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January 21, 2021

Dr. Larson’s Spring 2021 Colloquium Remarks

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover.” – Mark Twain

Good morning!  Welcome to a new year!

Farewell to 2020 – may we all look forward to a better year in 2021, keeping in mind Ralph Waldo Emerson’s advice:

“This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.”

Thank you, Toni, for your comments.  I hope the little dance video featuring Dr. Clay and me ‘hoofing it’ brought a smile to your faces!

Thanks to Ralph Bertini, our resident videography genius, who produced this number with a little help from Jib Jab, so we can kick off our Spring Semester with a little fun.  Ralph enjoyed this as much as the dancers! And, no; Toni and I will not be giving dance lessons when we all return to campus!

The breakout sessions will seek to find answers as to how we can make our time over the next two years and following “a very good one” for each of us and for our wonderful institution, Ocean County College.

Our Theme for this Colloquium is:

“Reflections on the Past with an Eye to the Future: How the 2021 Strategic Plan and Upcoming Self-Study will Shape OCC for Years to Come

I urge everyone to take an active part in these reflections and forecasts.  Our Core Accreditation Team and the Self-Study Committee, led by Dr. Alexa Beshara-Blauth and Heidi Sheridan, have worked very diligently over the past year to make available to our entire campus family opportunities to contribute to the Self-Study.

We all need to understand the new Middle States Commission on Higher Education standards and processes, as well as to integrate the goals of the Self-Study into our strategic plan, “Ocean County College at the Helm: Leading People To A Better Life.”

When the Middle States accreditation site visit occurs in the Spring Semester of 2023, it is essential that every member of our College community is ready to knowledgeably engage with the visiting team.

Alexa and the Self-Study Committee have developed some aids to assist you in being ready – a pocket guide to the goals we have set for our Self-Study and an outline of the key aspirations of our strategic plan.

We want you to carry this fold-out guide with you when you come to campus and refer to it periodically.  We will be offering an incentive program involving random checks to see if you have your copy of the pocket guide.  If you do, the reward will be, in addition to your well-deserved pride, a variety of scrip chits you can use in the Bookstore and the Cafeteria.  We will keep a record of the winners and have a group get-together when we hear the visiting team recommendations.  In 2023, it should be COVID-safe to do so.

Because we have a significant number of employee recognitions and awards to present, we are foregoing the usual lengthy recitation of achievements during the Fall Semester in favor of a briefing on our state of operations under Governor Murphy’s Executive Orders establishing conditions that we must meet before we can return to normal on-campus operations and instruction.

At this time, the principal author of the Return to Campus Plan, Heidi Sheridan, will explain where we are now and what we anticipate is likely to be our modus operandi for the Spring and Summer terms.  I will pick up with the recognitions and awards following Heidi’s presentation.

Executive Vice President, Sara Winchester, who chairs the Return to Campus Committee, Jim Calamia, and John Lopez will take questions about these likely scenarios during the breakout sessions.

We have a number of new employees to introduce whom we hired since our Fall Colloquium, as well as many current employees with new responsibilities.

Our new employees include:

    • Matthew Ascah, Faculty Training Coordinator, Title III
    • Carmine Bousanti, Security Officer II
    • William Brownson, Laboratories Technician
    • Lauren Burbank, Instructional Design Specialist
    • Scott Cuthbert, Part-Time e-Learning Instructional Designer
    • Brian Deturo, Senior LMS Support Services Technician
    • Lianet Falcon, Part-Time e-Learning Instructional Designer
    • Carly Kutsup, Instructional Design Specialist
    • Jaime Lepore, Security Officer II
    • Gerlando LoTempio, Part-Time Professional Tutor in Writing
    • Kaiby Sandoval, Financial Aid Technician
    • Susan Schneider, College Lecturer II in Nursing and Health Sciences

Employees who have new position responsibilities and subsequent position title changes are:

