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NCC Fills Education Gap, President Levinson Tells Westport Sunrise Rotary

Norwalk Community College President David Levinson speaks before the Sunrise Rotary in Westport. The community college is now offering the IBM’s Pathways in Technology, allowing students to earn a high school diploma and an associate's degree.
Norwalk Community College President David Levinson speaks before the Sunrise Rotary in Westport. The community college is now offering the IBM’s Pathways in Technology, allowing students to earn a high school diploma and an associate's degree. Photo Credit: Contributed

WESTPORT, Conn. -- When David Levinson spoke before the Sunrise Rotary in Westport recently, he highlighted a few of the innovative programs he has brought to Norwalk Community College during his 11 years as its president. But his fast-paced presentation had the sound of a still-lengthening To Do List.

He called NCC a “regional and national exemplar of partnerships to improve student success, better align curricula with employer needs, and prepare students for STEM jobs needed to keep our country competitive.”

NCC has 10,000 students, with 6,500 enrolled in credit programs. Over 80 percent of the students also work, so few graduate in two years. Although most students live close by this commuter campus, 80 nations and 50 languages are represented. Many are first-generation college students.

While traditional remedial programs remain important, many graduates transfer to four-year colleges, including UConn in Stamford and Storrs, Mount Holyoke, Smith, Yale and Harvard.

NCC’s 21st-century mission, and its great strength is “its number of new programs targeting Connecticut’s STEM-related skills shortage,” Levinson said. The state will have more than 90,000 of what are called “middle skills” positions to fill during the next three years, ones that require education beyond high school, but less than a baccalaureate, he said. A total of 55 percent will be IT-related.

For one of major innovations, NCC was selected by the Helmsley Charitable Trust to develop community college curriculums to meet these needs. (The far larger Miami Dade College and Cuyahoga Community College in Ohio were also selected.)

Building on this, NCC is implementing IBM’s Pathways in Technology. In it, NCC is collaborating with Norwalk Early College Academy to offer a high school diploma and an NCC associate degree in six years. Graduates also gain the opportunity to begin their careers with IBM.

Health sciences is another area of focus. A new state-of-the-art $40 million facility has nursing bays modeling those at the Stamford, Greenwich and Norwalk hospitals. A total of 200 students earn RN and associates degrees, and can also earn a baccalaureate through Western Connecticut State University without leaving NCC.

And Levinson joked about its new Veterinary Technician program — “Given what my vet charges for an office visit for my dog, this is a very good occupation.”

He is also proud that the NCC Foundation awards over $1 million in scholarships to supplement existing federal and state aid, so “there is no reason to go into debt to attend NCC.”

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