By: Stephanie Reitz
The University of Connecticut and the State of Connecticut have unveiled a groundbreaking proposal to propel UConn to the forefront of high-tech research and academics while significantly enhancing the state’s economic development efforts for decades to come.
Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, UConn President Susan Herbst, and other officials gathered Thursday to introduce Next Generation Connecticut (#NextGenCT), a plan to greatly expand educational opportunities, research, and innovation in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines at UConn. It includes expanding enrollment and faculty, renovating and adding appropriate facilities, and supporting academic missions at the Greater Hartford and Stamford campuses.
The investments would represent one of the most ambitious programs launched at a public research university in recent years, and include the establishment of the first honors program nationwide specifically for high-achieving STEM students. The benefits would be felt throughout the state and region in the form of new jobs, research innovations, and companies.
“This will create and support the very jobs we need to be an economically vibrant and successful state in the future,” Herbst says. “In this era, more than ever, states must rely on their public research universities to be the backbone and the driver of economic success – and that is exactly what this proposal would accomplish.”
Says Malloy, “Connecticut used to lead the world when it came to innovation – we had more patents, more groundbreaking discoveries than anywhere else in the world. Somewhere along the way the world caught up. This is about to change. “By targeting state resources to our flagship university, we ensure that our young people have the skills they need to fill the jobs we are so aggressively pursuing. Make no mistake, we are making Connecticut competitive again.”
Some specifics of the plan include:
- Increasing total enrollment by 6,580 (30 percent). Of those, almost 3,300 would be STEM students, including 70 percent more engineering students. About 5,000 of the students would be enrolled at the Storrs campus, and about 1,500 would attend UConn in Stamford.
- Revolutionizing STEM infrastructure at the Storrs campus by building facilities to house materials science, physics, biology, engineering, cognitive science, genomics studies, labs, and related disciplines. Aging infrastructure would also be updated to accommodate new faculty and students.
- Creating the nation’s premier STEM honors program, including a residential learning community in which those students can share their experiences, innovative ideas, and camaraderie beyond the classrooms and labs in which they will study.
- Relocating the Greater Hartford campus to downtown Hartford, and increasing digital media and risk management degrees at UConn-Stamford, where student housing would also be built.
- Hiring 259 new faculty members in addition to the 290 already in the current faculty hiring plan. Of the 259 additional new faculty hires, 200 would be dedicated specifically to STEM programs. This would be on top of the 175 STEM-specific faculty members already being hired under the previously announced faculty hiring plan.
“These new faculty members and facilities will also enable UConn to secure more federal research dollars, which drive discovery, patents, and new businesses,” Herbst says.
Studies say STEM jobs grew three times faster than non-STEM jobs in the past decade, and the unemployment rate in that sector is lower than in other fields. Many existing STEM jobs will soon come open due to the aging of the industry’s current workforce, where one of every five employees is age 55 or older.