Naugatuck Valley Community College CEO Lisa Dresdner, Ph.D., students, administration, faculty and staff participated in a festive Fall 2021 Coming-to-Gathering to celebrate opening the semester “in real life” on the Mainstage Auditorium and in the Leever Atrium of the Waterbury campus.
To facilitate re-connecting with everyone in real-life (IRL) in a safe way, masks were required, tables were socially distanced, and an all-campus barbeque with games, music, and fun was hosted outside on the plaza. The morning began with an informal “Connect & Reflect” social where colleagues exchanged greetings and summer stories, followed by Dr. Dresdner’s State of the College address.
Welcoming everyone back to campus with an enthusiastic greeting, Dr. Dresdner gave special recognition to colleagues in Public Safety and Facilities for their consistent efforts in keeping the campus a safe place for learning. She also praised her Cabinet, staff, and faculty for all their efforts in recruitment and retention.
Reminding us that we all have a story, and “stories are about change,” Dr. Dresdner also emphasized that all stories contain steadfast truths. Using the College as an example, she explained that the core of the NVCC story is about a culture of compassion, care, and learning. “NVCC is a community and a team; we share the same goals and strive toward the same objectives to do what is best for our students. In our common understanding, we embrace and embody community.” She reminded the audience to stay focused on retention, especially following the guidelines of the college initiative, Doing Our PART (Paying Attention to Retention Today).
From the Office of Institutional Research, Sohair Omar, Interim Director, presented Data Stories. Director Omar noted the “take-away” from the stories. “Retention rates declined for full-time students and male students during the pandemic and now are beginning to climb as things gradually get better. Interestingly, retention rates for part-time students and female students remained relatively the same during the pandemic. Going forward, the college's goal is to increase overall retention rates by seven percentage points.”
Omar commented on the improved communications that support retention and enrollment. “Many improvements have been made to new student communications since 2018 such as the implementation of CRM Recruit, which may help us seal the holes in the educational pipeline. Additionally, we offer more content in Spanish and have increased the use of text messaging and social media platforms to communicate with Generation Z.”
NVCC students also treated the campus to a musical performance. Accompanied by Associate Professor of Music, Dr. Gil Harel, four performing arts students showcased their talents and versatility. The Broadway classic, "Skid Row" from Little Shop of Horrors, began with the clarion voice of alto Amelia McGee belting the signature opening words "...Alarm goes off at 7, and you start uptown!" - a resonating line for those who arrived bright and early in the morning and who gathered in-person for the first time since March of 2020. In the second number, "Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story" from Hamilton, Jalon Copeland's ringing tenor intoned the words sung by George Washington's character as he meditates on the importance of narrating and preserving our own individual stories, a poignant reminder to the morning’s theme. Joining him was soprano Brianna Mattingly, who gave a powerful voice to Eliza Hamilton, and music major Emily Burns, whose brilliant mezzo-soprano added rich harmonies. Dr. Harel commented enthusiastically: “I believe my students are as good as any college performers in the state, and their passion and curiosity are like a motor that keeps me firing on all cylinders.”
The morning event ended with NVCC’s fifth Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence, Dr. Stacey Sacks, who shared with the NVCC community her story of heart, wit, and mind. A performing artist and ethnographer, her story builds on her life growing up in Zimbabwe, post-secondary education in South Africa followed by doctoral work in Sweden, and her work with the Swedish chapter of Clowns Without Borders that toured refugee camps in Jordan, Myanmar, and Rwanda. During these tours she encountered the phrase, “Comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable,” a concept crucial to her work and play in which she contemplates the role of comic artists in the world and considers what service they can perform for communities during these particular geo-political times. Associate Professor of Theater, Sasha Bratt, commented that “welcoming Dr. Sacks to NVCC was a moment almost two years in the making, and meeting her in person was like reconnecting with an old friend!” He explains that her transformative and challenging work will benefit the entire college community, which was evident as many faculty and staff welcomed her and planted seeds of collaboration.
The Coming-to-Gathering event proved to be an auspicious start to the semester, filling faculty and staff with hope and energy to support NVCC students this academic year.