Olivia, Patrick, Alex, Rachel and James are pioneers.
The five will be the first to earn their Associate in Arts degree in a single year, as part of SUNY Broome’s new AA1 degree program.
The program, which began this fall after nearly two years of planning, is designed for academically gifted and highly motivated students. In addition to earning their degree in a single year, students engage in a capstone research project in their final semester, allowing them to perform real research as college freshmen.
With the focus firmly on rigorous academics, AA1 is unlike any other program currently being offered at New York State’s community colleges, said Dean of Liberal Arts Michael Kinney at a recent reception for the program.
Newark Valley School Superintendent Ryan Dougherty, who serves on the college’s AA1 Committee, described the program as classical and well-rounded, giving students an introduction to an array of topics while honing their intellectual skills.
“A broad education that makes you a flexible, deep thinker is going to serve you well going forward in life,” he told this year’s class.
Students who rank in the top 2 percent of their graduating class at the time of their application are automatically accepted; those in the top 3 to 10 percent or have a minimum GPA of 95 are encouraged to apply and are reviewed by a selection committee, explained Katie Bucci, staff associate for Fast Forward and Early College. For the inaugural year, 13 applied and nine were accepted, with five ultimately choosing to attend.
Alexander Kozisky of Greene received an invitation to apply, and is glad that he did. The Greene High School graduate said he found the work challenging and worthwhile.
“You have to do a lot, but it’s worth it to get that extra year ahead,” said Kozisky, who plans to study environmental engineering at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. “It allowed me to figure out what career to go into.”
Patrick Kane of Binghamton didn’t know what he wanted to pursue when he graduated from Seton Catholic Central High School. The program helped him decide on a path – he’s looking at majoring in environmental science at Binghamton University – as well as engage with teachers and staff, thanks to the small class sizes, he said.
Not every AA1 student is looking at a career in science or engineering. Fellow Seton graduate Olivia Dennison plans to pursue the visual arts, transferring to SUNY Oswego for graphic design and ultimately Syracuse University’s S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications for a master’s degree. Windsor High School graduate James Williams – a Presidential Honors Scholar with a full-tuition scholarship, as is Patrick – is still undecided on his future plans, although he’s working with mentors to help shape them.
Rachel Liddic, also a Windsor High School grad, is planning to spend a year in Costa Rica with SCORE International before transferring to a four-year school, possibly in the SUNY system. By finishing her Associate’s in a single year, she will be able to transfer on time even though she’s spending a gap year abroad.
Rachel, who wants to major in international studies and ultimately work for nonprofits, will also get a jump on her international travel while she’s a SUNY Broome student. She is taking part in the Health for Haiti class this January, which will bring a water filtration system, solar energy and computer equipment to the island nation, as well as provide health education and services as clinics, support a food distribution program and more.
“If you have all the requirements, do it, especially if you want to transfer,” she said of the AA1 program.
Interest is picking up for next year’s class, and administrators hope that the program will expand.
In the meantime, this year’s class will continue to serve as leaders and role models – and proof that the best and the brightest can stay in the area and thrive. SUNY Broome President Kevin Drumm said he wouldn’t be surprised if the AA1 pioneers continued their groundbreaking ways in their lives and careers, whether it comes to addressing global problems such as climate change or taking part in a new space race.
“You will probably undertake some pioneering jobs and pioneering projects in your future, just as a matter of who you are,” he told them.