News & Events
News & Events
January 20, 2017
Expanding Our Mission
Jon H. Larson
Ocean County College
January 20, 2017
“The really great discoveries have been made by men and women who were driven not by the desire to be useful but merely the desire to satisfy their own curiosity.”
Good morning and welcome to the Spring Semester of our fifty-second year!
We have an engaging agenda today. It began earlier this morning with the poster session illustrating the elements of our strategic plan and, immediately following my remarks, continues with five breakout discussions addressing several of the challenging ideas we face as we look to expand our traditional mission. The breakout discussions will be led by some of our most innovative leaders, “driven by the desire to satisfy their own curiosity,” whose names are printed on today’s program.
Thank you all for being here today. I hope you find our Colloquium topic, “Expanding Our Mission,” so stimulating you will enthusiastically join in the interactive discussions in the sessions you will attend following my remarks.
It is a great pleasure to introduce several very important people who have honored us by participating in today’s Colloquium event:
Our Board Chair, Carl Van Thulin and his lovely wife, Kathleen;
Our interpreters, Peg Jackowsky and Adrianne Adamo;
We thank each of you for joining us today.
The subscript to the title of these remarks is a quote from Abraham Flexner, a legendary reformer of American medical education. He wrote:
“The really great discoveries have been made by men and women who were driven not by the desire to be useful but merely the desire to satisfy their own curiosity.”
Flexner’s observation is cited in an article titled, “How to think like Shakespeare,” by Scott L. Newstok, who makes the point that when Shakespeare was born there “wasn’t yet a professional theater in London. In other words, his education had prepared him for a job that didn’t even exist.”
We all know that this phenomenon is even truer today with the rapid pace of technological change that drives our global economy. Hundreds of the largest companies in the world did not exist when most of us, and even when many of our students, were born. Newstok’s advice is, “the best way you prepare for the unforeseen future is to learn how to think intensively and imaginatively,” like Shakespeare!
Intellectual historian Mary Carruthers put it another way: “people do not ‘have’ ideas,” she wrote, “they ‘make’ them.”
As you read the draft expanded College Mission Statement and discuss it in the forum led by Alexa Beshara-Blauth, Erica Carboy, Maureen Conlon, Dr. Henry Jackson, Sean O’Leary, and Heidi Sheridan, you will see an emphasis on innovation and an expectation that each one of us at Ocean County College will strive “to think intensively and imaginatively” about how we can contribute to the achievement of this aspirational mission through ‘making’ ideas that advance Ocean County College’s ability to fundamentally redefine the community college model.
As we began implementing Charting Our New Course, OCC’s Strategic Plan, we came to the realization that we had already undertaken numerous ventures that were never envisioned in the mission statement last updated in 2003. During the open forum on expanding the mission, we invite and expect you to offer your ideas and suggestions to improve the draft as it stands today.
The drafting process by the Mission Expansion Forum presenters, and the contributions from the President’s Leadership Team and the Board of Trustees, have already resulted in material changes to the original draft, so please do not hesitate to express your thoughts during this session. We want to hear them. I personally contributed one three-letter word! But, alas, when the word it modified was deleted, so was my contribution.
Among the reasons why we need to rewrite our mission statement to reflect what we are actually doing is the topic of discussion in the second breakout session led by Dr. Lisa DiBisceglie, Matthew Kennedy, and Sara Winchester. This session will describe our partnership with the Ocean County Vocational-Technical School to bring the Performing Arts Academy to the OCC Campus and establish our first Early College High School program. The session will address the building program and funding plans as well as explain how the Early College program will allow the Academy’s enrollees to earn an associate degree from OCC by the time they graduate with a high school diploma.
The next session, titled “An Ocean Apart: Connecting OCC’s Global Partnerships,” will review our existing operations and those under development in the Dominican Republic, China, Cuba, and Egypt. It will be presented by Jeff Harmon and Dr. Maysa Hayward. These are all unique ventures made possible by thinking innovatively and by progressive uses of technology. Those of you with a yen for a foreign adventure should inquire as to how you might help make these efforts successful.
