Established in 1946 to help train and educate veterans returning from World War II, Mohawk Valley Community College has evolved to become New York State’s first community college, the largest college between Syracuse and Albany, and the region’s primary provider of college education and non-credit training.
Mohawk Valley Community College was founded as the New York State Institute of Applied Arts & Sciences in Utica. The Institute was located in the Country Day School, then located on Genesee Street in New Hartford, near the present headquarters of Utica National Insurance. MVCC was one of five post-secondary institutions established to provide technical training for New York state residents, especially returning GIs.
The Utica Institute specialized initially in retail business management and had a reported enrollment of 53 students on opening day, October 14, 1946. More than two-thirds of the first students were veterans and tuition was free for New York residents. The school’s first Director was Paul B. Richardson.
In its early days, MVCC adapted its programs to fit the needs of area industries, allowing students to have a significant and immediate impact on the area. The textile program gave students the ability to aid in solving some problems plaguing factories in the Northeast. When they started shutting down and electrical/metal-working companies began to move in, MVCC changed its curricula to adapt. MVCC was able to train students to perform in a variety of manufacturing activities from drafting and design to quality control. The courses also helped them develop the manual skills needed in such industries.
A second location was opened in 1948 in the former Utica Steam Cotton Mill and housed programs in mechanical, electrical, and textile technology.
The Institute became a part of the State University System in 1950 and the name was changed to the State University of Applied Arts & Sciences at Utica.
In 1952, the State developed the ‘community college plan’ under which the institutes could remain open only if a local sponsor took responsibility for them and they were converted to community colleges. Under this plan, the State no longer provided 100 percent of the funding, but reduced its operational support to one-third, with the rest coming from the local sponsor and student tuition. Capital support was reduced to 50 percent with the local sponsor responsible for the other half.
This created some challenges for the Utica Institute because a majority of the students came from other parts of New York. The problem was solved with a compromise chargeback system in which other counties whose students attended one of the community colleges would pay a chargeback fee to the institution. This remains the basis of community college funding in New York State today.
In 1953, the Institute became Mohawk Valley Technical Institute, a community college sponsored by Oneida County. Albert Payne was appointed as the Institute’s first chief administrator with the title of President.
Over the next decade, the number and variety of instructional programs continued to grow, including several in non-technical areas. The Institute was renamed Mohawk Valley Community College in 1963 to reflect this shift in emphasis.
The main campus on Sherman Drive opened in 1960 and was designed by famed architect Edward Durell Stone, whose world-class projects included Radio City Music Hall and the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Initial construction included the Academic Building, Physical Education Building and College Center. All have been extensively renovated and expanded over the years. MVCC built its first four residence halls in 1966—making it the first New York community college with on-campus housing—and added a fifth in 2005. Other buildings have been added, including Payne Hall in 1969, a science and technology building in 1989, and the Information Technology/Performing Arts/Conference Center in 2001.
At the request of the Air Force, the college began instruction at Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome in the early 1950s. Some classes were held on base, others at Staley Junior High School. The present Rome branch campus opened in 1974 in a portion of the former Oneida County Hospital on Floyd Avenue. The Plumley Complex was added to the Rome campus in 1991.
By 1978, MVCC was generating more than $34 million in business volume annually in Oneida County, and providing the equivalent of 2,249 full-time jobs.
MVCC’s Airframe and Powerplant Technology certificate program began in 2006 in the Griffiss Business and Technology Park in Rome, and is the only community college-based aviation maintenance program in New York and one of only a few one-year programs in the country. Students in this program receive practical hands-on training at the Aviation Training Center in Rome, and are able to work on MVCC’s fleet of operational aircraft, including a Boeing 727-100, 2 Gulfstream GII business jets, a Bombardier Challenger 600, a twin engine Cessna 310, Piper PA-28-140, OH-58 Helicopter, and a variety of additional airframes as well as General Electric, Pratt & Whitney, and Allison/Rolls Royce jet engines, Lycoming and Continental reciprocating engines, and other aircraft equipment and simulators.In 2011, the 112,000-square-foot Robert R. Jorgensen Athletic/Events Center was opened on the Utica campus. The facility is named in honor of the school’s long-time Athletic Director and Professor Emeritus. It features a 6,000-square-foot Fitness Center, a Field House with the capacity to host 3,000 people, and many other amenities including three basketball/volleyball/tennis courts and an indoor tenth-of-a-mile track.
In 2017, a $30 million renovation to the Rome Campus was completed in collaboration with Oneida County and New York State. During this renovation, the existing Academic Building was demolished, the existing Plumley Complex was expanded by 48,000 square feet with wings on either side, a new Support Building was added for Facilities, and improvements were made to the parking lots and quad.
Interior renovations included updating classroom space with modern equipment to allow for expansion of educational interpreting, surgical technician, unmanned aerial systems, cybersecurity, and STEM programs; merging the Library and Learning Center into a Learning Commons, which features four group study rooms, a conference room, a computer lab, math and writing labs, a testing center, and tutoring stations; adding a dining room, and updating the kitchens and cooking labs to be state-of-the-art for the Hospitality programs; and adding a 120-person community event room.
MVCC enrollment grew 25 percent from 2009 to 2012 and 2014 enrollment is 5,277 FTEs (full-time equivalent students). The average age of the students is 25.6 and 76 percent live in Oneida County. Twenty-one percent are minority students.
The school is served by 142 full-time and 260 part-time faculty members. The full-time staff totals 303, with an additional 170 part-time staff.
MVCC’s campuses host more than 150 community events annually, ranging from committee meetings to the Boilermaker Expo, which draws more than 35,000 people to the Utica campus. Team MVCC promotes community activities that provide visibility and meaningful contribution of participants on behalf of the College. Each year, faculty, staff, and students participate in a variety of events, including the Alex Kogut Run/Walk, Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk, AHA Heart Run/Walk, Veteran’s Center Food Drive, and many others.
Looking to the future, MVCC plans to further align itself with the progressive changes in the City of Utica and surrounding areas, including the arterial project, the City of Utica Master Plan, the launch of the Utica Comets and the nanotechnology boom focused around SUNY Polytechnic Institute and Griffiss Air Base. The College’s proud tradition of technical and trade education has positioned it perfectly for the growth in demand for science, technology, engineering and math degrees. The MVCC education helps propel students into great careers in that area. Partnerships with other colleges in the state are becoming even stronger, allowing students to more easily transfer to four-year institutions.