Naugatuck Valley Community College welcomed nearly 100 area legislative, municipal, community and business leaders, as well as Connecticut Board of Regents Chairman Nicholas Donofrio and Connecticut State College and University System President Mark Ojakian to campus on January 8 for NVCC’s seventh Leadership Breakfast.
“It has been a powerful year,” said NVCC President Daisy Cocco De Filippis, Ph.D., who outlined the College’s accomplishments during 2015 including strong degree and certificate completion rates which have more than doubled over the past five years, expanded offerings at NVCC’s Danbury Campus, a strong financial position despite limited resources, planning for the new Founders Hall which will house the College’s Center for Health Sciences and expansion of the U-Pass program to Danbury.
“It is good to know that our state and municipal leaders strongly support our efforts,” said President De Filippis. “We are confident we’ve made the case for NVCC’s impact on the lives of our students and our entire 22-town service region—all of whom are beneficiaries of the outcomes produced by our academic and workforce development programs.”
“You are the backbone of this community,” Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary told the audience. O’Leary, who also chairs NVCC’s Regional Advisory Council, praised the College’s commitment to providing quality education and enhancing the skills of the region’s workforce. He also applauded the State of Connecticut for its commitment to the region—providing the needed funding for the Center for Health Sciences and the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center.
“I think the future is very bright—not only for this institution here, but for the system as a whole,” said President Ojakian. “We have to work together and build on our individual strengths and really move the system forward as it was originally intended.” He spoke of the need to better communicate the importance of investing in Connecticut’s community colleges and their students and making the case with policymakers that additional resources will pay dividends by strengthening the state’s economy and delivering a better-skilled workforce.
NVCC Provost and Senior Dean of Administration James Troup provided an update on the College’s expansion plans in Danbury, campus improvement plans in Waterbury and the progress on construction of the Center for Health Sciences, scheduled to host its first classes in the Fall 2017 semester.
Those in attendance also heard an inspiring story from NVCC student Alex Achlioptas ’17. For him, the third time appears to be the charm. After two false starts at other colleges and working in construction, he began taking classes at NVCC and was accepted in the College’s nursing program. Reading the acceptance letter “was the best feeling I’ve ever felt,” said Achlioptas.
“NVCC has the tools we need to succeed as students—the ACE (Academic Center for Excellence), open labs, CAPPS (Center for Academic Planning and Student Success) and small class sizes,” Achlioptas said. “NVCC never seems to be closed.” Now, Achlioptas says he’s focused on completing his degree, furthering his education, beginning a career and giving back to the community. “I learned to define my failures rather than let my failures define me,” he said.
“The success stories that come from here [NVCC]—that’s what inspires me,” said state Rep. Larry B. Butler of Waterbury. “The people very much like Alex … they wanted to do something; didn’t really know what, but when they left here, their trajectory was just to the stars. That’s what we want to encourage; we want to give them the path to reach new heights and that’s what’s happening right here.” Butler thanked NVCC administrators, faculty and staff for their dedication to students.
State Sen. Joan V. Hartley of Waterbury and Rep. Jeffrey J. Berger of Waterbury, co-chairman of the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee, and Rep. Lezlye Zupkus of Prospect also expressed their support for NVCC. “Thank you for the students who make this college so great, the administrators, the faculty and the commitment of the Board of Regents to this system. All are important for the fiber of this community and the fiber of the state of Connecticut,” said Rep. Berger.
The audience also heard from United Way of Greater Waterbury President and Chief Professional Officer Kristen Jacoby about how her organization and NVCC can work together to elevate the lives of people in the region and from Washington, Connecticut First Selectman Mark E. Lyon, who praised the College for helping to address the educational and workforce needs of Litchfield County and the Naugatuck Valley.