SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) President Vince Maniaci announced plans to retire at the end of academic year 2021-22. At the time of his retirement, Maniaci will have served the college for 17 years.
Joining AIC in 2005, Maniaci’s stated aim was to cultivate and progress “a diverse, urban community; strong co-curricular, athletic, and academic connections; and student-centered, culturally aware programming.” Meanwhile, faced with a multi-million-dollar deficit, he made drastic changes to business as usual, helping set the college on a steady trajectory toward fiscal health within one year of his arrival.
During his time as president, Maniaci successfully increased undergraduate and graduate programming through the doctoral level, resulting in robust enrollments; expanded athletic programs and improved sports venues; contributed to the revitalization of the college with new construction and renovation of campus facilities in support of academics, athletics, and student life; enhanced campus safety with increased personnel and technology upgrades; and pursued grant funding, including a $2.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education.
In 2006, after an initial downsizing and retrenchment, AIC began to grow programming and enrollment. New programming in recent years has included a minor in Spanish, the addition of a master of science in cannabis science and commerce, the statewide expansion of the master’s in education program, and the establishment of a low-residency program. Health Sciences has experienced steady growth with the introduction of exercise science, family nurse practitioner, and a doctorate in occupational therapy.
At the time of Maniaci’s arrival in the fall of 2005, graduate enrollment was approximately 380 students. As of the fall 2020 semester, the total graduate enrollment has expanded to nearly 1,250 and includes 22 program offerings. Undergraduate enrollment has grown as well. In recent years, despite downward trends in college enrollment in the Northeast, AIC has boasted two of its largest incoming first-year classes, with a current undergraduate population nearing 1,400 students.
Major grants have contributed to building the college’s success and enrollment numbers. In 2015, AIC received a grant of more than $1 million from the U.S. Department of Education allocated over five years. The Student Support Services grant was earmarked for operational and scholarship funding to benefit the AIC Core Education program.
AIC received a one-time $347,000 Nursing Workforce Diversity Grant in 2016 from the Health Services and Resources Administration (HRSA) in support of the College’s Nursing Education Achievement Program. The college was also awarded a $150,000 matching grant from the George I. Alden Trust in Worcester to help offset costs incurred by the Colaccino Center for Health Sciences building project.
In 2019, the college received a $2.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to develop the AIC Plan for Excellence program, a shared curricular experience designed to achieve four main learning goals for students, including intellectual development and lifelong learning, personal growth, social and cultural competency, as well as career and professional development.
New construction and renovation of campus facilities in support of academics, athletics, and student life contributed to the revitalization of the college under Maniaci’s leadership. The Saremi Center for Career Development was created to provide internship opportunities for students through an extensive job database and assists with job-interview preparation and personality and leadership assessments to match skills with job titles. The development of the Center for Academic Success supports students — especially first-year, first-generation scholars — helping them realize academic success through to graduation and employment. The full renovation of the 500-seat Esther B. Griswold Theatre boasts a performance venue that supported the development of a theater-arts program and major. The adjacent West Wing Gallery, along with a new communication center in the lower level of the building, broadened the scope of the Karen Spague Cultural Arts Center.
The complete overhaul of the Dining Commons in 2016 (the first in 50 years) included the new and improved Stinger Pub, a popular spot for small gatherings of students and employees. The renovation of the James F. Shea Library, a full-service learning center complete with group study rooms, project-development spaces, study pods, and open reading areas, is tailored for students who wish to study in groups or alone.
Built in 2018, the Colaccino Center for Health Sciences offers spacious classrooms and hands-on labs for undergraduate and graduate students in exercise science, nursing, physical therapy, public health, and occupational therapy. The 20,000-square-foot facility provides AIC students with simulation, rehabilitation, and human-performance laboratories, as well as smart classrooms, ample study areas, faculty offices, and conference space.
A major campaign in support of athletics resulted in new and upgraded indoor and outdoor venues, among them a fitness center and athletics performance center, a field dedicated to rugby practice, the Ronald J. Abdow Field, the John Hoyt Track, the MassMutual Field, the Alumni Varsity Club Field, and the Judy Groff Softball Field.
The Schwartz Campus Center, the hub for student life, benefited from the creation of the Colaccino Lounge and deck, renovated campus store, an upgrade to the Hive café, and the addition of Starbucks. Built in 2008, Acorn Heights offers apartment-style, co-ed housing for academically successful students age 21 and up. Most recently, the construction of Acorn B, the first-ever housing exclusively for graduate students, was added to the list of projects that have enhanced campus life and helped AIC compete in the rapidly changing landscape of college recruitment and retention.
“I am proud to reflect on the many achievements that we have accomplished as an institution over what will be the course of 17 years,” Maniaci said. “Every individual on the board of trustees, as well as the faculty and administration, have all contributed to the elements that make AIC unique among colleges and universities. We share a collective passion for the mission of American International College and a sincere dedication to provide access and opportunity to a diverse population of students who are inspired to grow in both knowledge and experience, and who entrust their education to us. That tradition has been the cornerstone of the institution for 136 years and will continue well into the future.”