Americans learned from the timeless wisdom of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from fiction.”
One of the great challenges of Community, Technical, and County Colleges is to provide quality, affordable higher learning to the broadest possible audience – a complex mission given the socioeconomic, educational, and health disparities that frequently find expression in the rise and fall of the Nation’s Post-Industrial Cities.
Former President of American Association of Community Colleges George Boggs reminds us: “ community colleges play important roles in developing public scientific literacy, educating scientists and engineers, and addressing the nation’s need for well-prepared technicians.”
At the May 2018 UB Summit, we discovered Essex County College, an institution that balances educational access, career relevance, and higher education excellence. Essex opened its doors in 1968 in the wake of urban upheaval. Essex responded by providing hope through educational opportunities to countless Dreamers and birthed a new generation of urban change agents including educators, community activists, civic leaders, and Olympians.
Fast forward to Fall Semester 2018, Essex provides leading-edge programs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—read as STEM. Essex’s focus on STEM fields of study, led to its First Steps Conference, funded by the New Jersey Department of Human Services and Division of Family Development and featuring- Exploring Science with Infants and Toddlers from the Crib, to the Floor and, Outdoors. What better example of “starting them early”?
Beyond health professions, Essex offers a full range of civil, electrical, and mechanical engineering programs. Impressively, Essex County’s PTA program ranks in the top 10% and its radiography program is ranked third of 15 in the State of New Jersey. As a participating member of the Consortium of Northern New Jersey Colleges and Universities, Essex partners with Rutgers Newark to develop a diverse workforce in medical sciences, health care leadership, and administration. Reporting on its international STEM Workshop, Rutgers Newark Chancellor Dr. Nancy Cantor suggests that “a citizenry better educated in science and engineering strengthens democracy and informed participation in a world in which STEM is more important than ever.”
Essex faculty have been supported by NASA and New Jersey Space Grant Consortium – offering significant research opportunities for Essex County students. At the same time, new student clubs, like Chemical Society and Women in STEM, encourage rising stars in science and technology. These clubs give students the opportunity to develop a shared sense of STEM Community. For these rising stars, Essex has a rigorous medical education partnership with
St. George’s University School of Medicine offering diverse student populations pathways to medical profession careers.
Importantly, the cost of attendance to students at Essex is significantly less than comparable institutions. As a result, Essex graduates are able to minimize family debt burden – making Essex a sound academic choice and compelling value proposition.
With a student-centered faculty and career driven programs, Essex County College provides students with workplace and academic readiness. Indeed, New Jersey colleagues view Essex as having a promising future and positive bounce from its new leadership team.
Essex County President Dr. Anthony Munroe put it nicely this way: “In my brief time here, I have been greatly impressed with both the School’s expressed and demonstrated commitment to being an open-access institution committed to providing high quality educational programs and life-long learning activities to a diverse population of students. Proof of this commitment is the fact that our students hail from 59 countries.”
As Essex peers over the horizon of its future growth and development, the College can take considerable pride in its STEM program graduates, faculty, and corporate sponsors. In so many ways, Essex County College is on the National screen of rising star STEM Community Colleges. Now, watch it soar!
James Martin and James E. Samels are founding Partners of The Education Alliance and co-authors of seven books published by John Hopkins University Press.