Mercer County Community College Opens New Building, Provides Enhanced Educational Opportunities in Trenton

Mercer County Community College (MCCC) has added another chapter to higher education in downtown Trenton with the official opening of the Trenton Hall Annex, a modern, three-story building focusing on high-tech career opportunities at the college’s James Kerney Campus (JKC).

Governor Chris Christie and Mercer County Community College President Dr. Jianping Wang cut the ribbon for the new Trenton Hall Annex on the college’s James Kerney Campus, with Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes, Secretary of Higher Education Rochelle Hendricks, and MCCC Board of Trustees Chair Mark Matzen.

A ribbon cutting ceremony marked the official opening of the new building, and also served as a celebration of recent development projects in downtown Trenton. The morning began with the “Moving Forward Bus Tour,” sponsored by Greater Trenton, which was followed by a ribbon cutting attended by elected officials and business leaders, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, NJ Secretary of Higher Education Rochelle Hendricks, Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes, and Trenton Mayor Eric Jackson.

“This is a new beginning for Mercer’s Trenton Campus,” said Dr. Jianping Wang, president of MCCC. “This project is about the future of our college, our community, and our students, and creating educational opportunities for the most in-demand jobs.”

The Trenton Hall Annex features state-of-the-art technology, with classrooms to provide instruction for the new Security Systems Technology and Cyber Security programs, as well as space for existing programs for Certified Nurse Assistant, Phlebotomy, and EKG (electrocardiogram) Technician prep. The building is connected to the recently-renovated Trenton Hall, which opened in 2012.

To read more stories about Mercer, scroll down:

Mercer’s Science Learning Center Offers Students a Place for Serious Science
Mercer’s Horticulture Program Wins Two Prestigious Awards at Philly Flower Show

“The Trenton Hall Annex continues the recent expansion of our downtown campus that is providing new educational opportunities for our residents, especially those living right here in the City of Trenton,” Executive Hughes said. “With this commitment to downtown Trenton, Mercer County Community College is sending a clear message that our capital city is on the move, with new opportunities for the residents of Mercer County.”

Total cost for the construction of the 8,500-square-foot Trenton Hall Annex is $5.9 million, which includes demolition of the building previously on the site and renovations to the adjacent Trenton Hall. Initial funding for the project was made possible by the Building Our Future Bond Act, passed by voters in 2012.

“Today we see many great things happening in downtown Trenton – more opportunities for businesses, new places to live, and now, additional opportunities to learn,” Mayor Jackson said. “Nothing is more important in moving a community forward than the power of education.”

The opening of the facility coincides with a recent push at MCCC to enhance opportunities for a technology-driven workforce, including scholarship opportunities for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) students; “earn as you learn” relationships with the Security Industry Association, Genesis Biotechnology Group in Hamilton and Domain Computers in Cranbury; and an Advanced Manufacturing Technology facility that will open on the West Windsor Campus later this year.

Gov. Christie praised the efforts of the college to advance a technology-focused curriculum, and for its investment in Trenton.

“The opening of Trenton Hall is another step toward creating a dynamic downtown environment in Trenton, one that benefits residents, workers, and students,” Christie said. “The Trenton Hall Annex is also a large investment in our state’s higher education infrastructure, focusing on STEM growth areas, such as Cyber Security, Security Systems Technology, and medical programs.

“A portion of the project was paid for with voter-approved Building Our Future Bond Act funds, meant to enhance and build new cutting-edge learning facilities to prepare students with the skills they need to compete in this 21st century economy. The programs available now at the Annex will go a long way toward our ‘65 by 25: Many Paths, One Future’ initiative to equip at least 65 percent of the state’s workforce with a college degree or industry-valued credential by 2025.”


Mercer’s Science Learning Center Offers Students a Place for Serious Science

There is a resource room on the second floor of Mercer County Community College’s (MCCC’s) Science Building that is quiet yet humming with activity, as students engage in study sessions, complete assignments, and prepare for exams under the guidance of peer tutors and faculty mentors.

Welcome to the Science Learning Center (SLC) at the West Windsor Campus, which started as a small, sparsely furnished room in 2013 and has grown into a major and heavily utilized resource center in just three years. Initiated through an MCCC Student Learning Improvement grant, the center received a generous supplemental grant from Bristol-Myers Squibb that allowed for essential equipment and staffing.

MCCC’s Science Learning Center provides students with a place for independent study, group review and much more. Students say that studying in the center has bolstered their confidence — and their grades.

According to Professor of Biology Laura Blinderman, who pursued the original grant, the center has exceeded every expectation.

“College level science courses are rigorous and students delve into concepts much more deeply than in high school. Our goal is to help them absorb the material, succeed on their exams, and build their confidence for future courses,” Blinderman explains. “We especially want to provide students with the opportunity to use materials and equipment they use in the lab, but otherwise do not have a chance to practice with.”

This past fall alone, the SLC counted over 800 student visits. Students came to study Anatomy and Physiology, General Biology, Microbiology, Genetics, Introductory Chemistry and Organic Chemistry.

