‘Student Opportunity’ Is Aim for County College Southern Education Center

May 13, 2019
Photo by: Scott Bruinooge James Hauenstein

As the director of Ocean County College’s Southern Education Center, James Hauenstein’s responsibilities are, “simply stated – student opportunity.”

In part, Hauenstein, who took the reins of the SEC in November, wants to further spread the word about this one-stop-shop satellite site, located on Cedar Bridge Road in Manahawkin. For OCC students in southern Ocean County, the facility is optimal, offering courses as well as registration assistance, advising, tutoring services and more, minus the tolls required to travel north to the college’s main campus in Toms River.

In the months since he arrived at the SEC, Hauenstein has heard from many students that “the difference between taking classes in the southern part of Ocean County at the SEC, where they live, is a savings in so many ways,” not only regarding tolls and gas, but also the extra time they have to complete coursework, or make money at a job rather than commuting.

Hauenstein, 58, is a longtime educator and school administrator who, as his public and secondary education career developed, “became strongly and philosophically supportive of providing high school juniors and seniors information about their next level of education. While it was exhilarating to watch a high school student mature and design collegiate aspirations, the higher education world seemed to be the next natural place to work.

“As a personal dream, collegiate work as either a professor or within administration completed my personal career education circle.”

Hauenstein earned his bachelor’s degree in elementary/special education from Boston College, and a master’s in educational administration, supervision and curriculum from Georgian Court College (now Georgian Court University), and has since dedicated his professional life to education.

He was raised in Roselle, N.J., but has lived in Toms River the past 40 years. For 33 of those years, Hauenstein worked for the Toms River Regional School District, first as a special education teacher, then in administration as a supervisor of instruction, an assistant principal and principal. Before retiring from the Toms River schools, he served as assistant superintendent four years, overseeing secondary level programs, special education, athletics, policy and security.

Then, following two years as president/principal at Mater Dei Prep in Middletown, N.J., “I moved into the world of higher education by joining the staff of Ocean County College.”

In addition to increasing student enrollment in his new role, Hauenstein explained, “I am working on retaining students who attend the SEC by strengthening the collegiate atmosphere. I am meeting with the southern Ocean County high schools to develop familiarity, and have started outreach to local businesses through the Southern Ocean County Chamber to raise awareness of the opportunities afforded traditional and non-traditional students to pursue collegiate goals in the southern portion of our county.”

The SEC, Hauenstein summarized, “provides all a college offers but in a small, family-sized unit.” He feels the overall comfort of the site is one of its most important features.

“Our students are passionate about their collegiate aspirations and take such a serious approach, yet know the confines of the SEC provide the necessary aspects of college in a smaller and convenient setting. The staff of the Student Service Department – Katie Grofik, Michele Marcum and Jeff Kurz – realize the opportunities afforded each student in this setting. Their depth of knowledge and positive attitude complement each student’s academic side.

“Students not only take courses but also receive the full breadth of student services such as advisement, admission, registration, transfer, financial aid and enrollment information,” which removes a lot of the anxiety students may have trying to track down all these services on a larger campus.

He added, “Finally, our professors, all of whom match academic criteria for collegiate instruction, develop positive relationships with the students due to our campus’s size and comfort.”

At this point, said Hauenstein, there are no plans to grow the building footprint; however, the SEC is aiming to broaden available services – library, disability, student life and others – and “to expand the college experience and culture. Most students ask for further and deeper programs and classes to create an even stronger college community at the SEC.”

Hauenstein sees OCC as an affordable start to a college degree, one that might be especially beneficial to teenagers who aren’t ready to live on their own; or for individuals returning to college at a later age; and those who might have a job and a family. “Saving money as students build a foundation is critical, as we all read about student debt issues,” he noted. Students who are undecided about the direction of their studies can explore different classes and earn credits in general education courses before transferring to a four-year school.

“When you take the above details and then pair them with the fact a southern Ocean County student can do all of the above items within less than a half-hour commute, why look elsewhere? The SEC is a hidden gem in Manahawkin, providing a full set of collegiate coursework and services in a small, close-knit, familial setting.”

Juliet Kaszas-Hoch



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