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February 1, 2022

Dr. Larson’s Spring 2022 Colloquium Remarks

OCC President Dr. Larson

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

–  Ralph Waldo Emerson

Good Morning!  Welcome to the Spring Semester 2022!  I am delighted to welcome all of you, albeit virtually.  Given the continued spread of the virus and our concern for the health and safety of our employees, we thought it best to meet virtually rather than in the gymnasium where we would not have enough room to be socially distanced from each other.  I want to credit Neil Schiller for suggesting that we consider doing this.

And, thank you, Dr. Clay, for opening our program, as usual, with charm, good humor, and elegance.

The focus of today’s Colloquium is to review and discuss our preparation and progress towards reaccreditation by the Middles States Commission on Higher Education.  For the past year and a half, our Self-Study Co-Chairs, Dr. Alexa Beshara-Blauth and Dean Heidi Sheridan, have been providing the leadership, direction, and encouragement to ensure our self-evaluation is proceeding with purpose and on schedule.

After several months, the Self-Study working groups for each of the Standards completed their first draft reports and submitted them in December to our Middle States Steering Committee.  In today’s workshop sessions, the groups will be presenting their chapter highlights to you.  Each group will share an overview of their Standard, its associated criteria, and how the College is complying with MSCHE Standards of Accreditation and Requirements of Affiliation.  It is very important that you attend the sessions and provide feedback to the working group members, which will then be used as they refine their chapters.

Over the next few months, the group members will be working on their second drafts, which will be submitted to the Steering Committee in April for additional editing.  Beginning in August, the members of the College community will have the opportunity to review the Self-Study Draft Report.  Our goal is transparency, with all members of the College engaging in this self-appraisal process.

The Chair of the Visiting Team will soon be selected by Middle States and shared with the College for input.  After agreement by the  College and MSCHE by the end of February, the Chair of the Visiting Team will be announced and the members of the team will be identified.

I also want to acknowledge Dr. Rosann Bar for agreeing to join the Core Leadership Team as Chief Editor of our Self-Study Report following the resignation of our originally-named Editor.  Thank you, Dr. Bar.

There is still a great deal of work to be done to finalize our Self-Study report and to prepare for the evaluation visit in Spring 2023, only a year from now.  Your participation in this vital process is deeply appreciated.

Dr. Beshara-Blauth also  reports that, as announced last semester at the Faculty Update meeting, the Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE) is being implemented in randomly selected classrooms this Spring.

The College’s Strategic Plan is becoming a living document with more people talking about it and taking action to support our Strategic Goals.  Throughout January, Guiding Coalition members are in the process of interviewing Goal Leaders to receive updates on the progress of initiatives supporting the Strategic Plan.

Now we will have updates provided by each of the vice presidents on activities in their areas.

First,  Sara Winchester, Vice President of Finance and Administration, reports:

OCC received several federally-funded grant awards to help recover from the fiscal impact of the pandemic. A total of $12,493,004 was distributed to students through Financial Aid.  Because OCC is a Title III grant recipient, another $1,306,963 will be awarded to students in this Spring semester.  In addition, we were awarded $16,951,927 through the three stages of the Higher Education Emergency Relief Acts.  These funds were used to purchase PPE and supplies, upgrade HVAC systems, enhance IT infrastructure and security, outfit classrooms for remote instruction, purchase laptops for students and staff, and recover lost revenue.  Institutional funds were also used to discharge over $2 million in outstanding student debt.

Facilities has a number of projects underway:

  • A complete modernization of the Library is under design.
  • We have a grant to upgrade six rooms in the Technology Building for Cyber Security, Artificial Intelligence, Graphic Design, Electronic Media, Supply Chain, and Bloomberg labs.
  • The design is complete and specs are under development for the new Administration Building.
  • A new storage facility is nearing completion behind the Facilities building.
  • OCC has partnered with New Jersey Natural Gas to replace all remaining fluorescent lighting with energy efficient LED lighting and motion sensors. Also included in this project is the replacement of the Grunin Center’s current boiler with two highly efficient boilers.
  • New concrete stairs were replaced outside the Library, additional exterior lighting was installed near the Planetarium, furniture is being replaced in public areas of most buildings, and the bleachers will be replaced on the baseball and softball fields.

The contractors have completed all technology upgrades in the Instructional building, and the first and second floors are complete in Bartlett Hall.  Four out of eight classrooms are done in Gateway; the Hiering Building will be next.

