Public 4-Year Schools

Stockton University Earns National AASCU Award for Civic Learning and Community Engagement

Student Julie Coker, 19, of Union Beach in Monmouth County, knew she would not get home to vote on Election Day. So she stopped into the Absentee Ballot Party at Stockton University in October to fill out an absentee ballot request form with a little help from student Juliana Murcia, 19, of Egg Harbor Township.

The “party,” which included many boxes of pizza and one box of absentee ballot request forms filed by county, was just one of the events planned through Stockton’s American Democracy Project, or ADP, and Political Engagement Project, or PEP, to encourage students to become actively involved in their communities.

The University’s efforts were rewarded this year with the first Civic Learning and Community Engagement Award from the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

Stockton President Harvey Kesselman accepted the award, one of the AASCU’s Excellence and Innovation awards, in October, at the AASCU annual meeting in San Diego, California.

He said Stockton was founded on the principles of civic learning and community engagement.

“The success and growth of the ADP and related programs show the ongoing commitment of faculty, staff and students to achieve the University’s mission of developing engaged and effective citizens.” he said. “I am so very proud of the work they do every single day.”

To read more stories about Stockton, scroll down:

Stockton’s Career Center Links Students to Jobs
Stockton, Atlantic Cape Announce New Transfer Partnership
Stockton Experiment Returns from Space

The award recognizes the wide-ranging series of programs at Stockton, including voter registration, feeding struggling families, and teaching students how to make underwater robots.

Begun as a partnership with the New York Times, ADP was introduced at Stockton through the efforts of now retired Provost David Carr.

Stockton Director of Service-Learning, Daniel Fidalgo Tomé is currently the Chair of the steering committee for the national ADP, which now includes 260 colleges. He said the program has been successful at Stockton because it is not just one or two annual events, but integrated into the mission of the University and its impact on the local community.

So while the Constitution Day program in September and Martin Luther King Day of Service in January are among the more publicly visible examples of the ADP in action, students participate every day when they volunteer or intern in the community.

“This is not just episodic,” Tomé said. “It’s built into our fabric. People here know what service-learning is. One of every eight students here is doing a service-learning project.”

The University has put a special focus on Atlantic City, where a new residential campus is under construction and the economy has struggled to rebound from multiple casino closures.

Through the Stockton Center for Community Engagement, or SCCE, directed by Merydawilda Colon, some 300 Stockton students ran a Campus Kitchen that in 2016-17 made and delivered 2,347 meals to struggling families. The program partners with the Atlantic City School District, Sodexo and the Community Food Bank of New Jersey Southern Branch to make the program, which began in 2010, a success.

For the last three years, Stockton students have tutored children after school at two Atlantic City housing projects in a partnership with the Atlantic City Housing Authority and Atlantic City Police. More than 200 children participated in 2016-17 and the program expanded to the Pleasantville public library this fall.

SCCE Faculty Fellow, Professor Tara Luke, collaborated on the Sea Perch program in Atlantic City where students learned to build underwater robots.

“What is wonderful is that this is not just Stockton,” Colon said. “It is a group of committed partners working together. That is our strength.”

Stockton also hosts naturalization classes to help local residents become American citizens. Twenty-one new citizens took the Oath of Allegiance at a naturalization ceremony at the University in May.

Political events through the PEP have included legislative debates, debate-watching parties and Election Day activities, coordinated by Claire Abernathy and Jennifer Forestal, both assistant professors of political science.

At the Stockton Polling Institute, most of the workers are students, who get to earn while they learn about the political process.

Those efforts have paid off. The National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement, which looks at voting among college students, found that Stockton’s voter registration rates increased from 74 percent in 2012 to almost 79 percent in 2016. In 2016, 67 percent of registered students voted, up from 60 percent in 2012.

Murcia volunteered to help at the Absentee Ballot Party because voting is important to her.
“My parents are into politics, but we don’t have the same viewpoint,” she said.

Tome said students today are more aware of social issues and willing to get involved.

“As a public institution it is important to be stewards of our area to work for the common good,” Tomé said. “This is what being engaged in the community means, and it is part of the job of a liberal arts college.”

The AASCU award honors institutions that prioritize and advance student civic learning
and community engagement, at regional, state, and national levels. The winning entries required evidence of top-level administrative support; connection with an institution’s mission and strategic agenda; contribution to significant institutional improvements or programming; and grounding in research and best practices.

