Bringing Community Back to Community Colleges

NJCH was honored to co-host the “Bringing Community Back to Community Colleges” with the New Jersey Council of County Colleges and Bergen Community College on March 24, 2023. We had a wonderful time convening in person and virtually with over 100 registered humanities faculty and professionals from New Jersey's community colleges across the state! We’re grateful to the Bergen campus, to our faculty Advisory Committee, and to all those who joined us.

From MLA Executive Director Paula Krebs’s inspiring keynote, which affirmed that “where the humanities are funded, they are thriving,” and breakouts on topics such as teaching controversial topics and the life of a community college department chair, to lunchtime catching-up with cherished friends and panels on pedagogical and curricular innovations in NJ’s community colleges, our day together hummed with energy.

The connections we created are proof that the community college sector is vital to the future of the humanities.

Bringing Community Back to Community Colleges Event Graphic

Explore the page below for photo highlights, video recordings of the opening, keynote, and panels 1 and 3.

To read a recap of the event from a participant’s perspective, we recommend checking out this post from Inside Higher Ed’s “Confessions of a Community College Dean” blog by Matthew Reed.

Please keep an eye on this page as we share new opportunities to keep the conversation going!

"I left this convening reenergized and motivated to adapt our work in the humanities to the challenges and opportunities ahead."

Bettina Caluori, Mercer County Community College

Bettina Caluori

“I'm often asked as a career counselor by students 'Why do I have to take Humanities classes?' My response is that employers are looking for creative thinking, problem solving, innovation, recognition of change and written/verbal communication skills and these skills are taught in Humanities courses.”

Gene Calderon, Bergen Community College

“The convening was an excellent opportunity for community colleges to connect and work collaboratively towards ensuring humanities remain at the heart of higher education.”

Thomson J. Ling, County College of Morris

Thomson Ling

“The convening was a wonderful way to interact with our peers from throughout the state, especially after feeling so isolated in our work during the recent pandemic. To commiserate, brainstorm, and refocus with colleagues was a great boost to my morale!”

Augustine Nigro, Atlantic Cape Community College

Augustine Nigro

“The NJCH convening of community college faculty helped bring together the voices of those invested in the success of our students. Helping students make connections to the Humanities, whatever their discipline, is important for their overall success. This conference helped us all work towards that goal.”

Michelle Iden, County College of Morris

Michelle Iden


Presented By

NJCH Wordmark
NJCCC logo
Bergen Community College Logo

Photo Highlights

View all photos on the website of Russ DeSantis Photography. All photos © Russ DeSantis Photography and Video, LLC


8:00-9:00 a.m. Registration, Continental Breakfast
9:00-9:30 a.m. Welcome: Eric M. Friedman, Bergen Community College; Aaron Fichtner, NJCC; Carin Berkowitz, NJCH
9:30-10:30 a.m. Keynote Address: Paula Krebs, Modern Language Association
11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Breakout 1: Peer Group Conversations
12:30-1:30 p.m. Lunch (provided)
2:30-3:30 p.m. Breakout 2: Timely Topics for Community College Faculty
3:30-3:45 p.m. Break
4:45-5:15 p.m. Closing Session: Reflections and Next Steps: Adam Goodell, Bergen Community College
5:30-7:00 p.m. Reception and Faith Ringgold Exhibit Tours

Event Program


9:00-9:30 a.m. - In-person or remote.

Welcome remarks will be given by Eric M. Friedman, President of Bergen Community College; Aaron Fichtner, President of the New Jersey Council of County Colleges; and Carin Berkowitz, Executive Director of the New Jersey Council for the Humanities.

Keynote Address

9:30-10:30 a.m. - In-person or remote.

Dr. Paula Krebs

Dr. Paula Krebs

Paula M. Krebs is the Executive Director of the Modern Language Association. She administers the programs, governance, and business affairs of the association, which is the largest scholarly organization in the humanities, with 23,000 members from more than 100 countries.

Her role includes national advocacy work for the humanities and humanities education. She has administered grants on increasing diversity in doctoral programs in English, preparing doctoral students to teach at access-oriented institutions, and other aspects of language and literature education and research. She is the current president of the National Humanities Alliance.

Dr. Krebs has written on higher education and humanities issues for the Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Ed, CNN, the Washington Post, Slate, and other publications, and she is the current president of the National Humanities Alliance. She holds a doctoral degree in nineteenth-century British literature and culture from Indiana University and a B.A. in English from La Salle University and served as English professor and department chair at Wheaton College and dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Bridgewater State University. Before becoming a professor she worked as an editor for the National Science Teachers Association and as a sportswriter for daily newspapers in New Jersey and Indiana.

Dr. Paula Krebs

Panel 1: Defending Humanities Across the Divide

10:30-11:30 a.m. - In-person.

A conversation about the different ways community colleges can celebrate and defend the humanities to students, parents, employers, and the public. Many faculty wish to promote the humanities for the field’s intrinsic value and the joy that a life of the mind can bring. Yet emphasizing career skills learned in humanities disciplines is equally essential. Panelists will discuss how to best strike a balance between promoting the marketable skills of humanities education and advocating for the appreciation of these disciplines for their own sake.