This past Fall semester, the Foundation provided over $530,000 in scholarship support and is currently awarding scholarships for the Spring 2022 semester.

After the Foundation’s very successful Blauvelt Speaker Series this past Fall, which included Misty Copeland, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Anna Deavere Smith, and Eric O’Neil, Spring guest speakers include:

  • Chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta on February 2
  • Chief technology reporter for the New York Times, Davey Alba, on March 2
  • Author JoAnn Nocera on April 7
  • Social entrepreneur and environmental advocate, grandson of the great Captain Jacques-Yves Cousteau, explorer Philippe Cousteau on May 19

The honorees at this year’s Foundation Scholarship Celebration on June 24 will be:

  • Rosann Bar and Dr. Patricia Gianotti for their contributions to the Addictions and Counseling Program;
  • Alison Noone for outstanding dedication to the operation of the Helping Hands Food Pantry; and
  • The Wintrode Family Foundation for the establishment of the Roberta W. Wintrode Memorial Fund.

Workforce and Professional Education has established apprenticeship partnerships with local employers, such as CVS and RWJBH.  In December 2021, 10 workers from RWJBH started a hybrid Certified Medical Assistant Apprenticeship Program at OCC.  Tuition is funded through the NJ HealthWorks Grant, and students are being paid while they learn.  Upon course completion, they will then move to a new title and wage at RWJBH and complete their 2,000 hours of on-the-job-training.  In total, 85 students began their apprenticeship journey with WPE in 2021.

The Title II Program kicked off this Fall, with funding that provides basic literacy skills training, high school equivalency support, workforce readiness training, and other educational services.  These programs bring hundreds of new students to the College for non-credit education.

College Relations implemented an automated ADA compliance system, SiteImprove, which integrates into our existing content management system to improve ADA compliance.

The OCC Alumni campus banners and monoliths have been refreshed.  Nine banners and monoliths featuring OCC graduates, such as Mr. Paul Altero, Founder of Bubbakoo’s Burritos; Mr. William Carafello, New York Mets Senior Director of Social Media; and others.

Human Resources is working on the implementation of NeoEd, a platform that will replace PeopleAdmin, providing the ability to request personnel transactions, track applicants, onboard new hires, and manage performance.  Additionally, an employee Learning Management System has been purchased and will be implemented in July 2022.

Dr. Joseph Konopka, Vice President of Academic Affairs, shares the following information:

The Academic Affairs division will continue to build upon three areas in the coming year. These areas are closely aligned with the priorities of the College’s strategic plan.

  • Advanced technology classrooms:
    • Classes will be offered between the main campus and SEC;
    • Embedded programs will be expanded to k-12 schools that do not have qualified faculty in certain disciplines;
    • Specialty programs will be expanded to other areas of the northeast region;
    • Embedded programs will be expanded to other parts of the U.S., including North Carolina.
  • 3+1 program development:
    • Program approval was received from the New Jersey President’s Council in Fall 2021 semester;
    • Initial plan is for 3+1 programs developed with New Jersey City University and Southern New Hampshire University;
    • Other colleges and universities that have demonstrated interest include Kean University, William Patterson University, Montclair State University, and Rutgers University (Camden campus);
    • Students will have the opportunity to complete the third year of a four-year program at Ocean County College;
    • OCC will be provided with an opportunity to expand graduate programs in a 3+2 format with the universities.
  • Expand non-credit into credit pathways:
    • A community health worker program was developed with the New Jersey Department of Health;
    • Students could receive up to 9 credits for passing competency exam;
    • Currently developing pathway program for Google IT certificate;
    • Students may receive up to 12 academic credits for completing the program;
    • Currently developing stackable credentials within our flagship workforce partnership with Intel corporation.

Each of these programs viewed separately positions Ocean County College well for the future.  However, in viewing these programs together, it seems to be clear that we are building a strong foundation for student success, success that will include offering programs to a more diverse student population.

