Anchored by its Albany roots, UAlbany eyes greatness ahead

Vacant since 2012, the Schuyler Building is a midtown Albany landmark that UAlbany is renovating into modern engineering labs, classrooms and offices.

As the University at Albany turns 175, President Havidán Rodríguez reflects on where we came from, what we value and how the Schuyler Building embodies our ongoing pursuit of excellence

By Havidán Rodríguez

What we choose to invest in speaks to what we value. This is true of individuals, and it is true of our institutions.

That is why the University at Albany is committed to the $60 million transformation of the Schuyler Building into modern engineering labs and classrooms in the heart of Albany. This new life for the vacant former Albany High School on the edge of our Downtown Campus will provide the innovative educational experiences that are at the center of our students’ success and the foundation of our continued research excellence.

As UAlbany celebrates its 175th anniversary, the Schuyler Building embodies both our history and our vision to be the nation’s leading diverse public research university — providing leaders, knowledge, and innovations to create a better world.

This is the most important role that SUNY campuses like UAlbany play in the communities we serve. We are agents of change that empower people to live healthier, more productive and prosperous lives.

As UAlbany seeks state funding this budget season to complete the Schuyler Building renovation, it is important to remain mindful of how our investments align with what we value and what we aspire to be.

We believe in the future of our cities, and we know that public research universities like UAlbany have important roles to play in them.

The Schuyler Building is more than a means to expand the important teaching, research and service that happen through all nine colleges and schools across our university: It is a brick-and-mortar manifestation of UAlbany’s role in placemaking and as a driver of economic growth and neighborhood revitalization in Albany.

The renovated Schuyler Building — which served as Albany High School from 1913 to 1974 — will house UAlbany’s College of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

UAlbany’s decision to re-use a 107-year-old midtown landmark for our College of Engineering and Applied Sciences is rooted in the belief that the vibrancy of our region is inseparable from the vibrancy of our cities, Albany foremost among them.

This is why we have not only made the Schuyler Building UAlbany’s highest-priority capital project with the state but also a priority in our $150 million fundraising campaign, which advances every aspect of the University’s strategic goals.

One need not be an engineer to see the value of the bigger idea here. We believe in the future of our cities, and we know that public research universities like UAlbany have important roles to play in them — through our physical presence and through the publicly engaged work of our faculty, staff, and students.

The old Albany High School c. 1960s (via Albany Group Archive on Flickr)

We have been an anchor institution in Albany since our founding in 1844 as the New York State Normal School, and we are excited to see that UAlbany’s continued investment in the Downtown Campus is now rekindling interest by private developers in midtown.

At the same time, we know that the impact of our work is not limited by geography.

On the edge of our Uptown Campus, construction continues on our Emerging Technology and Entrepreneurship Complex (ETEC), a state-of-the-art facility where homeland security and atmospheric science researchers will soon collaborate with entrepreneurs to make our communities stronger and more resilient.

Across the Hudson River on our Health Sciences Campus, faculty in our School of Public Health are working with the state Department of Health to protect the public from cardiovascular disease, HIV, hepatitis, Lyme disease, unhealthy diets and tobacco use.

UAlbany leverages this broad footprint and diverse expertise into a $1 billion annual impact on the Capital Region economy — an astounding 12:1 return on every tax dollar invested.

We know that we could not do this without the strong support of Gov. Cuomo, the state Legislature, our colleagues at SUNY, partners in the city and countless other dedicated members of our community.

This investment is about far more than the academic programs that will reside in the Schuyler Building. It is about investing in public universities as economic engines.

As UAlbany turns 175, we remain firmly rooted in the city of our birth — and through the Schuyler Building, our future — while simultaneously embracing our role as the region’s public research university. We are committed to the success of our city and our region.

Don’t take my word for it. Pass by and see for yourself how the $13 million that we have already committed to the project is breathing new life into this building in a neighborhood that UAlbany has proudly called home for more than a century.

I hope you will also see how this kind of investment is about far more than the academic programs that will soon reside there.

It is about investing in public universities as economic engines that create opportunities and improve our quality of life; and it is about linking affordable, high-quality education with community building and groundbreaking research that serves the public interest.

At UAlbany, this is what we value.

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