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2011 September 5 - 12:00 am

POV: Hope and Renewal

 Antonio Pérez

A few weeks ago, wearing a yellow construction vest over my suit, I surveyed the reconstruction of our brand new, 15-story academic building, Fiterman Hall, which will open in the fall of 2012.

While standing on the roof of the building, I also was able to see the rebirth of the World Trade Center, only several hundred yards away.

I began thinking about what the rise of the conglomeration of brick, steel, and glass, at both sites, means to our college community, and possibly the nation
at-large.

We will never forget that nearly ten years ago on 9/11, a terrorist attack on American soil claimed 2,753 lives in New York City, 40 in Shanksville, Penn., and 184 at the Pentagon. These are only raw numbers but the reality of the pain, suffering, and devastation is always with me and my colleagues at BMCC.

Borough of Manhattan Community College may be considered a footnote to the history of that horrendous act, but it holds the unfortunate distinction of being the only institution of higher learning to suffer the destruction of one of its buildings, the original Fiterman Hall, when World Trade 7 fell and turned Fiterman into an unrecognizable wreckage.

Within minutes, BMCC lost one-third of its instructional space. Even worse, by the end of the day, we lost eight members of our college community.

Going forward, the rebuilding of both the World Trade Center and Fiterman makes the most sense if we think of them as symbols of hope and renewal.

Now, more than ever, BMCC has an obligation to educate our students to be the best academically prepared cadre of graduates to face the enormous social, political and economic problems facing our nation since the Great Depression.

This is a tall order but BMCC is making good on its moral and academic obligation.

At BMCC, our education offers rich and varied rewards. Students graduate with a sense of mastery and achievement, not to mention academic skills—and for many, BMCC provides a path to senior college, graduate studies and a challenging career.

To be sure, an associate degree impacts both the level at which one enters the workforce and prospects for professional growth.

According to a report by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, jobs requiring at least an associate degree will outpace qualified applicants by three million in 2018.

That said, preparing students to advance beyond their 2-year degree remains paramount, and to that end BMCC is forging partnerships with 4-year institutions to ensure full credit transferability to enable graduates to progress to the next stage of their education.

BMCC is in the forefront of this movement and has initiated several unique collaborations with 4-year colleges. Qualified BMCC graduates in education, health information technology, science for forensics, forensic accounting, biotechnology, and criminal justice all automatically transfer to designated CUNY 4-year colleges.

In addition, our graduates with associate degrees in liberal arts and other areas transfer to many CUNY and other 4-year colleges.

These degree programs carry out our crucial mandate—to equip students to further their education at the baccalaureate level and achieve professional fulfillment in a profoundly changing world.

Now looking out my office window on our main campus, a few blocks from Fiterman Hall — and from where I once watched the plumes of smoke rising from the destruction of the World Trade Center — I see instead, tangible evidence that hope and renewal are alive.

Antonio Pérez, a native of New York, has been president of BMCC since 1995.
The college serves 22,000 students enrolled in 25 degree-granting programs.

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