The penultimate presentation is a new look at assessment of our General Education curriculum, presented by Jason Ghibesi, Rob Marchie, James Marshall, Eileen Schilling, and Jayanti Tamm. Presenters will discuss the fall, 2016, pilot of this innovative approach and roll-out plans for 2017.
The final breakout session introduces attendees to “The Ocean Way,” an exciting and imaginative program developed by inaugural Leadership Academy cohort members: Elise Barocas, Dr. Toni Clay, Jan Kirsten, Jennifer Kelemen, Jack Kelnhofer, and A.J. Trump. This is a wonderfully creative approach to serving all our students, visitors, parents, community members, and each other in ways that will touch and engage all College employees. So, check out The Ocean Way, today!
If you have been alert during my Colloquium remarks of the past few years, you have a good sense of what we are striving to achieve and where we plan to take the College in the near and longer term. If you have read our Strategies for Success document which outlines our strategic plan, or if you attended the planning sessions of the Student Success Experience initiative, or if you heard about new academic programs of study being developed, or about our new partnerships with NJIT, Thomas Edison State University, and Northeastern University, or if you recall our current partnerships with Ain Shams University, The Arab Academy for Science Technology and Maritime Studies, and Al Ahram Canadian University in Egypt, you already have a sense of what we are proposing to do under our expanded mission.
I would like to spend some time this morning, time that I believe will be well-spent, explaining the reasons why we must engage in these or similar efforts to expand our reach and generate a greater stream of net revenues. Much of this message involves “the dismal science,” Economics.
Now, those of you who teach economics will probably enjoy this, and those of you who fancy yourselves as astute investors or at least attentive observers of economic trends will find some items of interest in what I am about to discuss.
This latter group is more inclusive than you might imagine. Thomas Donlan, Editorial Page Editor of Barron’s Magazine, opined in a recent piece, “Every year brings a new crowd of old ideas worming their way into the national brain. Economic nostrums are among the most durable, and many Americans know more facts about economics than actually exist. Like the White Queen in Through the Looking Glass, they have had a lot of practice.
‘When I was your age,’ the queen told Alice, ‘I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.’”
Donlan cites the case of the 19 states that approved higher minimum wages as of January 1, 2017, “some of which were only the start of a succession of programmed annual hikes. The first day of the year also brought many assurances that such laws benefit everyone and hurt nobody …Well,” he writes, “almost nobody.”
He points out that there are alternatives to a higher minimum wage: “Marginal businesses close their doors, or lay off their least productive workers, or automate some jobs, or move to more congenial jurisdictions.” Or, employers have another option: “to pay themselves and their investors more and let the business stagnate,” presumably before they sell or close their doors and lay off all their employees.
Those cheerleaders for the Fight for $15, “ignore the probability that the higher wage won’t be paid to all the workers who were working at minimum wages last year … As economist Milton Friedman wrote, ‘The minimum-wage law is a monument to the power of superficial thinking.’”
Some economists, Donlan writes, “teach that the lowest paid people are the most compulsive consumers and hence are engines of economic growth,” whereas, “actually, minimum wage jobs are unimportant positions that contribute very little to economic growth. They are like the first rung on a ladder. Stepping up to the first rung gets you nowhere unless you keep climbing.”
One of the reasons community colleges are so vital to our nation’s economy is that they offer the best opportunity to climb rung after rung on the ladder of economic success. One of our explicit strategies seeks to deal directly with the enormous social issue of low-wage worker displacement by technology – specifically advanced manufacturing using robotics, and retail restaurant chains using automated kiosks.
When does it make sense to increase worker pay? When increases in worker productivity makes the return on investment worthwhile by increasing profitability to pay for the higher wages.
I trust that you remember hearing me proclaim that one of our goals in expanding our mission is to do just that … as Thomas Edison said, “There is a better way, find it!”
Our mission expansion offers new opportunities for everyone here at OCC to ‘find a better way’ and help our wonderful institution become more self-sufficient, less dependent on public tax dollars, more entrepreneurial, and more productive, while we remain committed to providing the best learning opportunities at the most favorable price-point in the U.S.
