By Maria Lachanaris
As students return to campus for the fall semester, President Friedman kicked off the year by unveiling a 12 point agenda with each goal aiming to shape the institution in the months ahead. In a recent interview, President Friedman described each of the 12 goals that were part of his strategic vision:
1. Lead and support the development of the College’s 2024-2029 Strategic Plan.
2. Lead and support the College’s preparation for its reaffirmation of accreditation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
3. Continue to implement the College’s Strategic Enrollment Management Plan, with a special focus on assessing gaps in student outcomes, improving new student onboarding, deploying the new advising model, and increasing emphasis on Early College and dual enrollment programs.
4. Implement the College’s first Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Action Plan.
5. Prioritize and strengthen the College’s regulatory and financial compliance by documenting and updating policies and processes to ensure continuous improvement in effective fiscal management.
6. Lead and support the implementation of the next phase of the All College Forum as the College’s participatory and shared governance structure, alongside the Faculty Senate and the Student Government Association.
7. Support the development of institutional and division-level key performance indicators. Identify the Center for Institutional Effectiveness as the central repository of institutional data.
8. Begin a comprehensive review of the structure of the College’s curriculum in keeping with the goals outlined in the collaboratively-crafted Academic Master Plan.
9. Continue to build on the momentum related to the Innovation Center at the Meadowlands. Expand offerings at the Ciarco Learning Center in Hackensack.
10. Create a holistic facilities plan that balances deferred maintenance needs, physical plant improvements, sustainability initiatives, new construction, and renovations. This plan will be used in concert with the College’s strategic plan as a framework for advancing innovative and student-centered initiatives.
11. Support continuing efforts to expand external collaborations and partnerships with regional industry, partner organizations, governmental agencies, and other stakeholders.
12. Support organizational development efforts that inspire professional development and facilitate organizational improvement.
Friedman made sure to emphasize the importance of the All College Forum, which is held every few weeks, and convened for the first time this year on October 8th. The ACF began one year ago, and is now evolving to its next stage. It is the college’s participatory and shared governance structure. Along with the student government association and the faculty senate, this is where faculty and staff will be able to recommend changes to policies, and bring ideas forward. Everyone from the custodians, to full-time students, to vice presidents is invited to participate in crafting the future of the college.
One of Friedman’s goals is supporting the development of Bergen’s institutional effectiveness and key performance indicators. How many students who attend Bergen graduate? How many students who come here one fall are here the next fall? Tracking this retention and completion data and making it visible and a part of everyday conversations, will help improve key performance indicators as well as the student body. As certain demographic groups are not graduating at the same rates as others, Friedman is challenging his team to come up with initiatives to help these students graduate at the same rate as other students.
In addition, Bergen Community College is proud to be considered a Hispanic Serving Institution. As an HSI, Bergen is able to receive grants and funding to serve the large Hispanic population that is part of the school’s community. Along the lines of diversity, Friedman described the new DEI plan. First, he created the President’s Advisory Council on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (PACDEI) which consists of more than forty members. Friedman began by describing how last year, Bergen conducted a campus-wide climate survey, and that out of 1800 responses, Bergen pulled out the three or four central themes in order to craft meaningful goals that addressed BCC’s concerns. These goals came out of a review of qualitative and quantitative data from the survey. One goal is related to bias and awareness training for all of Bergen’s employees, especially for those who sit on search committees so that people are aware of how biases can affect recruitment and hiring. There is a goal area around safety and security; members of PACDEI are working with public safety and facilities to reimagine the parking deck as a 21st century solar-powered, EV-charging, sustainable parking area, and in the short term, new lighting will be implemented on the first level to make it safer and more accessible. Deeper surveys will be sent out to students and staff in connection to safety as well.
There are also exciting new developments that have been created over the summer on the meadowlands campus. Over the summer, Bergen created a brand new, fully equipped cyber security lab, a new gaming lab for e-sports, and even a new Bloomberg lab with Bloomberg Terminals in partnership with the Bloomberg Corporation. There is a large ticker tape in the Bloomberg Lab for students to track and monitor stocks in real time. A new innovation lounge has been created for the students who utilize the innovation center. In the next few weeks, a new lab will be created for online students who may not have their own room and private space. This will be a space for students who complete online courses in a designated area that will have access to food service, wifi, and comfortable work areas.
Another goal is updating the master facilities plan as well as ongoing renovations and updates to the campus. President Friedman shared a sneak peek of his vision of the new culinary department that is in the works, with construction launching soon for the culinary arts building.
When asked about issues and problems facing BCC, Friedman described how keeping students on track toward their educational goals occupies a great amount of energy. The central concern of his administration is ensuring that all of Bergen’s students who rearrange their childcare and their part time work schedules, can achieve their academic and future goals. He emphasized breaking down barriers to student success is a main thrust of his administration.
President Friedman emphasized the desire for all students to feel like they belong and are welcomed at Bergen. Over the summer, the school invested one million dollars in new comfortable furniture for students, to do work, lounge and chat with friends. In addition, Friedman remarked on how he can serve BCC’s international students, and is in the process of planning an event for international students to feel welcomed and voice any ideas or comments for the school. This seems to be an emerging presidential goal for next year.