“Innovation at America’s state colleges and universities is focused on advancing the quality of the educational experience for their students and the distinction of their institutions in service to their communities,” said AASCU President Muriel A. Howard in announcing the award.

Stockton’s Career Center Links Students to Jobs

Vincent Calderone of Hammonton graduated from Stockton University with a degree in accounting and finance in December 2016. He started an internship in January 2017 with the Northfield accounting firm of Capaldi, Reynolds & Pelosi, then was hired full-time by the firm.

“It was really rigorous during tax season,” Calderone said of his internship, which he applied for after talking with the firm at the Stockton Career and Internship Fair last fall. This year he was back at the event, assisting as an alumni recruiter with CPA John Moller, ’94.

Moller started with the firm right out of college. This is the third year they have participated in the Career Fair. Moller and managing partner Matt Reynolds said the event is valuable for both students and businesses.

“It gives us a chance to meet potential interns,” Moller said, “and internships give them a sample of what the job is like, especially during tax season.”

More than 100 businesses participated in the fall Career and Internship Fair, offering internships and jobs in fields ranging from nursing to police work and business management.

The fair is just one of services provided by Stockton’s Career Center, which offers services ranging from resume writing to job search strategy, plus the StocktonWorks link to jobs and internships. They even offer lessons in how to tie a tie, part of the “Are You Suitable” message that encourages students to dress professionally for interviews.

Career Center Director Walter L. Tarver, III said the center uses the Career Community Model in which advisers specialize in six specific career areas, such as business and hospitality, education or health sciences. Students sign up for the areas they are interested in and get more targeted assistance.

“We want to make the time students spend with us valuable,” Tarver said.

Alumni at the fair said attending the Career Fair and taking advantage of internships were crucial to their obtaining a job quickly once they graduated. They also encouraged students to consider looking beyond the obvious companies or careers. Many types of businesses need accountants or human resources people.

Alumna Erin Gorman, of Galloway Township, who graduated with a degree in public health in 2016, has been a recruiting manager with Bayada Home Health Care for almost a year.

She learned about Bayada at a Stockton Career Fair, then did an internship with Virtua Health that led to a job, but it was a long commute. When a job closer to home with Bayada became available she applied.

“I didn’t know that there were positions like this in the local office,” she said. “I love this job, and I have learned so much about all the different jobs there are.”

Debbie Rusnak recruits for Barrette Outdoor Living, which makes fencing, railing and outdoor living products at the old Lenox building in Galloway Township.

“We have jobs in accounting, product design, office work, and CAD technician,” said Rusnak, a 2002 graduate of Stockton with a degree in business, who recently joined Barrette. “I have to explain we have a lot more than just plant work.”

Rusnak got student’s attention with one of the best “freebies” at the fair, forest green stadium blankets with a Barrette logo storage pouch.

“I have collected some resumes,” she said. “I just have to get them to stop and listen.”

Stockton, Atlantic Cape Announce New Transfer Partnership

The presidents of Stockton University and Atlantic Cape Community College today announced a new partnership that will help students make a smooth transition from the two-year-college to a four-year bachelor’s degree program.

The “Stockton University at Atlantic Cape” program enhances existing agreements, and will provide students with more opportunities to earn both associate and bachelor degrees.

“This partnership will strengthen our Atlantic City presence with Stockton University and will benefit students by providing a cost-effective means for them to get their degree and prepare for the workforce,” Atlantic Cape president Barbara Gaba said in a ceremony at Atlantic Cape’s Charles D. Worthington Atlantic City Campus.

Stockton welcomed 988 transfer students this fall, and 208 of them, more than 20 percent, came from Atlantic Cape Community College.

“We want to provide every student who wants it, the opportunity to earn a four-year college degree,” Stockton president Harvey Kesselman said. “This agreement will make it easier and more affordable for local students to continue their education, especially as we open our new Atlantic City campus in the fall of 2018.”