Speaking of Thomas Edison, the New Jersey Higher Education Affordability Commission has proposed several new bills on the fast track to become law. One of these is known as the 3 plus 1 degree option – 90 credits at the community college and 30 at a senior baccalaureate institution wishing to partner. Jeff Harmon and Dr. Maysa Hayward will fill you in on our 3 plus 1 agreement with Thomas Edison State University when you attend their breakout session.
I want to emphasize, however, that we cannot achieve the means to pay better wages and improve all things at our Toms River Campus with wishful or superficial thinking. Sometimes believing impossible things is appealing, as it was for the White Queen, but as we travel down the lane of ‘thinking like Shakespeare,’ satisfying our curiosity as we cogitate intensively and imaginatively about how we can actually innovate and create something truly new, we must also exercise the intellectual discipline to forswear believing in those pesky and oh-so-seductive impossible things!
Permit me to ruminate for a moment now about another economic conundrum – the national debt. What, you ask, does that have to do with our mission? Let me explain:
Some of our peers actually believe that state and local taxpayer funding for community colleges, and higher education generally, can grow in the future, and thus there is no pressing need to adopt new strategies or curtail the habitual application of tuition increases to paper-over the inexorable growth of expenses and stagnating enrollment numbers.
Think about it … would you rather be strolling across the campus completely at ease in the belief that everything will be fine if we just keep doing what we have always done? Or, would you rather be busy thinking intensively and imaginatively about how you can create an innovation or ‘make an idea’ that generates new enrollment, raises student retention, or engages new partners, students, and stakeholders in new ways, bringing credibility and legitimacy to our College.
All of us need authentic human contact, love, respect, friendship, and satisfying social interactions. But one of the most satisfying human endeavors is engaging in meaningful work – such that it is more like constructive play than ‘work.’ Humans love to solve puzzles and fix things. We love to create new things, using our ingenuity and imagination. We enjoy innovating.
Let me nudge your thinking with another conundrum. A new private sector company named Otto recently successfully sent a driverless truck from Fort Collins Colorado to Colorado Springs carrying 50,000 cans of beer. A writer and venture capitalist named Om Malik wrote in New Yorker Magazine, “From a technological standpoint it was a jaw-dropping achievement, accompanied by predictions of improved highway safety … From the point of view of a truck driver it was an ‘Oh (you-know-what) moment.’ That one technical breakthrough puts nearly two million long-haul trucking jobs at risk … with a ripple effect on ancillary services like gas stations, motels, and retail outlets; an entire economic ecosystem could break down.”
The first successful railroad air-brake system was patented by George Westinghouse in 1869, precipitating a similar moment of realization of an impending disaster for railroad brakemen and many others in the railroad ecosystem. Railroads, of course, were the disrupters of their era of dominance from the Civil War to the 1920’s, displacing other means for transporting goods such as horse-drawn wagons, dirt roads, and mule-drawn canal boats. Some 20 million railroad workers would ultimately lose their jobs to various technological advances and emerging modes of transportation such as trucks, cars, buses and airplanes. In 2015, around 170,000 people were employed by railroads in the U.S., moving about three million ton-miles of freight annually, vastly more than the 400 ton-miles moved in 1920, the peak year of U.S. railroad employment.
What was the response of state and federal governments when technology began to kill jobs in the railroad industry? They adopted laws that forced railroads to continue to hire workers for obsolete jobs that no longer existed, like firemen on a diesel locomotive, and issuing regulations that constrained these ‘monopoly’ enterprises from making healthy profits. “By 1970, every major railroad in the U.S had been through bankruptcy at least once.”
Consider the case of coal. “Coal provides the largest freight tonnage carried by railroads, and more than 40 Appalachian coal companies have entered bankruptcy since 2012 … Western competition, mechanization, and strip mining have been replacing Eastern mine workers for decades. Since 1980, Kentucky coal production has declined by 19 percent, while employment has dropped 62 percent.”
