Bergen Innovation Center brings real world to classroom in Meadowlands

Bergen Community College held a ribbon cutting ceremony to launch The Innovation Center at the Meadowlands Campus in Lyndhurst on Wednesday, November 29, 2023. / Russ DeSantis Photography and Video, LLC

The Innovation Center at Bergen Community College at the Meadowlands has opened. On Wednesday, college President Eric Friedman cut the ribbon on the facility alongside board of trustees Chair Dorothy Blakeslee, Bergen County Executive James Tedesco III and Bergen County Commissioner Tracy Zur at the facility.

“After years of transition, I am incredibly proud to say this location will now fulfill its promise as a first-choice destination in higher education for southern Bergen County,” Friedman said. “All it took was a little imagination and innovation.”

Friedman worked with faculty, staff, students and industry partners to develop the “innovation center” concept in response to the explosive growth of information technology and business careers that require hands-on experiential learning.

“When I became president in 2021, I knew this location had untapped potential,” he said. “I knew we could do more to serve the residents of the southern communities of Bergen County. In response, I led a series of goal-setting exercises that researched community educational needs and pushed stakeholders to vision for the future. I encouraged innovation built on student and community interest. It had to be tied to preparing students for the region’s in-demand jobs. That led us to design this ‘innovation center’ that prepares students for the ‘real world’ from day one.”

The center encompasses an entire floor of the college’s Lyndhurst location and represents the latest initiative in Bergen’s commitment to developing programs that prepare students for employment in thriving workforce sectors.

The demand for information technology professionals continues to outpace available talent, as the U.S. Department of Commerce has estimated the global shortage of cybersecurity professionals at more than 3 million; gaming industry leader Activision Blizzard has said “talent is scarce” for the current 30,000-50,000 gaming-related employment positions currently open across the sector.

The center’s signature laboratories each contain specific resources designed to bring real-world applications into the classroom. For example, the cybersecurity lab features multiple large cyberthreat monitors that display actual security breaches occurring throughout the world, while the Bloomberg Finance lab includes a 16-foot LED ticker displaying real-time stock prices from various international markets. The gaming lab not only includes six 65-inch overhead monitors and software such as SpeedTree 3D modeling, but also serves as the “home court” for the college’s e-sports athletes. Renovations began in summer 2022 as the college built the labs and an “innovation lounge” for students to collaborate and work on shared projects.

“The Innovation Center is just another example of the work being done through the partnership between the county and Bergen Community College to ensure that Bergen County remains competitive in the 21st century marketplace,” Tedesco said. “In today’s ever-changing global workforce and economy, it is so important that we invest in our students.”

“I cannot wait to see the innovation that comes out of this center — it’s not just going to be a title,” Zur added. “It’s going to be the birthplace where great ideas come from.”

The college has operated its Meadowlands location at 1280 Wall St. W. since 2008. The facility rises five stories, with its top-floor conference center featuring panoramic views of the surrounding area — including MetLife Stadium, the Meadowlands and New York City. Nearly 1,000 students take classes at the location, including high school students registered in dual enrollment programs.