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Colleges and universities throughout Western New York are thinking differently as the new century dawns and the demand for technical ability begins to surpass the demand for traditionally educated graduates.

Distance learning, global connections and the reality that most of today's students will change jobs, and careers, several times in their lives are all altering the ways local institutions of higher education operate.

"The speed of technological changes will not slow down over the next few years," predicted C. Angela Bontempo, president of Bryant & Stratton Business Institute's 14 campuses in four states, three of which are in the Buffalo area.

"As we end the '90s, the demand for a technically skilled work force is great, and the skilled work force pool is small," she said. "Imagine how great the demand will be in the next few years. Education will be scurrying to meet the demand."

Alfred University President Edward G. Coll Jr. agrees that there is "no end in sight to the technology revolution and evolution," but he predicts that good institutions "will continue to promote the personalized education of students."

Geneseo State College President Christopher C. Dahl does, too.

"We know that technology will have a profound effect on the ways in which we teach and learn," he said. "But the new technology does not displace a liberal education, or make it less relevant.

"Quite the contrary; humane and productive application of the new technologies demands ethical awareness and information literacy -- the ability to evaluate electronic and print media sources critically and analytically, weigh their value and use them effectively and justly. A liberal education should foster them both."

In the shorter run, local colleges and universities are reaching out to new populations with new programs, new plans, new people and new as well as renewed facilities.

The State University of New York has a new chancellor, former state budget director Robert L. King, who local SUNY institutions hope will stabilize and strengthen the system.

Privately built student housing administered by local colleges and universities is also a priority this year.

At the University at Buffalo, student housing is proliferating -- with South Lake Village slated to open in August, a complex with nine two-story buildings and seven three-story buildings on 13 acres overlooking Lake LaSalle on the North Campus.

South Lake follows Hadley Village, which opened last fall on campus, and Flickinger Court, which opened just off-campus the fall of 1997.

A project of the university, the UB Alumni Association and the UB Foundation, South Lake Village will house 555 juniors, seniors and professional students in studio, one-, two- and four-bedroom apartment units. Cost is expected to be about $22 million.

When South Lake Village is completed, the number of students living in UB housing on or adjacent to the North Campus will be over 4,600 -- with another 2,200 on UB's South Campus.

Geneseo State will break ground this year for a new $9 million, 200-bed residential complex, part of a $36 million construction program to include substantial improvements for existing residence halls between now and 2007.

Although it is not being built privately, no state tax dollars will be used for the new complex, slated to open in 2001. It and the other projects will be bonded by the state Dormitory Authority, with the costs to be paid over time by room rent revenues.

Canisius College, more than $4 million over goal in a $30 million capital campaign not slated to end for six months, is in the process of purchasing off-campus land adjacent to the lot that held the recently demolished West Delavan Avenue Armory.

The college hopes to build student housing at the location, and is working with the city and state to obtain the property, according to John J. Hurley, vice president for college relations and general counsel at Canisius.

"Ideally, it would make sense to acquire the balance of the block to Harvard Place, and we have acquired several but not all of those lots," Hurley said. "We are continuing our discussions with the property owners."

Beginning this fall, Canisius also will offer a number of full scholarships for students of color through the recently created McGowan Learning Community Scholarship Program, as well as a new degree in digital media arts.

Medaille College, which is exploring the feasibility of constructing student housing on its campus, also plans to seek approval from the state's Education Department to establish a second branch campus, possibly in the Rochester area.

The college, at Parkside Avenue and the Scajaquada Expressway, opened its first branch campus in Amherst three years ago, offering a bachelor of business administration degree on an accelerated basis. Medaille recently received approval to offer an MBA as well at the Amherst campus.

Its first capital campaign, currently in its silent phase, is slated to kick off this year with a goal of $2.4 million over four years.

Projects planned with funds raised include construction of an auditorium; expansion of the college library to include more computer classrooms as well as a Children's Literacy Center, and an expansion of the college's veterinary technology and science facilities.

At Alfred State College, one of five colleges of technology in the SUNY system, the big news is a planned transition over the coming year from a primarily two-year college to a polytechnic institution offering a growing number of baccalaureate degree programs as well as the associate degree programs Alfred State is known for.

College President William D. Rezak said that, although the institution has offered baccalaureate degrees in the engineering technologies for the past few years, it now plans to add two to three more per year.

