New Pathway Program Brings Empire State College Bachelor's Degrees to Genesee Community College

"Pathways,” an innovative new program offered by Genesee Community College and Empire State College, will give Genesee students the opportunity to earn bachelor’s degrees by spending an extra semester at Genesee and three semesters pursuing study at Empire, Dr. Jonathan R. Franz, Dean of Empire State College’s Genesee Valley Learning Center, reported to Genesee’s Board of Trustees Monday evening.

Under the program, Genesee students can earn up to 83 credits toward a Bachelor’s degree at the Batavia Campus, any of the College’s six campus centers, or online – equivalent to five semesters of study. Most Genesee associate’s degrees require between 62 and 64 credits of study. Students then enter Empire State’s program of individualized study for the balance of their baccalaureate education. Students can complete their studies at Empire through independent study, group studies, or online studies, all guided by highly qualified local mentors. Students who have gained college-level learning through the workplace or other experience may apply for college credit by evaluation.

Although Empire does not offer traditional “classes,” the Empire program is rigorous and requires a high level of academic commitment on the part of students. “We expect a lot of writing and a lot of reading,” Dr. Franz told Genesee trustees. “Students are expected to engage in critical thinking, and participate in discussions with mentors and other students, whether face-to-face or online.”

The program is especially appropriate for students who may not have the flexibility to drive toward a distant campus for classes or participate in a fixed class schedule, Dr. Franz said. Students will be able to complete coursework in their own communities, usually on their own schedules. Students participate in the design of their own Empire degree programs, Dr. Franz said. The most popular degrees are in Community and Human Services, Business Administration, and Human Development.

Empire State College, a college of the State University of New York, was founded in 1971 to serve motivated adult students. Originally dubbed a “college without walls,” Empire has become known as one of the world’s most innovative and respected colleges focusing on the needs of mature students.

Empire does not have traditional “campuses,” Dr. Franz explained. Instead, Empire houses operations in seven “learning centers” located strategically throughout the state. Learning centers also sponsor local “units” which bring Empire services to each portion of their respective service areas. The Genesee Valley Learning Center, which Dr. Franz leads, is based on the east side of Rochester. The Genesee Valley Center sponsors units in Canandaigua, Alfred, Corning, and Batavia. The Batavia Unit was originally located at Genesee Community College’s Batavia Campus, but moved to Ellicott Street three years ago due to space constraints at Genesee. About 19,500 students are enrolled in Empire State College statewide, and about 1,200 are enrolled in the Genesee Valley Learning Center. The Batavia Unit serves almost 200 students each year.

Edward Warzala, Batavia Unit Coordinator, expects Genesee students to succeed in the Pathways Program. “The quality of GCC students is excellent, and GCC students who come to Empire are very well prepared,” he said. “I feel great confidence when I see a student with a Genesee Community College transcript. I know that if they can succeed at Genesee, they can succeed at Empire.”

In an aside, Mr. Warzala noted that Steven Schutt, Genesee’s student trustee, will be one of the first students to enter the Pathways Program after graduating from Genesee next month.