    • Mary-Beth Brophy, Part-Time Professional Tutor in Writing
    • Kayci Clayton, Associate Director, Grant Administration
    • Krista Croghan, Part-Time e-Learning Instructional Designer
    • Stephanie Frattini, College Lecturer II in Student Success Seminar
    • Melissa Jerden, Office and Resource Coordinator, WRAP Grant
    • Ryan Kelly, Help Desk Technician
    • Ann Lohrey, Academic Administrator, Early College Program
    • Marybeth Millan, College Lecturer II in Nursing and Health Sciences
    • Dinara Sherman, Assistant Buyer
    • Jonathan Weiss, College Lecturer II in Computer Science
    • Kevin Wright, Part-Time Security Officer II

Now, our Employee Years of Service Recognitions:

    • Employees completing twenty years of service are:
      • Patrick Chidume, Adjunct Associate Professor of Social Sciences
      • Debora Humphreys, Senior Employee Benefits Specialist
      • Cathy Lanzetti, Registration and Records Technician
      • Janine Martins-Shannon, Adjunct Associate Professor of Social Sciences
      • Alison Noone, Assistant Director of Student Life
      • Laidley Ramdeen, Adjunct Associate Professor of Mathematics
      • Eileen Schilling, Executive Director of Academic Assessment
      • Linda Smolinski, Adjunct Associate Professor of English and Literature
      • Sydney Stroman, Assistant Director of Security
      • And me!
    • Thirty-year employees are:
      • Yvonne Doval Von Scheidt, Assistant Director of Educational Opportunity Fund
      • Shirley Grone, Assistant Professor of Mathematics
      • Garrett Joest, Adjunct Associate Professor of Business Studies
    • And, celebrating forty years of employment are:
      • Neil Lavender, Professor of Social Sciences, and
      • Debra Pfaff, Academic Administrator of the School of Arts and Humanities

Congratulations to all!  We very much appreciate your contributions to the College for all these many wonderful years.

We also have a number of retiring employees, all of whom deserve our recognition and appreciation for their service to the College as well as our best wishes as they move into the future.  They are:

    • Louise Archetti, Nursing Clinical Instructor, January 1, 2021
    • Mary Ellen Carr, Professor of English, January 1, 2021
    • Patricia Chirco, Part-Time Assistant Buyer, October 1, 2020
    • Ellen Corvinus, Administrative Assistant, Library, October 1, 2020
    • Joseph Czachowski, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Humanities, September 1, 2020
    • Joseph DiMeo, Security Officer II, January 1, 2021
    • Pamela Falcone, Adjunct Associate Professor of Social Sciences, December 1, 2020
    • Kaaren Finberg, Assistant Professor of Mathematics, February 1, 2021
    • Joseph Heumiller, Construction Project Manager, October 1, 2020
    • Raymond Hohman, Adjunct Associate Professor of Business Studies, October 1, 2020
    • Nidhal (Nancy) Marashi, e-Learning Adjunct Assistant Professor of Science, January 1, 2021
    • Lori Sefcik, Part-Time Academic Coach, Title III, December 1, 2020
    • Barbara Whitby-Hayles, College Lecturer II-Nursing, June 1, 2021
    • Roy Wilkens, Manager of Recreational Activities, September 1, 2020,
    • Linda Wilson, Nursing Office Coordinator, June 1, 2021, and
    • The longest serving full-time faculty member in Ocean County College history (55 years!) Dr. William Rickert!

Let us give all our retirees a hearty round of American Sign Language applause in appreciation of their service!

Thank you!


And, now, we present the President’s Awards for Excellence to recognize individuals for their work at Ocean County College.

The purpose of this program is to acknowledge and express appreciation for outstanding accomplishments at the department, division, and College-wide levels that do not fall entirely within the scope of normal duties, but, rather, clearly indicate above-and-beyond routine efforts.  Employees are nominated based on their achievements in one or more of the following criteria, all of which support the College’s strategic plan.  The categories are:

    • Outstanding Service to Students
    • Efficiency and Innovation
    • New Markets, and
    • Work Environment

The award recipients were nominated by their fellow employees and all nominations were reviewed and considered by the President’s Leadership Team.

Each recipient receives a monetary award, an engraved cup (which you will receive after it is engraved with your name), and lunch with the President’s Leadership Team, when we can return to the campus.  This year, awards will be mailed to recipients’ homes.  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 performance of the recipients of the President’s Award for Excellence for the year 2020.

