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05/18/2007
Hudson Valley Community College Graduates Largest Class in its 54-year History
First class of Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology graduates to receive degrees; ceremony scheduled for Saturday, May 19

CONTACT: Janine Kava (518) 629-8071 or (518) 378-3835
FOR RELEASE: Immediate, Friday, May 18, 2007

Hudson Valley Community College's Class of 2007 is its largest graduating class ever, with 1,830 students eligible to participate in the college's 53rd commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 19.

Robert M. Chiusano, a 1970 graduate of the college who recently retired as executive vice president and special assistant to the chief executive officer of the aviation and aeronautics company Rockwell Collins, will give the keynote address. A native of Schenectady, Chiusano had a 28-year career with Iowa-based Rockwell Collins.

The Class of 2007 also includes the college's first-ever class of students specifically trained to work in the emerging field of semiconductors and nanotechnology. Three students – two men and one woman – have earned associate's degrees in Electrical Technology: Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology (SMT), one of 18 associate's degree and certificate programs offered through the college's School of Engineering and Industrial Technologies.

Hudson Valley's 53rd Commencement ceremony begins at 9 a.m. on Saturday, May 19, in the McDonough Sports Complex. The ceremony will be broadcast live (with closed-captioning) on Time Warner Cable Channel 3. The college's Viking Video Technologies, a full-service video and communications production house, is coordinating that initiative.

Each year, approximately half of the college's graduates enter the workforce and the other half transfer to continue their education at four-year institutions; this year's transfer institutions include Albany College of Pharmacy, Cornell University, Clarkson University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Skidmore College and The College of Saint Rose.

In addition, more students from the Capital Region graduate from Hudson Valley than any other college in the area. Ninety-eight percent of this year's graduate live in one of the four Capital Region counties: Albany (38 percent), Rensselaer (32 percent), Saratoga (16 percent) and Schenectady (12 percent).

The college's Semiconductor program, instituted two years ago in response to the Capital Region's growing Tech Valley initiative, provides students with a combination of classroom education and hands-on instruction to train them for employment as work station operators in clean room environments or for transfer to bachelor's degree programs upon graduation.

"Hudson Valley Community College's history is rooted in technology education, so it was only natural for us to seize upon this new opportunity to provide cutting-edge instruction in this emerging field," said Phillip White, dean of the School of Engineering and Industrial Technologies. "We are proud of this program and look forward to providing Advanced Micro Devices and other companies in the region with a qualified workforce to further drive the Tech Valley initiative."

Other graduates from the Class of 2007 include:

Katie Wehnau of Averill Park. When she graduated from Averill Park High School in 2005, Katie Wehnau had a choice to make: start her college career at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Clarkson University or accept a full-tuition Presidential Scholarship offered by Hudson Valley Community College.

Wehnau chose Hudson Valley and that choice has saved her between $70,000 and $100,000 in tuition and fees for those two years. Plus, she'll transfer as a junior to study Chemical Engineering at Clarkson this fall. An Engineering Science graduate, Wehnau is just one of the growing numbers of high achieving students who are choosing to begin their higher education at Hudson Valley and other community colleges around the country. The trend was highlighted in a New York Times article last month.

"The classes I took here and the professors I met at Hudson Valley helped me realize that I really wanted to go into chemical engineering," Wehnau said. "I'm glad I made the decision to come here."

Rahkeem Morris of Albany. A Business Administration graduate, Morris will travel more than 1,500 miles to attend Commencement. He spent his Spring semester studying abroad in the Dominican Republic, one of a select group of community college students picked this past fall for the Gilman Scholarship, which is funded by the U.S. State Department.

The $5,000 scholarship allowed him to spend this semester studying at the Pontificia Universidad Catolica Madre y Maestra. Morris, one of six Hudson Valley students to receive the prestigious SUNY Chancellor's Award for Student Excellence, has been accepted at Cornell University and plans to study applied economics and management.

Sallam al-Salami of Troy. When he first arrived on campus four years ago, Sallam al-Salami was carrying on a family tradition. Born and raised in the United Arab Emirates, al-Salami had two brothers and an uncle precede him to America and each found a start in higher education at Hudson Valley. It was their stories of success and new friendships at the college that convinced him to come to America.

"My brother told me by e-mail about the college, how he was enjoying it and having fun, how I had to come here. So my whole dream was going to Hudson Valley because of all the things I heard from my brother," he said.

Al-Salami knew he wanted an education but he also knew he had to explore, and sometimes navigate, the cultural differences between his home country and the United States. He took his entire first year at Hudson Valley to develop his English and communication skills, embracing the challenge of the new language.

During his second year, he settled on his chosen major, Civil Engineering Technology. He also has been active in the college's Muslim Student Association, which his brother, Talib Talib, helped establish in the late 1990s.

After graduation, he plans to transfer to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and ultimately hopes to become the first person in his family to earn a Ph.D. Al-Salami's story, of a foreign-born graduate who is either the second, third or fourth from their family to attend Hudson Valley, is not that unusual. In recent years, families from El Salvador, Argentina, Pakistan and elsewhere have used Hudson Valley as their quality path higher education.

Nancy Zipprich of Melrose. With a full career in customer service at Verizon behind her, Nancy Zipprich entered Hudson Valley's Nursing program for practical reasons. She wanted a career that was mobile, one that could accommodate the national and international travel she and her husband planned to do after his retirement.

But after graduating with one of the highest grade point averages among the 69 students in the program, Zipprich learned something about herself, along with the practical applications of the nursing profession.

"The women who teach in the Nursing program are all strong role models, real mentors for the students. They don't accept mediocrity. Their standards are very high and that's one of the reasons that graduates from this program have such a great reputation in the hospitals in this area," Zipprich said. "This is a great program. I am glad that graduation is here but I really will miss the relationships I've had with the faculty and students."

In some ways, Zipprich is typical of the adult student who returns to find a second career at Hudson Valley. She came here during the early 1990s and earned a Liberal Arts degree before returning to pursue nursing.

"What I plan to do is work in the medical surgical unit of a hospital for a few years to build my skills," she said. "Then I am interested in pursuing my bachelor's and master's in nursing, eventually going into mental health field."

Founded in 1953, Hudson Valley Community College offers more than 70 associate's degree and certificate programs in four schools: Business; Engineering and Industrial Technologies; Health Sciences; and Liberal Arts and Sciences; and workforce and academic preparation programs offered through the Educational Opportunity Center. One of 30 community colleges in the State University of New York system, it has an enrollment of more than 12,000 students, and it is known as a leader in distance learning initiatives and worker retraining. Hudson Valley has more than 60,000 alumni.