A four-year degree in architectural technology has just been approved. Other four-year offerings will be in varied fields including business, computer art and design, human services, telecommunications, culinary arts and laboratory and vocational technologies.

"We're a work force degree operation," Rezak said. "All of our degrees lead to specific careers."

Erie Community College also plans to "position itself as a leader in work force preparation in the next millennium," President William J. Mariani said.

"Whatever the need: two-year transfer preparation, development education, job skills upgrading, two-year degree completion with direct entry into employment, or short-term retraining -- we must provide our students with the professional and technical resources that businesses and industries need to be world-class competitors."

Significant advances expected in the coming year at some other area institutions include:

Buffalo State College -- Major renovations of historic Moot Hall and of the bookstore on the Elmwood Avenue campus is getting under way. Moot will become the college's "one-stop shopping" site for admissions, registration, financial aid and student accounts. The bookstore also will be expanded, to include a literary cafe and an academic media center. Both projects are slated for completion in 2001.

Fredonia State College -- New initiatives will include development of programs in African-American, Latino and Native American studies; a new teacher training program for teachers of bilingual students, and a McNair Scholars Program providing support for 30 low-income or first-generation students so they might pursue graduate studies.

"No longer can a college succeed merely by being all things to all people," said Fredonia State President Dennis L. Hefner.

"Each educational program must generate a value added that can be defined and measured in order to survive in what will become an ever increasingly competitive environment."

Hilbert College -- An honors program will begin at this Hamburg institution in the fall, with the goal of attracting more high-quality, first-time college and transfer students.

Men's volleyball and women's cross country and lacrosse will be added to Hilbert's athletic program, and expansion of the college's Hafner Recreation Center as well as upgrades of its residence hall will be started in 2000.

St. Bonaventure University -- After successful completion of $7 million in construction and renovations on its Olean campus in 1999, the university will launch a Franciscan Center for Social Concern, to educate students about the issues concerning the poor and the marginal, and how to serve and advocate for them.

Daemen College -- The Snyder college's recently established telemedicine network linking rural New York communities with Buffalo-area resources will get an improved network broad band link.

Daemen's Natural & Health Sciences Research Center will see its first year of operation. The on-campus research lab will focus primarily on applied research and product development. It will also provide consulting and independent testing services to private industry.

Niagara Frontier Center of Empire State College -- This regional branch of SUNY, offering guided independent study programs for working adults, will continue to expand its Center for Work Force Advancement -- which works with employers to design and deliver non-credit training.

Niagara County Community College -- The college is expanding its training opportunities for business and industry, and also hopes to become a leader in distance learning.

The Sanborn-based college, which is currently offering five courses on its Web site, expects to have as many as 25 courses, or more, offered by next fall.

Niagara University -- Rev. Joseph L. Levesque, provincial of the Eastern Province of the Vincentian order of priests and brothers for the past nine years, will spend his first semester as the Lewiston institution's 25th president.

The university, which has study-abroad programs in Switzerland, Germany, France and Spain, will add Ireland to the mix through participation in Quest Campus, a new educational venture that Daemen College already takes part in.

Niagara will also spend $1 million to increase the size of its Dwyer Ice Arena's lobby, concession area and pro shop, and create a new entrance to the building.

D'Youville College "will not only be looking at new programs, but also will continue to develop a distance learning delivery system that will expand our campus electronically," said President Sister Denise A. Roche.

D'Youville "will also continue to collaborate with other institutions in order to provide the best and most financially sound education possible," Roche said.

Genesee Community College will open its new technology building on its Batavia campus in the spring.

Trocaire College, which does not have a gym, has just opened a workout room for students and staff with equipment purchased through a grant from the federal Vocational and Applied Technology Education Act program.

The college recently added degree programs in massage therapy and trucking to its curricula. It is also accepting Canadian money at par from its Canadian students, for tuition and parking.

Villa Maria College, which will offer the area's only jazz-specific music degree program beginning this fall, is developing courses in digital photography and establishing a Hospitality Futures program with Niagara University, to benefit students in the Emerson Commons culinary arts program of Emerson Vocational High School.

"In this new millennium, we have reaffirmed our commitment to providing the community with training and tools that are intrinsic to the modern-day workplace," said College President Sister Marcella Marie Garus.

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