University Center, or UC, a multi-university campus and premier business meeting complex located at the former HEAT Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground, provides local and regional adult learners with opportunities for advanced degrees, specialized certifications and continuing education/noncredit contract training.
With day and evening classes, specialized programs, career connections, collaborative space and customized training, UC allows area employees to fit their advanced education program into their everyday work lives. UC partners with Towson University, Notre Dame of Maryland University, Wilmington University, the University of Delaware and the University of Maryland College Park, offering a variety of advanced degrees, certifications and training.
“Regional Higher Education Centers such as ours were formed to meet a need in communities where there was no physical presence of a four-year college,” says Nancy Spence, University Center Director. “University Center is a great option for people who live in Baltimore, Cecil and Harford counties because coming here for a class is much easier than driving to Philadelphia, Wilmington or Baltimore.”
Courses range from the traditional math, English and science offerings to classes in health sciences, criminal justice, cybersecurity and more.
“We know what the business community is looking for, and tailor our programming to meet those needs,” Spence says. “We want to make sure that students and employers will make good career connections.”
UC also has a unique partnership with area corporations, professional organizations and government entities such as the Harford County Office of Economic Development, Aberdeen Proving Ground and University Research Park. This facilitates those career connections, providing a special attraction to students and businesses alike.
“For example, Aberdeen Proving Ground and University Center have come together to establish a post bachelors certificate in cybersecurity, which was structured on the needs of APG and other organizations it works with,” notes Spence. “APG defined the need and the parameters of the program it was seeking, and we worked with them to identify the prospective universities that could make it possible to offer such a program here.”
In operation since 1995, UC has grown into an innovative multi-building campus complete with extensive catering and food services, a variety of fully-equipped yet affordable meeting and networking spaces, plenty of parking and the latest IT resources.
“University Center offers the business community excellent training rooms for group sizes ranging from just a handful of individuals to more than 75 people, plus interactive classrooms and upgraded technology, not to mention plenty of parking and access to catering services,” says Spence. “We are a great alternative to hotels for professional meetings and conferences.”
Local and regional employers rent the facilities on campus for a large range of uses, including training their teams, which can involve bringing in professional speakers from across the country. Spence adds that non-profit organizations have access to the facilities free of charge.
UCBC offers a variety of professional rooms in which seating can be arranged to suit the needs of any group. They include small and large conference rooms, standard classrooms, computer labs and conference/training rooms. The meeting rooms contain leading-edge technology for instructors and attendees such as Mondopads, bright link projectors, PC displays, touchscreens, video conferencing capabilities, whiteboards, data sharing and more.
“One of the reasons why we came here is that they have state-of-the-art technology,” says Michael Garrity, Past President of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors. “Last month we had a national speaker come here for that reason … she (the speaker) literally just showed up and put her thumb drive in and off we went – it was great.
“When you come to University Center, you not only have your choice of rooms but you also have a provider for the food and drink and everything’s already set up when you come in,” Garrity adds. “It’s very smooth, very efficient, just like it was made for us.”
University Center is increasingly focusing on the business community and is becoming more and more attractive to local and regional companies as it works to meet the needs of workforce development. “We work with the Susquehanna Workforce Network, which is one of our tenants, in its efforts to enhance workforce development in the region,” says Spence. “While the network is obviously fulfilling its own mission and does training, it also has clients who take advantage of the classes being offered at Harford Community College and Cecil College.”
Another presence on-site is the Harford Community College Continuing Education and Training Division with representation by Pam Karwowski, Director of Government, Contractor and IT Training. Karwowski says the college also provides non-credit courses for businesses. “People can take courses on anything from basic IT training and more advanced cybersecurity classes, to courses in industrial skills, such as building maintenance, and soft skills like mentoring, business writing, project management and leadership.
“In addition, we do customized training, and we can tailor academic programs to the needs of a business,” Karwowski says. “For example, working men and women might already have a bachelor’s degree or even a Ph.D., but still need additional college credits for their jobs. We will bring these classes to APG or any other sites where they are needed.”
“Before we found UC, we were meeting in school libraries, sometimes cafeterias, the acoustics were not good, and the rooms were not large enough for our organization at the time,” Jennifer Loper, Secretary of the Speech Pathologists of Harford County, says. “Finding the University Center has just been a lifesaver because it’s been large enough and they’ve had all the resources we need for our presentations. It’s a hidden gem.”
When looking to the future, Spence is a firm believer that there are plenty of opportunities to grow University Center into something that is more broad-based. “Higher education will always be a key, but the real opportunity is looking at technology and determining what the unique needs of our workforce are and then customizing our offerings to meet those needs.
“We just need to have our students and the workforce collaborate closely to fill in any gaps and to determine the best way to accomplish that,” she says. “Without a doubt, the potential is here, but we need to continue to think outside the box. We have so many great players – Aberdeen Proving Ground, college partnerships and Harford County government, among others. Much of what we need to do is to determine the best way to continue those innovative partnerships between education and industry.” I95