EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 15, 2008

North Shore colleges changing with the times

By Larry Claflin Jr.

Near the edge of Coy Pond in Wenham, a large glass-and-brick building stands over the bucolic campus of Gordon College. The 80,000-square-foot edifice, which is near the end of its first phase of construction, will be dedicated as the Ken Olsen Science Center in September, and it could be the most tangible example of several innovative initiatives taking place at colleges around the North Shore.

The North Shore's colleges, public and private, have long been a rich resource for community learning. But their development projects also boost the local economy, as they invest in new programs and new facilities, from big construction projects to new course offerings preparing students for jobs of the future.

Here's a look at some of the newest developments at local colleges.

Gordon College

When completed, the Ken Olsen Science Center — to be named after Ken Olsen, co-founder of Digital Equipment Corp. — will house all of the Christian college's science and technology programs, which are now squeezed into two small buildings on campus.

"The facilities we have don't come up to par with the classes and the faculty," said Daniel Tymann, a college vice president who also heads up fundraising. "The current facilities are a bit of a turnoff."

Phase one of the $30 million science center will be dedicated in Septemer; phase two is expected to take another year and a half, after more money is raised.

In addition to faculty offices, classrooms and research labs, the center will have a large lecture hall, a 400-seat auditorium, and the Digital Equipment Corp. Loggia of Technology — a formal lobby with museum-quality displays honoring Olsen and DEC's contributions to the field of science and technology. Botany students will eventually have use of a full greenhouse on the top floor, and psychology students will perform sleep studies and observe people from large windows overlooking the campus.

The building, which broke ground in July 2006, is the largest construction project in the history of Gordon College and also its biggest capital project, said Tymann, who added that he expects the center will attract more male students to Gordon, which currently favors females 2-to-1.

"We want to attract more science to Gordon and be competitive," he said. "In this country, were getting less and less students in the sciences, and we want to grow that. We'd like a higher percentage of males on campus, and science is certainly a way to do that."

Endicott College

At Endicott College in Beverly, the big news is a new program offering a bachelor of science degree in biology and biotechnology.

"Biotechnology is today's biology," said Peter Eden, a molecular biologist who is dean of the school of arts and sciences at Endicott College. "Biotech has been called the third technical revolution behind the industrial revolution and behind the computer/I-tech revolution of 20 years ago."

Biotechnology is a combination of biology and chemistry with an emphasis on high technology.

"Biotech is an umbrella term, from gene jockeys discovering the latest cancer gene all the way up to the physician or clinician applying the discovery," Eden said. "All biotech graduates are not destined to have a white lab coat on in a genetics lab. Many may choose to go on to get an MBA or go to law school."

In September, Kristen Gemme, an Endicott junior, switched her major from nursing to biology and biotechnology. Because she was already a biology minor and had taken many of the required courses, Gemme expects to graduate on time with a degree in a field she says is more interesting.

"I wanted more science and to learn about the scientific aspect of disease," she said, "and I thought that biotech was the way to go."

Eden said the major is "extremely popular," and it was a necessity at Endicott.

"We're providing a skilled work force for the biotech and science industry," he said.

"Boston and Cambridge are the hub of biotech worldwide, and the industry has spread to the North Shore," he said, citing New England Biolabs in Ipswich, Cell Signaling Technology in Danvers, and more than a dozen biotech companies at the Cummings Center in Beverly.

Also in the works at Endicott is a new, two-year graduate program in information technology.

Rich Benedetto, assistant dean for graduate programs at Endicott, needs just four more students to kick off the college's newest offering.

"We're halfway there," he said. "I would expect to start our first class in June."

Graduates will receive master of science degrees in IT, which will allow them to manage large computer systems and handle databases, computer security, wireless networks and major projects. The schedule is geared toward working students, with flexible hours.

North Shore Community College

In May, 19 students are expected to graduate from North Shore Community College's new Energy Utility Technology Certificate program, which started in September.

The 28-credit program was a collaborative effort of three community colleges, National Grid, and the Department of Labor. It was designed to meet the need for utility workers over the next few years.

Graduates will be positioned for entry-level jobs working on power lines, meters and electrical substations, said George Walsh, a professor at the college's Lynn campus. Many students in the program come from other trades, he said.

Ryan Shanahan of Amesbury hopes to leave his longtime job as a butcher to work for National Grid.

"I was looking for a stable career that could challenge my mind more," Shanahan said. "I felt as though I was capable of more."

Now, he plans to continue his education, eventually getting a bachelor's degree in engineering or science.

"This program has changed my view of education," he said. "It's given me a new respect for education."

Montserrat College of Art

This fall, Montserrat College of Art in Beverly will offer two new concentrations, Animation and Interactive Media (A+IM), and Book Arts.

"A+IM will help ready our students to find work in this new digital age," Laura Tonelli, the college's academic dean wrote in an e-mail, adding that graduates can work in animation, interactive media or as fine artists or commercial artists.

"We're also discussing partnering with another college with a game design program, so that our students who wish to design video games can study off campus for an intensive semester in game design."

In the case of Book Arts, Montserrat has a long tradition of students and faculty making artist's books, according to Tonelli..

"We've been teaching the various elements of book.arts for many years," Tonelli wrote. "Letterpress, bookbinding, typography, creative writing and printmaking, to name a few."

Also, the college recently established a letterpress shop on campus and has its own in-house studio called Imposition Press.

Salem State College

At Salem State College, geography students have use of a large, new lab with state-of-the-art software and more than 30 Dell computers.

The Digital Geography Lab, located on the third floor of Meier Hall, allows students to use top-of-the-line software, according to Stephen Young, chairman of the geography department.

The server space has been increased, too, he said, so undergraduate and graduate students can store, manipulate and process digital images using the same software NASA employs.