On their first day of class, instead of memorizing a new syllabus, a group of University at Albany seniors got a visit from top city leaders.

"It's shocking to have the mayor and the chief of police your very first day," said professor Frank Wiley. "But I'd rather have them taking a look at that and being tested in terms of how well they adjust, then it can be a mundane experience that doesn't inspire."

Professor Wiley, the former UAlbany police chief, has tasked students in his capstone course with taking on serious issues facing Albany. This semester, they'll focus on immigration.

What You Need To Know

  • Professor Frank Wiley's senior capstone class at UAlbany will focus on immigration

  • Students will work with city officials and local law enforcement throughout the semester

  • It's believed their recommendations could change policy

With the recent influx of migrants to the area, city leaders are facing new challenges and they believe the answer to solving some of them may lie within this classroom.

"It gives them some exposure to it, but it also gives us an opportunity to receive a product from these bright and talented young men and women that can be used to change policy," said Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins.

Students will work through the semester first learning the history of immigration, then identifying any issues and figuring out the best practices to face those challenges.

"I think that having such a close relationship with the elected officials in Albany and having such a strong willed and determined professor and a great set of students, it's just a combination for success in a problem like this that the Albany area is facing," said Caeli Conklin, a UAlbany senior. "I think that everyone here in this class will just do great things and have great ideas and be able to make an active change in the community rather than just something that's like a class work or a theoretical project.”

They'll work closely with local government and the police department.

"What I think is most important about this class is the effect that we personally could have," said senior Anna Hershey. "We're all just students here, but being able to, even if it's a small change, being able to make change."

The work they’re doing has the potential to change policy. At the end of the semester, they’ll present recommendations to the city.

"It motivates me even more than I would be already," said senior Jacob Yusaitis. "It's one thing just to be working on an assignment that is just for the class. It's another thing to actually be working towards something that's going to be used in the real world and may actually impact real people. It brings an enormous sense of responsibility and ownership of your work and I think that's only going to make us be better."

Many of the students are looking forward to careers in law enforcement, so they say this opportunity is one they're eager to take part in.

"Being able to graduate and go into the real world and apply these skills and connections into what I want to do and help people, I'm excited to do that," said senior Daniel Aldrich.