“Though it took decades for the Westinghouse air-brake to make freight-car hand brakes and brakemen obsolete … change moves faster now. Like truck drivers, we all (including higher education) feel the hot breath of technological obsolescence on our necks.”
Consider one final thought-provoking example: driverless cars.
At present, three companies dominate the technology to control driverless cars. NXP Semiconductors is the biggest auto-chip vendor controlling 14 percent of the market for the auto industry for advanced driver-assistance systems, with annual growth for smart chips in cars growing by five to six percent annually.
Nvidia, a smaller chip producer is more of a disruptor, aiming to create technology that can “create a ‘co-pilot’ that not only helps drive, but also monitors the human in the cabin.” The co-pilot could execute verbal instructions, like “take me to OCC,” or read facial expressions for signs of sleep or road rage.
The third company is Mobileye which uses sensors and cameras to map the road the car can navigate. Mobileye aims to create building blocks of technology sophistication to address the artificial intelligence challenge which is at the core of the solution to driverless cars. When that problem is solved, both cab drivers and Uber drivers will become an endangered species.
The question relevant to all of us who are responsible for the survival and success of Ocean County College – which includes all of us in this room and others in our collegiate economic ecosystem – is:
Which side are you on … protecting the jobs of brakemen, truck and cab drivers, Uber drivers, coal miners, print journalists, clipper ship sailors, and buggy whip makers … or the disruptors whose wizardry destroys existing jobs and creates dominant new economic power and untold numbers of new jobs?
I leave it to you to address this question as you engage in discussing our expanded mission statement … but, here is my view: whether it is a railroad brakeman, linotype operator, print journalist, clipper ship sailor, or a cab driver, the inevitability of broad sweeping and fundamental change forced by innovations, technology, and emergent economic imperatives has always displaced the worker with a specific skill set no longer in demand.
The impact of technology on collegiate delivery modes, shifting demographics, and limitations on traditional sources of funding are clearly creating a paradigm shift in higher education. Fortunately, we at Ocean County College are able, if we are nimble, to be both a disruptive agent of change and to profit from retraining those workers who are being displaced.
Our expanded mission statement seeks to capture both of these potential futures, finding new markets and developing new programs, as well as securing a steady stream of adult students who need to learn new skills and find new jobs among the myriad of new occupations that always have, and always will, emerge when disruptive change mandates creative destruction accompanied by massive growth in heretofore unknown new occupations.
Our task is to be a winner in this survival challenge, to flourish and grow, yet at the same time to remember our most fundamental responsibility: serving the people of our community where and when they need our help.
While we are pursuing a leadership position in the new paradigm, seeking to remain relevant and to grow stronger in a time of drastic change, we must continue to be true to the values Ocean County College espouses by offering creative solutions for those whose lives are being uprooted and nearly destroyed by the impersonal and powerfully disruptive forces that are forever altering the life to which they, and we, have grown accustomed and in which they, and we, have become comfortable.
I invite and challenge each and every one of you to make a commitment to join in seeing these vitally important dual goals achieved as we approach the milestone year cited in our Vision 2020. Let us know how your own curiosity and ability to think like Shakespeare, intensively and imaginatively, can free your creative spirit and possibly lead to a really great discovery!
Thank you all for your kind attention.
In keeping with our Colloquium tradition, we again today celebrate some of the many accomplishments of each of our organizational units. To be sure we conclude on time for you to get to your first breakout session, we provide now an abridged version of that report and cite only a few highlights in each area (you can access the entire report on our website appended to my remarks).
Within the area of Institutional Planning, Effectiveness, and Compliance, Alexa Beshara-Blauth reports that the Noel Levitz Student Satisfaction Inventory was sent to all degree-seeking students in the fall semester to gain insight into their priorities and satisfaction. The results of the survey will be compiled and shared this spring.
From Dr. Lisa DiBisceglie, Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs:
Sara Winchester, Executive Vice President of Finance and Administration, reports the following:
Dr. Norma Betz reports that the Student Affairs Division has been steadily engaged in pursuing Strategy 7 of the Strategic Initiatives and the Student Success Experience.
