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January 19, 2023

Dr. Larson’s Spring 2023 Colloquium Remarks

Dr. Jon Larson

BOOM! When the Name of the Game is Change and Innovation,
OCC is Having a Transition in Leadership

Thursday, January 19, 2023
Jon H. Larson, Ph.D.

Good morning and welcome to the Spring 2023 academic semester! It is wonderful to see everyone again here in the Grunin Center Theatre.

Thank you, Toni, for being with us today to open our program and coordinate this important event. We welcome you back on campus (we missed you!) and are delighted you are here today as you begin your spring sabbatical leave.

Please acknowledge our interpreters, Jennifer Restucci-Smith and Michelle Malara.

We begin our program by welcoming the distinguished members of our Board of Trustees who have joined us. Please give a warm welcome to:

  • Board of Trustees Chair Jerry Dasti
  • Vice Chair of the Board Linda Novak, who is attending remotely
  • Trustee Charles Muller, Executive Ocean County Superintendent of Schools
  • Former Board Chair Van Thulin, also attending remotely

We thank you for being here today.

BOOM! Here we go! Good morning everyone! Thank you all who are attending in person, and thank you all who are joining us remotely. Welcome!

I am honored to be among you for our first Colloquium of 2023 and my final opportunity to deliver a Colloquium address before I step away from the role of President on June 30th.

I will be brief since we have a busy program today, with updates by each of our Vice Presidents, introductions of new employees and recognition of employees with new responsibilities, presentation of length-of-service awards, and congratulations to new retirees. Then I will wrap up with the presentation of the President’s Awards for Excellence.

I have been in touch with Dr. Pamela Monaco, who begins her presidential duties formally on July 1, 2023, to begin the process of introducing her to the Ocean County community. She and her husband, Donald Kehne, will be here in early February when we will meet with the County Commissioners, some of our Board of Trustee members, the President’s Office staff, and a few Ocean County iconic figures.

Dr. Monaco and her husband will be house-hunting on this trip, and driving around to become familiar with the geography of Toms River and the areas surrounding the College campus.

We will be planning a few other visits before Dr. Monaco takes office when she will be able to meet with key members of our staff and faculty, get to meet a few of the presidents of our U.S. affiliate university partners and Dr. Aaron Fichtner, President of the New Jersey Council of Community Colleges, and perhaps some of our National and State Legislative representatives.

I find her to be a very warm, pleasant, and congenial person whom I believe you will come to know, and like, and admire. My part-time, off-campus, role as Counselor to Dr. Monaco for two years after June 30th, will focus on introducing her to many people from Tuckerton and Manahawkin to Point Pleasant and all points in between.

My second task will be to make continuous progress with our unique opportunities to grow enrollment and revenue for OCC in Egypt. Our goal is to expand the number of Egyptian and U.S. Affiliate university partners as well as expand the degree programs being offered at each locality.

These universities are crucially important to our 3-way baccalaureate degree partnerships, in which OCC teaches and awards our Associate Degree, the host Egyptian universities teach the third year, and the U.S. Affiliate universities teach the fourth year of instruction.

We transfer credits among the three partners, resulting in graduating students receiving three degrees: our Associate Degree and two baccalaureate degrees, one each from the Egyptian university partner and one from the U.S. Affiliate university partner. Some students also persist and receive a Master’s degree from the U.S. Affiliate university partner. You will hear more about all of this when Dr. Eileen Garcia, Vice President of e-Learning and Learning Enterprises provides an update in a few moments.

I must take a moment to emphasize that we and our university partners have a unique opportunity to grow enrollment and revenue that few, if any, others in America have. We have been persistent, but to date we have not seen the payoff.

So, it is very important that we and our partners continue to persist. To that end, Dr. Essam El Kordy, President of Al Alamein National University, will be visiting us at the end of this month, along with the Chairman of his Board of Trustees, Dr. Rouchdy Zahran, to explain the four-member Egyptian Universities Consortium, which Dr. El Kordy heads. They will meet with our Board of Trustees and the Presidents of several U.S. Affiliate Universities with whom we are presently working. Our International Education team and I will be traveling with Dr. El Kordy and Dr. Zahran to four New Jersey university campuses to gain commitments to work with all five consortium member universities in Egypt.

Further, the new Minister of Higher Education in Egypt, Dr. Ayman Ashour, whom we have known and admired for many years, is planning to attend our Commencement Ceremony this coming May. One of his goals is to see the American Community College in Egypt proposal achieved in the very near term, with potential sites at the private Badr University of Cairo campus, and possibly at the Al Alamein National University campus on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea.

One final growth opportunity we believe has significant promise is 3+1 partnerships where we teach the first three years of a four-year university degree. OCC is approved to form such agreements with willing senior universities, both in NJ and out-of-state. Dr. Joe Konopka will elaborate on our recent meetings with William Paterson University and Ramapo College, during his update in a few moments, which seem to hold considerable promise.

On a somewhat less optimistic note, I foreshadow Executive Vice President Sara Winchester’s update on the College’s financial position. We remain in a very strong position, but we must address our expenditures to remain in balance. Sara will share a number of ways that can be done that are not draconian; but we must do them now and remain tight-belted until our enrollment and revenue picture improves.

Let me conclude by saying thank you to each one of you who have worked so diligently and creatively to continually improve Ocean County College during the past 23 years. I have just finished reviewing our final draft Middle States Accreditation Self Study Report and it demonstrates, with evidence aplenty, what a tremendously successful institution we have here at OCC. Alexa Beshara Blauth and her team will be holding an open forum at 11:00, in Bartlett 203, when we break for the workshops. I urge you to attend and see for yourselves the incredible number of ways OCC excels. And please keep your 2021-2026 Strategic Plan pamphlet that was handed out again this morning and review it before the visit by the Middle States team in April!

I promised to be brief. Each year on New Year’s Eve, I make a resolution to be briefer in my presentations. My beloved wife Judith used to coach me, saying, … “There is no such thing as a great speech that is too long, or a speech that fails because it is too short!” I’m sure Abraham Lincoln would agree.

But, once again, I have achieved but a C- on the ‘brevity scale!’ BOOM!

I leave you now with these words from U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, of which I am quite fond:

“You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.”

Thank you all once again for your commitment to OCC and for your kind attention today.

Thank you! Now, each of the vice presidents will share with you some of the many activities and achievements in their areas:

First, Executive Vice President of Finance and Administration Sara Winchester will give her report.

I will begin with an update on the College’s financial position. As Dr. Larson mentioned, we remain financially sound but enrollment did not meet budgeted projections last year and will not again this year. As you may know, enrollment comprises almost 60% of our revenue and in order to remain in balance, expenses must be curtailed. As a result, all vacancies are being reviewed prior to posting and only essential positions will be filled. In addition, we are looking at improving space utilization which will allow us to operate the campus more efficiently. We are working on the FY24 budget now and it is clear that we will need to raise tuition and course fees. Efforts will continue to improve enrollment and revenue from all sources but we will need to monitor expenses closely for the foreseeable future.

