The Schmidt Training and Technology Center (STTC) located on the Reading Area Community College (RACC) campus provides customized training programs that adjust to the changing needs of Berks County’s most progressive employers. The STTC basic and advanced training programs are based on employer needs and use evolving instruction methods and technologies that are highly individualized.
Taught in a state-of-the-art facility, the Schmidt Training and Technology Center courses are offered in four specific areas: Manufacturing Technology, Machine Tool Technology, Information Technology and Workforce Business Solutions. The Technology Center uses an integrated systems and blended learning approach that has a proven student/employee learning success model that has been sought out and replicated across the country. This integrated systems approach incorporates industrial-quality equipment, troubleshooting, and online and printed curriculum formats taught by “industry expert” instructors in a hands-on, applied, competency-based approach.
All technical programs are offered in a self-guided manner, allowing students to progress at their own pace with one-on-one access to the equipment and industry expert instructors for help with questions, answers and problems.
Courses and programs can be customized to meet the exact needs of a student and/or employer. Specialized Certificate programs are offered in Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA®), Cisco Industrial Internet of Things (CCNA IIoT), National Institute of Metalworking Computer Numeric Controlled Machine Operator (NIMS CNC) and Motoman Merit Robotics Programming.
The STTC offers a variety of workforce development training for front-line workers to maximize their effectiveness in the labor environment. The programs focus on foundational skills such as basic workplace skills, basic workplace knowledge, basic employability skills and basic work-related technical skills.
Courses are also available for employees recently promoted to supervisors or those who wish to expand their leadership skills, such as LEAN management, time management and conflict resolution. Students feel like they are learning in a real manufacturing facility. The learning systems feature state-of-the-art, industry-standard components and a range of component types so that students perform hands-on skills and activities on equipment found in current manufacturing and industrial environments. This approach provides the knowledge and skills for the entire scope of the technologies they will encounter.
In addition, the Schmidt Training and Technology Center offers a training program for non-Spanish-speaking employees, supervisors and managers who wish to improve communication with Spanish-speaking employees. Courses can be delivered to a group in a classroom setting or to individuals via e-learning.
As one of only 24 Franciscan institutions in the country, Alvernia is guided by a unique set of core values and the ideal of "knowledge joined with love." While some mission statements serve as a little-visited page on a website or a poster in a break room, Alvernia's mission is at the core of every aspect of the university's operations and is the reason why many choose Alvernia for their education, career, or opportunity to serve the community.
Alvernia’s campus ministry department serves as the mission officer at the university and guides all aspects of developing mission-related activities throughout the year. Department employees provide multiple programs and experiences for students, faculty and staff to become men and women of compassion, competence, service and Christ-like charity.
One of the many ways they do this is through the Alternative Breaks program, which offers weekend and week-long service and immersion trips for students to inspire and empower them to lead lives dedicated to serving the underserved, promoting peace and justice and working toward the common good.
“Instead of taking normal breaks allotted in the academic calendar, our students live the mission through Alternative Breaks,” says Julianne Wallace, assistant to the president for mission and director of campus ministry. “The trips are a large commitment for the students, as they meet regularly throughout the year, completing icebreaker and team-building activities, overviewing their trips' itineraries, watching movies as a group and completing a vital component: fundraising.” One of the most popular Alternative Breaks sites is an immersion experience in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, where students assist the Bernardine Franciscan Sisters, who founded Alvernia in 1958, with the operations of their school in Los Tres Brazos barrio.
Alyssa Keifer, a 2018 graduate, was so impacted by her experience in Los Tres Brazos as a junior that she changed her career path from psychology to theology as she discerned a vocation in ministry and social justice. Following her alternative break, she returned to campus as a student leader in campus ministry. She planned a heavily attended interactive simulation that helped campus members experience life as a refugee. The event was a hit, and, just a few months later, Keifer worked with campus ministry to bring a refugee family to campus to share their accounts of fleeing Turkey.