Dr. Eileen Garcia, Vice President of e-Learning and Learning Enterprises reports:

In keeping with our ongoing pursuit of quality and improvement, the e-Learning Department has recently revised the course design and development process to allow distance learning master courses to run more efficiently and effectively in shortened terms.  Designing courses to meet learning outcomes as opposed to focusing on seat time has produced higher quality course content.  Proven instructional design models have been employed to streamline and modernize our approach to master course design, yielding a 7-Module course that allows students to earn their degrees faster without being overwhelmed.  This same quality content can then be extended to 15 Modules to give the traditional college student the opportunity to take the same course at a slower pace.  Our new courses are highly interactive and engaging, remixing OER with elements of a Universal Design for Learning.  This benefits both students and faculty and has also created a stronger partnership between Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) and Instructional Designers (IDs).  The design process allows SMEs to focus on the content and the IDs to take that content and bring the course to life for online students.

Beyond course design, our e-Learning staff will continue to offer ongoing professional development opportunities for the college community during the Spring term, hosted by OCC faculty, stakeholders, and administrators.  The spring training will focus on timely and valuable skills like facilitating online instruction using interactive technology.

In addition, the e-Learning Roundtable for adjuncts will be offered every third Thursday of each month at 6:00 p.m., starting in February.  The Roundtable will provide adjunct online instructors with networking opportunities and the chance to discuss “best online teaching practices.”

Academic Integrity continues to be an area of focus for the e-Learning department.  Last Fall, a total of 10,732 assessments were proctored for 1,856 individual students.  Ever responsive to our needs, our trusted partner, Honorlock, has made several updates to the application so that exams in courses containing third-party publisher content will be proctored from this Spring term forward.

With an eye on maximizing retention and completion, the e-Learning and Student Services departments have jointly created a plan to replace the current Aspire Dropout Detective software with the Ellucian Advise Early Alert retention software in a few selected online courses during the  Spring term as a pilot, with the end goal of having all online courses using Advise by next Fall term.

With regard to international special programs, in Fall 2021, a new cohort of students started the OCC/KU/ASU program, making it six cohorts thus far.

Last October, the President of William Paterson University, accompanied by his Chief of Staff, and his Provost /Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs visited Egypt with Dr. Eileen Garcia, Dr. Maysa Hayward and me.  The visit included meetings with representatives from Al Alamein International University, Nile University, Badr University, and the Ministry of Higher Education to discuss new OCC/WPU collaborations in Egypt Special Programs.

Last month, three high ranking Kean University delegates accompanied Dr. Hayward and me to Egypt to attend the Higher Education Global Forum.  The visit included several constructive meetings with the Ain Shams University president, vice presidents  and deans. The Kean University and Ocean team also had meetings with the president and executives of Badr University, where they signed the OCC/Kean/Badr agreement to start a triple degree program in Business in Fall 2022.

The Senior Vice Chancellor at Rutgers University-Camden attended the Forum as well and discussed the potential of joining the special program consortium.

Also, in December, the President of New Jersey City University (NJCU), held meetings with me and our Egyptian partners, Modern Educational Services (MES) in Egypt, to discuss the updates of NJCU Egypt’s project.

For this Spring, our international unit will be working closely with our various Egyptian partners to create a robust student recruiting process for programs slated to start in the Fall as well as complete the approval process for new programs offered in Alexandria University and Al Alamein International University.

And Dr. Jerry Racioppi, Vice President of Student Affairs, shares the following:

After a year away due to the pandemic, our Fall teams were thrilled to return to the field.  Both the men’s and women’s soccer teams advanced to the post-season.  Men’s Soccer sophomore Aniello Lubrano was named an NJCAA All-American, as well as Region 19 and Garden State Athletic Conference Player of the Year.

Sophomore Jackson French represented the Vikings in the NJCAA championship tournament for e-sports, after completing his second straight season with an undefeated record.  Competing in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Jackson advanced to the championship semifinals before falling, ending his season with a “smashing” record of 13 wins and 1 loss.  We are anticipating 25 eSports student athletes this Spring.

Jim Hauenstein reports the SEC facility and staff are excited to be open and ready for the start of the Spring semester.  Both credit and noncredit courses will be offered.

The CARE Team, under the direction of Dr. Kate Pandolpho and Dr. AJ Trump, handled 535 reports since July 1, 2021.  Please continue sending reports so assistance can be provided to those who need it most.

The Counseling Center staff has been busy helping students through the pandemic.  Common challenges include grief, bereavement, relationship and family issues, financial loss, a sense of disconnection, as well as stress, anxiety, and depression.  Since July 1, 2021, counselors  conducted 916 appointments with students, which is a great deal higher than pre-pandemic levels.