Covid-19 Information for the Spring 2023 Semester

Testing is no longer provided on campus, but we are continuing to track positive COVID-19 cases and masks are still available on campus. If you are ill or receive positive test results, contact the Health Reporting Team and direction will be provided.

DUO Implementation

As you know, two-factor authentication to sign-in to OCC systems has been a requirement for employees for some time. Effective the week of February 6, 2023, this requirement will extend to all students. Access to Ocean Connect, Canvas, and off-campus access to Office365 will require DUO authentication. A no-cost token will be provided to students who do not have smart phones. If you or your students have any questions or issues, please contact the IT Helpdesk.

Capital Projects

The design for the library renovation and modernization has been completed and the architects are in the process of producing the documents to go to bid. After the project is awarded, the construction period will be at least 12 months and staff in the building will be relocated. Most library services will be provided online, but a temporary physical location will also be identified.

New music practice rooms are being designed in the old HR suite in the Grunin Building. The expected completion date for this project is October 2023.

The new Administration Building project is currently being redesigned. The original design came in over budget, and adjustments are being made to take remote work practices into consideration. Offices will be smaller, there will be less file cabinets and more flexible work spaces. More details on this project will be provided to staff that will be housed in the building in the near future.


Work on the audit for fiscal year 2022 is complete and a draft audit report issued. The audit cannot be finalized until pension numbers are released by the State, but we are pleased to report that there were no audit findings again this year. Many thanks to the Accounting staff, led by Mary Lancaster and Kathleen Higham, and the Financial Aid staff should also be congratulated.

Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts

Last semester the Grunin Center hosted a two-week dance residency for Ephrat Asherie Dance Company. Part of a grant from the Association of Performing Arts Professionals, the residency included three workshops—two with the Grunin Performing Arts Academy and one with Toms River North Dance Academy. It also included a school performance and public performance of their new piece, UNDERSCORED, which was developed in part at the Grunin Center.

Assistant Director of Education and Community Engagement Jaclyn Wood organized the first Schools n’ Stage performance of the 2022-2023 school year with Sena y Verbo: Teatro de Sordos (Mexican Theater for the Deaf) and partnered with Professors Saundra Piscatelli and Kathy Basilotto to bring ASL and Interpreter Training Program students to both the show and to a special workshop with the company on non-verbal communication. This program was funded by Ocean County Board of Commissioners and Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation.

Two pop-up concerts were organized in the Student Center. The first featured the string quartet Brooklyn Rider and the second featured Matt and Eryn O’Ree, who held a guitar workshop for OCC Music Club students and performed later that evening in the Gia Maione Prima Theater.

The Novins Planetarium

Congratulation to Associate Director Cara Muscio, who was nominated to be the president of the Mid-Atlantic Planetarium Society. The Planetarium, in collaboration with the Toms River School District, brought 1,300 sixth graders into the dome to learn about the Reasons for the Seasons throughout the Fall. Approximately 1,000 third grade students from the district are scheduled to come through the Planetarium in the Spring. This will bring over 2,300 local students to more than 40 live shows that reinforce the Next Generation Science Standards and align with New Jersey’s science curriculum.

Roman Zavada returned in mid-November as well, performing his original composition Resonances Boreales under a 360-degree film of the northern lights.

Workforce and Professional Education

The Ocean County Achievement Center located on the OCC campus expanded its mission to provide services to adults of Ocean County. New and existing community partners will help reach disconnected youth and adults in need of additional education.

Workforce and Professional Education staff continue to build relationships with local businesses. WPE completed an eight-module, customized Leadership Training Program for Trinity Solar, and is now preparing to offer a multi-day Excel Training. Toms River Municipal Utilities Authority was also provided a comprehensive Excel Training program.

New cohorts of apprentices began occupational training programs this Fall, including 12 Community Health Workers (CHW), 12 Medical Assistants, and 6 students in the newly-approved pre-apprenticeship program in Medical Billing and Coding. The CHWs are part of a collaborative project with the NJ Department of Health, and are taking part in our ‘Earn While You Learn’ Model. These students take an imbedded competency exam which is worth nine college credits.

The Work Readiness Assistant Program (WRAP) Grant was awarded in early October, at $252,000. The youth-focused program, which will run through September 30, 2023, will serve at least 42 participants. WPE will provide an in-person, seven-week training course that offers on-the-job learning, industry-valued credentials, a leadership academy, mentorship, follow-up services, and additional work readiness skill development.

In the Fall, the Grants Administration Office offered a comprehensive training series for current and potential grantees at OCC, as well a project director’s roundtable meeting for all current employees working with grants to collaborate and share best practices. These training sessions, focused on supportive engagement in post-award compliance, will continue in the future.

In FY22, the Grants Administration Office submitted over 20 competitive applications for funding, which resulted in just over $5 million in new grant awards, and many new projects across campus.

OCC Foundation

Under the leadership of Executive Director Ken Malagiere and the Foundation Board, the Foundation received three major gifts. Over $835,000 was received from the Hirair and Anna Hovnanian Foundation, which will assist the College in pursuing an AAS Medical Lab Technician Degree and provide equipment for the School of Nursing and Health Sciences. Second, the Foundation received $500,000 from the Dover-Brick Beach First Aid Squad to support students in the Health Sciences and to promote public health programming to the greater Ocean County Community. Lastly, Marlene and the late Michael Perlmutter have agreed to an additional gift, bringing their total commitment to the Grunin Center Lobby expansion project to over $700,000, putting the Foundation over their fundraising goal for this institutional initiative.

The Foundation’s Legacy Campaign launched just this past August has already received over $1.5M in gifts and pledges. This is a multi-year campaign with a goal of $25M by 2025. The Foundation raised over $82,000 in this year’s Annual Appeal. Many thanks to all who participated in this campaign and who support the Foundation events throughout the year!

This semester the Blauvelt Speaker Series will welcome Olympic Gold Medalist Mia Hamm on March 8 and Presidential Historian Michael Beschloss on April 25.

College Relations

In October, awards were presented at the National Council for Marketing and Publications.

OCC won gold in the Digital Category for “Camps on Campus” catalog and in the Interior Signage/Displays Category, the Novins Planetarium won for its “Return to Campus” decals and signage. Also won was the silver award in the Magazine Category for “Ocean Views.”

The web team collaborated with Academic Advising and Transfer Services on a Transfer Guide by Semester, which provides concise semester-by-semester guidelines in an accessible, easy-to-read infographic format.

The TV studio has begun production on a new thirty-minute monthly program, Shore of Support, which will feature non-profit organizations in our area. The TV studio is also collaborating with faculty and staff to create promotional videos for courses offered here at the College.

