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Union County College wins National Innovation Award for Leadership, Governance and Policy

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Union County College President Margaret M. McMenamin has received a 2013 Innovators Award from Campus Technology, a higher education technology magazine. McMenamin was named an Innovation Leader and received the award in the area of Leadership, Governance, and Policy for her guidance and direction of the College following Hurricane Sandy.

In the initial days following Hurricane Sandy, McMenamin gathered her staff and considered potential solutions to reopen the college as quickly as possible. The results of those conversations, particularly those with Beth Ritter-Guth, Director of Institutional Design, led to the development of the Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief Plan.

Due to the lack of electricity following the hurricane, McMenamin used the social networking site, Twitter, to reach out to Ritter-Guth to find out how the online learning platform could assist with continued learning in the expectation of an extended closing. Ritter-Guth immediately connected with Blackboard’s representative Ken Taylor and the College’s Angel support agent Brett Nabb, and they helped her establish a direct link to ANGEL through a back end channel that didn't require campus resources. This allowed Ritter-Guth and her staff to post content and messages for the entire faculty.

Such was the implementation of the Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief Plan, which allowed Union County College to be the first New Jersey community college to re-open after the storm. The college’s main campus, located in Cranford, was without power for almost two weeks. Many of the classes normally held there were moved to the Elizabeth campus, which was open within a week following the storm.

 However, due to physical limitations of classroom space, many classes were still unable to be held. The solution was provided by Taylor and Nabb, who were able to create a line into a remote server for Ritter-Guth to create a Hurricane shell for faculty and students. Through the college’s Angel Learning Management Suite (LMS), students were able to access information for their classes through this emergency shell.

 Faculty members were asked to send their course information to Ritter-Guth and her staff so they could post the information to the shell. McMenamin, Vice President of Academic Affairs Maris Lown, and Vice President and Executive Assistant to the President, Stephen Nacco, worked closely with the college’s webmaster to keep the college’s website information updated. The college also utilized Facebook and Twitter to notify students and faculty of the changes being made with classes until the Cranford campus was up and running again.

Union County College saw the value of technology with the Hurricane Sandy Recovery Disaster Recovery Plan. The college now has a plan for future emergencies and students and faculty will be able to access information and continue learning at the college during difficult times. Although Ritter-Guth and her team were the critical resources for posting the information to the shell, the entire faculty and staff of the college participated in the recovery plan so that the students could complete their semester on time and the college would still be in compliance with federal financial aid regulations.

McMenamin led her team through a difficult period and created a positive outcome for all members of the College community.

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