The Meriden Center Looks Back at a Successful Year

After completing its 33rd academic year as a high-quality community college location, The Meriden Center of Middlesex Community College has much to celebrate. The school is clearly growing in popularity, with its highest enrollment ever, the curriculum and classroom experiences continue to surpass standards, and the school is taking very visible and positive steps to help build up the city of Meriden as a “college town.”

With enrollment surpassing 600 for the first time, The Meriden Center is becoming a valued place of learning for students at many different points in their careers. The Center, which is located at 55 West Main Street in downtown Meriden, offers more than 60 for-credit courses as part of MxCC’s 50 degree and certificate programs. The college also offers many non-credit courses that provide opportunities for professional and personal growth.

The curriculum and classroom experience has been enhanced with skilled instructors, including Meriden Superintendent Mark Benigni, who brings invaluable and extensive real-world experiences to students. Instructors such as Tad Lincoln have used the Meriden location to its benefit, helping attract high-level government officials to visit American Government students. Guest speakers have included Connecticut Speaker of the House, Rep. Christopher Donovan, Meriden Mayor Michael Rohde, and Connecticut State Senator Len Suzio. Each elected official gave students a first-hand account of how our government works, and better outlined the value and importance of being an active and involved citizen.

The small teacher-to-student ratios help students receive quality, individualized attention – which is crucial for most people’s educational success. Classrooms and computer labs are equipped with the latest instructional equipment and technology, giving students the tools they need to learn and complete assignments. The school anticipates enrollment to near the 1,000 student mark over the next few years which will require a physical expansion of space, something the college is starting to prepare for now.

The facility itself continues to improve with new learning labs, upgraded technology and new student lounges and meeting spaces. This past semester, Certified Nurse Aide (CNA) and Patient Care Technician (PCT) students were the first to use the new Health Care Teaching Lab at the Meriden Center. The lab creates a real-life health care environment – complete with patient beds and other hospital furniture, mannequin (“patients”), blood pressure and phlebotomy simulation trainers, and other crucial patient care equipment – to prepare students to provide direct patient care later in their studies and throughout their careers. The Meriden Center hosted a dedication event in December 2010, thanking major donors from The Meriden Foundation, The CUNO Foundation, the James H. Napier Foundation, and Middlesex Hospital (which donated the patients and bed linens).

“All of our successes this past year are significant steps for The Meriden Center, helping us move towards our goals of excellence for the Center and for MxCC as a premier place of learning,” said MxCC Past-Interim President Dr. Jonathan Daube. “We are particularly enthused by the accomplishments at The Meriden Center because they allow us to better serve a larger population who rely on MxCC for training and education. Since Meriden is home to more MxCC students than any other town, it makes sense for us to continue to invest in this community.”

Part of that investment includes taking great strides to create a college community at The Meriden Center, which is a challenge for a school without a traditional campus. It has done this by improving on-site amenities, creating new vibrant social programs with local businesses and organizations, and by working with town officials to help influence the city’s redevelopment as a “college town.”

To create a more traditional college experience and encourage the students to stay in the area, The Meriden Center has made relationships with downtown organizations such as the YMCA, some local art galleries, and local musical performers. Students enjoy discounted memberships at the Y as well as opportunities for childcare, weekly outdoor lunchtime live music during warmer months, and other entertaining and cultural events throughout each semester.

Throughout the academic year, MxCC has held several meaningful events to improve relationships with the city of Meriden and help forge the city as a “college town.” In September, the college hosted a roundtable discussion on “Is Meriden a College Town?” with its deans, Tami Christopher, Director of the Meriden Campus, and local officials. In April, the college followed up with a discussion about forging better relations between students and downtown Meriden.

Also in April, Meriden Mayor Michael S. Rohde hosted a bus tour with MxCC faculty to help them become more familiar with the culture, business climate, amenities and highlights of the city. During the tour, the mayor discussed efforts to design a plan of improvement for the city. At that time, Dr. Daube expressed enthusiasm for MxCC playing a part in reviving the downtown area, and he likened Meriden to East Hartford which has partnered for many years with Manchester Community College to help attract people to the town.

Mayor Rohde agreed, and said, “The Meriden Center and MxCC truly are a part of the culture of our community, and we are well served to include them as a partner in the city’s development and redevelopment plans.” He said that 65 percent of Meriden residents taking at least one class at a community college are enrolled at MxCC, a clear indication of how the city values the college.

The new president at MxCC, Dr. Anna Wasescha, is impressed and enthused by the great progress at The Meriden Center, and the strong relationship with the city. She hopes future growth at The Meriden Center will benefit from the city’s efforts to create more of a college-type environment.

In the meantime, The Meriden Center is enjoying its greatest successes since opening in 1978, and it is the students who are benefitting the most. Which, after all, is the point.