This year, given the many challenges faced as a result of the pandemic and the closing of the College campus in March, it was decided to add a Team Level Award.  This award, in the category of “Efficiency and Innovation,” is being awarded to the members of the Information Technology department.

Many, many employees throughout the College deserve commendations for the outstanding work they undertook to continue the business of the College when the need arose to move all facets of our operations to a remote environment.  However, none of it would have been possible without the tireless efforts of the Information Technology team.  From the day the College closed last March, IT was available 24/7 to meet the needs of our students, teaching personnel, administration, and Board of Trustees.

Under the leadership of James ‘JR’ Ross, the IT team ensured that the technology needs of students, faculty, and staff were met and that laptops were available for all students and employees who needed them.  The team met unbelievable challenges and disruptions at all hours of the day and night and successfully addressed every one of them.  IT staff have been on campus consistently since the pandemic began to ensure service to students and College business was uninterrupted.  We all owe all members of the IT staff our appreciation for all they have done for us.

The recipients of the Team Level Awards are:

    • James ‘JR’ Ross, Chief Information Officer
    • Kevin Braendly, Audio Visual Support Coordinator
    • Bennett Broder, Lead Network and Information Security Administrator
    • Erich Carstens, Assistant Director, User Services
    • Stefan DeRosa, Programmer Analyst
    • Richard Futrell, Programmer Analyst
    • Robert Herbst, PC Technician
    • Kirk Humphreys, Network and Unified Communication Administrator
    • Anthony Jordan, Enterprise Applications Director
    • Thomas Murasky, Virtual Desktop Administrator
    • Steven Myszka, Network and Systems Administrator
    • Sean O’Leary, Technical Director
    • Joseph Pelkey, Senior Programmer Analyst
    • Patrick Stivale, Senior Network and Systems Administrator
    • Nicholas Tyler, Programmer Analyst
    • Thomas Van Duyne, PC Technician
    • Nicole Wehnke, PC Technician, and
    • Ellen Younger, OIT Office Coordinator

Congratulations to the Information Technology team members on this well-deserved recognition of your exceptional service to Ocean County College and its students!

Now, the recipient of the President’s Award for Excellence at the Department Level is Matthew Tutela, Campus Services Coordinator.  Matt was nominated in the category of “Work Environment.”

Matt is being recognized for his excellent service to the College community, pre-COVID and especially over the trying times we have experienced since March.

Pre-COVID, Matt authored and produced a set of Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s) to serve as a reference guide that captured valuable information on how “things get done” within the Physical Plant Department.  Matt’s 21-page SOP is so well done that it has become the standard for other departments to follow.

During the current pandemic, Matt has been a welcome visible presence to the members of the campus community who arrive to receive departmental mail and deliveries.  He has been a “jack-of-all trades.”  With steady confidence, he assumed many additional responsibilities related to work control, warehouse receiving and inventory, and payroll, and he quickly resolved any unusual issues or difficulties that arose.  He has admirably filled in when there was work to be completed and always offered assistance when needed.  Matt did all these extra activities voluntarily and successfully.

Perhaps Matthew’s best attributes are his positive attitude and physical presence, trustworthiness and accountability, innovation, and superior customer service, all of which contribute to the overall morale of the campus community.  He does whatever is needed and has been an invaluable asset to Campus Services and to the College.  His performance deserves recognition.

Therefore, we are proud to present this Department Level Award to Matthew Tutela for his outstanding service and commitment to the College.

The recipient of the President’s Award for Excellence at the Divisional Level is Dr. Tracy Walsh, Dean of the School of Nursing and Health Sciences.  Tracy was nominated in the categories of “Outstanding Service to Students.”

Dr. Walsh has been a leader at OCC for many years; the School of Nursing has been ranked consistently in the top tier of institutions in New Jersey as measured by both high NCLEX scores and graduation rates.  We have observed her excellent leadership and consistent performance as she ensured that our Nursing students could continue their education despite the effects of COVID-19.

