College Celebrates Largest Graduating Class in its History

CRANFORD – Union County College is proud to announce that it has celebrated the largest graduating class in its almost 90-year history. During the 2020-21 academic year, the College conferred 1,760 degrees and certificates. It is particularly significant to have reached this incredible milestone during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the past decade, the College has refocused its efforts on student success and outcomes. This includes modernizing and streamlining academic advising and student support services. In 2016, the Cranford campus unveiled the Helen E. Chaney Center, a brand new one-stop model facility for student services that houses Admissions; Registration; Payment Services; Financial Aid; Disability Services; Educational Opportunity Fund Services; Advising, Career and Transfer Services and Testing. The College employs social workers to address needs that can negatively impact students’ academic success, including housing and food insecurity. As a result of these efforts and more, the on-time graduation rate for first-time, full-time students has more than quintupled since 2013.

The College is cognizant of cost and helping ensure that those who seek to improve their lives through education are not deterred by cost. For this current academic year, there was no increase to tuition. This is the second consecutive year without a tuition increase. Additionally, eligible students may attend the College tuition-free. Those who enroll in at least 6 credits and have an adjusted gross income of $0-$65,000 may be eligible for New Jersey’s Community College Opportunity Grant. Finally, the College’s Foundation awards more than $1 million annually in direct scholarship support to students. The goal is for students who start at the College to be able to reach graduation and not have their education delayed due to financial constraints.

The College offers more than 60 programs of study including communications, criminal justice, cybersecurity, eSports management, nursing, supply chain management, and more. For high achieving students, the American Honors program provides one-on-one academic and transfer advisement. For students interested in athletics, NJCAA sports teams include soccer, wrestling, volleyball, lacrosse, and more. The College boasts an active Student Government Association, student clubs and organizations, and a chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for two-year colleges. Graduates of Union County College enjoy easy transfer to four-year colleges and universities.

“At Union, we value every student and their educational goals. However, we don’t just sit idly on the sidelines. Our faculty and staff are active and involved in helping guide our students on their academic journey at Union. We are proud of the number of degrees we conferred this year, during the pandemic, adding to the number of adults with college degrees in Union County. We know that education is the path to economic mobility, and we are here to serve those who want to take that step,” stated Union’s President Dr. Margaret M. McMenamin.

For more information, please visit

College Students Participated in NASA Career Simulation

CRANFORD – From Sept. 27 through Oct. 1, a team of students from Union County College was invited to participate in the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars program (NCAS). Union students were part of a new cohort of only 84 students nationwide chosen for this engineering design competition after a rigorous selection process. Other institutions who had students invited to participate in the second NASA Career Simulation included: Atlanta Metropolitan State College, Cypress College, Essex County College, Lone Star College, Norwalk College, and Southwestern College.

During the week, students assumed the role of NASA employees and engaged in authentic learning by building an Autonomous Pop-Up Flat Folding Explorer Robots (A-PUFFERs), which is a rover to explore the moon’s terrain. Before starting their “new jobs” scholars applied for positions on a team and discovered which role they would assume for the week. By working together in their new roles, the students built a device to navigate over the lunar surface and had to develop a plan to communicate their discoveries.

The 11 Union students who participated in the program were Mark Farag, Charles Ibitamuno, Bryan Quintero, and Angel Soto Veras, all of Elizabeth; Jenny Altamirano and Luana Rampelotti both of Hillside; Thomas Christo of Fanwood; George Stephens of Kenilworth; Ronald Canales of Plainfield; Christopher Solis of Springfield; and Diego Gomez of Union.

“We are so proud of our team of students who were chosen to participate in the NCAS program. The enthusiasm and excitement of the students has caused the entire STEM Division to have a new sense of commitment to our students,” stated Union County College Interim Dean of STEM William Dunscombe.

Union County College is a public comprehensive community college providing quality, affordable, accessible educational programs that serve the greater Union County region. It is the first of New Jersey’s 18 Associate Degree colleges, serving both career-minded and transfer-oriented students since 1933. The College is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

In the top row from the left, Interim Dean of STEM William Dunscombe and Union students George Stephens, Thomas Christo, George Stephens, Luana Rampelotti, Diego Gomez, Christopher Solis, Mark Farag, and Ronald Canales, with the Associate Dean of STEM & Scotch Plains Campus Dr. Nicole Cippoletti.