Dr. Pandolpho and her staff are doing yeoman’s work for so many, and it is very much appreciated.

The Enrollment Services department resumed in-person visits to Ocean County high schools through the successful Pathways program.  While coordinating with high schools was more challenging given various COVID-requirements, the enrollment service advisors visited 14 area high schools and met with over 3,600 seniors encouraging participation in the Pathways program and completion of OCC’s application.

The HUB team has been hosting on-campus Game of Life events with high schools, virtual NJ Stars information sessions with the Advising department, and campus tours on a daily and weekly basis.  The team collaborated with College Relations to create 14 enrollment-related TikTok videos for almost 10,000 views.

The first in-person Open House since 2019 was held on-campus on November 10, 2021.  The event included faculty and staff demonstrations across campus, campus tours, and engaging and interactive classroom visits.  The event drew 256 guests.

Our favorite chatbot Reggie has been hard at work. Reggie interacted with 24,598 potential and current students in the 2021 year alone.  Reggie responded to 25,555 incoming messages and sent 440,971 outgoing messages.  Reggie’s consistent assistance has saved months of staff time in the past year.

There has been an increase in early college enrollment this year, with 1,794 students enrolled in both embedded courses and on-campus or online Ocean courses.  This is almost a 30% increase in headcount of early college students, a result of excellent collaboration between Academic Affairs and Student Affairs.

Enrollment Services is implementing a new retention team which will apply the same methods that have been so successful in recruiting new students.  OCC has also been recognized as a 2022 Bellwether Award finalist, a very prestigious award for a community college, because of the work of the Enrollment Services team.  Many thanks to Ms. Sheenah Hartigan and her staff for their hard work and contributions to the College and our students.

The Office of Financial aid, led by Yessika Garcia-Guzman, reports that Ocean received funding for a third allocation under the American Rescue Plan (ARP) to award emergency grants to students, HEERF III.  ARP emergency grants were made available to students starting July 13, 2021.  Since then, 4,703 students have been awarded a total of $8,227,874.

Advising and Transfer Services have been serving students in-person and remotely.  There has been a shift in the type of service students are choosing.  Prior to the pandemic, 3% of the total advising appointments were conducted virtually; now, 58% of appointments are virtual.

A substantial enhancement of the Student Planning software gives students the ability to set up their own schedules and then push a button to ask their advisors to review them.  The student advisors receive notifications of the requests and assist students quickly and efficiently.

The HUB, IT, Academic Affairs, and Advising Office successfully executed new retention initiatives using Ellucian’s Advise software in Fall 2021.  The system was implemented with the priority of accomplishing the objectives of the Title III grant, and this year it was expanded to other students.

Communication plans were launched this fall involving tips for students to be successful in their classes.  These messages were delivered to students with low homework assessments and low course averages.  This plan laid the foundation for a more robust retention effort in Spring 2022.

Looking ahead to Spring 2022, the “faculty experience” will be implemented in Advise, which will allow a pilot group of instructors to raise alerts for students throughout the semester.  These alerts include identifying students with attendance issues, lack of participation, missed assignments, and low assessments.  Automated communications will be in place in addition to outreach from the Retention team.  These alerts will be made available for all instructors in Fall 2022.

Finally, Ms. Anna Regan is commended for being a leader in this work and for delivering one of the most organized and impactful implementations of this technology anywhere.

ow, I would like to acknowledge our new employees and employees who have assumed new or additional responsibilities.

Welcome, New Employees!
Susan Bohs
Program Manager/Instructor, WPE
Marwa Khalifa
Academic Administrator, Foreign Programs,
Dr. Meredith Riddle
Assistant Dean, e-Learning
Kristen D’Amico
College Lecturer II, Psychology, e-Learning
Melani Kovacs
P/T Advisor/Recruitment Specialist, EOF
Noah Ringler
College Lecturer II, Psychology, Business & Social Science
Toni Ann DiPasquale
Academic Advisor, Southern Education Center
Dori Londres
Marketing & Communications Writer/Editor, College Relations
Amanda Rosamilia
Academic Advisor, Advising
Peter DiStefano
Athletic Trainer/Coordinator, Athletics
Nicholas McKenney
Student Success Coach, Enrollment Services
T’lea Smith
Work Control Coordinator, Office Services
Kerie Forde
Office Coordinator, EOF
Katherine Moreno
P/T Coordinator of Student Basic Needs, OSHE, Student Life
Daphnee St. Val
P/T Instructional Designer, e-Learning
Jacqueline Frezza
Senior Test Administrator Technician, Testing Center
Nicola Nelson
P/T Enrollment Services Technician, Enrollment Services
Darra Stack
Student Intervention Specialist, Counseling Center
Alexandria Halloran
P/T Library Services Technician, Library
Elizabeth Norman
Academic Coach, Enrollment Services
Ellen Stipo
Program Director, Technical Education & Perkins Programs, Grants
Gang He
Learning Management System Administrator,
Raquel Olivo
Advisor/Case Manager, WPE
Erik Stratton
Education & Community Engagement Coordinator, Fine & Performing Arts
John Hennessy
Security Officer II, Safety & Security
Jessica Richardson
P/T Community Services Coach, Counseling Center

