Innovation Continues in College’s 50th Year

Professors Robert Highley, Camelia-Manuela Lataianu, Ph.D. and Jennifer McCarthy.

PARAMUS, N.J. – Three Bergen Community College faculty members have earned recognition as dedicated community college educators for their contributions in supporting student success at the institution.

Biology professor Robert Highley, of Waldwick, received the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD) Excellence Award for providing outstanding leadership to his department. Developing a passion for biology and science at a young age, Highley joined the College 25 years ago as an instructor, working his way to a full-time faculty position and chair of the department of biology and horticulture. Recognized by faculty and staff for creating an inclusive and collaborative environment, Highley continues to look for opportunities to strengthen his department.

“It’s an honor to know that I have the support of my peers. I try to make the department function as efficiently as possible to ensure that my colleagues can focus on their work – which is teaching,” Highley said. “That way, the students get the best of both worlds.”

Sociology professor Camelia-Manuela Lataianu, Ph.D., of Hackensack, has been named Bergen’s 2017 recipient of the John and Suanne Roueche Excellence Award, sponsored by the League for Innovation in Community College. Founder of the College’s Model United Nations club, Lataianu, who also serves as the club’s co-advisor, has dedicated her career to improving the education of her students by providing guidance that nurtures their fullest potential. A first-generation college student who immigrated to the U.S. from Romania, Lataianu understands the difficulties and challenges students face on their paths to self-discovery. The Roueche recipient, who will attend the League’s annual conference in Maryland next month, attributes the award to the hard work of her students.

“As an educator, my role is to guide students to find their place in the world as active global citizens,” Lataianu said. “I learned from great teachers that education is the right trail toward upward social mobility. I also want to contribute to making this world a better place.”

Finally, paramedic science program director professor Jennifer McCarthy, of Cranford, received the Innovation of the Year Award, also sponsored by the League for Innovation in Community College, for taking the learning experience beyond textbooks and lectures by integrating advanced healthcare simulation into the learning environment. Recognizing the community’s need for highly-skilled paramedics, McCarthy helped design and develop the program to train students how to respond to emergencies and provide first-line emergency medical care in realistic clinical settings with state-of-the-art medical simulation facilities. The program also prepares students for the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians licensing exam. Since its inception in 2014, all graduates of the program have achieved a 100 percent pass rate on the exam as well as full employment. A $750 award from the League will help McCarthy, who is also a practicing paramedic, continue to push the boundaries for her students.

“Beyond my own vision, the program’s faculty and staff, who are all actively working in emergency medicine, create a psychologically safe environment to learn as we all evolve along the healthcare continuum,” McCarthy said. “Learning is contagious here – and that’s why our graduates soar.”

Commemorating the 1967 hiring of Bergen’s first president, Sidney Silverman, Ph.D., and the approval of the master plan that developed the College’s main campus at 400 Paramus Road, the institution launched its 50th anniversary celebration last fall.  Since its inception, Bergen has grown into the state’s largest community college with approximately 14,000 students taking classes this semester. Ranked No. 1 in the state for associate degree graduates, alumni have studied at every Ivy League institution and rank 11th in the U.S. for mid-career salaries, according to Payscale.

Based in Paramus, Bergen Community College (, a public two-year coeducational college celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2017-18, enrolls 14,000 students at locations in Paramus, the Philip Ciarco Jr. Learning Center in Hackensack and Bergen Community College at the Meadowlands in Lyndhurst. The College offers associate degree, certificate and continuing education programs in a variety of fields. More students graduate from Bergen than any other community college in the state.

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