Ocean County College Recruitment Video Presentation – College Relations and the Foundation worked together on a brand-new recruitment video which is intended to engage a wide variety of stakeholders. The video will be shown for you now…

Dr. Joseph Konopka, Vice President of Academic Affairs

  • On November 9, Dr. Shaun Harper, leading Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion expert, discussed solutions-oriented methods of prompting tangible progress toward bridging inequity gaps. Dr. Harper’s presentation was free and open to the public. OCC faculty members had the additional opportunity to join Dr. Harper for an equitable instruction-focused workshop.
  • An update from Dr. Amir Sadrian includes:

In fall 2022, 35 different HyFlex courses were offered in 65 sections in the Schools of STEM, Business and Social Sciences, and Arts and Humanities, where students decided which class they wanted to join remotely or in person. That was more than doubling the number of HyFlex sections offered in the summer of 2022.

One of the original concerns about letting students decide when to join remotely or in person was that they might stop coming to classes. We now have data that refute this notion, as many of our faculty have seen it in their own classes. Of the courses, there are differences in remote attendance based on the subject, days, time, and faculty. However, on average only 14.4% of students joined remotely in any given class, based on nearly 1,300 students in these 65 HyFlex sections. We also analyzed the performance of these 1,300 students, of whom about 1/3 (i.e., 466 students) did not join remotely at all during the entire semester and 2/3 (i.e., 823 students) joined at least one class remotely. It turns out the average score of those who attended the class remotely once or more was 79 vs. 73 for students who did not attend remotely. We are committed to our HyFlex strategy to provide more flexibility to our students and help them achieve their educational goals. Fall data suggest HyFlex is contributing to better learning as measured by final grade, which in turn we believe would improve retention and persistence. To that end, we are increasing the number of HyFlex courses and sections to 63 and 95 for this Spring semester, respectively.

In this semester, we are also offering 13 courses jointly between Toms River and SEC in 26 video-connected sections.

A Faculty Development update from Dean Catherine Mancuso:

In Fall 2022, professional development for faculty was offered on various topics ranging from HyFlex to the effects of long COVID. The Fall Lecturer and Adjunct Institutes included presentations on using apps in the classroom, project-based learning, and engaging Gen Z. Plenary speaker Dr. Adrienne Phelps-Coco from Harvard University spoke on engaging students in the HyFlex classroom during the Lecturer Institute. The Faculty Development and Innovation Center launched the Lunch and Learn Series and had events on topics that included the effects of long COVID, disability and counseling services, and “Teaching Diversity, Anti-Racism, and Inclusion through opposition in Great Works of Literature.”

In order to best prepare faculty for more HyFlex course sections this spring, HyFlex basic training and a HyFlex course development series were offered in November and December and again in the early weeks of January. Our Spring Lecturer and Adjunct Institutes will focus on the theme Best Practices: Enhancing the Student Experience.

  • In the Tutoring Center, Brianna DeCicco, Associate Director of Academic and Tutoring Support Services, and her staff have been busy expanding their services and engaging students more than ever. In the first nine weeks of the Fall 2022 term, they provided their services to 10% more unique students compared to the previous fall term. They are getting more group tutoring session requests from faculty. These group tutoring sessions are conducted in class in HyFlex modality. The Tutoring Center’s QR codes, which connect students with the tutoring scheduling system, have been scanned over 688 times this semester. This scheduling option was not available to our students last Fall.
  • For Fall 2023, the Center for Academic Success and the STEM department, in collaboration with our industry partner CompTIA, will roll out a Career and Technical Education-focused College Academy at Lakewood High School. The CTE focus for the Lakewood Academy will be Computer Science (Artificial Intelligence and Cybersecurity), Engineering, and Health Sciences Technology. Lakewood High School will select 25 rising eighth-grade students with overall GPAs between 1.85 and 2.4 to participate in the academy. The goal of the program is to assist each participating student with achieving a high school diploma, an associate degree from OCC, and a bachelor’s degree from Kean University. To support students in their effort to achieve their degrees, the Lakewood Academy program will utilize the College Readiness Now model, which focuses on getting at-risk students college and career ready.

In addition to the OCC Lakewood Academy, the STEM department will be establishing a Camden Dream Center Technology Training School that will offer enrichment programs in literacy, STEM, and further support the college and career development of Lakewood students and its community.

In the School of STEM:

  • Computer Studies College Lecturer II Joe Brickley and STEM Dean Dr. Sylvia Riviello met with Rowan University to discuss a 2+2 articulation agreement, which will ensure the courses being developed at OCC will offer students a seamless transfer to Rowan’s computer systems technology degree. Mr. Brickley is being trained through the Cisco Academy and receiving certifications in the areas of CCNA and Cybersecurity Ops to teach several Cisco courses at OCC in collaboration with WPE. Through the funding awarded to us from the Centers of Workforce Innovations, the following courses are being developed: foundations of computer forensics, computing fundamentals, and penetration testing fundamentals.
  • Computer Studies College Lecturer II Ken Michalek is serving as a coordinator for OCC at AI Incubator Network meetings. In the Fall, he was requested to give an overview of OCC’s AI program to the other institutions involved in the network, focusing on how OCC used grant funds to build an AI lab. In addition, Mr. Michalek presented to Toms River middle and high school students about OCC’s AI and Cybersecurity programs. He has taken the Coursera machine learning specialization to ramp up on new topics and has prepared course materials for CSIT-192, Machine Learning, so it can be offered in our next summer session. This is the third course in our certification program. We anticipate that the last course for AI certification will be completed this Summer and be offered in Fall 2023.
  • Biology College Lecturer II Lincoln Simmons reported that OCC has successfully completed the articulation agreement with Kean University for the Sustainability Certificate. Kean Ocean has articulated the certificate and degree into its BS in Sustainability. Students can earn the certificate, enter the job market, then complete their associate and bachelor’s degrees while being employed. OCC has six students completing their certificates next semester; all received Foundation scholarships. A plan is being implemented to ensure all our graduates are successfully placed.
  • Biology College Lecturer II John McElroy, Mr. Simmons, and lab technician Emily Stone have been awarded $4,000 for their Industrial Hygiene/Hazardous Materials Management/ Sustainability proposal based on specified Open Textbook Collaborative criteria. Their project is to develop a laboratory manual and supporting course materials to serve in a variety of environmental science courses that will reduce costs for students by replacing traditional vendor-produced course materials. This project is awarded by the Advisory Council of the OTC, a New Jersey higher education project funded by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • Students from ENGR 198, Autodesk Inventor: 3D Design and Prototyping, took a field trip to the Infinity Spark laboratory at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. This is the first of an ongoing program where students from this course will present their individual design proposals to members of the Infinity Spark lab and receive both feedback on that day as well as mentoring as they continue to refine their products through various phases of prototyping.
  • The Fall 2022 cohort for the AS.ENGR students reached a new milestone for non-traditional students. The percentage of female new students is approximately 24% (on par with the national average for female student graduates in engineering). Between 2018 and 2021, the maximum was 16% and the minimum was 13%. Overall, the program reached 20% of female students in Fall 2022. The program also continues to grow in the number of Hispanic students, with 26% for the new students in Fall 2022 and 21% for the overall program. Both numbers seem to be above the national average for Hispanic students graduating with an engineering degree, which is approximately 14%.