“I’m not trying to change anyone’s opinion,” says Keifer. “I just want people to be more informed. I feel like that’s a part of our liberal arts education — leaving with the ability to think critically and understand bigger meanings.”
Now pursuing a Master of Arts degree in theology and ministry at Drew University, Keifer serves as the coordinator of the university’s Volunteer Resource Center, a student-led organization that connects Drew students to service opportunities locally, nationally and internationally.
Keifer is an excellent example of the mission of Alvernia in action. With more than 50 majors and minors on campus, interests in vocations and careers are vast, but mission is the core component of everyone’s educational experience, something that is unique to the university and that will never change.
Penn State Berks has a long history of working with the community and responding to its needs. The college is leading several initiatives that are supporting economic development in the City of Reading. In 2011, the college established a foundation in entrepreneurship education through the Flemming Creativity, Entrepreneurship, and Economic Development Center, located in the Gaige Technology and Business Innovation Building. The Center is an extension of the college’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation minor, with its mission to inspire an innovative spirit among students. The Center provides state-of-the-art technology including 3D printing, an Idea TestLab, and networking and mentorship opportunities. Several students and alumni have started successful businesses with the guidance they received through the Center. Then, in 2015, Penn State President Eric J. Barron announced Invent Penn State, a $30 million Commonwealth-wide initiative to spur economic development. Penn State campuses had the opportunity to apply for grants to establish innovation hubs with the goal of driving job creation, economic development, and student career success.
Penn State Berks, in partnership with Penn State Health St. Joseph, received three Invent Penn State grants, leading to the creation of the Berks LaunchBox, an innovation hub located within the GoggleWorks Center for the Arts in Reading, along with a wellness-focused partnership at the downtown Reading campus of St. Joseph.
The Berks LaunchBox features a maker space with 3D printers for prototyping, entrepreneurship workshops, co-working space for startups, an Idea TestLab, and Meetups focused on business development and technology. One of the main goals of the Berks LaunchBox is to support early-stage entrepreneurs who have technology-based ideas by providing access to state-of-the-art equipment, as well as mentorship, funding, and referrals to community resources. Another goal is to help create the next generation of entrepreneurs through workshops and access to equipment for middle and high school students.
Meanwhile, the partnership located at St. Joseph’s downtown campus continues its focus on social enterprise programs. Two examples include the Veggie Rx Program and the Medical Innovations Program, both joint initiatives between the college and the health network. The Veggie Rx pilot program addresses access to fruit and vegetables through physician-“prescribed” vouchers for fresh produce that can be redeemed at various locations. The pilot is coordinated by a joint employee of the two institutions and is funded by the United Way of Berks County.
The Medical Innovations Program grew from the unique college-health network partnership, whereby students, faculty and medical staff collaborate on the development of medical devices and improvements to the delivery of health care. One prototype that resulted from the collaboration is a more comfortable and functional arm sling.
In recognition of these and other community initiatives, Penn State Berks recently received the Frederick J. Beste III Partnership Award from the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania. The award recognizes an organization whose strong vision, dedication and commitment has helped the Ben Franklin Technology Partners accomplish its goals and whose support demonstrates a sincere desire to see the region thrive.
Jonathan Otero dreams of moving to Paris and finding work in the fashion industry. “I’d like to live in Paris and learn the techniques of fine sewing, which is also known as haute couture,” says Otero, Albright class of 2019. A fashion design major who also has an interest in graphic design and photography, Otero, 23, has been drawn to fashion since he was a teenager.
“I had friends who got teen magazines and we’d sit and look at them together,” says Otero, who transferred to Albright from Harrisburg Area Community College in 2017. “Fashion has always been a part of my life.” According to Doreen Burdalski, chair of the Fashion Department and an assistant professor of merchandising, Otero is well poised to realize his dream.
“There’s always a demand for people to work in the fashion industry, and our students get a lot of experiential learning, as well as classwork,” Burdalski says. “We have a lot of success stories from this department.” The fashion program has always been popular, but it became even more so after being named one of the top private fashion merchandising and fashion design schools in the country.
