learning.
“We also are confident this reunification will help UAlbany faculty attract more external research funding through new or expanded collaborations with colleagues at CNSE, who will now have the full weight of UAlbany’s R1 research infrastructure behind them,” Carleo-Evangelist said.
CNSE currently has 140 students enrolled in both their undergraduate and graduate nanoscale science and engineering programs, with most of them living in Albany. Because of agreements between UAlbany and CNSE, many of the students already live in UAlbany’s student housing and use UAlbany services like bus transportation, according to UAlbany’s FAQ page. These same agreements are the ones that allow many UAlbany students to take courses at CNSE and vice-versa.
“UAlbany absolutely has the capacity to enroll more students. On top of welcoming existing CNSE students to UAlbany, should they choose to join us, we want to grow CNSE’s academic programs as well as others on campus for which we believe there is strong student demand,” Carleo-Evangelist said. “Just last month we announced new bachelor’s and master’s programs in nursing to help the state address its healthcare workforce shortage. Increasing enrollment across the University, not just in connection with CNSE, is a priority.”
CNSE first departed from the University at Albany in 2014 after then-SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher sent a resolution letter to the members of the SUNY Board of Trustees. “The proposed resolution authorizes the combination of CNSE, and all of its related academic programs, presently under the administrative authority of UAlbany, with the State University of New York Institute of Technology at Utica-Rome (SUNYIT).”
SUNY Poly was originally established as a public polytechnic institute in June of 1966 at the request of the SUNY Board of Trustees. The Board later established the nation’s first College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering under UAlbany’s administrative authority in 2004. The goal was to create a “distinctive and focused mission, to deliver academic programs in nanoscale science and engineering,” the resolution reads.
The Board believed the merger would allow for the two institutions’ education models to complement each other and allow them to build on each other in a “constructive and mutually beneficial fashion.” A merger between SUNY Poly and CNSE would be able to leverage the strengths of both universities on an equitable basis to: “create unparalleled opportunities for current and future students from the Mohawk Valley and the whole New York State.”
During the partnership dissolvement, UAlbany and CNSE both agreed to a “services agreement” to ensure that all CNSE students have “sufficient and appropriate access to all necessary general education coursework, residential services, and health/wellness services” that must be comparable to services offered on UAlbany’s campus.
A SUNY Poly College Council formally endorsed the merger of CNSE and SUNY Poly, a process in which SUNY Poly faculty participated. A similar group was formed of CNSE faculty, students, and staff, and formed two different advisory groups; one for undergraduate students and one for graduate students.
An Ad Hoc committee was formed to provide a “broader consultative faculty voice in the merger regarding the development relationship between the two institutions,” the resolution said.
SUNY Poly’s admissions processes will not change, and all of CNSE’s admissions policies will be given to UAlbany, according to Ference. Carleo-Evangelist echoed this sentiment, saying the university does not plan on changing any admissions practices but they hope for new applicants.
The Albany Student Press will share updates as released.