The School of Business and Social Sciences reports:

  • The Michael Camillus Project, spearheaded by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, trains police officers in addictions counseling. Recently, the Prosecutor’s Office has agreed to continue funding the program and send another cohort of officers to OCC for the six-course sequence required for the addictions counseling certificate. Interested officers can then continue toward licensure by completing their 3,000 hours of fieldwork.
  • On November 8, OCC expanded its apprenticeship program by officially signing Hospitality, Recreation, and Tourism Management student Chelsea Buro as the first New Jersey state-approved apprentice in the field of “hotel worker.” Hotel LBI became an officially approved worksite for hotel apprenticeships for OCC HRTM students. This apprenticeship was facilitated by the work of HRTM College Lecturer II Sean Bips and Jannette Ball, WPE Manager of Apprenticeship Programs. This opportunity builds upon the work done by Dr. Patricia Gianotti, College Lecturer II in Addictions Counseling, and Dr. Rosann Bar, Dean of the School of Business and Social Sciences, in developing credit-based apprenticeships for OCC students.
  • In Fall 2022, the Business Innovation Consortium reached back to pre-COVID levels of interest and participation through coordinated and aggressive marketing by the Business Studies and Student Life teams.
  • On December 5, College Lecturer Bips was invited to become an official member of the New Jersey Advisory Board of Hospitality and Tourism. Along with representing OCC’s HRTM program at the state level, there are several areas that the Hospitality and Tourism Advisory Committee will need to address over time, including identifying strategies to increase the number of students from underrepresented groups, strengthening the link between secondary schools and postsecondary institutions to increase credit-bearing opportunities, identifying current and potential apprenticeships for students enrolled in state-approved career and technical education programs in the field, and aligning new and emerging fields to current CIP programs

In the School of Arts and Humanities:

  • Dr. Jennifer Dellner, Professor of English and Literature, participated in the 44th Annual Conference of the Association for Interdisciplinary Studies held at Sonoma State University in California. Based on work for a book chapter in progress, Dr. Dellner presented “Pedagogies of the Distressed: Interdisciplinary and the Great Afterburn,” focusing on the return to campus after the pandemic’s lockdown phase, the shifts in student learning, practices of scholarship, and co-curricular life that have begun to emerge, and how remote and hybrid courses are finding new and uneasy places in the curriculum. This interactive session examined interdisciplinary practices of teaching and scholarship as potential structures of pedagogies of care, liberation, and “radical hope.”
  • English College Lecturer II T. Madison Peschock’s proposal, “Learning from Past Mistakes: A Look Back at F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Life in ‘Babylon Revisited,’” was accepted by for the North Eastern MLA Conference, which will be held in Niagara Falls on March 23-26, 2023. Dr. Peschock will present at the conference in person.

The School of Nursing shares:

  • Fifty-eight students completed the Nursing Program in December 2022 and are eligible to take the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses that is required to obtain licensure to practice.
  • Ninety new students will begin the Nursing Program in the Spring semester. Orientation for new students was held on January 10, during which students met the Nursing faculty and staff and were introduced to program policies and procedures, received information on the use of their electronic textbooks, and were offered strategies to support their success to complete the program. Representatives from the Student Nurses Organization also reviewed the organization’s goals and provided lunch to encourage introductions between students, staff, and faculty.

The Library and the Center for Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights Education:

  • The OCC Library Modernization Project is underway and will bring to campus modernized library spaces serving multiple uses. There will be an upgraded classroom/multipurpose room, more individual and group study rooms, a collaborative workspace and learning commons area, and greater access to technology. Several study rooms will be equipped with conferencing equipment, allowing for collaborative meetings and discussions that are both in-person and virtual. Several rooms will be set up to host presentations and film screenings and will be available to schedule for use. The Podcast Station will have a new, dedicated space.
  • The Modernization Project will begin on June 1, 2023, with all offices in the Library building being relocated to other buildings on campus. The Library will be in the Russell Building, where there will be a staffed computer lab for student use and several areas where people can work with librarians and other staff. Information Literacy classes will be taught in the classrooms or virtually, depending on the professor’s or lecturer’s preference. Access to library resources will be through the library electronic resource collections, and students, faculty, and staff will be able to request print materials through the Interlibrary Loan service. Library faculty and staff will also be taking the Pop-Up Library to multiple locations across campus and to the SEC.
  • Center for Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights Education Director Dr. Ali Botein-Furrevig had her fourth book published, Beyond the Pale: Shtetl Roots, Emigrant Shed a New York City Love Story, a meticulously researched history of Polish and Russian Jewry with family anecdotes about her own ancestor’s journey from the life in the Pale of Settlement to achieving the American dream in New York City.
  • Dr. Botein-Furrevig coordinated the display of the Simon Wiesenthal Center traveling exhibit, The Courage to Remember, in the OCC library and hosted an evening reception. She also collaborated with History College Lecturer II Justin Pfeifer on writing a new course, “History of the Holocaust.” Dr. Pfeifer will teach and Dr. Botein-Furrevig will guest lecture on various topics in her field of research and expertise.

3+1 programs

As Dr. Larson mentioned, an opportunity for growth across all of the schools at OCC is with the 3+1 programs. As a reminder, we were approved by the state of NJ for the advanced and continuous studies program previously. This academic program allows OCC to enter into agreements with 4 year colleges and universities to offer the third year of courses for an academic program at OCC. In our initial application, we were approved for programs with NJCU and Southern New Hampshire University. We are currently in discussions with both William Patterson University and Ramapo to expand our offerings in this area. There is a great opportunity for program expansion with these types of agreements both domestically and internationally.


  • Nursing College Lecturer II Sharon Scrofine completed a Doctorate of Nursing Practice in Nursing Education from Monmouth University.
  • Nursing College Lecturer II Tamila Purpuro completed a Doctorate of Philosophy in Nursing Education Leadership from Kean University.
  • Computer Studies College Lecturer II Joe Brickley successfully defended his doctoral dissertation topic to complete the degree requirements for a Doctorate of Science in Cybersecurity Leadership, Management and Policy.
  • Philosophy College Lecturer II Dr. Mark Westmoreland was nominated to the Committee on Philosophy in Two-Year Colleges for the American Philosophical Association.
  • Catherine Pontoriero, Librarian (Associate Professor), received her Master of Fine Arts from Southern New Hampshire University.
  • Anastacia McCloskey, College Lecturer II, received her Master of Educational Technology from Boise State University.
  • Malia Padalino, Information Access Technician, received her Master of Arts in English from Monmouth University.

Dr. Jerry Racioppi, Vice President of Student Affairs

It has been a very busy year in Student Affairs thus far. I am excited to share the following highlights with you from our areas.

