Montgomery County Community College (MCCC) is launching into the future with a new leader and a set of immersive programs that will continue to expand its academic footprint.
After a competitive national search, MCCC announced that Dr. Victoria L. Bastecki-Perez, an administrator who had already made a high impact on their campuses for 25 years, was appointed as the College’s sixth president on May 18, 2020. This new chapter for MCCC and Bastecki-Perez was marked by a special drive-in inauguration ceremony at the Blue Bell campus, and livestreamed across the globe, in April 2021.
“We had a two-week community celebration to engage our students, the communities we serve, as well as the Montco family,” said Bastecki-Perez. “It was humbling. It was inspiring. It was energizing. It was just truly a memorable experience for all.”
In her tenure at MCCC, Bastecki-Perez had the opportunity to advance through the organization, serving as Director and Professor of Dental Hygiene, Dean of Health and Physical Education, Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs, Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost, and Interim President.
In her role as Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost, Dr. Bastecki-Perez provided leadership and strategic direction for the College’s five academic divisions, libraries, academic support services, and signature programs including the Virtual Campus, University Center, Culinary Arts Institute, Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, Honors Program, Lively Arts, Galleries and Center for Faculty Success.
As a first-generation college graduate, Dr. Bastecki-Perez understands the transformational effect that higher education can have on someone’s life.
“When we think about the power of education, that’s really what Montgomery County Community College is all about – opportunity for all,” said Bastecki-Perez.
Creating an equitable academic approach
MCCC cultivates an equitable academic trajectory for students by implementing a culture of care that increases student retention, success, and their persistence.
Dr. Bastecki-Perez recognizes that institutions need a holistic approach that supports everyone’s basic needs in order for students to excel academically.
“Whether it’s transportation, flexible childcare, food, housing, mental health services, clubs or athletics, Montgomery County Community College provides a student experience that not only enriches academic pursuits, but also helps build a community and a sense of belonging,” said Bastecki-Perez.
With a strong focus on creating an engaging student experience, MCCC has worked to provide 24/7 online tutoring for students to have access to academic resources at their fingertips. The on-demand service is available to all students at all times, irrespective of life circumstances at no additional cost to them.
Over the past year, MCCC also has become the first community college in the entire country to partner with Talkspace, which provides online mental health therapy. Much like the online tutoring service, the partnership program is accessible to all MCCC students whenever they need it at no additional cost.
“We really build a home away from home. Everyone feels welcome, knows that they have a voice and, most importantly, that their voice is heard. Our approach is about inclusivity with a focus on economic recovery, social mobility, as well as building generational wealth,” said Bastecki-Perez.
Out of this world opportunities in STEM
Montgomery County Community College is committed to bringing national education standards to the Philadelphia region and providing immersive environments for students to learn.
The College has partnered with the Challenger Center, a nonprofit science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education organization, and will soon become the home to the first Challenger Learning Center in the entire Commonwealth of Pennsylvania at its Pottstown Campus.
The Challenger Center, and its international network of more than 40 Challenger Learning Centers, allows students to experience fully interactive space missions in a completely immersive mission control and spacecraft. MCCC hopes to inspire a new generation to pursue STEM opportunities and ultimately use their space-themed simulated learning environment to engage students in dynamic, hands-on opportunities.
Founded in 1986, the Challenger Center was created to honor the crew of shuttle flight STS-51L. The Challenger Learning Center at Montco Pottstown will open in the fall of 2021 and serve as a resource for Montgomery County’s K-12 student population. The County consists of 22 public school districts with a diverse array of students.
“We are over the moon to be a partner,” said Bastecki-Perez. “There is a significant need for talented, creative, and diverse professionals in all of the STEM fields, not only today but well into the future to make our economies thrive and grow.”
In May and June, MCCC hosted a virtual mission for Pottstown elementary students where anyone can “go into space,” learn more about sustainability and climate change, paleontology, and other areas of science.
Student programs that strengthen the community and campus
In December 2020, MCCC received the largest gift in its 56-year history – $3 million – from Kenneth D. Baker, a dedicated advocate of the College and its mission, for the creation of the Baker Center of Excellence for Employee Ownership and Business Transformation.
The Baker Center of Excellence, which will be located on the Blue Bell Campus, is a catalyst for economic growth in Montgomery County and the surrounding region.
Baker, CEO of NewAge Industries in Southampton, Pa., is a proponent of employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs) after converting NewAge in 2006 and seeing the positive benefits for both employees and the company.
The Baker Center of Excellence will provide educational programs, resources for ESOPs, and profitable business concepts as the mechanism for upward mobility, equity, and inclusion of employees.
“The Baker Center of Excellence is really a commitment to sharing, promoting, and curating resources. We want to openly engage our communities and build awareness to help others, both near and far, with their common business challenges. We intend to support businesses strategize and recover from the pandemic,” said Bastecki-Perez.
MCCC also is continuing to expand the resources available to students on campus by renovating their buildings and student engagement spaces.
On their Blue Bell Campus, the final phase of a renovated Science Center is near completion and will soon be open to students. In addition, students will be able to access a new center for performing arts by 2022 and a new hospitality institute with an expanded portfolio will open by 2023.
“We are truly the community’s college that’s for all ages and stages of life. We encourage anyone interested to come (back) to the College for training as technologies progress, as desires change, and as their career paths evolve,” said Bastecki-Perez.
At MCCC, students can explore STEM, business, and health careers among other areas of study, the emerging world of esports, or join Montco’s wide-ranging entertainment sector. The College encourages its student body to create and cultivate. The possibilities on its campuses are endless, including the chance for students to run the Montco radio station, create podcasts, work in television production, and even record original songs in the Sound Recording and Music Technology Studio.
“Montgomery County Community College is an extraordinary institution of higher education. We provide affordability, accessibility, and equal opportunity for all,” said Bastecki-Perez. “We’re very passionate about teaching and learning, which is our primary focus, and committed to supporting every learner and meeting them where they are to make their dreams and aspirations for a bright future.”
For more information, visit Montgomery County Community College.