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Board of Trustees Update: Feb, 2020

Submitted by on February 10, 2020 – 5:13 pm

Education Report:

STEM Division

At Northern Essex, 15 percent of our students—721 students in the fall of 2019— are enrolled in one of the college’s  STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programs.

“Technology is changing everything we do.   There is great demand for people trained in these fields,” Bill Heineman, vice president of academic and student affairs, told trustees.

While the demand is high, STEM classes are challenging, which is why the college is focused on providing the support STEM students need to succeed.

Carolyn Knoepfler, dean of the STEM Division, shared initiatives her faculty and staff have created to help students gain the confidence, skills, and knowledge to be successful in STEM programs.

Every October, the college celebrates STEM Week, which was created by Governor Baker, with career panels, speakers, Google meet-ups, and, for the first time last October, a Math Olympics.

The division also honors outstanding students by presenting Knights of the STEM table awards each fall.   This award recognizes hard work and overcoming adversity with a focus on students who are succeeding despite facing obstacles.

The college’s fairly new STEM Center, located in Room 219 in the Hartleb Technology Center on the Haverhill Campus, has created a community gathering place for STEM students, where they can tackle homework problems together, connect with faculty and advisors, and meet for programs and guest speakers.

Another focus has been on expanding boot camp opportunities for students who are planning to enroll in some of the more difficulty gateway courses such as physics, anatomy and physiology, and math.  These free, noncredit courses give students the skills they will need to succeed in the college level courses.

“Our goal is to take students who often don’t believe in themselves and turn them into someone who does,” said Knoepfler.

The STEM Division’s Early College classes, which are available to local high school students, who are earning high school and college credits, have also grown to include introduction to chemistry and general chemistry along with a selection of math courses.

In February, thanks to a grant from National Grid, the college will host a Robotics Competition.   Student teams have been busy building robots and on Feb 21 from 10 am to 2 pm, the teams will compete in the technology center.   The winners will be selected by a panel of judges based on which robot is best able to complete a series of tasks.

Northern Essex offers 15 associate degree and certificate programs in STEM including biology, computer science, engineeringlaboratory science, and chemistry, physics, and environmental science.

New Certificate Program Addresses

Growing Need in Children’s Behavioral Health

Trustees unanimously approved a new 19-credit certificate in Human Services which will be available in the fall of 2020.

The Children’s Behavioral Health Specialist certificate will give students the skills to work with children and families who are suffering from stress related to issues such as family violence, divorce/separation, parental incarceration, mental health issues, substance use, poverty, bullying, or physical, mental, or sexual abuse.

Completing the certificate will prepare students to work as therapeutic mentors and family partners, according to Brian McKenna-Rice, coordinator of the college’s Human Services Programs.

Trustee Shalimar Quiles, who is principal of a Lawrence elementary school, was “thrilled” to hear the news.   “We see how disruptive behavior resulting from trauma can be, and positions, such as paraprofessionals, are being added to address these issues.”

Public Safety Update

Northern Essex’s approach to public safety is focused on three principles: truth, respect, and community, according to Deb Crafts, director of public safety.

Crafts shared changes that have taken place since she was hired in 2018, including creating one emergency line; finding additional parking in Lawrence; implementing a digital log system that replaces handwritten reports; and faculty, staff, and student training in areas such as active shooter.

Crafts’ goal is to create a campus police force and her plan is to hire a captain this winter and begin recruiting police officers and communications officers in the summer.    The college has been contracting with Eagle Securities for public safety coverage.

Report of the Administration

NECHE Accreditation Update

Northern Essex is up for its 10-year accreditation from the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE) in 2020.   Glenn reported that the chair of our site visit team will be coming to campus in March for a preliminary visit.   The full team will be on campus October 4-7, 2020.

The accreditation process requires the college to complete a comprehensive self-study, led by co-chairs Kim Burns, dean of academic innovations and professional development; Mike Hearn, director of libraries, and Scott Lancaster, assistant dean of health professions.

The Heights of Haverhill

The college has been hoping to begin offering noncredit culinary courses at The Heights, the new Lupoli Companies building on Merrimack Street in Haverhill and the future site of the college’s Hospitality and Culinary Arts Institute, in early March, though the timeline may need to be pushed back to accommodate construction needs.   “Big projects like this come with unexpected bumps in the road,” said Glenn.   “We will be in the building sometime this spring.”

Revolving Test Kitchen in Lawrence

Northern Essex, along with the Lawrence Partnership, is the recipient of a $125,000 grant from Mass Development to renovate/reoutfit the Revolving Test Kitchen, located in Northern Essex’s 420 Common Street Building in Lawrence.

The space, currently set up for one food provider, will be reconfigured like a food court to accommodate three food entrepreneurs.  Space in the lower level of the building will also be renovated.

“Watching the Lawrence entrepreneurial ecosystem, we’re seeing a lot of food entrepreneurs,” said Trustee Marianne Paley Nadel.   “This approach will allow us to better utilize the space and will connect with our new Culinary and Hospitality Center in Haverhill.”

Eight New Positions Affirmed

New state-appropriated appointments to the college faculty and staff include:  Esther Peralta, academic counselor; Sharline Del Rosario, special programs coordinator, Division of Business and Professional Studies; Kelly Fisher and Kristi Spheekas, nursing educators for associate degree in nursing and practical nursing; Kirsten Kortz, director of academic policy, curriculum and assessment; and Betania Villa, EDP entry operator IV, Student Financial Services.

Non-state appropriated appointments include: Wendy Luzon, staff assistant, MassHire Career Center; and Luisanna Crespo, staff associate, PK12 and International Studies.

These eight new positions were appointed since the trustees last met in December of 2019.  Trustees had given NECC President Lane Glenn the power to approve positions over the winter intercession, and trustees gave those appointments their unanimous affirmation at the February meeting.

President Glenn shakes hands with new employee Nancy Sleger.

President Lane Glenn launched a new tradition for all new hires at the Feb trustees meeting. He is shown with Nancy Sleger.

New Tradition with New Hires

For many years, new hires have been asked to come to a trustee meeting to meet trustees the month after their appointment.   This month, President Lane Glenn launched a new tradition, designed “to welcome them into the family a bit more warmly.”

Nancy Sleger, a newly hired instructor for the Essex County Sheriff’s Department inmate education program, attended the February meeting and was the first new employee to be recognized in this way.   Glenn invited her to the front of the room where he presented her with Northern Essex swag, including a lapel pin, a case to hold business cards, and an insulated lunch bag.

This will be a “new ritual” that will take place at the start of each trustee meeting.