Thursday morning, officials from Niagara University and Niagara County Community College, as well as elected officials, gathered to announce a new partnership between NU and NCCC, which will improve and increase collaboration between the two colleges.
Niagara University President Rev. James J. Maher C.M. and Niagara County Community College President Dr. William Murabito signed a memorandum of understanding that will expand educational, residential and community opportunities for those served by the two institutions of higher education to foster a stronger and more sustainable Niagara Region.
Specifically, the MOU outlines several areas in which the two institutions will partner. Those areas include transportation and collaborative student activities across the two campuses; housing to meet the needs of students in 2+2 and dual admissions programs; internships, collaborative research, and service in hospitality and tourism management; teaching and study to meet the emerging needs of English language learners, international students, and teachers of English to speakers of other languages; and sustainable partnership strategies.
The agreement signed Thursday confirms a congruence of mission and a public/private commitment to the region that is mutually beneficial, impactful and sustainable over time.
Maher said he was grateful for the partnership with NCCC, and he praised Murabito for what he has done in his tenure as president.
"This is a public-private partnership in higher education to advance Niagara County, the City of Niagara Falls and our students in our community," Maher said. "This is what we should be doing. We should be working together to advance our communities, our students and our region. ... This is about a pathway for young people, for non-traditional students. ... It's about developing our city, our county and our region economically, socially and educationally.
"I thank Bill Murabito and the team from NCCC. I've only had the pleasure of interacting with Bill since he's been here at the helm as the interim at NCCC, but I have to tell you what many of you know: He is a transcendent and transformational leader. All of us as leaders will be judged, not simply by what we build, but what we leave behind to grow. In one year, Bill, you have done so much for the college, the city, for the county and for the region. ... We are incredibly grateful for your service and your leadership. And everyone should know that this is a man who is incredibly talented, very smart, a great educator, and, most importantly, he's a humble serving leader."
Murabito also praised the partnership between the two schools and said he was excited to see the future relationships between NCCC and NU.
"We're very excited to be a part of the collaboration with Niagara University. Any time a major university and community college in the area share a platform to serve the community, great things happen," Murabito said. "We benefit and they benefit. ...
While this is a big step, this is only the beginning. The partnership between NCCC and Niagara University has so many other areas in which to grow. When you really get interested in being a partner, the barriers go away. It's better for students, families and the community when colleges collaborate, rather than compete."
Advocates of the two schools - New York State Sen. Rob Ortt and New York State Assemblyman Angelo Morinello - were both on hand for the signing and offered a few words of praise.
"I want to thank Father Maher and certainly your continued leadership here at Niagara University. It's undeniable the energy that exists here at Niagara University. It's undeniable the progress and the work and the vision that you see here at Niagara University. We are extremely lucky to have this university here in Niagara County," Ortt said.
He added that it would've been easy for Murabito to come in as interim president and not do much until a successor is found, but, "He has done anything but that. He has come in, he has absolutely acted like the president that Niagara County Community College needs. He's continued to push Niagara County Community College into the future, move it out of its comfort zone and, of course, he's had the support of the board of trustees. ...
"These two institutions, for a long time, have produced future business leaders, doctors, teachers, lawyers, nurses; you name it, they've produced the future leaders here in Niagara County and Western New York."
Morinello said, "What I see here today ... this is a leadership test. We have leaders that have come together that are truly leaders for the future. Dr. Murabito and Father Maher have come together in a time when it's very difficult to survive in the education system. Dollars are always difficult, and what we need is collaboration, but we also need to look for shared services. We have two jewels in our community - Niagara County Community College and Niagara University - and they are bringing together those concepts for the benefit of the community and the students."
For more information on Niagara University, visit www.niagara.edu, and for information on Niagara County Community College, visit www.niagaraccc.suny.edu.
Tribune Editor David Yarger contributed to this report.