December 21, 2018

On December 5, Century College held a Legislative Breakfast for a select group of State Senators and Representatives. The breakfast, which President Millender called an “informal, but informational session,” included a tour of Century College’s Welding, Solar and Renewable Energy, and Orthotics and Prosthetic program facilities.

Legislators included Senator Jason Isaacson, Representatives Connie Bernardy, Jamie Becker-Finn, Peter Fischer, Leon Lillie, and Legislative Assistant Nancy Livingston (on behalf of Senator Chuck Wiger).

The legislators, representing districts within the Northeast Metro, are all staunch advocates for education, and important allies for Century College. The tour allowed the legislators to see the impact that their support over the years has made on the institution.

“We are fortunate to have Century College in our region,” said Representative Becker-Finn. “I was particularly impressed by the investment in training for renewable energy and in applied engineering fields where we need workers, such as welding.”

An Informative Breakfast

As legislators and a number of Century College employees stood in a circle, President Millender opened the meeting by stating the college’s value to the community. In particular, she emphasized Century College’s work increasing access to education.

“This wonderful learning environment provides access to education for all of our students,” said President Millender. “It is important that education is a bridge out of poverty and into family sustainability.”

A key purpose of the meeting was to ask the legislators for their help in reinforcing that bridge out of poverty. After the legislators introduced themselves, Century College librarians Jane Young and Randi Madisen made their pitch for Open Educational Resource funding.

Open Educational Resources, or OER, are teaching or academic materials (primarily textbooks) that are free or significantly discounted academic resources, often saving low-income students hundreds of dollars.

“What’s happened in libraries in recent years has been so exciting. We feel like, at Century College, we’ve had the opportunity to be very much on the leading edge,” said Young. “Now we’re really excited about the future, which involves online teaching, open access to information, and affordable textbooks.”

A Great Tour

The tour gave legislators a look at Century College’s Welding, Solar, and Orthotics and Prosthetics programs. Demand for workers in these fields is particularly high.

“It was a great tour,” said Representative Fischer. “I enjoyed seeing how the State Bonding dollars were able to provide space and resources for Century College’s Solar and Renewable Energy program.”

Solar and Renewable Energy Faculty Member Scott Randall was sure to thank the legislators for providing essential funding to the award-winning program.

It would appear that funding came at the perfect time; Randall noted that the solar industry is a growing rapidly, and is increasingly vital to the economy. The job rate grew 48 percent in 2017, and demand is set to skyrocket even higher in the years to come.

The Welding program has also gotten a boost from state legislators. A $6.4 million bonding bill was recently passed to fund an Applied Engineering and Technology Center, which will be known as the Advanced Technology Center. The facility will house a laboratory for an Advanced Welding program, which will include robotic welding.

The tour concluded with an in-depth look at the Orthotics and the Prosthetics programs, which will also utilize the Advanced Technology Center. The department was established in 1974, and Century College is one of only 13 schools with Orthotics and Prosthetics programs.

Breaking down Barriers

Nearly all of the legislators attending had a direct connection to Century College. Senator Isaacson has taught Communications at Century College since 2010. Legislative Assistant Livingston was once employed by the institution, and Representative Fischer is a Century College graduate. Representative Bernardy is the mother of a faculty member, while Representatives Lillie and Fischer each have children who attended.

Likewise, these legislators know first-hand the impact Century College makes – and they know that it extends beyond the institution’s overall regional economic impact of $368.5 million. Its impact on the lives of the students who attend is just as important. Century College prides itself on giving individuals who have faced adversity, economic or otherwise, an opportunity to achieve a college education.

“That’s what makes a two-year public community college so valuable,” said Millender. “Open access is available to all students, and barriers to success are removed.”