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More than 100 Bergen Community College students, faculty, staff and guests gathered on Aug. 22 to witness the groundbreaking of the $26 million Health Professions Integrated Teaching Center at the school’s main campus in Paramus. The building represents the college’s capital improvement project as part of the $750 million Building Our Future Bond Act, approved by New Jersey voters in the November 2012 elections. All bond act projects must expand a school’s academic capacity and have a direct impact on student instruction.
Joined by a bevy of Bergen County and state officials, college administrators donned hard hats and shovels to ceremonially mark the start of construction on the three-story, 65,000 square-foot facility. Construction is expected to take two years.
“The Health Professions Integrated Teaching Center may very well become the crown jewel building for what many people refer to as the crown jewel program at the college – of course, our health professions programs,” Bergen Board of Trustees Chair E. Carter Corriston said. “Students in these programs have long-benefited from the quality instruction provided by the college’s renowned faculty; they will soon have a facility that reflects the excellence of the programs they lead and teach in.”
Currently, more than 1,000 students enroll in health professions programs such as dental hygiene, radiography and nursing at Bergen. The college offers nine degree and certificate programs and nine non-credit certificate programs as part of its division of health professions.
Bergen’s president, Dr. B. Kaye Walter, said the center will provide new opportunities for those students, preparing them for entry into the occupational sector with the highest projected net job growth of any field – 3 percent between 2010 and 2020 – according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“Today not only represents part of building a foundation for this structure – but building the foundation for a healthier Bergen County,” she said. “As has been the case for the last 45 years, throughout Bergen County, it will be our graduates who perform the ultrasounds on future mothers; our graduates who tend to us in the emergency room; and our graduates who help keep our teeth looking like the smiles we see in ‘People’ magazine.”
While health professions programs have always proven popular at Bergen, the center will allow the college to offer new amenities, technologies and community resources to meet the country’s evolving healthcare industry. In total, the center will include 26 classrooms and laboratories including medial simulation and computer labs.
Additionally, the center will feature a ground-floor dental hygiene clinic, a laboratory for Bergen students as they work toward their associate in applied science degrees. The clinic offers low-cost preventive oral health care for the community and has hosted free oral cancer screenings and prophylaxis for children.
The center will become the first freestanding building constructed at Bergen since West Hall, completed in 2007.
RSC Architects, of Cliffside Park, designed the center.