College Celebrates Completion of Roy W. Smith Theater Renovation

CRANFORD – On September 29, 2021, Union County College hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony to mark the completion of a massive renovation of the Roy W. Smith Theater on the Cranford campus. The College’s President Dr. Margaret M. McMenamin welcomed guests and noted how transformative this improved and modernized space will be for students. Present for the ceremony were Union County Commissioners Christopher Hudak, Bette Jane Kowalski, and Kimberly Palmieri-Mouded, Union County College Board of Trustees Chair Victor M. Richel, and Union County College Board of Board of Governors Chair Mary M. Zimmermann and Vice Chair Lawrence D. Bashe. After the ceremonial ribbon cutting, theater students entertained attendees with a brief performance in the new space.

Getting ready to cut the ribbon! Holding the big scissors with President McMenamin is Union County Board of County Commissioner Kimberly Palmieri-Mouled. Union County College Board of Trustees Chair Victor M. Richel, Union County College Board of Governors Chair Mary M. Zimmerman, Union County College Board of Governors Vice Chair Lawrence D. Bashe and Union County Board of County Commissioners Christopher Hudak and Bette Jane Kowalski were also in attendance.

The comprehensive renovation of the Theater included: complete redesign, new interior finishes and seating, new state of the art lighting upgrades, acoustical improvements, new IT, and audio-visual equipment. The Theater now includes maple finish wall and ceiling panels, acoustical wall panels at rear wall for reverberation control, LED lighting, new retractable theatrical lighting, and allocated ADA seating. The 10-month renovation began in June 2020 and was substantially completed in April 2021.

This project was made possible thanks to the Union County Board of County Commissioners’ approval of the College’s request for funding via the State’s Chapter 12 program.

“Our students deserve a space where they can perform and learn. This new multiuse venue will allow our theater arts majors to practice their craft with pride. The updated and modern space will allow the College to host speakers and events for the benefit of our students to enhance their educational experience,” stated Union’s President Dr. Margaret M. McMenamin.

For more information about Union County College, including the theater program, please visit

Foundation Launches Women 100 Project to Support Female Students

CRANFORD – The Union County College Foundation recently launched a new student success initiative, the Women 100 Project, to raise funds to support Union’s female students. The mission of the project is to empower the next generation of women leaders which is critical to the success of our community and nation.

According to the Daily Excelsior, “women’s education increases income of women and leads to growth in GDP. Other effects are related to social development. Educating girls leads to a number of social benefits, including many related to women’s empowerment.” At Union, the student population is 60% female. The Women 100 Project will provide direct scholarship and grant support to women in need, investments in programming to help women succeed, and provide overall services that are specific to our female students.

To support the project, a donation of $100 can be made from an individual, or corporate and community leaders. In addition, various levels of sponsorship are available and each one has additional benefits for the sponsor. For more information about the sponsorship levels, visit

“The funds raised with this new project will be used to support female only opportunities through programming and mentorship,” stated Union County College Foundation Executive Director Doug Rouse. “Our goal is to develop a network of empowered women for years to come.”

For more information on the Women 100 Project and how you can support this initiative, please contact Brittney Mack at (908) 709-7039 or

Looking for a New Career – Train to Become a Pharmacy Technician!

CRANFORD – The Office of Continuing Education at Union County College is offering a Pharmacy Technician course this semester for those interested in starting a new career in the growing allied health field. Employment opportunities exist in retail and mail order pharmacies, hospitals, and assisted living facilities.

Working under the supervision of a Licensed Pharmacist, Pharmacy Technicians speak with customers to acquire information, count tablets, measure amounts of medications, package and label prescriptions and handle insurance issues. Educational requirements include a high school diploma or equivalent, a strong mathematical background and a clean criminal background check.