When the Governor’s Executive Order forced the campus to close and shift to remote operations last Spring semester, it was an uncertain time for everyone, but especially for the School of Nursing because of the hands-on skills that are required for a practitioner in this field.

Tracy was faced with some difficult tasks.  She successfully moved to a virtual setting for the delivery of courses as well as coordinated the activities of our nursing students with the various clinical sites.  Three unique factors complicated this transition:  remote learning was not commonplace in nursing; the State Board of Nursing had not yet defined any shift in its expectations for the pedagogy of nursing in a remote learning environment, and clinical placements were ‘on hold’ because the hospitals were unsure how to address the issue of placing students in their facilities at the start of the pandemic.

Without much guidance from the State Board of Nursing or ACEN, the national accreditation agency for nursing, Tracy established new guidelines to ensure that OCC’s program would meet the expectations of the State Board.  She also collaborated closely with the clinical sites to maintain the student experience at a similar level as before the pandemic, while, at the same time, ensuring the safety of the students and instructors in the laboratories and clinical sites.

Tracy achieved these great successes by exhibiting outstanding leadership qualities, staying positive, and working collaboratively with her team and external constituent groups.  Through her efforts and by tracking the progress of her students, we expect that the same level of learning outcomes that have become the standard for OCC will continue in this COVID-19 environment. This success is a clear indication of Tracy’s commitment to exceptional student service.

We thank you, Tracy, for your innovation and outstanding efforts on behalf of the Nursing Department, the College, and our students!

This year we have two recipients of the President’s Award for Excellence at the College-Wide Level.  The first is Jacqueline D’Amore, Senior Human Resources Specialist in Talent and Organizational Development, who was nominated in the category of “Work Environment.”

Jackie is a perennial strong performer, and her commitment to the College and her job are apparent on a regular basis.  At the time of the College’s closure due to the pandemic, Jackie rapidly and effectively moved Human Resources Training and Organizational Operations to a remote operating service, providing much-needed support to managers and employees.

In less than a month, Jackie’s team of two (herself and another staff member in HR who reports to her) posted 70 self-paced study courses to the OCC employee training site and methodically began to move internally-developed face-to-face training courses to the virtual delivery mode.  Included in this were two courses that are foundational to maintaining OCC’s high- performance employee culture: “The Ocean Way” and “Managing One-On-One.”  Jackie also understood and responded immediately to the need for training to address the new work environment reality; she deployed the course, “Managing Your Team Remotely,” as well as two other courses addressing work-related issues in a remote environment.

When it was time to prepare for the Fall 2020 semester limited restart on campus, Jackie coordinated the development and implementation of informational/procedural training with “Return to Campus, Fall 2020—What You Need to Know.”

One of the overarching goals of our 2015-2020 strategic plan, ‘Charting Our New Course,’ was to enhance individual employee performance and the intrinsic work culture at OCC through a variety of means, with training and skill development providing the foundation.  Jackie’s rapid response to the new reality for remote operations honored all the progress that has been made in this regard and has been critical to how well the College has transitioned to and continues to operate in this remote mode.

Jackie’s achievements during the pandemic/remote operations embody most of the Principles of the Guiding Coalition.  She was proactive, supportive, communicative, positive, courageous, collaborative, and accountable in her tireless efforts to make Training and Organizational Development available and accessible as quickly as possible.

Thank you, Jackie, for your influence in enabling the enhancement of employee performance and the work culture at OCC – to the benefit of all of our employees!

Our second recipient of the College-Wide President’s Award for Excellence is Ken Malagiere, Executive Director of the Ocean County College Foundation, who was nominated in the category of “Outstanding Service to Students.”

Ken has helped the Foundation become a more agile organization, able to react quickly to the ever-changing needs of our students and the College.  The Foundation has always been a wonderful partner to the College and, under Ken’s leadership, it has become an even greater resource and source of support for the College.

Ken has championed the OCC Food Bank, helping to make emergency food contributions available for students.  He increased the visibility of the Food Bank and developed a positive connection between the Foundation and the student-led Food Bank.

Serving as the main point of contact for Fulfill, an Ocean/Monmouth County community food bank, Ken spearheaded many events to support Fulfill’s efforts to provide food and other resources to students in need.

