The University of Connecticut is expanding several academic programs at its Stamford campus; considering the possibility of offering student housing; and strengthening its links with the region’s businesses, alumni, and other supporters.
That’s the message UConn President Susan Herbst delivered to a packed room of corporate and community leaders from the Business Council of Fairfield County, which hosted Herbst as keynote speaker at its June 22 annual meeting.
Herbst said the bustling downtown campus is a “unique and special” part of UConn’s mission to provide high-quality education to students, recruit and retain exemplary faculty members, and boost Connecticut’s economy through research and job-creating innovations.
“There’s a lot we can do in Fairfield County – not only to benefit you, but hopefully you can help us to build a future, too,” Herbst told the group. “The University of Connecticut is your university. It’s your belief in us that helps us grow.”
UConn opened its first Stamford campus in 1951, and moved its operations in 1998 to a gleaming glass and steel building in the heart of downtown.
Now, almost one-quarter of the undergraduates at UConn’s main Storrs and regional campuses come from Fairfield County, including many who like the Stamford site so much that they craft their academic plans to stay there throughout their four-year degree path.
Keeping that in mind, Herbst said, UConn is planning several new academic programs at Stamford to serve students’ needs and prepare them to compete for jobs in growing fields.
They include new undergraduate programs in financial management, international business, risk management, and digital media; and a dual MBA/engineering master’s degree that will build on the strength of the existing MBA program. UConn also is looking into the possibility of degree programs at the Stamford campus in accounting and hospitality management, as well as certificates in crisis management and global business, Herbst said.
UConn also is reviewing whether it may be possible to expand the physical space at the Stamford campus, and is seeking feedback from developers and the public about whether UConn could offer housing for Stamford students.
Many students who attend the campus either rent from private property owners nearby or commute from elsewhere, though Herbst said UConn gets many inquiries from students and families about housing options.
“I think it’s absolutely critical to help students who want a more residential experience to get a chance at that in Stamford,” she said. “I gather apartments are expensive in Stamford and not a lot of students can afford the kind of place that they need. The University might be able to help with that by building some kind of residential option.”
‘We Need to Raise Our Game’
Herbst also updated the audience on the increasingly high-achieving backgrounds of UConn’s growing number of applicants and its students and its research and economic development endeavors, including plans to overhaul the UConn Health Center and welcome Jackson Labs to the Farmington campus as a partner in new research on personalized medicine.
The initiative, known as Bioscience Connecticut, is intended to place UConn and the state at the forefront of the bioscience industry while also creating jobs, expanding enrollment at the schools of medicine and dental medicine, offering incubator space for small business startups, and ramping up research.
“I know it sounds sky high, but we hope to cure cancer in Farmington. Given our investment in genetics and genomics, I think we have a great chance of doing that,” Herbst says.
She also told the audience about UConn’s intensified focus on philanthropy to help build its endowment; its plans to hire nearly 300 new faculty members to reduce class sizes and spur more research; and its commitment to better communicate its successes to the public.
“There’s no question we need to raise our game, to show more swagger,” Herbst says. “UConn has so much to brag about, but we have to get out there more, articulate our message, and draw more people into our scope.”
Strengthening UConn’s links with Fairfield County students, alumni, donors, businesses, and other supporters is a key part of that initiative.
UConn figures show more than 4,100 undergraduates last fall came from Fairfield County communities, including almost 1,300 studying at the Stamford campus. At least 21,000 alumni also live in Fairfield County, with the city of Stamford having the third-highest number of UConn graduates in Connecticut behind West Hartford and Glastonbury.
Herbst says she has visited Fairfield County many times so far during her presidency, and is struck by the energy and positive vibe in Stamford and at its UConn campus.
Kenneth Seel, a board member of the Business Council of Fairfield County, says many in the region have noticed and appreciated UConn’s renewed attention to the area, along with Herbst’s willingness to work with other higher education institutions on matters of shared interest.
“Susan’s arrival at UConn has taken the University’s presence in our region to a higher level,” says Seal, the office managing partner of KPMG LLP’s Stamford office. “Her embrace of collegial, cooperative relationships, as well as the expansion of the Stamford campus role,