Middlesex Matters

The following is a series of stories demonstrating how Middlesex Matters to our students, our community, and the CSCU System.


Students are the center of Middlesex Community College

April 29, 2018

Since 1966, more than 80,000 students have attended MxCC. Tens of thousands have earned associate degrees and certificates. Many continued their education to a bachelor’s degree and beyond. Most have led successful careers and paid it forward by mentoring and hiring students from their alma mater.

Placing students at the center has sharpened the college’s mission to help students achieve their individual goals and become productive, engaged global citizens. Students say people are the main reason they chose to attend Middlesex. They value relationships built between themselves and “dedicated professors,” “friendly and supportive administration,” and a “welcoming student body.” We call this The MxCC Way.

The college is also defined by our community—that’s you. We work together with businesses, schools, and nonprofits to provide a relevant, rigorous curriculum that leads to employment and further education. Over 100 employers host MxCC students in clinical placements and internships. Dozens serve on program advisory boards.

We’re a small college with a large impact:

  • Two-thirds of Middlesex Health System diagnostic imaging staff graduated from our Radiologic Technology program. This 45-year-old partnership with Middlesex Hospital includes specialties in Computed Tomography, Mammography, and soon—Magnetic Resonance Imaging.
  • Facing closure, MxCC’s Meriden Center was instead relocated to Platt High School. Over 300 students per semester take courses in this beautifully renovated facility. Next door, Manufacturing students learn in state-of-the-art labs at Wilcox Technical High School.
  • Many of the state’s licensed opticians completed MxCC’s Ophthalmic Design and Dispensing program—one of only two in Connecticut, and the only one at a public college.
  • Pieper Memorial Veterinary Center built an education wing for 50 students in MxCC’s rapidly growing Veterinary Technology program using only private funds.
  • Our award-winning Center for New Media involves students in the production of professional multimedia products used by external clients, leading to jobs at TV stations and production companies.
  • We bring college into prisons through a unique collaboration with Wesleyan University. This summer, 25 incarcerated students will receive MxCC diplomas.

We are a compassionate college that believes in the common good. Our Magic Food Bus pantry helps students in need and their families. We award millions of dollars in financial aid and scholarships. Our Courageous Conversations series fosters open, honest, peaceful dialogue.  We’re a Military Friendly® school where veterans are honored and supported. Opticianry students conduct community eyecare clinics at home and abroad. And, we are signatories of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Middlesex Community College has this kind of impact despite years of budget cuts from the state, which is in “a period of permanent fiscal crisis.” We want our commitment to you — and your commitment to us — to be as strong as ever.

MxCC has over 3,000 students but just 109 full-time employees; 200 part-time faculty, tutors, and enrollment staff; and only five managers. We are a lean organization, and we have a balanced budget.

Our “one-team” culture says that each of us is dedicated to working together to ensure student success and educational excellence. Employees have spent countless hours devoted to task forces, committees, and outreach activities — often with no extra time or pay — to make this college the best it can possibly be.

Recently, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges rejected the Board of Regents for Higher Education’s proposal to merge Connecticut’s 12 community colleges into a single institution. The “Students First” plan was projected to save $28 million by reducing administrative costs and centralizing some functions.

Although this consolidation seems to be off the table, Middlesex Community College has always collaborated with our sister institutions. We will continue to do so. Common-sense solutions can be implemented without consolidation, such as guided pathways, harmonized curricula, and a unified community college transcript. We need to make it easier for students to take courses at any of the campuses; complete programs of study quicker; and, transfer to the four-year university of their choice.

“Students are the center of Middlesex Community College.” Not only are these words a nice phrase found in our mission statement, they are a promise to fulfill our vision to be your college, helping to create your future.

Dr. Steven Minkler is the Academic Dean and Lead Campus Administrator at Middlesex Community College.

Center for New Media

people sitting in production studio with screens on, computers, and control boards

The Center for New Media is the result of a close collaboration among MxCC faculty, staff, students, and administration; industry and university partners who participate on the CNM Advisory Board; the CSCU System Office; and, the U.S. Department of Labor.  The Center has been part of MxCC under one name or another for over 40 years.  As an academic program, it prepares students for career and transfer opportunities in the fields of television, film, multimedia, web design, and digital media.  Quite literally, hundreds of media professionals have graduated from CNM programs over the years.  Yet, the Center is not only an academic program tied to the classroom experience.

CNM Productions, headed by Dan Nocera, is a perfect example of how Middlesex Matters.  CNM Productions taps the talent from within – especially students — to produce high-quality media materials for instructional, corporate, and advertising purposes.  In doing so, CNM Productions generates revenue for the college and serves as a model for how a small media production business operates.  It connects Dan and his production crew with the faculty and students; it leverages community partnerships in creative ways; and, it provides a service to the college and other CSCU institutions.  It is truly a place where applied learning happens. 

