O’Brien-McMasters: Atlantic Cape Embraces Designation As Hispanic-Serving Institution

Feature photo of Vanessa O’Brien-McMasters, vice president of institutional effectiveness and chief strategy officer at Atlantic Cape Community College courtesy of Atlantic Cape

By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media

MAYS LANDING – When the U.S. Department of Education designated Atlantic Cape Community College last fall as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, it was evidence of the hard work it has put forward to make sure Latino students have a welcoming and encouraging place to get a higher education, Dr. Vanessa O’Brien-Masters said.

O’Brien-McMasters, vice president of institutional effectiveness and chief strategy officer at Atlantic Cape, told Front Runner New Jersey this month that news of the designation was “wonderful in terms of access. We are as committed to providing the resources that are needed to be successful once they’re here.”

This fall, Atlantic Cape, based in Mays Landing with campuses in Atlantic City and Cape May County, became the 20th New Jersey college to be named a Hispanic Serving Institution in the United States.

Image from Atlantic Cape Community College’s ESL program. Photo courtesy of Atlantic Cape Community College

The Department of Education gives that destination to institutions with 25% or more of Hispanic student enrollment. There are more than 500 HSIs around the country, according to the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities.

A U.S. Department of Education spokesman told Front Runner New Jersey.com that the designation means a school can apply for discretionary grants that assist with strengthening institutional programs, facilities and services to expand the educational opportunities for Hispanic Americans and other underrepresented populations.

O’Brien-McMasters said on its campuses in Atlantic County, 30% of its students are Hispanic while Latinos make up 19% of the population. In Cape May County, Hispanics make up 8% of the population but Latinos make up 13% of its Cape May campus.

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“We’re thrilled that students find us accessible, that they’re able to find both affordable, as well as be successful,” O’Brien-McMasters said. “We’re proud of a number of our academic programs. We have a robust ESL English language learning program.

“That allows people to get training for employees to transition into academic careers, to transfer on for bachelor’s degrees. So we’re really proud that our Hispanic populations choose Atlantic Cape to continue their education,” she added.

O’Brien-McMasters said the designation opens up additional funding opportunities for Atlantic Cape in federal grants and foundations.

“So for example, the National Science Foundation, it has a number of grants for HSI,” O’Brien-McMasters said. “In fact, right now we’re in the process of preparing, improving undergraduate STEM education for Hispanic-Serving Institutions.

“So we’re looking at our programming that’s happening in the high schools and what kind of additional opportunities we can provide for students so that there are more opportunities for college readiness and exposure, so that it sets an aspirational goal for higher education,” she continued.

O’Brien-McMasters said Atlantic Cape is pleased that the Latino community and students have found a comfort level with the institution and it will work to make sure that continues.

“I know [the designation] also conveys a sense of pride in that students find us as a safe and supportive environment to continue their education,” O’Brien-McMasters said. “I think that community colleges in general, typically we educate many first generational college students. We provide the supports that are necessary to do that.

Atlantic Cape is the second Hispanic Serving Institution in South Jersey, joining the Rowan College of South Jersey Cumberland Campus.

Other Hispanic Serving Institutions in New Jersey include:

*Bergen Community College

*Bloomfield College

*Caldwell University

*College of Saint Elizabeth

*Essex County College

*Fairleigh Dickinson University-Metropolitan Campus

*Felician University

*Hudson County Community College

*Kean University

*Middlesex County College

*Montclair State University

*New Jersey City University

*Passaic County Community College

*Pillar College

*Rutgers University-Newark

*Saint Peter’s University

*Union County College

*William Paterson University of New Jersey

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