Panelist Bettina Caluori

Breakout 1: Peer Group Conversations

11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. - In-person.

Participants will convene in small groups per peer group association (adjunct faculty, deans, department chairs, early career faculty, student affairs personnel, etc.) to discuss takeaways.


  • Adjuncts Breakout - Cathleen Stone Joseph, Middlesex College
  • Deans Breakout - Thomson J. Ling, County College of Morris
  • Department Chairs Breakout - William J. Tooma, Essex County College
  • Early Career Faculty Breakout - Mary Crosby, Bergen Community College
  • Student Affairs - Gene Calderon, Bergen Community College

Panelists, with Jan L. Kirsten in the foreground

Panel 2: Marketing and Communications

1:30-2:30 p.m. - In-person or remote.

A deep dive with communications and marketing experts from across the NJ community college space to examine different resources and strategies for “re-branding” the humanities; the challenge of communicating the value of the humanities to students, families, and administrators; and how cross-institutional collaborations can create persuasive narratives for the field.


Breakout 2: Timely Topics for Community College Faculty

2:30-3:30 p.m. - In-person.


  • Cross-institutional collaboration among CC humanities faculty – Augustine Nigro, Atlantic Cape Community College
  • Faculty research – Michele Rotunda, Union College 
  • Marketing and communications brainstorm – Nancy Gallo, Sussex County Community College
  • Humanities in interdisciplinary contexts – Michelle Iden, County College of Morris
  • Tackling controversial topics through the humanitiesKaren Gaffney, Raritan Valley Community College

Panel 3: Humanities Innovations

3:45-4:45 p.m. - In-person.

Community colleges around New Jersey are leading the way for 2- and 4-year institutions alike in reimagining humanities disciplines for their students, faculty, and communities. This session looks at how 3 different institutions have used pedagogy, student research, community-centered partnerships, and research centers to innovate in the community college environment.


Panelists, with Corey Homer in the foreground
A conference attendee in the foreground pondering the speaker's remarks

Closing Session: Reflections and Next Steps

4:45-5:15 p.m. - In-person.

Reception and Faith Ringgold Exhibit Tours

5:30-7:00 p.m. - In-person.

Attendees will have special access to tour “Faith Ringgold: Coming to Jones Road,” an art exhibition hosted at Gallery Bergen and curated by Gallery Bergen Director Tim Blunk. Ringgold is one of America's pre-eminent artists of the last century, whose paintings, mixed media sculpture, performance art, writings, and teachings explore the Black experience in America, racial divisions, and class struggles.

Widely known for her striking quilts and masks, her influence and originality have made her works among the most sought-after in top museums and galleries. Her works are included in permanant exhibitions at, among others, the Museum of Modern Art, the National Gallery of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Guggenheim.

Venue And Hotel Information

“Bringing Community Back to Community Colleges” will take place on Friday, March 24 from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm at Bergen Community College, Paramus campus. All convening sessions will take place in the Technology Education Center, Room 128 (TEC-128). Please look for event signage once you arrive on campus.

A post-event reception for convening guests will take place from 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm at Gallery Bergen, located in West Hall.


Parking at Bergen Community College, Paramus is free of charge; no permits are required.

Driving Directions to Bergen Community College, Paramus

Covid-19 Information

NJCH, NJCCC, and Bergen Community College are dedicated to ensuring to the best of our ability the health and safety of convening participants.

  • In accordance with federal, state and county guidance, Bergen Community College is a mask-optional environment. We encourage convening participants to wear masks and practice social distancing at their discretion.
  • Although convening participants are not required to be vaccinated for COVID-19, Bergen Community College strongly recommends that those who are on their campus get vaccinated.
  • We recommend that participants not attend the convening if they experience any significant COVID-19 symptoms (including fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath, new loss of taste or smell, headache, or nausea or vomiting).
  • If a participant tests positive for COVID-19, we ask that they follow Bergen Community College protocols: Isolate for five days (symptomatic or asymptomatic); and wear a high-quality mask for an additional five days after isolation.
  • For additional guidance about Bergen Community College COVID-19 protocols, please visit:

We will continue to monitor information and guidance from national and local authorities and will regularly update you on any amendments we may need to make. Thank you for your help in keeping your fellow convening participants and the members of Bergen Community College safe.


Special Thanks

NJCH and NJCC Would like to thank the following individuals:

Faculty and administrators at Bergen, particularly Sarah Shurts, Adam Goodell, and Brock Fisher, collaborated on the logistical details for the meeting with enthusiasm and dedication, for which we were all grateful.

An advisory committee made up of faculty members from community colleges around the state provided invaluable insight into issues that are of greatest interest, excitement, and concern on their own campuses and across the sector. Their feedback and suggestions have been integral to the planning process, and we thank them for graciously sharing their time, energy, and talent with us:

  • Nancy Gallo, Sussex County Community College
  • Ellen Hernandez, Camden County College
  • Augustine Nigro, Atlantic Cape Community College
  • Giuseppe Rotolo, Middlesex College
  • Sarah Shurts, Bergen Community College.