The classroom consists of tall grasses, sand, water and turtles. As 10 students in Dr. Jessica DeGraff’s Wetlands Field Ecology class receive instructions about the day’s lab requirements, a research scientist passes out clipboards and buckets.
For second-year students at Rowan College at Gloucester County (RCGC) today is a rescue mission to save diamondback terrapins, a hands-on science lesson at the Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor. DeGraff, a biology professor who teaches the Marine Science degree program, has been incorporating the active field study into her courses for five years, and working with the Wetland Institute for a decade. Open to anyone interested in learning about the environment, the course provides a secure, solid background for all science students, not only those pursuing careers in marine science. RCGC is the only community college in New Jersey to offer an associate degree in marine science.
To read more stories about RCGC, scroll down:
RCGC & Rowan University Sign Teacher Education Program Agreement
29 RCGC Interns Begin ‘Careers’ Through Gloucester County Internship Scholarship Programs
“I like to tell students that the wetlands are the kidneys of the landscape filtering runoff and pollutants and preventing flood damage,” said DeGraff smiling. “Of the 10 labs held during the semester, six are off site visits. Since an instructor cannot know everything, I try to have the experts talk to the students whenever possible.”
Experts, such as Brian Williamson, a scientist at the Wetlands Institute, are dedicated and eager to share information about their research and conservation work. On a sunny, warm fall afternoon, Williamson explains the process of checking terrapin excluders to the students —a simple, inexpensive device invented by the Wetlands Institute that has saved thousands of terrapins from drowning in commercial crab traps since 1998. The future scientists investigate each excluder, on the lookout for new hatchlings as they document their findings.
“We want visitors to the Wetlands Institute to come away with knowledge and an appreciation of the salt marsh, and to understand that these habitats are important,” said Williamson, explaining how essential diamondback terrapins are as a keystone species as they keep in check organisms that might otherwise harm the ecosystem. “Diamondback terrapins are very unique. They are the only reptile that can live in the salt marsh all of its life. Without diamondbacks, the ecosystem might collapse or become unhealthy. Salt marshes need to be protected to keep storms from eroding beaches and as a breeding ground for fish.”
“I love turtles,” remarked Kiara Stefanik, a marine science major. “We mark the turtles and measure to see anomalies, oddities of the shells. We try to recover eggs to keep the population up.”
Over the years, human activities have endangered New Jersey diamondback terrapins. Loss of salt marsh habitat, pollution and coastal development have affected the sand dunes on barrier beach islands damaging their natural nesting habitat. Carnage of adult females from crossing the road during the nesting season, which coincides with the start of the summer tourist season, kills between 500-700 terrapins each year. Tens of thousands of terrapins drown in Maryland-style commercial crab traps annually.
“We need to keep terrapins safe,” stated Alyssa Pepe, who the week before had participated in a seine-fishing lab using a net to capture fish so they could be counted, sized and researched.
Physics major Mason Gagne couldn’t be happier with his decision to take the field ecology course. During one class, he pulled on waders, shifted through saltwater and discovered a pipe fish.
“I picked it up. It was bony and wrapped itself around my finger. It was the funniest thing. I thought… yes, this is class,” said Gagne.
To view the video of the Marine Science class at the Wetlands Institute, visit RCGC at Wetlands Institute.
Officials from Rowan College at Gloucester County’s (RCGC) Liberal Arts Division and Rowan University’s College of Education met on RCGC’s campus Nov. 9 to sign a Memorandum of Agreement that will benefit future teachers seeking to transfer to the University.
“By developing a formal Memorandum of Agreement between RCGC and the Rowan University College of Education, we are living out our commitment to addressing issues of access and affordability,” remarked Rowan College of Education Dean Monika Williams Shealey. “Together we are creating a more seamless pathway to our professional teacher education program. This agreement benefits our teacher candidates and the communities they will serve.”
Prior to the signing, English Professor Charles Harkins— a longtime education advocate for the teaching profession— addressed the audience. A graduate of Glassboro State College (now Rowan University), Harkins joined Gloucester County College (now RCGC) in 1970. In 1999, he lead a team of educators who developed and launched RCGC’s innovative Teachers 2000 (T2K) program, a program which sought to create a more comprehensive approach to educating future teachers. Students in the T2K program took pre-selected courses specifically designed for education majors and taught by professors with the goal to better prepare future educators. This immersion created a learning community where students were surrounded by those who shared their goals.
“We always hear from students — especially those entering the field of education — how teachers affected them,” said an emotional Harkins as he addressed the crowd of education majors, many of whom were students in his classes. “I’ve been doing this for 53 years, and it’s the students who have affected me. All of you have inspired me to work towards a better path to a career in education so that you can go out and inspire future generations.”
The new agreement builds upon the success of the T2K program, but goes one step further, providing specific courses to match the curriculum of RCGC education majors to the courses taken by Rowan University freshmen and sophomores. These changes will prepare RCGC students for a seamless transfer to the University, giving them a distinct advantage over other students in the state. If an RCGC education major participating in the program meets all educational requirements, they will be guaranteed admission to Rowan’s Early Childhood Education or Elementary Education programs.
