You could say that Dr. Kelli Ligeikis grew up at SUNY Broome.
At the age of 25, fresh from a gig at the New York State Department of Transportation, the North Country native joined Broome Community College – as it was then called – as an instructor in Civil Engineering Technology. A licensed civil engineer with a degree from Clarkson University, she dedicated the next three decades to the college, steadily assuming roles with greater responsibility: faculty member, department chair and finally Associate Vice President and Dean of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).
While her experience at SUNY Broome shaped her own trajectory, she also shaped it in turn: from doubling enrollment in Fast Forward, the college’s concurrent enrollment program, and tripling enrollment at the satellite campus in Owego, to providing academic leadership and oversight for her most dramatic project, the Natural Science Center.
After 29 years, this Hornet was ready to take flight – and head to her new career as Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at SUNY Delhi, effective Jan. 16. Chosen from among 30 candidates identified by a national search, she will be the four-year school’s chief academic officer; she succeeds Dr. John Nader, who became president of Farmingdale State College.
“It’s the next logical step for my career,” said Ligeikis, who earned a Master’s in Social Sciences from Binghamton University and a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from the University of Phoenix during her years at SUNY Broome. “It’s a great place for me. With my youngest son in college, it’s an opportune time.”
SUNY Delhi President Michael R. Laliberte cited Ligeikis’ expertise in technology programs, as well as her ability to create innovative programs that foster student success, as invaluable to shaping his college’s future.
The move is a positive one for SUNY Delhi, but bittersweet at SUNY Broome – both to Ligeikis and her colleagues. Stepping in her shoes as interim dean is Computer Science Professor Ken Mansfield, a BCC graduate who has worked at SUNY Broome for more than 33 years in multiple positions.
“Kelli’s departure is a big loss for SUNY Broome and a big gain for Delhi,” SUNY Broome President Kevin Drumm said of her departure. “Kelli is an energetic and innovative academic leader who will be greatly missed, but she was ready for this big step to provost and we wish her nothing but good things at our SUNY sister college.”
Shaping SUNY Broome
Much has changed at SUNY Broome in the past three decades, but one spot appears to defy the passage of time: The Mechanical Building, where Ligeikis worked for 21 years before becoming dean, and one of the first buildings to be constructed on the Dickinson campus in 1956. It was home to the “Tech” or Applied Sciences division, the precursor to STEM, which officially began in 2007 when biology joined the division.
“I like being the dean and supervising STEM,” Ligeikis reflected. “Because of my engineering background, I’ve likely been able to do some of the things another person might not be able to do in this position. I expect that the person who assumes this role will bring a whole new perspective and make it their own.”
As dean, she took over the Fast Forward program from Admissions. She led the team to earn national accreditation and was integral in over 200 percent growth of the program. SUNY Broome added Early College to the mix, giving high school students the opportunity to take courses on campus, as well as off-campus courses through satellite locations in Owego, Binghamton and, for a time, Whitney Point and Waverly.
Katie McGowan Bucci, the chair of Outreach, who oversees the Fast Forward and Early College program, notes that Ligeikis is both a good listener and an effective leader. Not only a mentor, the former dean has become a lifelong friend and someone whom Bucci admires.
“She gives credit where it is due, she sees the bigger picture, and she has never lost sight of the student as she has risen into administration. Her authenticity is rare,” she said. “All of this combined with her ability to ‘get things done’ make her the very best colleague I have ever had the pleasure of working with.”
Ligeikis also worked on a range of grants that helped shape campus life, including the Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) program, a collaboration between the college, Broome-Tioga BOCES, 12 area school districts and a half-dozen industry partners. The six-year program supports students in earning both their high school diploma and associate’s degree from SUNY Broome in health studies, computer technology or one of three engineering technology programs.
One especially proud moment for Ligeikis was the Fall 2013 opening of the Natural Science Center, the first new classrooms on campus in 15 years; she had academic oversight over the entire project.
“That was the most important and special project I worked on at Broome. I look at that building as a gateway to the college,” she reflected. “When you stand on the corner and look at the building, it sparkles.”
More recently, Ligeikis also served as the facilitator for the creation of the college’s new Master Plan, a roadmap for the future that integrates facilities and academics into a comprehensive whole. The last comprehensive campus facilities plan had been completed in 2007.
She came up with the idea of the “sustainability sandbox,” which fosters student involvement in green energy and entrepreneurship, connected to a $1 million award from the state’s Energy to Lead competition. The award will fund SUNY Broome’s Geothermal Learning Laboratory project, which will show how a geothermal system can harness the energy stored in the earth to heat and cool a campus, serve as a hands-on learning resource for college and secondary school students, and generate energy bill savings that can be reinvested in energy conservation measures. The project is expected to result in the avoidance of 135 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually.
Ligeikis was also instrumental in obtaining grant funds for the construction of a $2.8 million advanced manufacturing center that will house technology simulation systems, equipment and other options geared toward the needs of local employers. Overall, the program will increase SUNY Broome’s capacity to train workers in advanced manufacturing areas such as HVAC, robotics, transportation and energy.
That center – as well as the Geothermal Learning Laboratory, and other amenities for agri-business and food technology – will be located in the Mechanical Building, slated for a complete renovation that’s expected to begin in June 2017 and finish the following summer. The building will be renamed the Paul and Mary Calice and Mildred Barton Advanced Manufacturing Center, in accordance with stipulations laid out by the late Emil Calice, who had donated his $11 million estate to the Broome Community College Foundation.
While Dean Ligeikis signed off on the design, she won’t be there during the construction process – a fact she finds bittersweet. The construction process has always been close to the heart of the civil engineer. There will, however, be a Ligeikis about to see the building transform: her husband David Ligeikis, also a civil engineer as well as an instructor in Engineering Technologies. He’s overseeing the move of Mechanical’s classrooms and offices into the old Science Building for the duration of construction.
The dean’s work will not only live on through the buildings and programs she established, but through her impact on colleagues and students.
“Kelli’s work ethic was inspirational and, through example, she motivated others to succeed,” reflected Vice President for Student and Economic Development Debbie Morello. “This occurred not only in the classroom, but with faculty and staff across campus.”
On the ice and the golf course
While the SUNY Broome community may know Dr. Kelli Ligeikis primarily as a dean, educator and engineer, she also has another identity – as an accomplished athlete. At Clarkson, she spent four years on the women’s varsity hockey team; after graduating and moving to Binghamton, she coached all levels of players for the Southern Tier Hockey Association for 20 years and started the area’s first girls’ team.
Her accomplishments aren’t limited to the ice. She’s also an avid golfer, and won the American Cancer Classic locally twice as well as a club championship at En-Joie.
While she’ll miss many aspects of SUNY Broome life, her new career at SUNY Delhi has her excited. The four-year school has a golf course right on campus, she said with a smile.
“The day I was there, it was a great day,” she said of her experience at Delhi. “It was like being at home.”
Dr. Ligeikis’ experience as an athlete and as a coach also had an impact on her time at SUNY Broome, reflecting her work ethic of collaboration, said Dean of Health Sciences and Distance Education Amy Brandt. Brandt, who worked with Ligeikis on grants and other projects, said she knew she always had a “teammate” in her fellow dean.
“Grants are very concrete and tangible. What Kelli brought was beyond that,” she said. “She filled that intangible space with humor and teamwork.”