GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP - Richard Stockton College has taken a lead role in developing a statewide program that integrates community service into student learning.

Stockton will host an office for New Jersey Campus Compact, or NJCC, as part of a national movement of more than 1,000 college presidents to promote public service as a way for students to develop citizenship and job skills and colleges to enhance community partnerships. Currently, 33 states participate.

The Stockton board of trustees, at their September meeting, approved the hiring of Saul Petersen, former executive director of the Connecticut Campus Compact, to serve as New Jersey's director. Petersen was chosen by the NJCC, which will reimburse Stockton for his $90,000 salary through dues paid by member colleges. Petersen will have an office at Stockton and at Raritan Valley Community College in Branchburg, Somerset County, so he can reach out to college presidents throughout the state.

Stockton President Herman J. Saatkamp, who helped found the state group, said Stockton has always had a strong community service component. The school year begins with a Day of Service and students are involved in other projects throughout the year.

"This highlights what we are doing in common with other colleges and gives us the opportunity for joint programs in New Jersey and other states," Saatkamp said. "We want students to understand that they need to be citizens and engaged in their communities."

Cumberland County College President Thomas Isekenegbe, who co-chairs the NJCC, said he wants to raise awareness among the two-year colleges, which often have a more difficult time recruiting students for community service since so many attend part-time and work.

"We don't want students to just get a degree and leave," he said. "We have done well here with a campus-wide effort on Martin Luther King Day, and integrating community service into courses. But we want to grow."

According to the Campus Compact website, there are currently about 15 members in the NJCC, including five of the 19 community colleges, five of the 12 state public colleges, Drew University and Princeton University. Proprietary colleges DeVry, Berkeley and Eastwick also are listed as members.

Petersen said the purpose of higher education is not only to educate and help students get meaningful careers, but also to have them be active participants in their communities. He said he will help set up best practices for how colleges can engage with their communities and that includes providing opportunities for students to learn skills that will also make them more marketable once they graduate and look for jobs.

"Not all of the colleges are as engaged as they could be," he said. "If we all work together, we can help transform the state."

Contact Diane D'Amico:

609-272-7241