Course content includes medications (classification, storage, side effects of, and more); federal and state requirements; patient safety, quality assurance; and order entry and processing. Students who complete the program are eligible to apply and take the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PCTE) to earn their PTCB CPhT Credential. This remote live (virtual) course will be held on Tuesday and Thursday evenings beginning October 5 through February 15, 2022 from 5:30 – 9:30 pm. The cost of this program is $2,200.

For more information or to enroll, please view the Continuing Education Fall 2021 brochure online at or call (908) 709-7600.

College Board of Trustees Chair Victor M. Richel Receives Prestigious Leadership Award

CRANFORD – Union County College is pleased to announce that Board of Trustees Chair Victor M. Richel will receive the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) 2021 Northeast Regional Award for Trustee Leadership. Mr. Richel will formally accept the award in October at the Regional Awards Presentation during the 52nd Annual ACCT Leadership Congress in San Diego.

Mr. Richel is a community leader, philanthropist, and businessman. Mr. Richel was a Vice President for Elizabethtown Gas and it was under his leadership that the company gifted its building in Elizabeth to Union County College. He has been a member of the Union County College Board of Trustees for almost 40 years and has served as Chair for almost 30 years. Mr. Richel also serves as Chairman of the Board of Trinitas Health and Regional Medical Center in Elizabeth.

In 2018, Mr. Richel received the New Jersey Hospital Association Hospital and Healthcare System Trustee of the Year award for his service to Trinitas Regional Medical Center. In 2017, Mr. Richel was recognized by the YWCA of Union County for Advancing Education & Economic Empowerment for Girls and Women. In 2016, he was honored by the New Jersey Council of County Colleges with the Ronald D. Winthers Community College Trustee Leadership Award. Each year, this award is bestowed upon a single New Jersey community college trustee who exemplifies visionary trustee leadership at the local, state, and national levels.

It is a testament to Mr. Richel’s leadership and commitment to improving outcomes that Union County College was named one of the top 150 community colleges in 2021 by the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program, the nation’s signature recognition of high achievement and performance among America’s community colleges. Only the top 15 percent of community colleges nationwide are recognized.

Mr. Richel was born in Elizabeth and resides in Berkeley Heights with his wife Andrea. In addition to his many civic and business accolades, he is a beloved father and grandfather.

“We are honored and thrilled by ACCT’s recognition of our devoted Board Chair Mr. Richel. He has given many years of dedicated service to our College’s Board. We are indebted to him for the invaluable and steadfast leadership he has provided to the College. He loves our students, our community, and our College,” stated Union President Dr. Margaret M. McMenamin.

The ACCT represents more than 6500 elected and appointed trustees who govern more than 1100 community colleges throughout the United States. The ACCT annually recognizes trustees and other community college leaders in each of its five regions for their contributions.

For more information about Union County College, go to

Foundation’s Annual Close the Gap Reception Raised Over $50,000

CRANFORD – The Union County College Foundation raised over $50,000 at their 6th Annual Close the Gap Reception on July 14. Held in a virtual environment, this event is a strategic initiative to increase graduation rates among African American students. This year, the Foundation honored the brothers of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. Omicron Chi Chapter for their years of service as avid supporters and mentors of the College’s Project Achievement Program.

Since 2015, the Close the Gap campaign has raised nearly $300,000 which has been invested in scholarships, grant and program support, and has provided emergency funding to students who are on track to graduate. Since that time, the College’s graduation rate for African American male students has more than quintupled.

Otis Livingston, of WCBS TV, served as the Master of Ceremonies. Entertainment was provided by well-known jazz pianist Isaiah J. Thompson. Union’s Coordinator of Student Success Initiatives Dr. Lavon Williams shared his experience from working with our African American male students and the joy and excitement felt by the Project Achievement team and our students on graduation day. Finally, student speaker Ricard Charles shared the impact that the program has had on him and his fellow classmates.

The Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. Omicron Chi Chapter is from Plainfield, New Jersey. The Chapter was established in 1955 and is being honored for its commitment to building the next generation of leaders. They achieve this through their Omega Leadership Institute High School and Community College mentoring programs, essay contests, and scholarships. The Omicron Chi Chapter has been a dedicated supporter of the Union County College Foundation and was one of the first advocates of the Close the Gap Campaign.