  • From the Financial Aid office: According to the latest update, a total of 7,562 unduplicated students have applied for financial aid at OCC. Our financial aid office has disbursed Pell Grant funds to a total of 1,968 students in the amount of $9,129,874.15. That means that 26% of our financial aid applicants are Pell eligible and, on average, received $4,639.16 in Pell Grant funds each. That is well in excess of what it costs to attend OCC. In order to receive Pell Grant, a student is probably close to or in poverty. I think that gives us valuable insight as to the challenges that many of our students face.

Also from the financial aid department, a total of 463 students requested student loans in the amount of $2,556,193. I think it is good that the number of borrowers is significantly lower than the number of grant recipients. Many thanks to the hardworking members of the financial aid team for all their efforts to deliver accurate aid packages quickly in service to our students. I also want to give the financial aid team a shout out and celebrate the fact that they have had their fourth yearly audit in a row with no findings.

  • I am pleased to welcome our New Assistant Director for the Veterans and Military Resources Center, Ms. Christina Hernandez. Christina has gotten right to work. She is traveling with veteran student leaders to a national student veteran leadership conference and also has organized a group of peer institutions who also have a CEVISS grant to share ideas and strategies for student success.
  • Athletics, led by Ilene Cohen, had a wonderful Fall semester. Two student-athletes (women’s soccer’s Juliana Rettino and men’s soccer’s Johnny Hart) earned All-American honors at season’s end, and our women’s soccer team (led by Region XIX Coach of the Year Breeana Cassidy) competing in the national tournament. Esports sophomore Jackson French captured the national championship in Super Smash Bros. For those of you who are keeping score, this is our second national championship in eSports. Kudos to Coach John Rule for his excellent leadership of this team!

Student Life, under the leadership of Jen Fazio, reports the following:

  • The food pantry served 435 students this past Fall and hosted three mobile pantry events. In addition, many students and their families had Thanksgiving dinner this past year thanks to your support and donations along with the support of our partners.
  • Student Life staff are excited to continue to provide new ways to engage with students. During the Fall semester, the Accounting Club and the National Communication Association were both officially chartered as new student organizations; the Chess Club was reactivated; and, through a partnership with Disability Services, Student Life will be rolling out another honor society membership opportunity for students. The organization is Delta Alpha Pi, the International Honor Society for students with disabilities.
  • TRIO Student Support Services, under the leadership of Alison Noone, doubled active student enrollment in the program from Fall 2021 to Fall 2022. This helped TRIO end the Fall semester with over 150 participants, plus a waiting list of qualified students seeking an opening in the program. The program features many academic supports for program participants tailored to the student needs, leading to very impressive results. In the Fall 2022 semester, 49% of active TRIO Student Support Services participants achieved a GPA of 3.0+, while 27% had a GPA of 3.5+.
  • The Registration and Records Department, led by Janine Emma, continues to enhance operations through the use of technology. In particular, the Department continues to move towards a paperless environment. The Department also continues to work hand in hand with IT to incorporate underutilized functions of the Colleague system into the daily operations of the department.
  • Disability Services, led by Jamie Priori, continues to experience increases in students requesting accommodations. 533 students received accommodations during the Fall 2022 semester. This is a 18.9% increase from Fall 2021. Thank you to the hardworking disability services team for continuing to deliver excellent service and support for our students with disabilities and to the instructional staff for implementing these accommodation plans so we are in compliance with the requirements of ADA.
  • Career Services, led by Director Deborah Kepics, hosted numerous events and seminars both to OCC students and to K-12 students in the area, and is also working on campus to expand its service to students. You might see them holding office hours in the Student Center to try to reach more students this semester.
  • The Testing Center, led by Lorie Trachtenberg, continues to administer lots of tests for various reasons for our students. There were nearly 1,200 tests in the Fall semester, including 610 class tests for our OCC students, 51 TEAS tests for Pre-Nursing, 288 High School Equivalency tests, and 135 Praxis Certification tests.
  • The EOF program, led by Laura Rickards, continues to inspire wonderful levels of academic achievement in their students, with 10 students nominated as EOF Graduate Achievement Awardees, students with GPA’s 3.2 or higher. Seven of these students are nominated for Outstanding Academic Achievement and have GPA’s 3.5 or above.
  • The Enrollment Services teams, led by Dr. Sheenah Hartigan, were extremely busy this past Fall semester on the phones. During the Fall 2022 semester, the HUB team made over 20,000 outgoing calls to support enrollment efforts, and the Success team made over 8,300 calls to support retention efforts.

Advising, Enrollment and Retention Services, Academic Affairs, and IT are continuing to collaborate to implement and expand usage of Instructor Alerts (Faculty CX) via Advise CRM.

In Fall 2022, access to Instructor Alerts was expanded to approximately 70 face-to-face and e-learning instructors. Instructors were trained on utilization of the alerts, and the outreach plan for the Success Coaches (under the supervision of Dr. Kathleen Mohr) was reviewed. In Fall 2022, a total of 1,202 alerts were issued to 999 unique students by 26 instructors. Missed assignments was the most utilized alert, making up 39% of all alerts.

Advising and Enrollment Services conducted a survey of participating instructors from Fall to assess training efforts and the efficacy of the alerts and outreach efforts. The survey received a 73% response rate. While 94% of instructors indicated that the alerts worked well, about half of the instructors stated that creating additional alerts would help them more accurately report concerns. Subsequently, meetings with the instructors have been scheduled for January to compile more feedback and improve the alerts for Spring 2023.

Instructors may continue to have access to these alerts in Spring 2023, with adjustments made to participants in collaboration with Academic Affairs and e-learning. Training will be offered to any new instructors or those wishing to review the information and ask questions.

Enrollment Services, with support from many other departments from across campus, hosted several successful events during the Fall semester. For the first time in three years, the Guidance Counselor Breakfast was held in the Conference Center in October and was very well-attended by over 50 counselors from across Ocean County. Counselors not only were treated to breakfast and lunch, but also learned more about Financial Aid, mental health support services from high school to college, our Early College program, and Career Services, amongst other topics. The highlight of the event was a student panel of recent graduates from the class of 2022 sharing their transitional experiences from high school to Ocean County College and giving great insight into student decision making and behaviors.

  • Speaking of student behaviors, the Counseling Center, led by Dr. Kate Pandolpho, continues to be quite busy helping our students with the many challenges they face as they pursue their goals. Since July 2022, there have been a total of 1,033 counseling sessions. For perspective, that is more than the total number of sessions delivered for the entire 2019 fiscal year. During that same period, the CARE team managed 379 reports of concerning student behaviors. In order to combat suicidality on campus, four counseling team members have become certified instructors in Question, Persuade, and Refer (QPR) and Mental Health First Aid (MHFA), expanding the capability to train more students, staff, and faculty on these evidence-based suicide and mental health practices. All staff members of the Student Affairs division will be trained in QPR; so far, 68 staff members have completed the training.
  • The Advising staff, led by Anna Regan, has conducted a total of 3,435 in-person academic advising appointments and another 1,929 remote advising appointments with students this fiscal year since July 1. They are also hard at work building out curriculum tracks in our student planning system.