Jeff Harmon, Associate Vice President of E-Learning and Learning Enterprises reports seeing strong growth and expansion during 2016 in the number of partnerships developed, the number of online credits being taken, and staff to support the growing operation.
These are only some of the many exciting activities at OCC. Please congratulate all those whose efforts have made these achievements possible! Thank you!
And now I would like to present service awards to a few of our most valuable employees for twenty, thirty, and forty years of service at Ocean County College (some of whom have been here slightly longer but we, unfortunately, overlooked their recognition in the year achieved).
As I call your name, please join me on stage to receive your certificate.
For twenty years of service:
For thirty years of service:
And, for forty years of service:
Congratulations to all. Your contributions to the College are very much appreciated.
Before we conclude, I have three more very important announcements:
PRESIDENT’S AWARDS FOR EXCELLENCE
Replacing the Employee of the Year award with this new annual employee awards program, the President’s Awards for Excellence has been designed to acknowledge and express appreciation for outstanding accomplishments at the department, division and College-wide level that do not fall entirely within the scope of normal duties, but, rather, clearly indicate “above-and-beyond” effort. Employees are nominated based on their achievements in one or more of the following criteria, all of which support the College’s strategic plan – “Charting our New Course.” The categories are:
Outstanding Service to Students
Efficiency and Innovation
The award recipients were nominated by their fellow employees and all nominations were reviewed and considered by the President’s Leadership Team.
Each award recipient receives a monetary award, an engraved cup, and lunch with the President’s Leadership Team. Additionally, engraved cups for each award level will reside in the Administration Building in a showcase, where annually, awardee names will be added and displayed.
Without further ado, we are proud to recognize the outstanding recipients of the President’s Award for Excellence for the year 2016.
The recipient of the President’s Award for Excellence at the Department Level is Sheena Hartigan, CRM Communications Administrator. She was nominated in the categories of “Efficiency and Innovation” and “Outstanding Service to Students.”
Sheenah has been a pillar in almost every one of e-Learning's operations for the past six months, and her work extends well beyond that. Her role in helping to manage the College’s data systems has been instrumental in supporting the various domestic U.S. educational partnerships being developed. Her knowledge of these data systems makes her a critical component here at OCC.
Most recently, Sheenah helped to align the onboarding and enrollment process for OCC's Kaiser Permanente partnership, Ain Shams (Egypt) partnership, Edcor partnership, and more. She has also assisted with the College's national marketing campaign for the recruitment of new students. These projects would not have succeeded without Sheenah's direct assistance, her innovative attitude, and her creative spirit.
Sheenah has also been working to make OCC’s enrollment process both efficient and transparent. This commitment to ensure students are experiencing a seamless enrollment process relates well to OCC’s guiding principles.
For her outstanding service to the College, we are proud to present the Department-Level Excellence Award to Sheena Hartigan.
The Recipient of the President’s Award for Excellence at the Division Level is Bridget Everett, Academic Affairs Technician. Her award is in the category of “Outstanding Service to Students.”
Bridget works with students who are seeking academic appeals or who may be in jeopardy of facing discipline for academic issues. She interacts with upset students and parents with respectful firmness and professionalism. Her organizational, communication, and technical skills are excellent, and she trouble-shoots process and web-related issues within the division.
Where Bridget goes above and beyond is in how she works with students on and off campus by “talking the talk and walking the walk.” She is a role model and mentor to EOF and OBU students and makes a difference in their lives. She is personally committed to helping students who are feeling challenged or discouraged get past their obstacles and remain committed to bettering themselves through education. Bridget encourages students to accept ownership of their projects and see themselves as leaders. She is actively engaged in bringing excellent speakers to campus for discussions, such as the recent panel discussion on All Lives Matter vs. Black Lives Matter. She encourages students not to shy away from difficult subjects and tries to teach them to expand their horizons and not lose focus on the value of their own ideas and principles.
