By Steve Sears
Dr. Anthony Iacono, President of County of College of Morris (CCM), loves his job so much that the drive from his Garden State home to his office in occasional rush hour traffic dampens his spirits none.
“You know that old phrase if you find something that you really, really love you’ll never work a day in your life?” he
asks while smiling. “You know, I’ve been in higher education my entire career and absolutely love it. CCM is a really special place for lots of reasons. In higher ed you have the chance to work with students, staff, and the community with really bright, really creative, really interesting people, which makes every day different – and every day is a pretty good day. You get to be a part of – and I am always grateful to our students because they chose us – a part of their story as well and you get to support them, which is also very exciting. So, a lot of it is the people you get to work with every day, whether they’re employees of the college, whether they’re students, or community members. It makes it really, really fun.”
He and the rest of the college have been presiding over a very special celebration: CCMs 50th birthday party, culminating with the May 3 -5 2019 “Titan Weekend.” A Foundation Gala will be held at the Hanover Marriott on Friday evening the 3rd, Titan Family Fun including live music and activities for families will take place on Saturday the 4th, and a weekend ending 5K run on Sunday the 6th.
Grand and wonderful stuff, buttressing what CCM means to and has done for the community and state of New Jersey, and the road it continues to travel.
Official ground breaking for the college was in 1966, and Henderson Hall was completed and opened to students in 1968. 592 full-time and 703 part-time students entered the college that first year, and CCM grew from that point, now graduating more than 1,000 students per year. CCM offers more than 45 associate degree programs, in addition to certificate and Workforce Development programs, the latter perhaps most important (more later). Also, CCM holds more than 200 transfer agreements and its graduates annually transfer to the state and nation’s best four-year institutions. Many colleges prefer students to head to the two-year school, weigh the student’s completion rate and,
per Iacono, since the first two years of college are the “heavy lift,” they are prepared to continue their travels in higher education.
It’s all about preparation and doing. “If you look at our alumni – one is a Senior Executive at Walt Disney World – they represent the top of the finance world,” says Iacono. “One of our alum was a Senior Vice-President for JP Morgan Chase and has now moved on another large international banking company. They represent nurses, dentists, doctors, chefs. They have been the founders of technology companies, and we produce great engineering students. So, in 50 years, virtually every walk of life is represented.”
Sherman H. Masten was the institution’s first President, retiring in 1986. Dr. Edward J. Yaw “assumed the baton” as second President of CCM, serving until 2016, he welcoming Iacono as President number three, and advising him upon entry. “We had two overlap weeks together. I’m always appreciative every day that I’m here for the work he and the others who worked with him have done,” says Iacono, himself a community college graduate. Iacono previously served as Vice President of Academic Affairs at Indian River State College (IRSC) in Fort Pierce, Florida. His background in education includes being a professor of History, but his interests go above and beyond that, including reading often in science (physics and biology), technology, and business, as well as daily papers and online articles. He believes reading is a big part of what helps you get a better understanding of society as a whole. “They (the former administration) made it a really nice school to come to. Right now, we’ve seen more change in higher ed I think in the past 10 years than in the past 50 years or more. It was nice coming into CCM where we had such a nice foundation, where we could pick and choose a little of what do we want to do. And one of those things we wanted to focus a lot more on was our Workforce programs, because it’s never been truer that people have to be lifelong learners. There’s no such thing as ‘I got my degree and now I’m done.’”
CCM serves in any given year about 8,000 college credit students, and somewhere in the neighborhood of 6,000 Workforce students, which means individuals who are already in the workforce but need retraining in their current field, a career changer, individuals who don’t necessarily want a four-year degree but want to apply their skills from their two-year degree in business immediately.
Russel Drake, 18, is a Rockaway resident, and first-year CCM student, majoring in Electrical Engineering. “It’s close, convenient, and it (CCM) has really good programs,” he explains as his reason for choosing the school. His introduction to the school was visiting a fair while attending the Morris County School of Technology. “It’s really good here. The people are nice, the professors are nice, the campus is nice.” CCM works well and often with local high schools, prepping students for the CCM and working world experience. “We have a tremendous relationship with high schools, “ attests Iacono, “and that’s probably the best example. They (Morris County School of Technology) have something like 300 seniors and we serve 90% of those seniors. That is a very innovative school that is intensely serious about their students. They make sure their students show up here and get those college credits filed away, also.”