Curriculum tracks allow advisors to enter a complete course plan for students with the click of one button. Benefits of utilizing curriculum tracks include:

  • Reducing the time needed for an advisor to complete a plan for a student
  • Providing a student with a comprehensive plan, highlighting course sequences, semester-specific courses, and a timeline for graduation
  • Increased accuracy in advising and ability of more advisors to advise in specialized programs
  • Institutional ability to understand which courses students will need in a given semester
  • Ability to create special tracks geared to transfer or specialized curricular areas

Currently, curriculum tracks are created for 20 degree and certificate programs, with the goal of completion for all programs by April 2023. Ongoing training on the use of this new feature is available.

  • Heading South to Manahawkin, the staff of the SEC have been busy at work serving their students and reaching out to the local community. This past Fall, the SEC staff welcomed Guidance Counselor teams from Lacey, Southern Regional, and Barnegat High Schools. This gave them an opportunity to bring awareness to and promote our facility in Southern Ocean County. These visits gave the counselors a chance to see classes in action, students connecting and working in the student lounge areas, engage in discussions with our advising team about course opportunities, and hear directly from student representatives about experiences and opportunities at the SEC.

Many thanks to all student affairs team members for continuing to innovate, to work hard, and to work collaboratively with everyone on campus. I also want to thank all our partners on campus for your continued involvement and support of the programs and services that we offer to support student access and success here at OCC.

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

General Meeting – Spring 2023

The e-Learning Department hosted its semi-annual Faculty General Meeting on January 17. The theme of the meeting was, “Is it Fake or Real? How to Identify Fraudulent Students and Coursework in a Virtual Classroom.” The e-Learning administrators explained how students may use artificial intelligence to commit financial aid fraud. Faculty were trained to assess a student’s participation in the class and document and report suspicious student behavior.

Immediately following the general meeting, two breakout sessions were facilitated by the e-Learning team members. Breakout Room I: e-Learning Highlights and Infomercials featuring a virtual tour for the faculty and lecturers of the new e-BreakRoom. The e-BreakRoom is a digital repository of educational resources and course setup documentation to assist faculty with implementing the department’s best practices and standards for teaching an online course. Also, updates were given on Simple Syllabus and Honorlock initiatives.

Breakout Room II: Maximize Your Presence in the Virtual Classroom explored ways to encourage and strengthen student engagement through the following educational strategies: using the course interactions to drive student engagement and aligning instructor methodology to promote student success in an online class.

Student Orientation Mandate

Starting this Spring 2023, e-Learning online classes will require all students to complete the proctored “Get Started Orientation Quiz” through our proctoring vendor, Honorlock. The quiz will require each student to take a photo and present their government-issued identification to verify and authenticate the student’s identity to access the course content. The content in the course will not populate until the student completes the orientation. The e-Learning Department is collaborating with Student Affairs to notify the students of this new mandate. The mandatory quiz information is posted in the class syllabus and announcements, which students can access and review five days before the official start date.

e-Learning Programs Total 32

The e-Learning Department has collaborated with the Academic Deans, Workforce Development, Student Services, and College Relations to build, market, and promote our 7.5-week degree educational programs and certificate offerings for the 2023 Fall term. These plans will provide students with a recommended series of courses (avoiding toxic combinations) to complete their coursework within two years.

Open Educational Resources

Every time a new course is developed, OER as our primary source of scholarly work used in the development. There are 47 online courses with OER content across all academic subject areas, which equates to 24% of the online courses being offered. The department plans to have over 40% of the online courses using OER material by the 2023 Fall semester.

Simple Syllabus – January 2023 Phase II

Our pilot and early Fall use of Simple Syllabus were mentioned in our last meeting. Simple Syllabus is a centralized template-driven platform that allows students to create and publish interactive class syllabi and allows online students access to their course syllabus five days before the official course start date. In the 2022 Fall term, the software was fully implemented in all 241 e-Learning sections. The Fall online syllabi were viewed more than 38,000 times by over 5,100 duplicated students.

International Programs

Moving to our International endeavors, we are preparing for the start of the Ocean/Kean/Badr (2+1+1) program by getting the proposal approved in Egypt, training personnel, and recruiting students. In addition to this current partnership, we are also working to process the proposals for separate bridge programs (1+3 and 2+2) with Badr University.

Last month, Egypt’s homeland security approved the OCC/Al Alamein University/William Paterson University partnership memorandum of agreement (MOA). The approved MOA is now forwarded to the Supreme Council of the National University to approve the programs academically.

From January 30 through February 4, Al Alamein International University President Dr. Essam El Kordy, and the Board of Trustees Chair Dr. Rushdy Zahran, will visit OCC’s campus. The visit will include meetings with William Paterson University, Kean University, and Rutgers University-Camden representatives. It will also discuss the logistics of the consortium between four National Universities in Egypt and OCC and its affiliates for 2+1+1 agreements on six programs to be offered for the academic year 2023-2024.

Additionally, Badr University starts recruiting students for the OCC/Kean Business program this Spring for cohorts beginning in Summer/Fall 2023.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

The diversity, equity, and inclusion employee survey officially closed on October 3, 2022. Overall, 1,124 employees were sent the survey. Of these, 405 answered at least one question, giving a response rate of 36.0%. The DEI Committee met in late October to review the results, which will be shared in aggregate form with the College community soon. Next month, students will be sent a similar survey to measure the extent to which diversity and inclusion play an integral role on our campus from the student perspective.

In addition to campus surveys, the DEI Committee is also working to organize a faculty/lecturer workshop for the summer of 2023 in partnership with Monmouth University’s Social Justice Academy. Faculty and lecturers selected to participate in the workshop will complete a two-week summer academy through coursework that focuses on disrupting educational injustice and a project that can be implemented in the classroom.

Thank you to the Vice Presidents for sharing achievements and activities with us. And that’s only a brief summary of their projects. So many great things continue to occur at Ocean County College.

Now, at this time, if you look at the screen for the next few minutes, you will see listings of all of our new employees and employees with new titles and responsibilities. Congratulations to all! We welcome all of our new employees and congratulate employees who have new position responsibilities and title changes.

