Another goal is to create an economy with jobs that will encourage students to stay in New York and in the Mohawk Valley, including local counties, instead of moving out of state and taking their skills and ideas with them, Tompkins said.
Several educators speaking during a panel discussion emphasized the necessity for students be prepared in core courses.
For example, a student taking a general science course on forensics may be inspired to pursue a career in that field, they said. But without taking basic biology or chemistry courses, the student may take a college course, receive a poor grade and become discouraged.
“There are core courses for a reason,” said panelist Andrew Peifer, associate professor of chemistry and chairman of the health professions advisory committee for Hartwick College in Oneonta.
Bob Mackey, superintendent at Unadilla Valley Central School, said 70 percent of the district’s students live in poverty and struggle daily to find three meals a day and survive.
“The culture of our region doesn’t have the highest emphasis on learning,” Mackey said in reaction to the panel presentation. “How do we turn that around so that learning is held in high esteem?”
Venkat Sharma, dean of natural and mathematical sciences for SUNY Oneonta, said students have different learning styles, live in “an instant-gratification society” and may not appreciate learning if they are hungry. He suggested reaching out to students to help them learn.
Mack replied: “It’s the adults in our community that we need to win over.”
Keith Schillo, associate professor of biology at SUNY Oneonta, in response to the panel discussion, cautioned about the over-emphasis on skills sets with young pupils. Students need time to mature and gain life experiences to handle college level challenges, he said. “Students know early on that they need to focus on a career,” Schillo said. “You have to keep in mind that they are young.”