Mathias Banner
Assistant Director Purchasing & Payables
Kashonna Garcon
Academic Advisor, Southern Education Center
Virginia Biase
Director, NJ HealthWorks, WPE
Christine Healey
Executive Director Procurement & Compliance, Purchasing
Kirsten Bollinger
Career Services Coordinator, Career Services
Ryan Kelly
PC Technician, IT
Carmine Bousanti
Lieutenant, Security, Safety & Security
Molly LaPosa
Broadcast Operations Technician, College Realtions
Breanna Brown
Academic Advisor, Advising
Daniel MacKin
Part Time Lieutenant, Safety & Security
Doreen Castellanos
Coordinator, Academic Support Services, Academic Affairs
Catherine Mancuso
Dean, Faculty Development & Learning Innovation, Academic Affairs
Briana Ferlisi
Project Specialist, Student Support Services
Carol Matyas
Sponsorship Coordinator, Accounting
Heather Mayer
Case Manager/Mental Health Technician, Counseling Center
Karina Tejada
Enrollment Services Technician, Enrollment Services
Thomas Mellott
Office Coordinator, Planetarium
Frank Tino
Part Time Lieutenant, Safety & Security
Susan O’Connor
Executive Director, Curriculum and Program Development, Academic Affairs
Sergio Torrico Saniz
Part Time Professional Tutor I, Computer Science, Academic Affairs
Malia Padalino
Information Access Technician, Library
Matthew Tutela
Manager of Warehouse Operations & Mail Services, Office Services
Joseph Pasieka
General Building Maintenance Technician, Facilities
Krystle Wilmot
Coordinator, Tutoring Services, Academic Affairs
Maria Tchaplygin
Grant Coordinator, WPE
Ellen Younger
Special Assistant to the Chief Information Officer, IT

Welcome to all of our new employees and congratulations to employees who have new position responsibilities and subsequent position title changes.

We have employees who are celebrating twenty and thirty years of service at the College:

Loyal Service
Ilene Cohen – Twenty Years
Executive Director of Athletics
Mary Lancaster – Twenty Years
Controller, Accounting
Maureen Conlon – Twenty Years
Associate Director, Web Services, College Relations
Catherine Murphy – Twenty Years
Associate Professor of Science
Michele Connolly – Twenty Years
Assistant Director of Academic Advising
Kathryn Pandolpho – Twenty Years
Director, Counseling & Student Development Services
Juliana Dressner – Twenty Years
Administrative Assistant I, Veteran and Military Resource Center
Renate Pustiak – Twenty Years
College Lecturer II – Humanities & Fine Arts
Deeanne Gatta-Salter – Twenty Years
Academic Advisor, Advising
Bridget Feneis – Thirty Years
Assistant Professor of Mathematics
Andrea Hrehovcik – Twenty Years
Administrative Assistant I, CSIT
Lynn Kenneally – Thirty Years
Professor of Social Science
Darlene LaMonica – Twenty Years
Athletics Office Coordinator, Athletics
Vicki McMillian – Thirty Years
Professor of Mathematics
Neil Schiller – Thirty Years
Associate Professor of Engineering Studies

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:

Maureen Alexander
Academic Administrator,
Business & Social Science, Academic Affairs
Lisa Gruber
Assistant Director, Pensions & Benefits,
Human Resources
Sandra Mueller
Adjunct Assistant Professor, Social Science,
Academic Affairs
Ralph Bertini
Television Production Director,
College Relations
Nancy Heroy
OCC Foundation Program Assistant,
Thomas Murasky
Virtual Desktop Administrator,
Eileen Burdge
Coordinator Community & Displaced Homemaker Program, Counseling Center
Matthew Kennedy
Associate Vice President Facilities Management & Construction, Facilities
Christine O’Neill
Executive Assistant,
Academic Affairs
Debra Costanza
Adjunct Professor,
Social Science, Academic Affairs
Joseph Kirchhofer
Associate Professor, Social Science,
Academic Affairs
Michael Pezzimenti
Associate Professor of Mathematics,
Lauren Dix
LMS Coordinator,
Walter Lorenzen
Building & Grounds Technician,
Theresa Pulvano
Adjunct Assistant Professor,
Lorraine Fowler
High School Equivalency Coordinator,
Kathleen Malachowski
Associate Professor, Health & Human Performance,
Academic Affairs
Richard Trotter
Broadcast Operations Technician,
College Relations

Congratulations to all of our retirees.  We are deeply appreciative of your many years of service to Ocean County College and wish you well in your future endeavors.

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.  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 2022.

This year we have two recipients of the President’s Award for Excellence at the Department-Wide Level.  Both were nominated in the category of “Outstanding Service to Students.”  The first is Debra Lee-Vazquez, Executive Assistant to the Vice President of Student Affairs.

While remote during the pandemic, Debra went above and beyond what would be expected in order to help address the challenges created by the pandemic.  Along with her normal duties, she volunteered to assist the HUB; was part of the team reviewing student applications for CARES funding grants; and works with Human Resources to manage processing and communication to students in response to COVID-19 exposure on campus.  Her efforts improved quality and service, including the health and safety of the campus community, the enrollment of new and continuing students, and the delivery of much-needed assistance to students.

Debra has always been a team player, working with her co-workers to ensure that goals are met, students are served, and the institutional mission and vision are kept at the forefront, daily.  She can always be depended on to serve faithfully on a campus committee, respond to student inquiries on a plethora of topics, and give suggestions on how to improve processes or operations.

Debra’s dedication to working nights and weekends, without being asked, shows her immense commitment to student success.  She always acts with the Ocean Way at the forefront of her mind, and she is dedicated to customer service and increasing efficiency and effectiveness whenever she can.

 Debra is a superb employee who has embraced the OCC strategic goal of empowering students to learn, engage, and achieve by making substantial contributions to student enrollment and persistence.

We thank you, Debra, for your outstanding efforts on behalf of the College and our students.

The second recipient of the President’s Award for Excellence at the Department-Wide Level in “Outstanding Service to Students” is Laura Wills, Coordinator of Transfer Services.

The majority of our graduates plan to transfer to four-year colleges or universities after completing their degrees at OCC.  As the Coordinator of Transfer Services, Laura’s commitment to students, her depth of knowledge, dedication to excellence, and work ethic help students achieve this goal.

Laura’s outstanding performance is consistent day in, day out, year after year.  An excellent example of her dedication came during our remote work due to the pandemic.  As severe storms swept through the state, many staff members, including Laura, were left without power for days.  Unfortunately, Laura also had a day fully booked with student appointments.  Instead of canceling these appointments, Laura used her family’s camper to drive to Lowe’s and use the store’s Wi-Fi connection.

Laura’s service to the College as a whole is above and beyond routine – collaborating with College Lecturers in the creation and revision of degree programs, offering her expertise on potential transfer considerations, and ensuring that students are able to meet their transfer goals upon completion of an OCC degree.  Laura is also called upon to consult in the creation of articulation agreements with partner colleges, as well as international initiatives, ensuring that the articulations work in the best interest of OCC students.

What sets Laura apart in her work is not only her dedication, but her ability to create and maintain relationships, enabling her to reach out to contacts when a transfer issue arises for an OCC student, making her an invaluable resource in creating degree programs and program articulations at OCC and between OCC and four-year institutions.

Upon the move to remote services, Laura also created a guide to general education courses common to high-frequency transfer institutions. This guide made creating course plans for students easier and more accurate, as advisors are able to select general education courses based on the student’s stated transfer goals.

Laura’s work at OCC truly and genuinely embodies OCC’s Guiding Principles because all of her efforts are motivated by providing exceptional service to OCC students.

Thank you, Laura, for your outstanding service to the College and our students.