Now, I would like to recognize employees for twenty, thirty, and forty years of service:

Twenty Years of Service

  • Audrey Dvorak, Office Coordinator, School of Nursing and Health Sciences
  • Jen Fazio, Director of Student Life
  • Maria Galindo, Administrative Assistant I
  • Jan Kirsten, Executive Director of College Relations
  • Lee Kobus, College Lecturer II in Humanities and Fine Arts
  • Catherine Pontoriero, Librarian, Reference Services/Associate Professor
  • Elaine Schardien, Assistant Director of Academic Success
  • Ellie Younger, Special Assistant to the Chief Information Officer

Thirty Years of Service

  • Donald George, Instructor of Computer Science
  • Duane Grembowicz, Associate Professor of Science
  • Gary Silvestri, Adjunct Associate Professor of Business Studies

Forty Years of Service

  • Robert Roth, Adjunct Associate Professor of Business Studies

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

  • Dr. Antoinette Clay, Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs, 28 years
  • Robert Furstoss, Instructor of English, 34 years
  • Scott Heilman, Assistant Professor of Health and Human Performance, 46 years
  • Marc Labella, Associate Professor of Science, 17 years
  • Bridget Root, Assistant Registrar, 36 years

Congratulations to all of our retirees. We are deeply appreciative of your many years of service to Ocean County College and sincerely 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 efforts above-and-beyond expectations. 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 again 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 2023. As I call your name, please come to the stage to accept your award and have a seat until all award recipients are announced.

The recipient of the President’s Award for Excellence at the Department Level is Thomas Granit, Lead HVAC Technician, who was nominated in the category of “Work Environment.”

Tom began his employment at OCC in July 2019 as a General Maintenance Technician. In January 2020, Facilities created an in-house Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) apprenticeship program for promising Maintenance Technicians to provide an opportunity for employee growth and to assist in retaining strong staff members. Tom was selected as the program’s first apprentice, and he successfully completed the program in February 2022. He was promoted to HVAC Technician, filling a critical role within the Facilities department.

Tom fully committed himself to his new role, attending classes, seminars, and trainings in the field of HVAC and controls. In less than a year, Tom has become the leader on the second shift and is responsible for ensuring that HVAC equipment, worth millions of dollars, is kept in prime operational condition.

From summer 2021 through summer 2022, after the Administration Building’s cooling tower was damaged beyond repair, the HVAC team faced the ongoing challenge of delicately balancing the temperature in the building to enable staff to continue working onsite until a new unit was purchased. Tom played a critical role in making that happen.

Tom has proven himself to be extremely reliable, dependable, and adaptable. He expanded his role not only in the HVAC department, but has also been a mentor to the General Building Maintenance (GBM) second shift staff. This encompasses training them in the preventive maintenance of exhaust fans, air handlers and pumps, to name a few.

Additionally, Tom has become certified in Building Automations Systems (BAS). BAS is a software system network designed to connect and automate HVAC functions inside buildings. It alerts Facilities to any HVAC issues and allows for remote diagnostics, both of which provide faster response time and more efficient use of personnel. Tom works closely with his Supervisor on monitoring the BAS, which technology is ever-changing, requiring constant adaptability.

Tom is the first to respond to campus concerns and work order requests. He provides valuable input when collaborating with his co-workers, and serves as his Supervisor’s “right hand.” He will always complete a thorough inspection and makes sound recommendations for a plan of action, based upon his findings. As a result, Tom reduces OCC’s reliance on outside HVAC contractors.

Tom has shown great flexibility with respect to his shifts to make sure equipment ‘down time’ is minimal. He has filled in while his Supervisor is off-site, without hesitation, and with the confidence of the entire Facilities team.

Thank you, Tom, for your commitment to professional growth, your willingness to mentor others, and your efforts to keep our employees and students comfortable!

This year we have two recipients of the President’s Award for Excellence at the Division-Wide Level. The first is Cara Dubitsky, Director of HR Operations, who was nominated in the category of “Efficiency and Innovation.”

In 2019, Cara joined OCC as Information Systems Supervisor in Human Resources. Today, she is Director of Human Resources Operations.

Cara is a consistently strong performer whose commitment to the College is evident in all of her work. Cara continuously steps up wherever coverage is lacking. For example, last year, a critical vacancy in the Office of Human Resources resulted from the abrupt departure of the Assistant Director of Pensions and Benefits, and Cara stepped up to help. However, coverage for this vacancy went well beyond the normal scope of pensions and benefits.

There were concerns with individuals who were furloughed during the pandemic that caused frustration and anger as the employees waited for the State to proceed with pension buybacks and credit. This was a long and arduous process. Although the College could do nothing to encourage the State to move more quickly, Cara continued her communication with the State and with the affected employees and provided reassurance to them until, only recently, the process was able to get underway to correct the problem.

Cara made several major contributions that deserve recognition. She took on the management of the existing COVID Health Reporting Team and provided training, process improvement, and effective communication to the team. The process was simplified and Cara provided helpful direction to team members that they hadn’t previously had.

Cara was the co-project leader for the NeoEd implementation, the system replacing PeopleAdmin for applicant tracking. As the overall technical representative on this project, Cara focused on the implementation of the modules supporting requisitions, recruiting, applicant tracking, manager control, and other needed tools, such as performance management and training administration platforms. She led the development of training for the recruiting module and continues to fine-tune the system in its first year of use.

Cara also led the implementation of Web Time Entry across many of the hourly employee groups, which streamlined the manual production and processing of paper time sheets into a system-generated time-keeping process. She recently undertook a review of the Colleague automated leave tool and is preparing for set-up, testing, training, and implementation of the project. When completed, the hundreds of absence reporting forms received monthly by Human Resources will be eliminated.

When Cara sees something that needs to be fixed, she works to find a solution. She is a team player who leads by example. Her attitude is contagious. Her actions ensure that employees can focus on doing their best work, thereby benefiting our students.

Cara embodies the principles of innovation and collaboration in all that she does. She regularly identifies ways to improve processes and service that affect the whole campus. For this reason, we are pleased to recognize Cara for her role in assisting all employees across the campus.

The second recipient of the President’s Award for Excellence at the Division-Wide Level is Dr. Sylvia Riviello, Dean of the School of Stem. She was nominated in the category of “New Markets.”

Dr. Riviello started at OCC in July 2019 as the School of Stem Dean. Since that time, she has been a strong leader at OCC. In her position as Dean, Sylvia is responsible for managing the curriculum and course offerings within the school of STEM. She has hired innovative college lecturers and other key staff into positions at the College. These colleagues have developed new curricula and courses in advanced technology areas that are critical to the future success of OCC.

Currently, there is a great need to develop new workforce programs at the College that are affordable, flexible, and scalable. By developing new workforce programs that provide students with an opportunity to receive industry-recognized credentials, the College will address the declining population of high school graduates who typically attend OCC and then transfer to four-year institutions. OCC must develop new programs that appeal to older students who are interested in completing programs that are focused on the workforce needs of the community. Sylvia is leading the effort to design sound academic programs in many technology areas that will lead to increased enrollment at the College.

The NJ pathways initiative is designed as a statewide collaboration between all the New Jersey community colleges. As a dean, becoming involved in this initiative is above and beyond the normal responsibilities. Sylvia was selected to lead a statewide effort for developing programs in two critical technology areas of projected labor growth, cybersecurity and software development. In her leadership role, she developed a project plan that led to more than $200,000 in increased funding for program development at OCC. In addition, OCC will also have access to all of the program development activities that occur with the five partnering community colleges in New Jersey. This program development will allow OCC to accelerate its offerings in cybersecurity and software development.

