Most interviews begin with a reporter asking a question, but Paul Broadie II opted to take the initial inquiry for his conversation with the Business Journal by asking this reporter, “Would you mind if we walked?” The Housatonic Community College (HCC) president was eager to offer a view of the newly completed 46,000-squre-foot student welcome center at the Bridgeport school.
“It is a different approach,” he explained when walking down a brightly colored corridor and pointing out this section of the college. “We wanted to make sure we’re not bouncing students from office to office, but serving their needs in a more centralized location and providing information and services they need in a central location. Before this, we had a number of offices dispersed throughout college. Now, we put the offices in our one-stop center.”
Broadie also highlighted the new approach at the registrar’s office. “When you see one of these individuals,” he continued, referring to the office’s staff, “they can assist you with information on applying, paying, financial assistance and registering. In the past, students had to go to different offices to get all of those things.”
The student welcome center is not the only new aspect that HCC will offer in its upcoming fall semester. Broadie noted that the college is preparing to introduce surgical technology as an academic program.
“We’re hoping to bring in a class of 30 students,” he said. “It is a program that we inherited from Bridgeport Hospital, who was closing their surgical technology programs. The technical high schools were also closing their surgical technology programs — and we would have had none in the state. We will be the only surgical technology program in the state until others open — Gateway Community College will start in the spring and I believe Manchester Community College is looking to start a program.”
Broadie became HCC’s president in April 2015 after serving as vice president for student services at SUNY Orange County Community College in Middletown, New York. But his focus is not strictly on academia — one of his degrees is an MBA from Long Island University — and he is eager to address situations that serve both the students’ educational needs as well as the regional economy. He pointed to the college’s manufacturing studies curriculum as a win-win situation for students who earn a certificate and for local businesses that are guaranteed a workforce.
“Many of those students are making decent salaries,” he said. “That program has a 100 percent job placement rate. We have a career development specialist who focuses exclusively on getting job placement. And the curriculum is tailored to the needs of an industry — that means students leaving here have the skills the employers are looking for.”
And if the college is not offering courses to meet a specific business’ needs, Broadie added it can create customized training that can be held in the school or at the work site. “As far as getting involved in the community and making sure we are abreast of workforce needs and demands, we are nimble and have the ability to quickly respond to a need a business may have.”
One disruption in this environment is Connecticut’s ongoing lack of a state budget. Broadie admitted that funding is his most significant challenge, adding that “if we had more funding, we’d have even more of an impact.” He said that because of the continued uncertainty in Hartford, HCC will continue to budget itself on “best-case scenarios” and make the necessary adjustments when the legislature and governor come to an agreement on the budget.
As the fall semester approaches, HCC is finishing work on an additional 20,000 square feet of renovation that includes expanding the library, media services and tutorial services, along with new art studios and photography rooms. Broadie also is in conversations with Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU) about having that school offer Bachelor of Arts classes at HCC.
These expansions coincide with a growing student body. With 5,200 students returning for the fall semester, the college has seen enrollment rates uptick by 1 to 2 percent each year since Broadie became president. He referred to the tuition, which reaches up to $4,000 per year, as a “significant bargain,” and with a student body that is approximately two-thirds within the low- and middle-income demographic, Broadie saw HCC as a crucial destination for economic uplift.
“By providing access to a degree or certificate, we are breaking the cycle of poverty,” he said, noting that many HCC graduates go on for additional degrees at SCSU, Fairfield University and the University of Connecticut. “We are showing them you can get there from here. Our tagline is: Stay Close, Go Far.”