By Daniel Winner | AC JosepH Media Correspondent
ATLANTIC CITY — Stockton University Atlantic City Campus is celebrating its fifth anniversary this semester.
Opened just before Thanksgiving of 2018, the campus is situated right beside O’Donnell Park in the Chelsea neighborhood of Atlantic City and overlooks the Atlantic shore as well as the historic Atlantic City Boardwalk.
Despite its success, there was doubt among those within its ranks as to whether or not the new location would garner approval due to Atlantic City’s reputation. However, CEO of Stockton Atlantic City Campus Brian K. Jackson was assured that this move was the right choice.
“I think there were still some unknowns for a lot of people opening a campus here in Atlantic City, not knowing what to expect,” said Jackson. “But I think we’ve been able to really change the minds and the hearts of a lot of people in terms of having a presence here. I think Atlantic City gets a bad rap overall.
“I think part of our responsibility in being here and serving as an anchoring institution is to help change the connotations that people have about Atlantic City, as well as helping to be a part of that movement to improve its economic stability: to be a part of the transformation of Atlantic City.”
This summer in 2023, from the day the seaside campus opened its second resident hall, Parkview Hall — the other being Kesselman Hall — applications came flooding in. It became certain that prospective students were eager and ready to attend.
“With the university recruiting and attracting more students outside of Atlantic County, there was a stronger demand for housing as well,” Jackson explained. “We were bringing students in from all over North Jersey, Central Jersey and we were starting to recruit students from the Philadelphia area.
“A lot of those students are accustomed to living in urban settings. It was really attractive to be here, to be here by a park near the ocean. We have the public transportation to get them back and forth between campuses, which a lot of our urban students are taking anyway. I think there was comfort in being in a place and in a space that felt like home for them.”
Stockton has a long-standing history with Atlantic City. In 1971, the historic Mayflower Hotel served as Stockton’s temporary campus, hosting its first classes. By the winter holiday, classes and offices soon transferred to Galloway Township when construction of the main campus was completed. In a twist of irony, students are now flocking back to Atlantic City at Stockton’s first and only branch campus.
“Students really do want to be here,” Jackson attested. “It was interesting. When we were going through the housing selection process, the building wasn’t open and ready for students to even tour the facilities. So, what we did was, we set up a mock apartment room on main campus, so students could see what the furniture would be like and get a sense of what the size of the bedroom would be like. We knew it was going to be a little bit of a challenge, because if they can’t see it, how do they know this is a place they want to reside?
Jackson continued. “It was the fall of 2019 that really changed things. In the fall of 2018, when we opened the campus, our housing wasn’t full yet, because students were still unsure about it. But when they came down to see it, they saw the apartments, and when they talked to their friends who had lived here that first academic year, [it] changed the minds of students. It went from being the last place that students selected to the first place that students [selected]. So, we are the number one housing option at the university.”
Prospects look high for the growing popularity of the Stockton Atlantic City campus to the general public and jobs.
“We are busy 12 months out of the year because during the summer, we have students living here year-round,” Jackson said. “Our goals gear up during the summer, but we also have the ‘Stockton Atlantic City [Summer] Experience,’ otherwise known as our ‘Live-Work-Learn Program.’ This summer, we had 245 students in the program.
“All of those students are working primarily full time for one of the 15 employers that we had that partner with us this summer. Those employers pay for summer housing for the students. They are living here on campus; they’re working full time and getting paid to work full time to help address the challenges that our employers have to fill those summer employee positions that they have. That program has grown. We were over 80% filled in our housing this summer.”
Among other new innovations at the university, Stockton’s School of Business recently established a satellite office suite at Atlantic City campus, significantly increasing the number of classes offered. According to Jackson, the fall semester saw a total of around 180 courses. About 60% of those courses offered are within the School of Business.
Leading academic fields on campus include Business Studies, Community Leadership and Civic Engagement, Hospitality and Tourism, and Social Work and Organizational Leadership. It is estimated that approximately 1,300 students are enrolled at Atlantic City campus.
For more information, visit Stockton University Atlantic City at https:/www.stockton.edu/atlantic-city/.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Daniel Winner has a double major in Religious Studies and Japanese from Penn State University and has traveled internationally to the Far East on several occasions. His insights on Buddhism and Asian culture give a unique view of historical and modern trends. He will be serving as a contributor for Front Runner New Jersey.
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