The center, which is open 40 hours per week Monday through Friday, is well-equipped and ready to serve. There are textbooks for all courses, as well as numerous models, bones, dissected specimen, microscopes and prepared slides. Two laptop computers allow students to engage in online dissection, access online tutorial sites, and review course materials posted by their instructors. Portable tables and chairs enable students to work in small or large groups, while a whiteboard allows for group review. In addition, students can meet with their advisors to talk about future courses, transfer, scholarships, research, and careers.

Teaching Assistant Patrick Natale is the center’s coordinator. Additionally, four science faculty members volunteer their time. And, a paid peer tutoring program began last year that gives serious science students a chance to put on their teacher caps and reinforce their own learning as they assist fellow students.

One of the current tutors is Savannah Dziepak, who is in her second semester as a biology and chemistry tutor. On average, she assists 15 students per week and many more prior to major assignments and exams. Dziepak is planning to attend William Paterson University after Mercer, with generous tuition funding supplied by the National Science Foundation’s Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program, which supports students who will become science and math teachers after earning their bachelor’s degrees.

The SLC’s tutor training curriculum was developed by Biology faculty member Ellen Genovesi. Tutors are trained in lab safety, tutoring practice and SLC policies. The training requires approximately 10 hours of online and on-site preparation, including case scenarios and discussion groups.

Student Evan Bohan comes to the center often to complete homework assignments and review science concepts. He says he is grateful for this special resource. “It has been really helpful, especially the microscopes for biology classes. You can come in and grab the slides and all that good stuff.”

According to Natale, the supplemental instruction, especially by peer tutors, is highly worthwhile. “Students get a lot out of visiting this room. There’s definitely a comfort level that comes with students learning from their peer tutors. If they are having difficulty using the microscope in class, they can come here and learn from a fellow student. They can use that knowledge as a foundation for the rest of their careers,” Natale said.

The weekly schedule of tutors, staff, and faculty is posted so that students know when someone with specific expertise will be available.

The SLC’s next project is to develop a station for Physics students. An additional similarly-equipped center recently opened at the James Kerney Campus in Trenton.

Blinderman reports that the feedback she receives from students about the SLC is overwhelmingly positive. “Students are grateful to have a place to gather and study together. They say their grades have improved, often significantly, and their confidence has grown. They describe working with fellow students as a motivating experience. Some simply enjoy a quiet place to review materials independently,” she said.

Blinderman reflects with satisfaction on the growth of the SLC. “What began as a pilot program located in a small space has grown to a full service room that serves hundreds of students each semester. Through grants and donations, we hope to continue to expand what we can offer. We believe we are creating true pathways to success for our students,” Blinderman said.


Mercer’s Horticulture Program Wins Two Prestigious Awards at Philly Flower Show

Hundreds of hours of work by students and faculty from the Mercer County Community College (MCCC) Horticulture Program, plus the assistance of graphic design and art students, all added up to a Gold Medal in the Education division at the prestigious The Philadelphia Flower Show that concluded March 19. Mercer’s “Postcards from Holland” display also earned the Alfred M. Campbell Memorial Trophy, a major award for an educational exhibit that demonstrates the most successful use of a variety of plants in a unique fashion.

The MCCC windmill rose over the display and the huge convention center exhibit space. The Mercer Horticulture program exhibit earned two awards at the prestigious Philadelphia Flower Show – a gold in the Education Division, as well as the Alfred M. Campbell Memorial Trophy presented to an educational exhibit that demonstrates the most successful use of a variety of plants in a unique fashion.

Following an arduous week of moving and constructing the massive display at the Philadelphia Convention Center, MCCC students and staff members took turns volunteering at the exhibit and answering visitors’ questions during the eight-day show. This year marks the fourth consecutive year that MCCC has participated in the show, the only community college to be represented.

Notes MCCC Professor Amy Ricco, Coordinator of the Ornamental Horticulture and Plant Science programs, MCCC’s interactive “Postcards from Holland” brought the show’s Holland theme to life in all its beautiful glory. Visitors were able to tour the farm, brimming with rows of corn, tomatoes, and tulips. The barnyard was populated by two calves and a sheep – wireframe topiaries stuffed with sphagnum moss, covered with Cryptomeria, and spray painted. Featured in the park section were rhododendron, witch hazel, roses, and several large trees – all of which were forced into bloom in Mercer’s greenhouse. The windmill was built in two pieces that were put together at the Convention Center. The display also had a water feature and two vintage bicycles decorated in flowers.

Renine Jackson, who has been taking horticulture classes at MCCC as a part-time student for ten years, experienced her very first flower show from the presenter’s side. “When you attend the show as a visitor, you don’t imagine all the effort that goes on behind the scenes.  It’s hard work, but very satisfying. This is the pinnacle of my time studying at Mercer,” Jackson said.

MCCC Fine Arts, Graphic Design and Illustration students created posters on Holland’s agriculture, flowers, its abundance of parks, and its use of windmills, as well as a series of eight different postcards with facts about Holland for large-scale distribution. A Television student produced a two-minute video on sustainability in Holland that looped continuously in the windmill and barn.