Brainstorming Helps Power Up Bergen Community College

Nearly 20 years ago, Bergen Community College worked with public officials to lay the groundwork for a branch campus in southern Bergen County, bringing access to high-quality higher education to local residents. An innovative concept took shape, placing the campus in the middle of a burgeoning epicenter of activity at the Meadowlands Sports Complex. 

Then, the Great Recession hit.

Demand for higher education at community colleges soared. Bergen’s enrollment reached all-time highs, topping out at more than 17,000 students enrolled in degree programs. But the recession also put a pause on some of the projects in the Meadowlands and College officials sought other options that would bring a campus to southern Bergen County.

Leveraging CRE Price Points

Ultimately this shift became a silver lining, as Bergen Community College devised an innovative solution to establishing a southern Bergen County location. 

With commercial real estate (CRE) prices at historic lows, the institution took advantage of a once-in-a-generation opportunity to secure a class-A, five-story office building in Lyndhurst that would become “Bergen Community College at the Meadowlands.” 

Since then, the building has offered myriad classes and business community resources such as a conference center and business incubator.

Leveraging the Meadowlands – And its Local Leaders

When I became president in 2021, I knew the Meadowlands location had untapped potential. We had this terrific, updated facility with a signature academic program (paramedic science), five floors of space and plenty of parking. 

All this location needed was renewed vision. 

Brainstorming for the Future

In response, I led a series of goal-setting exercises that researched community needs and pushed stakeholders to vision for the future. I encouraged innovation built on student and community interest and tied to preparing students for the region’s in-demand jobs. And I mind-melded with the President of the Meadowlands Chamber of Commerce, Jim Kirkos.

Ultimately, we designed a plan that would revitalize the Meadowlands location by developing the facility as an “innovation center” headlined by access to industry-leading resources, programs and activities.

The Innovation Center at the Meadowlands Campus

The Innovation Center concept was unveiled this semester, turning the spotlight on the remarkable transformation of the entire second floor of Bergen Community College at the Meadowlands. 

Featuring signature academic programs in cybersecurity, business, and information technology, we installed Bloomberg terminals and an electronic ticker tape that brings live international markets into the classroom. 

A Gaming Lab has been built that will serve as the proving ground for future developers while also hosting our e-sports athletes. 

The state-of-the-art cybersecurity lab supports a growing academic program at the Meadowlands campus, featuring large threat assessment displays that convey real time cyberattacks happening worldwide.

Opening More Doors

This robust reimagination of our Meadowlands learning site has opened the door for new partnerships with four-year colleges, high schools and industry partners. The innovation center is further complemented by the programs offered, our conference center and FUSE business accelerator as well. 

After years of transition, I am incredibly proud to say the Lyndhurst location in the Meadowlands will now operate as the first-choice destination in higher education that southern Bergen County deserves.

Innovation matters.

Eric M. Friedman, Ph.D., is the eighth president of Bergen Community College, taking the helm in 2021 after holding key leadership positions at Hudson County Community College. With over 30 years of private and public sector experience, he is well-known across the community college landscape as an innovator and passionate promoter of equitable higher education programs and services.