Ocean County College Officially Rebrands Manahawkin Campus

OCC President Dr. Pamela J. Monica and Director of OCC Manahawkin Brian Schillaci cut the ribbon renaming the Southern Education Center to Ocean County College at Manahawkin. (Photo by Stephanie Faughnan)

  STAFFORD – Ocean County College (OCC) formally named its southern campus in Manahawkin, cementing its commitment to providing accessible education to the growing region. Previously known as the Southern Education Center (SEC), the campus will now be recognized as Ocean County College at Manahawkin.

  Dr. Pamela J. Monaco, officially inaugurated as OCC’s first female president last October, offered some history of the campus and the decision to give it a new name.

  “When I first came here, I saw signs everywhere for the SEC, but I did not find the words Ocean County College,” said Monaco. “Before I was an academic, I worked in publishing, so I know the importance of the brand, and the SEC was not promoted as an integral part of the OCC brand. There was no brand at all.”

OCC President Dr. Pamela J. Monica explains the new name. (Photo by Stephanie Faughnan)

  The history of the Manahawkin campus dates back to 1985 when then-OCC President Milton Shaw identified the need for educational opportunities in the southern part of the county. Extensive research led by then-Vice President Dr. Richard Pierce Parrish revealed overwhelming community support for a branch campus. Studies supported the need for a facility accommodating 1,000 students, offering a diverse range of credit and non-credit courses, and conveniently located near major transportation routes.

  The resounding endorsement from local businesses, educational institutions, and residents galvanized support for establishing a dedicated educational hub in Southern Ocean County. Stafford Township played a critical role in the development of the campus project by passing a referendum granting 11 acres of land to it. A $1.3 million grant from the Higher Education Facilities Trust Fund facilitated the commencement of construction.

  “Students were welcome here for the first class on September 7, 2000,” Monaco shared. “That year, almost 500 students enrolled in 28 courses.”

  The Director of OCC Manahawkin, Brian Schillaci, emphasized the unique spirit of the campus. He said one of the most important things the school community does is get to know students and staff to help them create a successful story.

  “Everyone has a story. Some are amazing,” said Schillaci. “Some include challenges, and many of them have to do with overcoming adversity.”

OCC at Manahawkin student Jason Zoll stands in front of his self-portrait displayed in the campus hallway. (Photo by Stephanie Faughnan)

  “The goal of everyone in education, and quite honestly, anyone who works with people, is to provide opportunity,” Schillaci continued. “Here, part of that opportunity comes in the form of services, classes, and most importantly, relationships.”

  Beyond its academic offerings, OCC at Manahawkin fosters a vibrant community atmosphere. The campus boasts student artwork adorning its walls, inviting public spaces, and a regularly updated computer lab. Additionally, it operates a food pantry and provides access to essential services like counseling and student support, echoing the commitment to holistic student well-being.

  Among the guests celebrating the official naming of Ocean County College at Manahawkin was Jason Zoll, a digital art and animation major whose work now adorns the campus walls. Zoll’s self-portrait is accompanied by a quote from musician Will Wood: “What’s so wrong about what’s wrong with me?” The piece seemed to embody the mission expressed by educational leaders.

  Looking ahead, Zoll plans to transfer his credits to a four-year program after completing his associate degree.

  Distinguished attendees at the college renaming event included Bobbi Jo Crea, Director of the Ocean County Commissioners, and Ocean County Commissioner Frank Sadeghi. Many past and present members of the college’s Board of Trustees were also present for the event.

  Jerry Dasti, chair of the Board of Trustees, said the celebration was not just about renaming the campus. He also recognized Carl Van Thulin, Jr., who retired from his role on the Board after 30 years of service.

Art by students is displayed in the hall. (Photo by Stephanie Faughnan)

  “Van was chairman of the Trustees for 16 years,” said Dasti. “I know he was instrumental in pushing to get a location down here.”

  Dasti further acknowledged Thulin for his work during more than half of the college’s existence when it first opened its doors in 1964. He cited his role in selecting past college presidents as well as Dr. Monaco as the fifth president.

  “For you to be here for 36 years means you have a real love for the county and for this institution,” Dasti said to Thulin. “And we all thank you very, very much.”

  Information about the campus’ services, courses offered, etc. can be found at go.ocean.edu/occm.

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Stephanie A. Faughnan is an award-winning journalist associated with Micromedia Publications/Jersey Shore Online and the director of Writefully Inspired. Recognized with two Excellence in Journalism awards by the New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists, Stephanie's passion lies in using the power of words to effect positive change. Her achievements include a first-place award in the Best News Series Print category for the impactful piece, "The Plight Of Residents Displaced By Government Land Purchase," and a second-place honor for the Best Arts and Entertainment Coverage category, specifically for "Albert Music Hall Delivers Exciting Line-Up For 25th Anniversary Show." Stephanie can be contacted by email at stephanienjreporter@gmail.com.