Rising academic star

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:43

    NEWTON - Bradley Gottfried has been watching the building take shape up on the hill of the Sussex County Community College for the past three years. From architectural drawings, ribbon-cutting and groundbreaking to the final coat of paint and landscaping, Gottfried, SCCC president, sees more than bricks and mortar as he monitors the building's construction. "When I see this building, I see a lot of support from the freeholders and from the whole community," said Gottfried. "All I hear is accolades. It's nice to have that kind of support." The new 27,000-square-foot building is the first new construction on the campus since the 1960s, when the site was the Don Bosco College, a Catholic seminary. The building will give the 20-year-old community college a new library, classrooms and state-of-the-art science laboratories. To Gottfried, the facility will help bring SCCC's physical campus up to par with some of the advancements the college has been making in recent years. "It's been difficult for the college to adapt to a physical plant designed for a couple hundred seminarians," Gottfried said. SCCC, one of the fastest growing community colleges in New Jersey, now has some 3,000 students. This month's commencement ceremony is expected to graduate 368 candidates, the largest class in the college's history. Linda Nieman, executive director of advancement and planning, said credit-hour enrollment n the number of credit hours students take n has gone up 14 percent since last year and is up 29 percent from three years ago. "We don't have an empty classroom here in the evenings," she said. "That's a tough way to schedule. This new building will help tremendously." The new construction is an $8 million project under Chapter 12, which splits the cost between the state and Sussex County. Gottfried said the Sussex County freeholders' willingness to support the project is a sign of the successful partnership between the college and the county government, whose shared goal is to make SCCC the educational and cultural center of the county. "This truly is the community's college," Gottfried said, adding that the library is open to all county residents, as are lectures and cultural events held at the campus. The new library contains three small-group study rooms, seating for up to 160 students, and lots of support space, such as an archives room and a processing room. Nieman compared that to the current library, which seats roughly 40 students and has only one table for a group of students. The lack of quiet study space was mentioned in the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools' accreditation report, she said. The building's five new science labs will replace three old ones in Building B with state-of-the-art facilities, an emergency shower, prep rooms and adequate storage. The building has a two-story glassed-in foyer and, due to being built on a steep hill, it has ground-level exits from each of the three stories. Charles Canny, director of facilities, said everything n from the high-tech non-glare lighting to the sub-surface heat under the third-floor bridge to melt snow and ice n was designed for durability, low maintenance and adaptability. "We asked the architect to make it so that it's not just beautiful for a few months, after we cut the ribbon, but that we can maintain it easily," Canny said. During the planning stages, college officials asked for input from the staff on what should be included in the building. "Every person involved in these programs was involved in the design," Nieman said. "Nothing was done in a vacuum. It was done with input from the people on the front lines." Next week staff will begin moving their equipment into the building. The library will open in June and by the start of the second summer session on July 1, the entire building will be in use. Soon after, a $2.3 million renovation of the old buildings will begin, Gottfried said. The old library will be turned into art studios and a new gallery. Old science labs will be gutted and turned into the Student Services Department. In addition, the cafeteria will be revamped and modernized. Gottfried sees the new building starting a domino effect, creating space throughout the college. The college is hoping to now be able to expand its science program and is in discussions with New Jersey Institute of Technology to offer an engineering program in the evenings, Gottfried said. Such partnerships are one way the college is reaching out to the community. "It's part of our mindset n how can we reach out, how can we help," he said.