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Back to School 

Local Colleges Can Help Area Professionals Get Ahead

Last Updated: 08/16/2016 9:22 am

In the late 1970s, Donna Kart was studying at Manhattan College and Mercy College. The courses she took were in a field that was up and coming at the time—computer programming, with an emphasis on accounting. But her college ambitions were put on the back burner when she got married, had kids, and moved to Dutchess County in 1984. "Life just changed," says Kart, 54, of Wappingers Falls. She began working nights as a hostess and restaurant manager so she could take care of her children during the day. Although she enjoyed working in the restaurant industry, when Kart turned 30 she wanted "a career with better hours," since her children were in school full-time.

click to enlarge Workforce training programs at Columbia-Green Community College focus on subjects like Java and Wordpress programming and content-management systems.
  • Workforce training programs at Columbia-Green Community College focus on subjects like Java and Wordpress programming and content-management systems.

Building on her passion for mathematics, which plays a role in generating computer code, she went back to college part-time at Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh. Kart studied math and education, and is now a teacher at Van Wyck Junior High School. She has a bachelor's in mathematics, an education certificate, and a master's degree in special education. She received her master's degree at 38. "I love it," she says about teaching.

The Mid-Hudson Valley is home to more than a half-dozen colleges that offer professionals and entrepreneurs opportunities to gain skills in their current career fields or transition into new ones. Local colleges offer courses on an array of subjects that can help professionals gain skills in the 21st-century job market, including: emerging technology, such as 3-D printing at SUNY New Paltz; an aviation program at SUNY Dutchess; entrepreneurship; and a long list of other courses, workshops, and seminars. Here's a glimpse of which area colleges offer courses for nontraditional students, as well as a sneak peek into some upcoming courses and programs.

3-D Printing, Green Initiatives

SUNY New Paltz has "one of the most sophisticated 3-D printing labs in the country," says Daniel Freedman, dean of the college's School of Science and Engineering and director of the Hudson Valley Advanced Manufacturing Center. "It's definitely not a niche technology," Freedman says. "Three-D printing is a technology that already has important applications in a number of fields such as art, engineering, math, all of the natural sciences, education, manufacturing, and medicine."   The college introduces students to computer-aided design with introductory and advanced art and engineering courses. Students can also minor in digital design and fabrication. Two 75-minute introductory courses in 3-D printing and 3-D computer-aided design, or CAD, modeling are open to the public. In addition to 3-D printing, SUNY New Paltz hosted a forum on green architecture and engineering on July 22 called "Conquer the Code," which provided information to help architects and engineers design energy-efficient buildings. The US Green Building Council conducted the seminar "in response to new revisions to New York State's Energy Conservation Construction Code." The one-day course cost $75, and included a course manual. Those who completed it received green-business certification and continuing education credits. SUNY New Paltz had 201 nonmatriculated undergraduate students in fall 2015. Eighty-three, or 41 percent, were over 25.

click to enlarge Students and leaders discuss 3D printing at the Hudson Valley Advance Manufacturing Center's Open House at SUNY New Paltz
  • Students and leaders discuss 3D printing at the Hudson Valley Advance Manufacturing Center's Open House at SUNY New Paltz

Professional certification and business skills training in clean energy, as well as building science and energy efficiency, are offered at SUNY Ulster in Stone Ridge. About 30 certification programs are available at SUNY Ulster in its continuing and professional education department, including solar panel installation.

Teeming with Tech

A few other local colleges offer courses on computer-aided design software, and other types of technology. SUNY Ulster will offer a four-day class on 3-D computer-aided design software SolidWorks from August 15 to 18. The course, which runs from 8am to 4:30pm each day, is limited to 12 students. The cost is $1,600. SUNY Ulster also provides technical courses in lean manufacturing (eliminating waste and creating more with less resources), electrical theory, programmable logic controllers (digital computers used for controlling machines like factory assembly lines), and structured query language, or SQL (programming language used to manage data). The college recently added three programs to its computer science department that are set to begin in fall 2016: computer game design, Web application development, and mobile application development. Adult students make up slightly less than 20 percent of SUNY Ulster's degree-seeking student body, says Deborah Kaufman, the college's marketing and media services director.

Columbia-Greene Community College in Hudson offers computer software courses in programs like JAVA, Adobe Photoshop, and Microsoft Word, Excel, and QuickBooks. "These courses are very popular with employees needing to stay current with the newest applications, as well as small business owners who handle their own administrative functions," explains Robert Bodratti, the director at the office of community services at Columbia-Greene Community College.

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