“As we sign this memorandum today, it symbolizes the commitment we make to students who have decided to become educators,” said Dr. Stacey Leftwich, executive director of Educator Support and Partnerships at Rowan University. “The College of Education prides itself on providing access, success, and equity. This memorandum signing today signifies the access to the oldest college on Rowan University’s campus. The mentoring that your students will receive through their Teacher Education Program will support their success in and outside the classroom at Rowan University as well as the classroom they visit while out in the field. The final element, equity, is the college’s commitment to assist teacher candidates to be reflective practitioners who use education to transform our global society.”
In addition to setting up education majors for a smooth transfer into Rowan and other four-year institutions, this new program will better prepare students for Praxis Core testing. According to Harkins, currently about 70 percent of education majors nationally fail the Praxis on their first attempt, which is divided into three sections: language/writing, reading and mathematics. The Praxis section most difficult for students to pass is mathematics. For the College’s new program, Harkins worked closely with RCGC’s STEM Division to design a math course specifically for education majors to prepare them to successfully pass the test.
The agreement signing took place against a backdrop of enthusiastic RCGC education majors, eager to pursue their career path at Rowan University. One such student —Stephanie Verna, a second-year education major from Mullica Hill — had nothing but praise for the program and those who worked to make it a reality: “It’s the perfect program for me. I’m saving money. I’m learning so much and I can’t wait to transfer to Rowan University. Professor Harkins has been an incredible mentor. He and my advisor, Mr. Rey, have worked so hard to get me to where I want to be.”
Her sentiments were echoed by Nick Painter, a second-year education major from Woodstown, who is looking forward to a career as an elementary or middle school special education teacher: “I loved going to school. I can’t imagine doing anything else when it comes to a career. Profession Harkins has done so much to make me successful.”
Twenty-nine incoming freshman at Rowan College at Gloucester County (RCGC) have begun their career experience in county government.
Freeholder Director Robert M. Damminger and Freeholder Lyman Barnes, Liaison to Education, said that the students who have all qualified for a full tuition and fee free year at RCGC are starting their placements as the inaugural class participating in the Gloucester County Internship Scholarship Program.
Freeholder Director Damminger said, “We are excited to welcome these students into our working world where they will get hands on experience in their career fields and where they will not have to worry about the cost of college for at least one year, and hopefully two.”
The Gloucester County Internship Scholarship Program could allow for these students to receive two full years of schooling for free and move into a four-year program at half the cost of a traditional four-year degree.
Freeholder Barnes said that the students have been through a rigorous application process, have participated in a professional development workshop and will get right down to business in the fields of accounting, chemistry, business, healthcare, and engineering to name a few.
Barnes said, “This intern scholarship program accomplishes many objectives, but first and foremost it will give our bright students an understanding of the qualifications and duties involved in a specific profession or field, enabling them to make career decisions. It will also support these students as they apply and test knowledge learned in the classroom to a professional work environment. College is expensive and offering this free tuition and fees program will help take some financial burden off our students and their families.”
“We have designed this Internship Scholarship Program so it is meaningful for the students,” said Barnes. “This will not be paper pushing,” Barnes said, “We are expecting them to fully participate in their placements with support and guidance from their site-supervisors and from RCGC. Provided these interns meet all their requirements including maintaining their GPA, the Internship Scholarship is renewable for a second year.”
“The College and the County are working closely together, committed to making a quality education affordable to the residents of Gloucester County,” said Dr. Frederick Keating, president of Rowan College at Gloucester County. “This new scholarship provides each of the 29 scholarship recipients with approximately $10,000 in tuition savings in addition to providing career training, which will certainly be a bonus on their resumes. The scholarship benefits both the student and the community, enriching Gloucester County’s workforce.”
The placements for the first year are in the following departments and agencies. Several offices have more than one intern assigned.
Accounting Intern, Treasurer’s Office
Accounting Intern, Division of Social Services
Economic Development Intern, Department of Economic Development
Emergency Response-911 Communications Intern, Department of Emergency Response
Engineering/Planning Intern, Department of Public Works
Health and Human Services Intern, Department of Health and Human Services
Land and Property Intern, Assessor’s Office/Office of Land Preservation
Parks and Recreation Intern, Department of Parks & Recreation
Rutgers Cooperative Extension Intern, Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Gloucester Co.
Social Services Intern, Division of Social Services
Workforce Development Intern, Workforce Investment Board – One Stop
Gloucester County Improvement Authority
Nursing Intern, Shady Lane Nursing Home
Gloucester County Utilities Authority
Business Administration Intern
Wastewater Engineering Intern
Gloucester County Library System
LAMATEK, Inc. Online Marketing, Development & Graphic Design Intern
Categories: Public 2-Year Schools