The recipient of the President’s Award for Excellence at the Divisional Level is Nanci Carmody, Assistant Dean of Business and Social Sciences, who was nominated in the category of “Efficiency and Innovation.”

Nanci is a consistently strong performer.  She has done a wonderful job in managing the adjunct faculty, which is one of her major duties as Assistant Dean, as well as handling student complaints and assisting with multiple committee assignments and School activities.

Assistant Dean Carmody has spent many hours beyond expectations to brainstorm and develop the detailed parameters of The Mentoring and Expanded Performance Review Program, designed to allow for a more “panoramic” approach by having Lecturer II’s assigned to do a more holistic evaluation and mentor adjuncts as needed.  She piloted it with the help of a colleague and continually worked to improve the program based on participant feedback.  Because of their efforts, it is now a model program that has been met with enthusiasm among its participants and has been launched in the spring within the other Schools within Academic Affairs.

This achievement embodies the Innovative, Supportive, and Collaborative Guiding Principles.  The entire mentoring process allows experienced faculty members to provide constructive feedback in a safe environment that is designed to help colleagues be as effective as they can be as teachers.  Mentors also provide a campus connection for their mentees and may inspire them to increase their level of participation in campus life.

The Mentoring and Expanded Performance Review Program is a major contribution to the College because at its core it is designed to ensure teaching excellence, which is critically important in our quest to guarantee that students have the best possible educational experience while here at OCC.  The program also provides a unique professional development opportunity for adjunct faculty.  This is a pathway for well-trained adjuncts who seek career mobility to successfully apply for full-time positions.

It may be that the members of the campus community who benefit most from this program are actually the students because of the teaching excellence and active campus engagement this program inspires.

Thank you, Nanci, for your outstanding efforts on behalf of the adjunct faculty and our students.

This year’s recipient of the President’s Award for Excellence at the College-Wide Level, who was nominated in the category of “Outstanding Service to Students” is Angela Stephen, Bursar.

Angela has always exhibited an exceptional commitment to her role at OCC, but truly went above and beyond expectations in the last year.  While the pandemic impacted operations college-wide, Angela led the transition to remote work for the Bursar’s office.  She coordinated with Financial Aid, Enrollment Services, and IT to target student-messaging about the benefits of enrolling in electronic banking for student refunds.  Despite this outreach, Angela and her staff (significantly reduced to only two in July 2020) still reported to campus on almost a daily basis during the pandemic to ensure the timely analysis of student receivable accounts and disburse over 10,000 student refunds, 4,500 of which were paper checks.

In the midst of this, Angela also spear-headed OCC’s relationship with Nelnet Campus Commerce to roll out a new online student payment portal beginning in Spring 2021, which will provide streamlined payment options.  Students were easily able to submit their tuition payments from the comfort and safety of their homes.

OCC was also the recipient of over $12 million in student financial assistance as a result of the pandemic, and Angela’s department worked with a committee of OCC staff to review applications and award the funds in a timely manner.

During a time when many people were afraid to leave their homes and personal fiscal instability was a concern, Angela was routinely driving her two-hour round-trip commute to ensure that student financial needs were addressed.  By leading the implementation of the payment portal, she made sure students had a safe and secure option to manage their accounts while learning remotely.  Now they have the flexibility to choose from multiple payment options, and we can communicate with them in a more modern way.  Today’s students demand we stay current with technology as well as transact business where and when they want.  Thanks to Angela’s leadership, we have taken huge steps toward meeting those needs and will continue to explore new options to improve convenience and help ensure students have the tools they need for success.

Nothing about this last year has been easy, but Angela persevered, doing what was necessary to make the student experience better.  She recognized the benefits of a strategic vendor partnership and led a successful implementation to provide an expanded level of customer service.  Angela partnered with IT and Enrollment Services to provide a flexible, barrier-free format for students to manage their accounts.

Thank you, Angela, for your enthusiasm and extraordinary efforts on behalf of the students at OCC.

Congratulations to our President’s Award recipients!

I would now like to ask Sara Winchester, Chair of the Return to Campus Committee, to provide you with an update on the College’s protocols and policies relating to employees and students as they return to the campus for the Spring semester.

Thank you.  That concludes this first portion of today’s events.  Please review the workshop schedule and attend the workshop sessions to learn about the progress of the working groups on our Middle States Self-Study.  The links to attend the workshops are available on the Middle States Workshop Agenda.

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