Making students marketable in today's scarce job market isn't easy.
But, area private colleges and universities are facing that challenge head-on and finding creative ways to tailor their curricular offerings with innovative programs aimed squarely at preparing both undergraduate and graduate students with the tools they need to succeed.
Emerging information technology, health care, communications, modern languages and business are a few of the burgeoning fields where local academia is hoping to lure in prospective students with brand new course offerings and, often, hands-on laboratory study.
Daemen College administrators are adapting majors in order "to respond to the demand of the future workplace." Daemen is positioning itself at the forefront of emerging technology.
The college, for instance, launched its new animation program to adapt to "a highly evolving technological industry" and offers students instruction in both 2D and 3D animation for film, television, gaming and advertising as well as visual applications for science, medicine and research.
"Daemen College is preparing students for success in the work place by adapting majors that will be in high demand," said Patricia Brown, Daemen's vice president for enrollment management.
It's also adapting various majors "to respond to the demand of the future workplace."
Business and accounting students are receiving instruction in the exploding field of data mining, which will help students get trained for occupations in fraud detection, risk management and criminal justice.
Geriatric health, one of the nation's fastest growing sectors, is a main focus of the college's health programs.
Daemen's new Global and Local Sustainability major is green-focused on the interconnections between the environment, the economy and society.
"Employers today want colleges to place more emphasis on essential learning outcomes," Brown said. "Skills such as critical thinking, integrated learning, and personal and social responsibility are all part of the Daemen College core curriculum."
College officials say, in order to make course scheduling more flexible for its students, it is also broadening its availability of online and hybrid courses.
"We are constantly looking at new ways to communicate with students," said Linda Koller, Daemen's director of marketing.
Not only does it employ various social media, such as Facebook, Twitter as well as private networking sites and virtual open houses, to support recruitment, the college also runs online chat sessions to answer questions from prospective students and parents.
At Canisius College, there's also plenty happening under Old Main's golden dome in the 2000 block of Main Street. The school's footprint has expanded dramatically in recent years. Now, officials are focused on making Canisius the region's "pre-eminent" private school.
"We call it a 'transformational education,' " said Richard A. Wall, the school's interim vice president for academic affairs. "It's transforms [students] into adults that will contribute in society."
The school focuses its mission on producing "ethical and moral human beings" who not only reach their personal career goals but make a difference to the world.
Wall said the school has listened to real-world people when devising its curriculum.
"You need to do market research," he said. "You need to get out into the community and find out from professionals and leaders of the community. What are the needs there?"
Canisius has fine-tuned both its undergraduate and graduate programs.
At the graduate level, Canisius is developing new programs specifically tailored to careers in the areas of Education, Professional Studies and Business.
Under Professional Studies, there are master's degree programs with specialized certificates in health fields. Canisius has offerings in Allied Health to "develop programs to help people get specializations in their careers." Respiratory and renal care specialist certification are just two offerings.
Master's degrees are also offered in the fields of Applied Nutrition, which deals with fitness and eating disorders, and Community and School Health which teaches counseling, psychology and other areas with eyes toward clinicians, health care administrators and nurses.
For graduate business, a new master's degree in international business is offered. The program is held primarily by online instruction. A new master's program is also offered in forensic accounting.
Educational technology -- utilizing technology in the classroom -- is an emerging program under Canisius' graduate Education Department.
In the undergraduate realm, one of its newest offerings -- Animal Behavior, Ecology and Conservation -- has attracted real attention. Large numbers of students are seeking the program, which blends science and liberal arts by melding aspects of biology and conservation with ethical and moral conduct.
"This is an example of where Canisius is unique," Wall said. "There are very few programs around the country [like this one]."
Canisius also recently launched a new journalism degree in its Communication Studies department. The department has grown tremendously in the last decade, significantly expanding other programs such as its offerings in digital media arts.
Other innovative undergraduate offerings include a program in creative writing, under the auspices of the English department as well as two separate programs in sports management and health and wellness.
At St. Bonaventure University, an institution reputed for its journalism and communications programs, the Olean university is taking applications from high school juniors and seniors for its new Strategic Communication and Digital Media major, which launches this upcoming fall at its Russell J. Jandoli School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
"This new major came about as a result of extensive research, which included connecting with our alumni," said Pauline W. Hoffmann, dean of the journalism school. "We asked them what skills graduating students need in order to succeed. They were quite candid."
One of the hallmarks of the new program is the 12-credit course, Semester in the Stalwart Group, according to Hoffman.
"This is a semester-long public relations, marketing, advertising agency that students will be able to work in to gain valuable real-world, professional experience under the guidance of dedicated faculty and graduate students," she said.
"Students will be expected to recruit clients and take a project from start to finish including research, development and presentation of ideas."
Traditional public relations and advertising methods will be used by students who will also employ strategies harnessing digital and social media in the best interests of the clients.
"I think we all recognize that students today use new media, but do they know how to use it strategically? That is what our new program will help them to do," said Hoffman.
In following the tradition of the journalism school, writing will remain at the heart of the major. Additional emphasis will be placed on presentation skills, school officials said.
"It is critical that students understand how to communicate effectively in front of a variety of audiences," Hoffman said. "The global economy cannot be ignored and we are placing special emphasis on interactions globally to include diversity and cultural differences."
An "extensive internship and career readiness component" has been developed by St. Bonaventure's Career and Professional Readiness Center in association with the new major. That will enable students -- as soon as sophomore year -- to get involved in the development of their physical and electronic career portfolios and resumes.
The university has also over the last few years implemented a "4 1 program" that enables students to complete their undergraduate degree and then earn a graduate degree in Integrated Marketing Communication in a fifth year of study. Students, who can participate in the program from any of the school's majors, take graduate courses in their fourth year.
School officials said the "4 1 program" also ties into the new Strategic Communication and Digital Media major. There, students would assume leadership roles and work with with undergraduate students and faculty in researching, developing and presenting campaigns to live clients.