Bridget has provided coaching and mentorship to the young men affiliated with Jersey Coast Academy, an outside group that relocates young men to the Jersey Shore so that they can play football and attend college. Many of these young men are from urban environments and living away from home for the first time, trying to manage football practice, games, and academics. Bridget provides them with encouragement, a critical factor in helping them succeed in their studies at OCC.
Bridget is the CEO and founder of her own non-profit – M.E. Mental Emergence (http://www.mentalemergence.org/), an organization with the goal of helping people transition from dependence on welfare or adverse living situations to a more stable, self-reliant way of living. She does so by providing connections to networked resources and by building upon coaching and mentoring relationships. She helps young women develop their self-worth and awareness of their leadership abilities in an effort to break them from the cycle of poverty by developing personal and career skills. She talks with these young women about professionalism and their ability to produce excellent work. For her efforts, Bridget was recently awarded the Ocean County NAACP Person of the Year Award.
Bridget is also actively working with the Toms River Soroptimists to deliver the “Dream It, Be It” program to our local community. This new global program ensures women and girls have access to the education and training they need to reach their full potential and live their dreams. Bridget has also recently had the prestigious opportunity to complete training through this year’s selective Lead NJ cohort.
From her own humble personal experiences with poverty and a “hand up” rather than a handout, Bridget has become an important ambassador to Ocean County College students and members of the wider community to identify productive avenues out of poverty and into more self-reliant means of support. She loves OCC and promotes our programs and resources through all of her networks and mentees – after all, she has been a beneficiary of OCC’s opportunities herself and knows their value and utility on a very personal level.
Thank you, Bridget, for your outstanding efforts on behalf of OCC, its students, and the Ocean County community. Congratulations for being selected for the Division-Level Excellence Award!
The Recipient of the President’s Award for Excellence at the College-Wide Level is Leonard Mannino, Associate Director of Building Maintenance in the Facilities Department of OCC. Lenny is being recognized in two categories, “Efficiency and Innovation” and “Work Environment.”
As Associate Director of Building Maintenance, Lenny’s chief responsibility is to ensure that the College’s mechanical equipment is functioning properly, which is critical for the daily comfort and safety of all of us…students, faculty, and staff. He achieves this through a combination of technical knowledge, experience, and management leadership. He is dedicated, loyal, and reliable as he provides high quality service on a 24/7 basis.
Over the years, Lenny’s contributions have been integral to the Facilities Department’s development of the College. He has always kept his skills current and learned new technology. This is evident in his understanding of energy management, digital heating and air conditioning controls, and management of the College’s hot and cold water plants. From the onset, the Combined Heat and Power Plant was problematic, with issues ranging from software incompatibility, mechanical and digital synchronization, and parts failures. With determination, Lenny learned the software, assisted with the troubleshooting, and worked with three service contractors to make the necessary repairs to this complex system. Due in large part to Lenny, today the engine is running well, producing electricity, and providing energy to warm the water used for heat.
In the last three years, Lenny has been the driving force behind the integration at OCC of proactive/preventive maintenance professional practices. In the past, facilities were repaired in response to breakdown or failure. The newly implemented planned proactive/preventive maintenance program is the most potent and profitable investment in establishing overall effectiveness and efficiency to ensure critical systems are maintained to quality standards on the campus.
Lenny has fostered a workplace culture where staff are regularly acknowledged, feel valued, and have pride in their work. He has taken personal responsibility for the attraction and retention of talented and skilled staff within his department and has lowered employee turnover, both of which have resulted in higher productivity. He is consistently engaged and actively solves the daily operational challenges of the campus, balancing hands-on involvement with his staff and critical delegation of duties to his direct reports and contractors.
Most notably, we acknowledge and congratulate Lenny for his persistence and commitment to his professional growth since he joined the College in 1987. He is one of Ocean County College’s success stories as a result of his ongoing initiative, leadership, dedication, and trustworthiness.
Congratulations, Lenny, for your consistent efforts to improve Ocean County College and for being selected for the College-Level Excellence Award!
Please give a round of applause for all of the winners of the 2016 president’s awards for excellence!