“That seems to have really put us on the map,” Burdalski says. Albright has been named as one of the top schools for four years in a row by Fashion-Schools.org, a website that provides resources for students seeking information about college fashion programs. In choosing, the website cited opportunities available to fashion students, including study abroad programs in fashion hubs such as France, Italy, the United Kingdom and South Korea. It also highlighted internship opportunities with prestigious companies and frequent trips to the fashion districts of New York City and Philadelphia.
“Students leave here with an understanding of what it really means to work in the fashion industry,” Burdalski says. Highlights of the program are the annual design challenge, a Project Runway-type event in which students have a limited time to shop for fabric and produce an outfit, and the annual Spring Fashion Showcase, which highlights the work of senior fashion design students. Otero’s three-piece collection of circle skirts and crop tops earned him a “Best in Show” designation in this year’s showcase.
Fashion students each semester also publish Fashion Lion, an award-winning magazine, and many are members of Club Vogue, a professional fashion student group that hosts fashion shows, resume workshops, alumni panels and guest speakers. Graduates have gone on to work for companies including Urban Outfitters, Under Armour, Lilly Pulitzer, Disney, Michael Kors and others. Albright also has strong partnerships with local businesses that offer internships and employment opportunities.
Students in the fashion program can major in costume design, fashion design, design and merchandising or fashion merchandising. Many opt to co-major in fashion, combining it with a related curriculum, such as business. “Fashion students have a lot of options, and that’s intentional,” says Burdalski. “We want them to be creative and think outside the box.”
Kutztown University’s community arts initiatives mean you don’t need to travel to New York or Philadelphia to experience sensational performances and exhibitions. “There are so many ways people can get involved,” enthuses Dr. Michelle Kiec, dean of KU’s College of Visual and Performing Arts. “If you’ve never been to a classical musical concert: listen, observe, see if you like it. If you don’t like it, try something new. Keep going until you find your niche.”
During the school year, legendary entertainment is available on-campus through KU Presents!, which has brought world-class acts like Pentatonix, the NY Philharmonic and Janis Ian to Berks County. For audiences who prefer other mediums, the Marlin and Regina Miller Gallery features a variety of (often free) rotating installations and student exhibits, including textiles, graphic design and photography. There’s something for everyone!
In 2018, Kutztown’s leaders founded the KU Arts Society: its mission is to nurture an appreciation for visual and performing arts though art education and events. One of its programs, Promoting the Love of Arts for Youth Series, or PLAY, offers local K-12 students opportunities to come to campus and attend theatrical productions, concerts and workshops. Arts faculty and artists will also lead classes at local schools, with the goal of engaging children and instilling in them a passion and appreciation for art. In an era where curriculum tends to emphasize science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), integrating creativity within academics is more important than ever. “There are myriad benefits of arts education and practice, especially the ability to think flexibly, problem solve and adapt,” Kiec explains.
While classes are in session, elementary-aged children can participate in Friday Night Out, a program offered by student members of the National Art Education Association. Projects are child-led and include assembling hula hoops, decorating flower pots, or constructing a collage. In the summertime, parents can keep their high schoolers occupied by signing them up for one of four week-long arts camps (graphic design, music, film or fine arts), available through Kutztown’s Arts Academy. Additionally, local festivals, music venues, libraries and organizations are always looking to engage children and their parents — just browse the newspaper or search online.
Young scholars aren’t the only ones who can benefit from arts education – adult learners can register for courses as non-matriculated students in a diversity of fields, including art, music, cinema and communication, whether to learn a new skill or acquire hands-on experience in a craft. Some people sign up for a subject they’ve always wanted to learn about; others are hoping to transition into a new career or become a teacher, creator or scholar. Retirees over the age of 62 can register for free courses through KU’s Advant*Age program. “Many programs in the community offer classes for adults – art criticism, appreciation or history – or opportunities to make art, whether it’s pottery, weaving or painting,” explains Kiec. “There are also music classes for adults – if you’ve always wanted to play an instrument, it’s never too late!”