“The Foundation is so thankful that the support of the Close the Gap event continues to grow each year,” stated Union County College Foundation Executive Director Doug Rouse. “This allows the College to continue to raise the graduation rate for our young male African American students.”

If you are interested in donating to the Close the Gap Campaign, or would like to learn more about how you can provide financial assistance for students at Union County College, please call (908) 709-7505, email, or visit

Susan Hairston, Deborah Enix-Ross and Sandra Rice, Co-Chairs of the Close the Gap Campaign, celebrate another tremendous night in support of student success.

College Welcomes New Dean of Students

CRANFORD – Union County College welcomes Dr. Takeem L. Dean as the new Dean of Students. Dr. Dean comes to Union after having served as Dean of Students at Johnson C. Smith University, a historically black university, in Charlotte, North Carolina. Dr. Dean is not new to the Garden State. Prior to relocating to North Carolina, he served two New Jersey colleges: Passaic County Community College and Montclair State University.

In his time as Dean of Students at Johnson C. Smith University, Dr. Dean provided leadership to student life. He supervised student leadership and engagement, Greek life, student conduct, intramurals, counseling services, diversity, equity, and inclusion, and educational enhancement services. He was also responsible for residence life and admissions.

As the Dean of Students at Union, Dr. Dean will oversee the CARE Team, a multidisciplinary team that works to assist students in need of personal and/or academic resources, which includes the Assistant Dean of Students, the College’s social workers, and our Coordinator of Disability Services. He will serve as the chief disciplinary officer; he will develop and implement student code of conduct; he will oversee Title IX compliance for student cases; he will serve as liaison between students and campus community; and he will develop DEI training programs for students.

“We are excited to welcome Dr. Dean to Union with his extensive knowledge and experience in student affairs. He will lead the team that will assist our students beyond the classroom experience, to meet their needs as individuals, and to provide them with the tools and support to complete their degrees,” stated Union President Margaret M. McMenamin.

Dr. Dean has served on various national organizations such as the Association for College Professional Administrators (ACPA) for which he was the co-chairperson of the PAN Mentoring Foundation and Awards Committee. He is also a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and locally he served as a chapter Chaplin, chairperson of service projects, and co-chair for the MLK Ceremony and an oratorical contest. He also served as the New Jersey Association of Alpha Phi Alpha Chapters Chaplin and the Eastern Region Assistant Director of Communications.

Dr. Dean earned his doctorate in Community College Leadership from Wingate University. He holds a Master of Arts degree in educational leadership with a concentration in adult and organizational leadership and higher education and a Bachelor of Science degree in business education, both from Montclair State University.

Union County College Receives $10,000 Grant to Establish NJCAA Men’s Volleyball Program

CRANFORD – Union County College recently received a $10,000 grant from the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) and First Point Volleyball Foundation to establish a men’s volleyball team for spring 2022.

“Thank you to the NJCAA Foundation and the First Point Volleyball Foundation for providing the opportunity to expand the sports programs offered at Union,” stated Dr. Margaret M. McMenamin, Union President. “With the addition of a men’s volleyball team at Union, we are able to engage more students in athletics while they earn a high-quality education.”

The addition of men’s volleyball to Union’s athletic department brings the total number of sports offered to 17.

“I am excited to start recruiting for this new team and to help prepare them for competition in the spring 2022 semester,” stated Tammy Smith, Union’s Dean of College Life/Director of Athletics. “I look forward to meeting those who will become the members of our inaugural men’s volleyball team. It’s a great opportunity to get involved on campus and build bonds with fellow student-athletes.”

In May, the NJCAA in collaboration with First Point Volleyball Foundation announced a $200,000 grant to support the growth of men’s volleyball as an emerging sport within the Association. Grants were awarded to 15 member colleges, including Union, to support the initiative towards men’s volleyball becoming a full NJCAA championship sport.


