The University of New Haven is celebrating its 100th anniversary with the launch of the Connecticut Institute of Technology, with the goal of building an academic hub to foster interdisciplinary exploration and innovation across undergraduate and graduate studies. The institute’s programs will cover cybersecurity, computer science, data science and electrical and computer engineering, as well as several research groups.
In this edition of Suite Talk, Business Journal Senior Enterprise Editor Phil Hall speaks with Steven H. Kaplan, the university’s president, regarding this new endeavor.
What is the genesis of the Connecticut Institute of Technology?
“When manufacturing flowed out of Connecticut in the eighties, the engineering enrollments around the state for engineering at normal universities collapsed and the University of New Haven suffered significant enrollment declines. When I came here in 2004, the engineering school had about 400 students. Now in 2020, it has almost four times as many — it is close to 1,600. Our engineering programs are among the highest ranked: they have the highest job placement, highest salaries and frankly, the highest impact.
“It was a natural evolution to grow our presence in areas like artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and data analytics that we form an entity within the engineering school that was focused on emerging technologies. They are what I would call the new, new economy — in other words, they are the new economy in the digital economy. That will be at the core of what we’re going to be doing in the new Connecticut Institute of Technology.
“For me, it was just a natural evolution as our engineering school moved back into the top ranks. There is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the New Jersey Institute of Technology and the New York Institute of Technology. Now, there’s the Connecticut Institute of Technology. And we think the University of New Haven is the most logical place for this to be housed and for this to evolve and grow.”
Is the institute going to be taking off in the fall semester?
“Absolutely. We’re already through with our current recruitment cycle. But as we begin the cycle for the class of 2025 and for graduate students — that cycle begins in July and August and we will be recruiting for students to be in the programs in this institute.”
The university recently received a $4 million Scholarship for Service grant from the National Science Foundation. How are you going to be using those funds?
“Abe Baggili, the director of the new institute, is the coordinator of that grant. It is for graduate students to go into cybersecurity and then go to work for the federal government.”
The new institute is a great idea. But at the risk of being flippant, why wasn’t it launched earlier?
“We wanted to get to a point where the university was a household name in the region again for engineering excellence. And I think we’re there. If we tried do this 15 years ago — and it was needed 15 years ago — I don’t think the University of New Haven was in a position programmatically, in terms of the faculty and students. We’ve hired 80% of the faculty in the 16 years I’ve been here, and I believe that applies to engineering as well. We also have fresh Ph.Ds here and they are doing a lot of very sophisticated research. We’re attracting wonderful students and their job-placement rates are incredible.
“Obviously, we’re doing this in the middle of a very challenging time. But the institute has been in the works for several years. And our attitude is the pandemic is not going to get in our way.”
Our publication is across the border from you in Fairfield County. Are you going to be actively recruiting students from Fairfield County to forgo our local universities and travel over to your school?
“Oh, absolutely. In fact, right now our enrollments in Fairfield County are up considerably. We’ve always been 40% to 50% Connecticut-based, a lot of students are trying to stay close to home.”
What is the reaction that you’ve heard from the other schools in the state regarding what you’re doing?
“Surprisingly, not one response. And I know all of the other presidents. It has surprised me — we’ve gotten incredibly favorable responses from donors and board members and they think this is a prelude to an eventual renaming of the university to be the Connecticut Institute of Technology.”
What’s next on the school’s agenda?
“Financially, securing a $100 million to $200 million gift for the institute. It’s going to take a transformational gift to get us where we want to be. We’re open to lower amounts, but that’s the goal. And then, programmatically for the university, our plan is to expand further into the health sciences, with more in medical technology and the possibility of a medical school.”