The terms of the partnership include:

  • Students in the program who earn their associate degree at Atlantic Cape can enter Stockton as fully-matriculated juniors. Any Stockton application fees will be waived for participating students.
  • Eligible students who apply to, but are not admitted to Stockton as freshmen, can instead attend Atlantic Cape but receive counseling and advising from both Stockton and Atlantic Cape. All eligible students will receive a letter conditionally accepting them to Stockton University at Atlantic Cape. They will be officially admitted to Stockton upon receiving their associate degree.
  • Credits earned at Stockton can also be applied to an associate degree at Atlantic Cape in a “reverse transfer” agreement.
  • Stockton will provide five annual scholarships of $2,000 to top performing Atlantic Cape graduates who enroll at Stockton through this agreement.
  • Students enrolled in the “Stockton University at Atlantic Cape” program will be eligible to apply for Stockton housing.
  • Atlantic Cape will prominently display a “Stockton University at Atlantic Cape” banner at its Atlantic City Campus to signify the importance of the relationship.

Stockton Experiment Returns from Space

Students Begin Analysis of Mission 11 Project to Determine if Fungus Can Enhance Agriculture in Space as it Can on Earth

What goes up must come down. Stockton University’s student-designed experiment that launched to space on Aug. 14, arriving at the International Space Station (ISS) more than a day later, is back on Earth in the Unified Science Center for analysis.

“The experiment [that spent about a month in space] was overnighted to Stockton and then we hit the ground running as soon as possible. We want the data to be fresh,” explained Valkyrie Falciani, a Marine Biology graduate currently in the Teacher Education program.

Falciani, of Hammonton, N.J., and Danielle Ertz, a Biology graduate, of Woodlynne, N.J., along with faculty mentor Tara Luke, professor of Biology, created the experiment, which seeks to determine if fungus is a potential force for improving agriculture in space. Fungus can enhance growth on Earth, but the team wants to know if this fact holds true in a microgravity environment. Their final results will have an impact on long-term space travel as they will help guide further research on sustaining food supplies in space.

The experiment consisted of two identical test tubes containing precise quantities of flax seeds, fungus spores, water and sphagnum moss separated into compartments closed off by clamps. Moss serves as a growing medium that was chosen over soil because it holds water longer and has more nutrients. Flax was chosen because its seeds are edible, the plant can be used to make cloth, its extensive taproot system allows growth in limited space and it is proven to grow in space.

One test tube was sent to space while its replica stayed in the Unified Science Center, untouched in a dark drawer to match the conditions in space. The replica serves as an experimental control for a comparison of results.

The Stockton team began the experiment by opening one clamp that allowed the compartments of seeds, spores and moss to mix, and opening a second clamp allowing the water to activate the biological processes. Astronauts who received instructions from the team did the same aboard the ISS.

After a month in Earth and space, analysis is now underway with the creation of slides to observe thin slices of the root cells under a microscope. “We count the locations where spores infect the roots. [The number of spore-root interactions determines if the fungus] is as effective in microgravity as it is on Earth,” said Falciani.

The beneficial root and fungus interactions will describe the effectiveness of the symbiotic association. “The more associations, the more ability for the plant and fungus to interact,” said Luke.

Falciani and Luke were in Florida at the Kennedy Space Center in August for the launch along with Peter Straub, dean of the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, Norma Boakes, associate professor of Education, and students Ariel Petchel, Greg Fischer, Chedecia “Cindy” Lowe and Megan Pierce. “It was absolutely incredible to watch the rocket shooting up into space in front of us—it’s hard to describe,” explained Falciani, who had never witnessed a launch before.

“We were as close as you can be, about three miles from the launch pad, and we could hear and feel the sonic boom. Liquid oxygen is used to keep the system from overheating. When it meets the air, it evaporates. We saw the steam cloud just prior to the launch,” she said.
For Luke, who has explored the Marianas Trench (the deepest place on the planet), the experience was equally as exciting and just as much a learning experience as it was for the students.

Not only did the team witness the launch, they watched the first stage of the reusable rocket return to Earth. The experiment was transported in the SpaceX Dragon capsule on the Falcon 9 rocket, and in less than 10 minutes after launch, the first stage of the two-stage Falcon 9 returned, landing at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station near the Kennedy Space Center.

After a month attached to the ISS, the Dragon took a plunge into the Pacific Ocean and a boat ride to land. The experiment continued on and was overnighted to Stockton where its data is now revealing an important story about agriculture in space.

Note: Stockton was selected for Mission 12 of the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program, and a class of students is currently crafting experiment proposals. One project will be chosen to go to space in the spring of 2018. The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) is a program of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) in the U.S. and the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education internationally.