The New College Try

A t Gateway Community College, says Evelyn Gard, the school’s Director of Public Affairs and Marketing, “We’re really in our community.”

Really. Gateway’s year-old, 358,000-square-foot New Haven campus rises up in the heart of downtown, on Church Street between North Frontage Road and Chapel Street, boasting large windows and a shiny steel frame, as well as a spectacular 30-by-30 foot LED screen secured in a three-story, glass-enclosed bridge over George Street. The screen displays close-in pictures of smiling students, professors and other employees at the school. Visible from the outside, it brightens up days and lights up nights for passersby.

Among them are the students, hurrying to a variety of classes, perhaps in nursing, chemistry or aviation maintenance, or catching up with each other. The new Gateway buildings—dubbed “North” and “South,” connected by that bridge—host 90 classrooms, 22 computer labs and 10 meeting places, plus a cafeteria, health center, culinary arts center, bookstore, early learning center and more. 

The prevalence of glass in the construction was purposeful, says Gard. “We’re letting you see in and we’re looking out,” she says. In February of this year, the new site earned a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification recognizing the buildings’ extensive energy-saving features, like solar panels on the roof that provide hot water, and motion-sensor lights that turn off when a space isn’t in use.

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Family Game Day at the New Haven Museum

The new campus marks a major expansion for the public community college, which was established in 1992 in the Long Wharf section of town. Along the way, Gateway added a campus in North Haven, which stands at 88 Bassett Road, and gave up the Long Wharf one.

Having two campuses has allowed for a wider range of certificate and degree programs, which span automotive technology, culinary arts, electronic publishing and infant and toddler development, including continuing education and professional development programs.

In its twenty years, the school has had a lasting, even snowballing, community impact. Gateway enrolls gobs of local students, a good number of whom go on to stay and work in the city post-graduation, improving it with their Gateway-attained education and expertise.

The three alumni honored at this past Saturday’s Annual Hall of Fame Induction and Reception by the Gateway Community College Foundation (a non-profit that supports the school) are shining examples of that legacy. Alum Richard Borer is now President of the New Haven region’s Easter Seals and Goodwill Industries. Roberta Hoskie is the President & CEO of Outreach Realty Services, which helps landlords fill vacant residences with needful tenants, and founder of the Outreach School of Real Estate, which trains people to become realtors. The third honoree was Deborah Mele, Senior Sales Manager at the nearby Omni New Haven Hotel.

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Van Wilgen's Harvest Stand on Market Island

Of course, there are countless others with special training from Gateway, working locally as firemen, nurses, radiologists, artists, you name it. “They’re here and they’re working,” says Gard, who also mentions a September 25 story in the Connecticut Mirror, stating that Gateway is the only institution in the state’s community college and university system that has seen growth in enrollment since 2010—not great news for the region, perhaps, but good news for Gateway, and by extension, New Haven.

Perhaps the growth reflects the school’s very deliberate attempts to keep its doors wide open (figuratively speaking anyway, as there are good security measures in place to ensure its other missions are fulfilled). As much as possible, Gateway wants to be out in the community, and vice versa.

For instance, the school invites the public in for a series called “Let’s Talk About It: Muslim Journeys.” Set to take place over two semesters at the school’s library on Church Street, the sessions, which kicked off last Tuesday, September 24, are free to attend, with registration available via the Gateway website. Each session focuses on relevant books, with discussions led by professors from both Gateway and Yale University. The opener last week featured a talk about the hundreds-of-years-old folk tale compilation Arabian Nights, accompanied by a special performance by the Middle Eastern band SWIRL.

Considering that the downtown campus is just a year old, it’s no wonder that when I first ask Gard if there’s anything new or noteworthy she’d like to tell me about Gateway, she pauses, and laughs, then says, “Everything is noteworthy right now.”

Gateway Community College
New Campus: 20 Church Street, New Haven (map)
(203) 285-2000

Written by Cara McDonough. Photographed by Dan Mims.

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Cara McDonough has been a journalist for over ten years. She writes regularly about family, parenting, religion and other issues for The Huffington Post and chronicles daily life on her personal blog. She lives in New Haven with her husband, two children and two dogs.

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