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MCC Awarded $550,000 Federal Grant To Strengthen Regional Optics, Photonics Workforce

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National Science Foundation funds to expand educational and experiential learning opportunities for students and educators

BRIGHTON, N.Y. – April 25, 2017 – Monroe Community College’s new Optics & Photonics Technology Innovation—OPT IN!—program has received $550,434 from the National Science Foundation to connect more high school and college students to career opportunities in these growing fields and produce a skilled workforce needed to keep up with industry demands.

Funded over the next three years, the OPT IN! program will help provide education and training for 850 area high school and college students, increase internship opportunities, and expand outreach efforts to populations underrepresented in the optics and photonics industry, including women and minorities.

Currently the only U.S. community college that offers an associate degree in optical systems technology, MCC will enhance its existing program with new industry-based curriculum and industry-standard lab equipment and build collaborations allowing more high school students to earn college credits toward a degree at MCC.

In addition, summer internships and 2+2 transfer opportunities between MCC and four-year institutions will be developed. Not only will students gain real-world, hands-on experiences that connect to classroom learning, they will have the option to continue their education at a transfer college in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree.

Through the OPT IN! program, high school teachers and MCC faculty will receive professional development through externships to broaden their knowledge of modern industry practices. Mentoring will also be provided to regional high school teachers to prepare them to teach a dual-enrollment Introduction to Optics course, in an effort to cultivate students’ interest in the subject.

Efforts will focus on broadening regional industry and community partnerships aimed at providing experiential learning opportunities and education about optics and photonics as a career option. The OPT IN! program will strengthen alliances with AIM Photonics, the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council, the Rochester Museum & Science Center, New York Photonics, the Rochester Regional Photonics Cluster, secondary and postsecondary educators, regional industry partners, and more.

“We are very appreciative of the support of Senator Schumer, Senator Gillibrand and Congresswoman Slaughter in helping us secure this grant,” said Dr. Alexis Vogt, associate professor in MCC’s Engineering Technologies Department and chair of the optics program. “This grant will allow MCC to strengthen our region’s optics and photonics workforce and provide students here with employment opportunities in regional high-skill, high-demand positions. Ultimately this funding gives us the foundation to begin creating a regional center that will ensure we have the workforce it needs to attract, build and sustain a strong photonics industry.”

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Hency Yuen-Eng
Marketing and Community Relations