PCCC Announces the Center for Student Engagement
Passaic County Community College is excited to introduce a vibrant new addition to our outstanding array of student services, the Center for Student Engagement (CSE), which is under the direction of Dr. Ian Wolf, the Assistant Dean of Student Engagement, who joined our staff in December 2022..
According to Dr. Wolf, the CSE is not so much a new venture as a re-imagining of what was previously the Office of Student Activities in combination with PCCC’s Athletics Department.
“Our mission is to increase and enhance student engagement at the College by providing students with athletic, cultural, educational, leadership, recreational, and social development opportunities,” explained Dr. Wolf, who comes to PCCC with extensive experience in student affairs gained at two other New Jersey community colleges.
According to Dr. Wolf, student involvement theory has proven that students who are engaged with their college community in a meaningful way are more likely to succeed academically and to complete their education.
The recent Jamboree 2023 was a co-curricular event that connected the Athletics program with other student activity groups on campus.
A primary step toward achieving effective student engagement at PCCC is to merge student activities and athletics. “One way to do that,” said Dr. Wolf, “is to ensure that staff members of each department are working in the same physical space.” To that end, the PCCC Athletics Director, Wayne Martin, now has an office in the CSE which is located next to Public Safety in the space of the former Office of Student Activities on the first floor of Founders Hall.
The immediate goal for this collaboration is to create more support for PCCC’s sports programs. “We’ve got to get up to speed on supporting athletic and recreational programming here,” said Dr. Wolf, who is also thinking ahead to the future and more ways PCCC athletics can be visible in the community. Last year’s reopening of Paterson’s famed Hinchliffe Stadium presented an attractive possibility.
Also crucial to the success of CSE is assuring that all students, not just those who attend in person, are able to engage. “Keeping our online students connected in a vital way is absolutely essential” insisted Dr. Wolf. Students can look to improvements made to the portal (also referred to as MyPCCC or PantherGo) as a better way to connect online. College-wide events now populate on the portal and students can now interact with various widgets on the portal’s landing page. Be on the lookout for more improvements to the online student experience soon.
Some on-campus avenues for increasing student engagement include intercollegiate athletics, intramural sports, the fitness center, the Student Government Association (SGA), student-run clubs and organizations, student employment, and social programming and events.
Opportunities beyond the campus will include community service, civic engagement, and connecting with cultural opportunities and institutions.
Alumna Kat Colon (’23), now Marketing Assistant in the CSE, reimagined the PCCC Panther as a superhero for PantherCon this Fall.
To fulfill the vision of the “co-curricular” campus, CSE will roll out plans to encourage consistent collaboration among student groups. One plan calls for the SGA to place regular articles in Visions, the student-run news publication. Another is for various student groups to work with the Media and Communications program to create instructional videos on topics of student interest, such as how to form a new student club or what’s required to organize a campus event.
Already underway is the transformation of the former Game Room, a location adjacent to the Main Campus Gym. Now known as the Panther’s Den Student Lounge, a name chosen by students to reflect their mascot’s identity, the space has become a student-directed place of their own to gather, socialize, brainstorm, create, and forge relationships. The Panther’s Den is currently open Monday through Thursday, from 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm, with plans to increase the hours and include Fridays in the future.
This type of student empowerment also fosters leadership growth which is essential to the CSE vision. According to Dr. Wolf, data has shown that students who are so deeply engaged that they take on leadership roles in college clubs and activities are more likely to have an extremely successful college career.
Another benefit to cultivating student leaders is that the process creates a pipeline of engagement. Student leaders can become skilled at working effectively with their team and at training their successors, so there is never a gap in leadership.
“I want to encourage student leaders to be like candles that burn with sustained light, not like fireworks that give off flashy sparks, but then fizzle out. We need sustainable student leadership,” said Dr. Wolf.
Also, to that end the CSE staff includes work-study students and alumni employees who bring to the table their unique perspective on the student experience. Katherine Colon, who graduated in 2023 with an associate’s degree in Fine Arts, is now the CSE Marketing Assistant. Kat, as she is known, recently created a comic book for the Fall Welcome Week Panther-Con that portrayed the College’s Panther mascot as a superhero in both male and female versions.
For a recent alumna-turned-employee to envision a Panther as a superhero and share that vision with current students is already a victory of effective student engagement.
For more information about the Center for Student Engagement, visit https://pccc.edu/student-life/ or stop by our office in E102 on the first floor of Founders Hall on the Paterson campus.