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The College As Entrepreneur

Goodwin's Plans To Establish A Riverfront Campus In East Hartford Reflect Rapid Growth

July 3, 2006
By DAN UHLINGER, Courant Staff Writer

Mark Scheinberg remembers the beginning of Goodwin College like it was yesterday.

Operating as a small, private company in rented space above a Hartford pizzeria, the college was initially known as Data Institute and offered a rudimentary computer class to four students when Scheinberg bought the business in 1981.

"It was really crazy for a school. You could smell the pizza being made downstairs," Scheinberg recalled. "You knew every student by name. We were poor as church mice then. I didn't even take a paycheck the first couple years."

Scheinberg worked hard to improve the school and attract new students. In 1983, it was accredited as a technical institution, and Scheinberg moved it to larger quarters in East Hartford, where the school flourished. In 1999, it was named Goodwin College and licensed as a two-year college offering associate degrees. Scheinberg is president of the college, which has become a nonprofit school.

Now, the college is on the verge of an $80 million expansion with construction of a new campus along the Connecticut River. It is seeking government permits and plans to begin construction this summer.

Land acquired for the project, more than 500 acres covering 2.5 miles along the river, dwarfs the 30 acres that make up Adriaen's Landing in Hartford.

"The expansion is probably one of the most important projects in the region," said Donald Klepper-Smith, an economist with DataCore Partners in New Haven and president of the Hartford Area Business Economists.

The expansion will allow the college to offer more programs in its core areas - nursing, health sciences, computer technology, early childhood training and business - and accommodate increasing enrollment.

The master plan for the project, which was approved last year by East Hartford officials, calls for new classrooms, offices, dormitories, a library, bookstore, cafeteria and a day-care center.

The flagship building will be a six-story student union that includes a tower lighthouse, which will become the college's icon. The nautical theme is a reflection of the college's relationship with the river and a planned environmental studies program.

The college is also planning a river study center with a research vessel that would be located at two deep-water docks. The docks were used years ago for oil company barges.

The college and Connecticut Science Center at Adriaen's Landing have been discussing a joint effort to use the research vessel for marine, ecological and environmental studies.

Scheinberg said the ultimate vision of Goodwin is a riverfront campus open to the public. A key goal is to transform the view of the riverfront from Hartford and surrounding highways.

Todd J. Andrews, Goodwin's director of institutional advancement, said the college's expansion has not attracted the type of attention garnered by the proposed $2 billion development of nearby Rentschler Field.

"We're in the shadows of Rentschler, but this project is still pretty significant," he said.

Klepper-Smith said 235 full-time jobs will be added at the college by the time the project is completed in 2010. The construction phase alone will provide direct and indirect economic benefits and result in the creation of 1,516 jobs. "It's a win for workers, businesses and the state," he said.

More importantly, the expansion will allow the college to help the state meet the growing need to train the workforce, said Dan Matos, developer of United Technologies Corp.'s Rentschler Field.

"If the state is going to grow, we need more trained people to fill the technical jobs," Matos said. "Goodwin is a huge part of the solution."

In the first phase of the project, three existing buildings off Riverside Drive will be renovated and combined with new construction to create 75,000 square feet of classroom, library and administrative office space. Much of the project will be built and the campus operational by 2008.

The expansion, made possible mostly by private fundraising, will help the college meet an increasing demand for more programs in nursing, health sciences, computer systems, business and early childhood education. At its seventh graduation ceremony June 15, 267 students received associate degrees and certificates. Scheinberg said 123 received degrees in nursing, helping to fill a critical need for more trained nurses in the state.

When the campus expansion is finished in 2010, Scheinberg said, 1,240 students are expected to graduate each year.

Klepper-Smith said his study found that those graduates will earn an average annual salary of $46,000, totaling $57 million in wages and bringing in about $2.3 million in state income tax.

There are 18 accredited degree and certificate programs that provide career advancement and transfer to the baccalaureate level. New programs are planned in homeland security, criminal justice, environmental studies and paramedic training.

The college is also in the process of creating four-year degree programs.

State Commissioner of Higher Education Valerie Lewis said Goodwin has grown 144 percent in its seven-year history and has had the fastest enrollment growth among colleges in the state in the last three years.

"The truth is the college is the new kid on the block, and the block likes the new kid," Lewis said. "Goodwin College has begun at a good time and has an entrepreneurial spirit that's appreciated."

Lewis said the college has benefited by responding to changes in the state's demographics and technical needs, especially in allied health. "We are shy many, many nurses on our landscape," she said.

Michael Amico, who teaches psychology and social science, said the expansion will benefit not only students but also faculty, which will have more resources and technology.

"I know I'm biased," he said, "but I do think the new campus will provide the best learning environment in the state."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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