SUNY-ESF

Strength in numbers: SUNY-ESF has largest incoming class in its history, breaking 2012 record

Natalie Riess | Contributing illustrator

For the second time in three years, SUNY-ESF will welcome the largest class in the history of the college.

This fall’s class will have 580 new students: 330 first year and 250 transfer students. Faculty and students attribute the increase in students to the college’s reputation and strong programs.

Claire Dunn, the director of communications at State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, credits this increase to growing public awareness of the types of environmental programs that ESF offers.

“If you want to study the environment  100 percent, this is the place to come,” Dunn said. “The college can distinguish itself because it is devoted completely to the study of the environment. If that’s what students want, this is the place to be, that’s what they come for.”

Kayla Besong, a sophomore environmental resource engineering major, said she feels very positively about the increase in attendance.

“It means more people are passionate and more people are starting to care and pay attention, which is what we need because things are starting to change,” she said.

Dunn said the college has been doing a lot to increase its own visibility, such as planning and holding outreach activities and increasing involvement in major community events.

“We’re doing a lot of things we didn’t do before. We’re at the state fair and other business events; developing relationships which in many ways that are new for us,” she said. “Our reputation is spreading and we’re now seeing the results of that.”

The far-reach of the school’s reputation is evident in a study of its geographic representation. In this incoming class, 22 percent of first-year students and 10 percent of transfer students will come from outside New York State, making it one of the most geographically well-represented SUNY campuses, according to an Aug. 13 ESF press release.

Melanie Wilson, a second year transfer student, said she agreed about the college’s geographic diversity.

“People come from out of state because everything here is so environmentally focused,” she said. “(The increase in size) is representative of a general trend towards environmentally-minded individuals.”

The college prepared for the record class by expanding Centennial Hall and its bike storage space.

Besong asserted that the ambiance on campus was very different from any other location. In her hometown of Pittsburgh she felt that people didn’t care about environmental issues — there is not even a recycling program. But ESF was a world apart from that, she said.

“Here, you can talk to anyone and they’ll have opinions on environmental issues that are based on facts. It’s very unique — unlike any other college in the nation,” Besong said.

When asked what it means for the future that programs and schools like SUNY-ESF were growing, Wilson brought up that older generations believed that this could be the last generation to make a difference. Schools with strong, environmentally-focused programs helped this push for a better future in that “there is a press for creative, scientific ideas that you don’t find in many other places.”

Wilson’s advice to members of the incoming class of students is to embrace the reputation ESF has been building all these years: “Continue with the communal vibe. Shared ideas are bigger ideas.”

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