CCM recently was presented with two business leadership awards, one from the Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey (CIANJ) and one from Randolph Township. While very pleased with both, Iacono speaks about the one that from the township the college calls its home base. “We’re so excited about that award, and this has been a really, really good year. That award really meant a lot to us, because shortly after I got here, I had met with their Chamber, and they said we really feel like the college could be doing so much more to support us, the economy is changing very quickly, technology is changing quickly, how can we partner better, or more closely together and so forth? So, I think that we have worked really hard together – and make no mistake, we have enjoyed a great relationship for over 50 years – but the economy is moving in a way it has before, and much faster than it has, technology changes are driving a lot of that societal happens. I’m really proud of the relationship, and it meant a lot to us, ‘Hey, look, we want to recognize you and we really appreciate you.’ So, as a community college, sometimes it’s those community awards that mean more to us even that any other kind.”
Iacono is a big believer in internships and apprenticeships. “Often times those students have tremendous results,” he says. Recently, CCM visited Emerson in Florham park – whose Senior Vice-President for Research is a CCM alum—they were told that where students came from is less important than what they did when starting out. They need to hire people who could do things immediately, not having to train someone for the next four years to become valuable. “So,” says Iacono, “we’re really big on those kinds of experiences. I believe it to the core.” He pauses, then continues. “We work really, really hard for students to make sure they have a powerful experience. So, I think we’re a great choice. We’ll save you a pile of money, but we’ll get you a great education, and work really hard to get you an apprenticeship or internship off campus.”
CCM as well is a college is at the forefront of educating its students in cybersecurity. “We are the only two-year school in the state of New Jersey to have the Department of Homeland Security and NSA (National Security Agency) national endorsement for a cyber security award for national excellence,” says Iacono proudly. “So, we help people get the skills and education they need to go work in cybersecurity. Never before has there been a need for his.”
While proudly stating the positives of CCM, Iacono also has his focus on improvements. “A big part of what’s missing and what we’d certainly like to see and we’re working very hard on more partnerships; much more internships here. I’d love to see an excess of – right now we have an environment where anyone who wants an internship can get an internship, that’s not a problem – what we’d like to see is somewhere in the neighborhood of 70% of our students participating in internships for some sort of experience. The other one is not necessarily missing, and we’ve made some strides to scale up significantly, we have a real good community engagement program here that our faculty has created, that really helps students understand the world around them, whether that’s the local community or globally, but also their civic responsibilities with it.”
Three specific things are being worked on. The first is building a virtual campus. Even though the college is open 6 days week, many students can’t attend live classes, so virtual may be the way to go. Also, CCM would like to start interacting with schools nationally and globally for a wider perspective of things. “We want our students to have a truly global education,” says Iacono. “We really do want to elevate from being one of the best community colleges in New Jersey and in the nation to being a world class school, but we have to tie in with faculty and students from around the world to do this. The third is we work really closely with the workforce, and we ask them ‘What do you need?’ We do this throughout the year.”
CCM in 2019 will be breaking ground on a new Engineering and Manufacturing facility, expanding from 15,000 to 30,000 square feet, and establishing a virtual hospital as well for its health science departments and expand program offerings in those areas. In addition, it plans to build upon its technology and cybersecurity offerings, to
provide more students with the opportunity to take advantage of these high job growth areas.
Wharton resident Cristina Pereira sits at a table in the student center, stacks of index cards piled next to her notebook full of notes. She is studying to be a Physical Therapist, and her current course work includes studying cell division and membrane structure. “It’s a smaller environment,” she says of CCM, “and there is a one-on-one with teachers. The teachers are fantastic, especially in the science department. They’re always willing to help. If you show that you’re willing to put in the effort, they’ll give you a mile back.”
“You know the biggest part that makes it just great every day?” says Iacono with emphasis. “My degrees are in History and I taught History for a number of years. If you really want to see how democracy works, and how the middle class comes together and so forth, visit your local community college. That’s where it happens. We are that gateway for so many, and then we have that opportunity throughout the whole year to support a lot of different
organizations. So, we will host during the year anywhere from 50 different community organizations on our campus, which thrills us. We have I believe 400 business partners now in the community, so with the chance to work with them and met their needs, you really get to be a great, great part of what makes Morris County a great place to live
County College of Morris is located at 214 Center Grove Road in Randolph. You can contact the college at (973) 328-500 and learn more about CCM and its offerings by visiting www.ccm.edu.