“The ability to create more opportunities for student-athletes to compete in college and take part in a growing sport is one of the ultimate wins the NJCAA Foundation can achieve,” said Brian Luckett, NJCAA Foundation Executive Director. “We are appreciative of the First Point Volleyball Foundation for making this possible and the NJCAA member colleges who have stepped up to make history by bringing back men’s volleyball to the association.”

First Point Volleyball Foundation continues to spread influence to help men’s volleyball grow exponentially and has awarded $2.2 million in grants thus far.

“As one of 19 First Point Foundation board members, I can say we are so proud to be able to support the NJCAA and these 15 institutions starting men’s volleyball,” said Mick Haley, First Point Volleyball Foundation volunteer board member and AVCA Hall of Famer. A former men’s volleyball coach at Kellogg Community College (MI), Haley led the program to four NJCAA national championships, back when the sport was sponsored, before stints as head women’s coach at the University of Texas, University of Southern California, and the 2000 US Women’s Olympic Team in Sydney. “Two-year colleges present the most affordable opportunity for young people to play college volleyball during a time when students want to stay closer to home,” Haley continued. “Our hope at First Point is to see 35 or 40 more two-year colleges follow these 15 and sponsor men’s volleyball.”

The addition of men’s volleyball at these select NJCAA member colleges is another step towards supporting the growth and educational opportunities of two-year college athletics.

“As we work to prepare for the Tokyo Olympic Games, all of us at USA Volleyball are excited by this awesome news of 15 newly announced men’s collegiate volleyball programs at two-year colleges,” stated John Speraw, First Point Volleyball Foundation Founder and volunteer Chairman and head coach of the US Men’s National Team and UCLA Men’s Volleyball. “I suspect it won’t be long before an NJCAA athlete will play for Team USA,” Speraw added. “I want to personally thank all the donors to First Point Volleyball Foundation, past and future, for making these grants possible.”

For more information about the athletic programs offered at Union County College, please visit

About First Point Volleyball Foundation 

Founded in 2016 by John Speraw, head coach of the USA Men’s National Team and UCLA Men’s Volleyball and Wade Garard, First Point Volleyball Foundation exists to provide opportunities for young people to mature and develop through volleyball. Specifically focused on growing boys’ and men’s volleyball in the United States, First Point Volleyball Foundation initiates and celebrates FIRST POINTS whether that is a first point of a new collegiate team, or a new high school team, or a first point of competitive volleyball for a 12-year-old. The Foundation has three strategic initiatives: (1) Growing collegiate opportunities; (2) Growing high school boys’ opportunities; and (3) the Extending Reach Diversity Initiative – expanding volleyball opportunities to boys and men of color.  

About NJCAA Foundation 

The mission of the NJCAA Foundation is to enhance the NJCAA national organization, student-athletes, member colleges and local communities through financial support, scholarships, program initiatives and community service. 


Summit Foundation Helps Union Students Graduate with Generous Donation

CRANFORD – The Union County College Foundation recently received a generous donation of $9,500 from the Summit Foundation to support the Foundation’s Operation Graduation Fund. This campaign is the Foundation’s oldest student success campaign and was created in 2015 to financially support the College’s first-ever strategic initiative to raise graduation rates each year. This is the second time the Summit Foundation has contributed to the fund and supported the Foundation’s mission of accelerating the pace of student success.

Since the start of the campaign six years ago, the College’s graduation rates have continued to climb, now exceeding both the state and national average for community colleges. The Operation Graduation team works with faculty and staff to identify students who may need extra support, both academically and financially, to graduate on time.

“The Union County College Foundation is thankful for the financial support provided by the Summit Foundation. Their investment in the Operation Graduation campaign will help more students complete their degrees in the upcoming academic year,” stated Union County College Executive Director Doug Rouse.

The Summit Foundation’s mission is to foster philanthropy by identifying local needs and offering donors flexible ways to make a difference in the lives of their neighbors. The funds they distribute support valuable and life-enhancing work of nonprofit agencies in Summit and nearby communities.

If you are interested in providing financial assistance to a fund with the Union County College Foundation, or would like to learn more about how you can establish a scholarship for Union students, please call (908) 709-7505, email or visit the Foundation’s website at