Students and faculty at SUNY College at Old Westbury on Aug. 27 will be the first to use a sleek new academic building -- the crown jewel of a decade-long campus upgrade as the college has focused on boosting course offerings and enrollment.
The much-anticipated new building replaces the drab, concrete academic village where classes have been held since 1971, the year the college opened at its current location.
"It is part of the revival of Old Westbury," said the Rev. Calvin O. Butts III, president of SUNY College at Old Westbury. "It speaks volumes to the progress that we've made over the last 10 or more years."
The $70-million facility boasts gleaming computer labs, a 100-seat lecture hall with videoconferencing capabilities, a student lounge, a cafe and an outdoor patio.
Videoconferencing via Skype will allow classes to feature guest lecturers and experts from around the world, Butts said.
The 140,000-square-foot building is gold LEED-certified, one level higher than the state requirement of silver. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification measures the environmental impact of a structure.
The academic center, which has not yet been named, was built with money from the State University Construction Fund, the public-benefit corporation that oversees building projects at state-run institutions. It will house three academic schools: Arts and Sciences, Education and Business.
SUNY College at Old Westbury has seen a steady rise in enrollment and admission standards over the last decade. In the coming school year, the college will see its largest student body, 4,500 undergraduate and graduate students. About 43 percent of applications from prospective freshmen are accepted.
The college, which was open enrollment when Butts became president in 1999, requires students to have a high school grade average of at least 85. This year's applicants had combined SAT scores in the math and verbal sections in the 1,100 to 1,200 range, out of a possible 1,600, Butts said.
Over the last decade, it has added 14 graduate degree programs, and the college's teacher education program has gained recognition from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.
Construction on the 604-acre campus began with five new dorm buildings and a new student union, all of which opened in 2002. Renovation of the main library is scheduled for completion in 2014.
The academic village where classes were being held was in disrepair, officials said. The roof leaked, there was little natural light, and the outdated architecture was difficult to maintain, they said. There are plans to raze all but one wing, which could house a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics charter high school, pending the approval of state university officials.
By contrast, the fresh, modern layout of the new building includes large floor-to-ceiling windows and its surroundings allow indirect sunlight to flood the hallways.
In keeping with its commitment to environmental sustainability, the floors and finishes are created with recycled materials and the slow-flow toilets are designed to conserve water, said Thomas DelGiudice, associate professor of politics, economics and law who currently serves as director of capital planning for the college.
"I will be really excited to see the looks on the students' faces," said DelGiudice, 59, who is an alumnus from the Class of 1979. "I know as a working-class kid who went to this school, I'm very excited that the state recognized the fact that we need this and is investing in working-class students."