Most recently, the Center for New Media was hired by the CSCU system’s Connecticut Advanced Manufacturing Initiative to produce numerous instructional videos to benefit students, and to promote these programs at the community colleges.  This resulted in a contract valued at over $100,000, with a very short timeline.  

According to Dan Nocera, “This video turned out better than I expected because of some connections I made at Pratt & Whitney.  I worked with their communications people last year and made a few calls and they sent me footage to use in the piece.”  Dan continued, “CNM is a unique entrepreneurial activity at MxCC which requires specific back office support, and all in a timely fashion to serve our clients.  If the colleges consolidate, how can we continue to offer this fantastic learning opportunity and high quality service to the CSCU system and the other various other state agencies that we partner with, at the same level?”

On that note: At Tunxis’s Town Hall Meeting, CSCU President Mark Ojakian mentioned MxCC specifically, where he wishes to continue collaborating on marketing videos for the system.  Click here to hear his comment >> https://youtu.be/At-wDDr4I3Y?t=58m26s.

Open Educational Resources for Math

Pam Frost

The Math Department at MxCC was searching for a textbook that fit statewide common learning outcomes for Elementary Algebra and Intermediate Algebra courses.  The faculty also wanted a book that was compatible with our college’s pedagogical preferences.  They could not find any good options.

Professor Pam Frost proposed a sabbatical leave project to give her focused time to continue searching for the right instructional resources, and to develop additional materials to fill any gaps.  She learned that several math colleagues at one of our sister community colleges were implementing an Open Educational Resource (OER) textbook and online component.  She was intrigued.

According to the Hewlett Foundation, Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and repurposing by others. OER include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge.”

Pam began a collaboration with her system colleagues to revise a book, originated at Scottsdale Community College in Arizona, which better fits the learning outcomes and desired pedagogy at MxCC and in the other Connecticut community colleges. 

For the past two semesters, Professor Frost and her colleagues in the MxCC Math Department have piloted the resulting Intermediate Algebra book and MyOpenMath online platform.  The Math team is continuing its work by building a complementary Elementary Algebra book that is also OER.  They have piloted this book in several classes this semester.  In the Fall of 2017, the Math Department will be using OER books and online platforms for all of the college’s developmental math courses plus Intermediate Algebra.  Further, other math faculty will be using OER materials in some other classes.  

The ability to easily revise your own textbook helps the faculty build materials that better support student learning and success.  In addition, the cost savings for students per course in math is about $150!  Initial student feedback is overwhelmingly positive.  Faculty that have used these materials are excited as well.  Open Educational Resources have provided us a means to provide high quality texts and online support materials at a very affordable price to our students.  Some studies have shown that students tend to use these savings to pay for additional courses that they could not afford otherwise (e.g., Fischer, Hilton, Robinson, et al., 2015) — a win-win for students and the college.

Manufacturing Awareness Day

MxCC launched its Manufacturing programs about 10 years ago.  The program has evolved in terms of curriculum, facilities, and location. Its original home was in a not-so-visible back half of a building in the city of Meriden, on a quiet dead-end street.  In the fall of 2015, the program moved to its current location in the very visibile, state-of-the-art Manufacturing Lab at Wilcox Technical High School, also in Meriden.

Since moving to Wilcox Tech, the program has been nearly “sold out” every semester.  This is due to the efforts of Hubert and MxCC team members responsible for overseeing a $1.6 million U.S. Department of Labor Connecticut Advanced Manufacturing Initiative Grant.  Team members include division director Dr. Lin Lin, tutor Lisa Fitzsimmons, internship and employment coordinator Carolyn Sommer, and program assistant Shelly Figueroa.  Grant funds have helped the college purchase new equipment housed at Wilcox Tech, a metrology lab located on the top floor of Snow Hall, and (with thanks to our colleagues Judith de Graffenried and Matt Weber), temporarily within the ceramics studio on the ground floor of Snow Hall.

MxCC recently secured approval from the system-wide College of Technology and the Board of Regents to add a new Manufacturing Engineering Technology pathway degree program, available to students this fall.  This pathway accomplishes two things. The first is the students have enough technical training to obtain entry level employment as machinists. An engineer that has related experience is a strong asset to their organization. Secondly, this pathway will provide students with two years of college credit toward a Bachelor of Science degree in Manufacturing Engineering Technology. 

Recently, the CAMI team hosted a “Manufacturing Awareness Day” on campus, with over 100 high school students in attendance. You can read more about this on page 1 of the attached newsletter.  On page 2, you’ll also see that the MxCC Corporate Media Center has played a large role in producing instructional videos for all CAMI colleges.  You can watch the videos by clicking on the link embedded in this newsletter.  Kudos to Dan, Lloyd, and their colleagues for a great job, too!