At the Intersection of Training and Application

Housatonic C.C.'s new head hopes to strengthen ties to area business community

Business New Haven
10/29/2007 by BNH

On October 12, Anita T. Gliniecki of Monroe was inaugurated as the fourth president of Bridgeport's Housatonic Community College (HCC). In addition to new leadership, the school will soon expand into the new Beacon Hall on the southern perimeter of its downtown campus. Gliniecki had been with HCC since 2003, first as academic dean, then acting president. BNH spoke with Gliniecki just four days following her installation.

Where were you before you came to HCC in 2003?

Before coming to Connecticut I was at St. Claire County Community College in Port Huron, Mich. My last position there was vice president of academic services.

Are you a Michigan native?

That's correct. I grew up in rural Michigan.

What's your area of scholarship?

When I went off to college I was a classic undecided [student] - I didn't know what I wanted to do. But I liked science, liked history, liked reading, liked writing. After my first year of college I had a job as a nurse's aid, and that's literally where I found my career - I loved nursing. But I knew that I also want to teach. So after I finished my baccalaureate degree, I worked in a wide variety of areas of nursing to garner expertise. I obtained a master's and began teaching - first at the university level and then at the community-college level.

What attracted you to administration?

I got into it by default. My first teaching position was at Northern Michigan University, and within a year I was department chair. I went to Northwestern, and after a year I was director of nursing. After that I consciously chose administrative positions, and with each promotion I was given more and more responsibility. I found that I was good at and enjoyed being an administrator as well as a teacher.

You have made strengthening HCC's partnerships with the business community the keystone of your administration. Why is that priority No. 1?

A community college is literally of the community. Having your students return to the community you need to be in very close contact with business and industry so that which you are teaching your students is meeting [the business community's] needs.

What are your most popular programs of study now?

Our strongest areas are health-care programs. We have a very strong business program, preparing students for work in accounting firms to financial services to business administration. Also, human services and all of the social services - we have tremendous programs in those areas, which also includes criminal justice. The other area we're trying to get stronger in is the manufacturing area. It's a misnomer that manufacturing is dead in Connecticut. Manufacturing is not dead - it's changing.

What geographic labor markets are you mainly preparing students for: Bridgeport, lower Fairfield County, the Valley?

It's all of them. Half of our students come from [the city of] Bridgeport and then either stay in Bridgeport or one of those commuting towns. They could be going up to New Haven or down to Stamford, depending on what their career is. Or they could be going into Shelton because there's so much new business and industry there. Because we draw from an 11-town region, the answer is: all of these areas our students could be returning to.

What's the feedback mechanism for knowing what companies need from two-year colleges in terms of workforce preparation?

For our programs we have advisory committees that meet at least twice a year. Their whole focus is to review the [curriculum of each program] with the faculty. And as we have students in internships that formal feedback [takes place]: Were they prepared? Were there other things we need to emphasize within the program? So it's very formal feedback. But also, wherever I go I'm asking those questions: What sort of skills do you need? What sort of courses? What sort of programs?

What's the typical profile of the HCC student today?

Fifty percent of our students are brand-new high-school grads. They're 18, 19, at most 20 years old. They are at the beginning of their [adult] life and at the beginning of their educational career. The remaining 50 percent of our students are [age] 22 through 80-something. In that group could be a person seeking [his or her] first career, a person returning to the job market after having been out for a number of years, a person who may have consciously decided to change their career, or their job went away and they need new skills. So our profile is that there is no profile. We have students at every stage in terms of their chronological age and their educational age.

What's HCC's enrollment this semester?

We have 4,475 students enrolled in for-credit classes.

Next fall your campus will double in size. How will that impact enrollment capacity?

When we built this [existing] building, the capacity was 2,600, 2,700 students. And we have been over 4,000 for a number of years. We are so compressed for space; [the new building] will actually give us a little bit of breathing room. With the new Beacon Hall our capacity is projected to be 5,500 students - so we'll be adding an additional 1,000.

Where will those new students come from?

From our [existing] service area. The popular times that students are looking for classes - early morning and late afternoon - we know that we need to add more classes at those times. But we have been unable to do so because we literally had no more [class]rooms.

What exactly is your service area, geographically speaking?

We go from Milford [in the east] to Fairfield on the other side [of Bridgeport]. Then Easton [represents] the northwest corner, and Ansonia is the furthest reach up the Valley. That's where our service area abuts [that of] Naugatuck Valley Community College.

Housatonic has a Research Institute. What does it do, and how does its work fit in with the college's strategic mission?

The Research Institute is working primarily with our small manufacturers. With the capabilities of a software package called OneSource, it gives them the research capabilities of a Fortune 500 company. Our companies use that tool to determine future markets, perhaps future products that they could [introduce] to increase their business capacity. We are the only community college licensed to use this product [created by OneSource, a division of Omaha, Neb.-headquartered infoUSA]. So we see this as a service to small manufacturers, because economic vitality in the region helps the college. It's a symbiotic relationship.

Since our readership is business people, what would you like the business community to know about HCC that it might not know today?

I'm hoping that businesses in the area already know about us. What they might not know is our absolute commitment and willingness to work with them to develop credit or non-credit programs that will meet their needs.