As Dr. Riviello leads in the development of programs that serve students with workforce options, students are provided with an opportunity to complete coursework for academic credit while they build the foundational knowledge for passing an industry-certified credential.

These programs will attract students from a different demographic profile (students who fall into the 25 to 35 year-old range) than our current student population, thereby attracting nontraditional students who may be incumbent workers or career changers. These programs can be utilized within the K-12 school system, exposing students to career paths that will lead to in-demand jobs, providing more access to traditionally underserved populations in Ocean County.

Through partnerships with community-based organizations, including the Camden Dream Center, a more diverse group of learners will have access to all that OCC has to offer.

Dr. Riviello’s work provided more opportunities to partner with large technology organizations, such as OCC’s flagship partnership with Intel. It allows the College to form much deeper relationships with some of the larger employers in Ocean County. For example, after these technology programs are completed, opportunities can be discussed for offering these programs to the incumbent workers of large healthcare organizations, including RWJ/Barnabas Health. Lastly, programs extend the opportunity for partnering more closely with the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. Sylvia and her team have created an awareness for STEM programs that is introduced to new servicemen and women when they first enter the military base.

Dr. Riviello’s achievements embody OCC’s guiding principles of being student-centered, innovative, collaborative, and accessible. Thank you, Sylvia, for your efforts on program development, which are critical for the sustained enrollment growth of the College.

I am delighted to say we also have two recipients of the President’s Award for Excellence at the College-Wide level, which is a testament to the outstanding work being done throughout the campus. The first recipient at the College-Wide level, who was nominated in the category of “Efficiency and Innovation,” is Kayci Clayton, Director of Grants Administration.

Kayci began her tenure at Ocean County College in November 2016 as the Manager of Grants. She now holds the position of Director of Grants Administration.

Through Kayci’s support and leadership, the Grants team has grown in size and scope. Both the number of awards and the amounts of grant-funded projects have increased; in 2022, grant-funded projects totaled nearly $5 million. The Office supports OCC’s grants function from proposal creation to project development, launch, ongoing compliance, and finally to reporting to federal funding agencies.

To be successful, Kayci has ensured that processes have been improved to increase efficiency and off-campus reach, and she has the ability to forge long-lasting relationships in the region, across the state, and at the federal level of grants administration that benefit the

With input from administrative and academic leaders across the campus, a list was developed of OCC grants priorities. Alignment with these established priorities is an important consideration in relation to the pursuit of grant funding and the design of grant projects.

Kayci has implemented quarterly grants trainings and established project director meetings to share best practices and increased collaboration. She has streamlined the pre-award communications plan, developed internal and external grants landing pages on the OCC website, and provided customized grant training to community partner agencies.

Kayci continues to manage a growing list of diverse, ongoing grant-funded projects that benefit the College by building capacity and improving compliance, support, and sustainability measures. She has increased grant-funded student services on campus as well as capital projects to serve a greater number of students. Collectively, grant funds have been utilized to make capital improvements to the campus; develop new course delivery models; improve student support services; increase access to education for veterans, minorities, and first-generation students; and develop career pathways for short-term training programs.

Grant writing is subject to extreme time-sensitive deadlines and hours are long. In spite of that, Kayci finds time to be active outside of OCC:

  • She serves on the Board of Directors for the Monmouth Ocean Development Council (MODC) and was Vice President for two years;
  • She served as the Co-chair for the Grants Administration breakout session for the New Jersey Council of Community Colleges’ Affinity groups;
  • She initiated bi-weekly meetings for the New Jersey community college grants’ offices to collaborate during COVID. Those meetings were so beneficial that they continue to this day;
  • Kayci volunteered on the Federal Funding Taskforce to develop a report for CASE members specific to community colleges and funding opportunities;
  • And, she is an active member in the DEI Committee, selected to lead the team for Goal 1: To promote equitable opportunities to access and education.

Kayci’s work embodies all of OCC’s Guiding Principles. She works on a variety of projects every day, always making connections across the campus and beyond. She provides leadership, direction, and course correction, when needed, and does whatever is necessary to advance programs, leverage funding streams, and ultimately expand the College’s capacity to improve overall student success and engagement.

Congratulations, Kayci, for your outstanding pursuit of grant funding for programs that might not otherwise be possible!

Our second recipient at the College-Wide level, who was also nominated in the category of “Efficiency and Innovation,” is Cara Muscio, Associate Director of the Planetarium.

Cara started at OCC in 2015 as a reservist in the Planetarium. When Cara began her role as an educational coordinator, the planetarium was experiencing a slump.

Throughout the pandemic, when patrons could not physically go to the Planetarium, Cara ran programs from her living room, including star talks, children’s themed programs, and other events. Children all over the county called her Captain Cara!

The planetarium was one of the first venues on campus to open after being remote for a year and a half. Now, over a year later, the planetarium is back to pre-pandemic levels of attendance, unlike many others in the state, and that is a direct result of Cara’s enthusiasm and commitment.

Her work makes science fun and reaches a broad range of patrons, whether it is through academic- or entertainment-based programs. She has worked very hard to bring in groups that others may have overlooked, such as adult groups with special needs. She might just focus on elementary school educational groups; however, under her leadership and outreach, the planetarium brings in learners of all ages, from first grade to teens, senior citizens, and community groups, some having special needs.

The audience is drawn to the planetarium for entertainment and educational shows. Cara’s innovative ideas for programming, such as the very popular Harry Potter experience, the sunset meditations, the Resonances Boreales shows, and the popular laser shows, tap into different and diverse markets.

And most recently, as a new revenue stream, Cara hosted an album release show that filled the Planetarium for two nights.

Cara has created an atmosphere of inclusiveness and diversity at the Planetarium for the Ocean County community at large. Because of her hard work, she was recently nominated to be the President of the Mid-Atlantic Planetarium Society.

In her role, Cara has overseen the installations of the Zeiss Star Projector, Digistar Digital Video Projection System, and cove lighting. Always seeking continued improvement, she is currently working with consultants on the renovation of the Planetarium Lobby. She also petitioned for the installation of new, state-of-the-art equipment that will take the planetarium to the next level, technologically and visually.

Cara’s achievements match OCC’s guiding principles with the values of the planetarium. Her contributions to community outreach improve the quality of people’s lives because they provide opportunities for everyone to experience science and astronomy in ways unusual and unexpected. She leads her team of planetarium operators, presenters, and administrative staff to achieve all of the goals for inclusive presentations.

In all she does, Cara consistently performs above expectations in so many innovative ways to bring patrons to the Planetarium. Her work over the last several years, and especially as she diversified outreach for the Planetarium, has increased the patron base by 20%.

Thank you, Cara, for your efforts on behalf of the Planetarium and the College community!

Congratulations to all our President’s Award recipients!

So much is underway to promote Ocean County College, expand its reach, and, most importantly, serve our students. I thank each of you for all you do for the College and its students. Isn’t this an amazing variety of accomplishments? Please give a round of applause to our entire OCC team!

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