Trustees Review Expansion Ideas for UConn Stamford Academics

Students participate in Fresh Check Day in the concourse (atrium) at Uconn Stamford on Oct. 9, 2018. (Sean Flynn/UConn Photo)
In light of rapidly growing enrollment at the Stamford Campus, the University is considering adding new majors and additional student services. (Sean Flynn/UConn Photo)

Recognizing the rapidly growing enrollment at UConn Stamford, the University is considering curricular expansions to help serve and retain students who want to be based primarily at that busy downtown campus.

UConn officials on Wednesday presented a range of enhancements to the Board of Trustees to enhance academic and student services at the campus, including the addition of majors in communications, allied health, journalism with strong collaboration with digital media, and human biology.

UConn Stamford currently has 1,977 enrolled undergraduates, a sharp increase from the 1,377 in the 2012-13 academic year.

They’ve been drawn by the addition of UConn student housing options, expanded offerings in several current academic programs, the attraction of the urban environment and proximity to New York City, and the chance to intern and work in the region’s strong business community.

UConn Stamford has 15 undergraduate degrees that can be completed at that campus, plus three master’s degree programs and three certificate programs. In addition to undergraduates, it has almost 650 graduate students, about 116 faculty and staff, and about 88 adjunct instructors.

Sally Reis, a Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor and previous vice provost for academic affairs, told trustees Wednesday that the UConn Stamford enrollment growth has been accompanied by a need for more majors that students can complete on site, rather than needing to change campuses to Storrs.

In addition to adding the new-to-Stamford majors, the enhancement proposal expands faculty in the programs already available in computer science, psychological sciences, and business.

Specifics are still being discussed to determine timelines, budget details, faculty hiring plans, and other logistics. Services would also be expanded in student advising, mental health, and other student-centered programs.

“With this expansion, we will truly establish UConn Stamford as a pillar of the community – not just in Fairfield County, but in all of Connecticut and the entire region,” UConn Stamford director Terrence Cheng told trustees on Wednesday.

About 425 students currently live in university-sponsored housing in two Stamford buildings near the UConn campus. That figure is expected to reach about 450 this fall, with the addition of a third site.

UConn Stamford students who joined Cheng on Wednesday at the board meeting told trustees that they supported the idea of enhancing the offerings there, saying they found themselves surprised by how quickly and deeply they felt connected to the campus when they enrolled.

“I think the strength of UConn Stamford is its sense of community,” said senior Corey Frate of Darien, who is secretary of the on-campus student government and also involved in several other clubs and activities on campus.

“It is a city full of promise for students in terms of opportunities and internships, and I can’t wait to see what happens there even once I’m out of school,” he said.

Trustees were intrigued by the discussion Wednesday, agreeing that the regional campuses have unique strengths worth celebrating and that UConn Stamford’s rapid growth puts it in a good position for more investment.

Trustee Denis Nayden said he recalled when the Stamford campus was in a wooded area elsewhere in the city, and that the downtown location gives it a vibrancy that has helped to build interest and drive enrollment up. He said he has also talked with President Designate Thomas Katsouleas about the campus and its potential.

“Stamford is an incredible asset that needs to be invested in and taken advantage of,” Nayden said.

Trustee Kevin O’Connor noted that no other colleges or universities are nearby in the city, giving UConn a unique chance to help its students there get internship and job chances with employers in Fairfield County and greater New York.

“I think there are tremendous opportunities from a career standpoint in financial industries by having this beachhead in Stamford,” he said. “I think it’s a great investment in the future of UConn and fully support it.”