When the brilliant Executive Director of the Grunin Center for the Arts and the Planetarium, Mark Wilson, resigned to take a similar role at Lehigh University, Ken stepped up, without additional compensation, and assumed leadership of Grunin Center activities.  Ken has kept the staff moving forward during a difficult period when they could not perform their jobs as usual and encouraged them to find ways to connect with students and the public virtually.

Ken modified long-practiced procedures to allow the Foundation to award scholarships earlier in each semester, which is critically important to students who are struggling to pay for college.  He persuasively presented to the Foundation Board, and then implemented, many efforts supporting student needs and new programs, including the rollover of student scholarships from the fall to spring and making scholarships available for Quick-Term students and high school students.

Ken has been an ardent supporter of the Blauvelt speaker series and National Geographic Live, which have brought the Foundation and Grunin Center together as partners to present high quality, contemporary programs that attract both community members and students.

Ken brings positivity, energy, and great enthusiasm to his work.  Coworkers, Foundation Board members, and donors all appreciate these qualities and support his efforts because of them.

Thank you, Ken, for your enthusiasm and extraordinary efforts on behalf of the students at OCC in building a strong relationship with the Foundation as well as the College and our larger Ocean County community.

Congratulations to our President’s Award recipients!

The workshops we are offering today relate directly to OCC’s new 2021-2026 Strategic Plan:

Workshop 1 – Goal 1:  Empower Students to Learn, Engage, and Achieve

Presenters include Chris Carbone, Jen Fazio, Dr. Eileen Garcia, Dr. Joe Konopka, and Anna Regan

Workshop 2 – Goal 2:  Optimize and Expand Enrollment of All Learners

Presenters:  Dr. Rosann Bar, Sheenah Hartigan, Dr. Maysa Hayward, Dr. Jerry Racioppi, Dr. Sylvia Riviello, Dr. Amir Sadrian, Eileen Schilling

Workshop 3 – Goal 3:  Elevate Organizational Effectiveness

Presenters:  Tracey Donaldson, Matthew Kennedy

Workshop 4 – Goal 4:  Expand Relationships

Presenters:  Jan Kirsten, Ken Malagiere

Workshop 5 – Snap, Crackle, Reflect:  Dig into the Middle States Self-Study Process

Presenters:  Dr. Alexa Beshara-Blauth, Heidi Sheridan

Workshop 6 – The Return to Campus Plan:  Flexible options for the Road Ahead

Presenters:  Sara Winchester, Jim Calamia, John Lopez

As we begin our new semester in this new year, we do so with optimism.  Against all odds, we have accomplished much since last March, and we continue to offer our students an excellent education.  With the distribution of the vaccine in the next few months, we can begin to think about coming together again.  We are a strong institution because all of you are committed to making this college the boldest, most creative, most innovative, most entrepreneurial, student-centered college in the nation!

Thank you for participating in this most unusual Colloquium.

I thank each, and every member, with the utmost sincerity, of our wonderful faculty – traditional Full-Time Faculty, College Lecturers IIs, Adjunct Faculty, and Part-Time Teachers who make up our key constituency delivering the best collegiate education anywhere in the world!  You are helping Ocean County College become the very best public college in the nation.  A College on the road to greatness!

I thank each and every one of our talented leadership TEAM – the best in New Jersey, with the utmost sincerity.  Each is a special talent in their own right; they run this College with passion, fidelity, premier skills, and effective leadership.

I thank each of our Managerial, Technical, and Support Staff for your extraordinary dedication, hard work, persistence, and well-deserved pride in keeping the College safe, secure, clean, beautiful, and superbly functional.  Your dedication, your loyal service, your skill, and commitment to making Ocean County College one of the premier colleges in this great country, the USA, is admirable.

Most importantly, I thank our sagacious and dedicated Board of Trustees for modeling the way for our College, with time, treasure, talent and perspicacity – without which we would be just another community college adrift in uncharted seas – but not here!  Not at Ocean County College!

May God bless our entire community and all your efforts to bring this wonderful institution to greatness.

I look forward to seeing you all in person again soon.

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