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Siena College absorbing 16 programs from Clarkson in time of change in Capital Region higher ed

Siena College professors Catherine Snyder and Jesse Moya.
Alexander Babbie
Alexander Babbie
Siena College professors Catherine Snyder and Jesse Moya.

Siena College is absorbing 16 programs from Clarkson University.

Siena, a private college in Loudonville, New York, is taking over several master’s programs from Clarkson University’s Capital Region campus.

The changes affect about 100 students. Eight full-time Clarkson faculty and administrators will also transfer to Siena. The programs in question were acquired in a 2016 merger with Union Graduate College.

Catherine Snyder is director of the new Master of Arts in Teaching Program. She says the suite of programs will address a shortage of educators in the Capital Region and across New York.

“We’re seeing shortages in every area, shortages in areas that you might not expect, like English and social studies,” Snyder said.

The first day of the new program is June 1st, and Snyder says applications are still open.

“When President Obama was president, he said we were going to need something like 250,000 new teachers in the next 10 years. Because of the pandemic, that number has actually increased since he was president and increased- and I've heard numbers anywhere from 300,000 to 500,000 in the next 10 years now,” Snyder said.

That’s because not enough students are graduating from education programs to fill the country’s need, Snyder says.

Kelly Chezum is Clarkson’s Vice President for External Relations. She says the decision to move the programs comes as the university focuses back on its original mission as an engineering school.

“When we looked an doing an extensive analysis with our campus communities, we talked about that the education program was great, but it requires an entirely different set of resources, everything from you know, our recruiting base for graduate and professional programs are all very much focused on business-to-business. Teaching programs like this often are better if you can get a steady supply from undergraduate institutions,” Chezum said.

 Jesse Moya is chair of Siena’s Education Department and an associate professor of education.

“Look towards other countries like Finland, right, where it's an honor to become a teacher, right? And all teachers are telling their students, ‘if you aspire to this, it's like being a doctor,’ right? So we need to do things to change the culture, change the ways that we provide pathways that are that are accessible for all students to become teachers,” Moya said.

Professors from the State University of New York and City University of New York systems recently met in Albany to advocate for more money for programs, with one Queens College professor noting a shortfall in funding to support student teaching in coming semesters. Moya says Siena isn’t facing the same challenges.

“We've been able to put them in all the placements that they need, provide them the support, I don't see or anticipate any kind of concerns or challenges with funding their ability to do their- the work that they need to do as students,” Moya said.

Snyder notes with fewer teacher graduates, the shortage comes as the result of a “perfect storm.”

“There's so many confounding variables that have hit us all at once. We've got the tail end of the Baby Boomers retiring, we have the impact from the pandemic, we had a lot of folks leave the profession during the pandemic. And then people who might have stayed for 32, 35 years are now when they hit that 30-year mark, they're retiring. And at the same time, we have our school partners wanting to offer more specialized programs,” Snyder said.

Moya says it was his role to start the conversation over the feasibility of moving the programs.

 “What was asked of me and our department members was, basically, ‘are these programs that we want to take on,’ you know, ‘what are our opinions of them?’ and you know, I gave a glowing opinion of the Clarkson program,” Moya said.

He agrees with Snyder: anything that can be done to address the shortage must be done.

Chezum says finding a partner who would take the employees while maintaining and valuing the accreditation given to the program was key, adding Siena’s bachelor’s level education program was also a draw.

 Ebi Onwe is one of the students who will be transferring to Siena. She will be a member of the Class of 2025, and is pursuing her MAT in Social Studies and English as a Second Language. She says the full-year residency included in the program has been crucial.

“I’m actually really happy that it is Siena, I'm happy that it’s staying in the Capital Region so that I don't have to navigate, you know, elsewhere to travel for classes, or travel to get the support that I need. And I also love the fact that the entire department is moving,” Onwe said.

Onwe says the students in the ESL program are a miniature melting pot.

“There's a lot of cross-communication happening in our classrooms. I think it's so awesome. Like I said, my classroom, I mean, I have students who speak Arabic, Farsi, Dari, Spanish, Burmese, and French,” Onwe said.

More information about the programs can be found here.

A 2022 Siena College graduate, Alexander began his journalism career as a sports writer for Siena College's student paper The Promethean, and as a host for Siena's school radio station, WVCR-FM "The Saint." A Cubs fan, Alexander hosts the morning Sports Report in addition to producing Morning Edition. You can hear the sports reports over-the-air at 6:19 and 7:19 AM, and online on WAMC.org. He also speaks Spanish as a second language. To reach him, email ababbie@wamc.org, or call (518)-465-5233 x 190. You can also find him on Twitter/X: @ABabbieWAMC.