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The first thing new Bronx Community College president Dr. Carol Berotte Joseph noticed when she set foot on campus was the difficulty she had telling which building was which. They looked different enough, but without names in big letters, who besides a school expert could tell Butler Hall from Meister Hall. And if it was that tough for a 35-year veteran of academia, what would it be like for a freshman in his or her first day of college?
So visitors to BCC will now see one of Joseph’s first imprints on the school- green signs with big letters identifying each building to make sure nobody gets lost.
Joseph, who on Friday, August 26, began her first semester as BCC president, spent the past six years as president of Massachusetts Back Bay College in Wellesley, Mass. Her first day on the job was in July, but with the academic year only a few weeks old, the job is only just beginning.
“The school is bigger, the student population is different,” she said of the initial differences from her previous job. “Everything is on a bigger scale.”
BCC has over 11,000 degree students, plus over 14,000 adult and continuing education students.
Despite the time spent in the Boston area, Joseph calls herself a “New Yorker at heart.” She grew up in Brooklyn and Queens and is a product of the CUNY system. Her bachelors is from York College in Queens.
She also held several positions at CUNY throughout her career before her first president’s job at Massachusetts Back Bay.
But Joseph was comfortable in New England and saw little reason to leave when BCC reached out to her last September. A family tragedy changed her mind, however. Joseph’s husband died in November.
“I said ‘oh my God, you’re here by yourself in Massachusetts, maybe this is something you should look into.’”
Joseph was offered the job in January and accepted immediately.
The biggest challenges Joseph said she faces at the school are related to making sure students get the best value for the time they spend at the school.
“BCC could do better with graduation and outcomes in general,” she said.
Four-year schools across the country have graduation rates around 60 percent, while community colleges are around half that.
“I want to see our students do more service learning,” she said. I want to see them study abroad. Businesses are always telling us that they want multilingual students.”
She wants the school to adapt to the jobs of the future, by building up its Chinese language program and expandings its center for sustainable energy.
“It’s about helping people get credentials for good jobs,” she said. “Jobs that let people make ends meet.”
Joseph has spent her entire career in community colleges and was never tempted to leave.
“It’s usually students who were weaker in high school, who don’t have as much opportunity,” she said. “But community colleges can be transformative. Students succeed.”
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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