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Ohio Life

The College Tour: Cuyahoga Community College

Cuyahoga Community College’s Metropolitan Campus in downtown Cleveland offers class schedules, educational styles and interactive experiences that cater to a range of students.

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Bustling streets and cityscapes frame Cuyahoga Community College’s Metropolitan Campus. But make no mistake; hallway chats with professors and between-class snack breaks mark the quintessential college experience at Tri-C Metro.

The college was established more than 50 years ago as Tri-C’s first campus, and it has assumed the role of an educational powerhouse that embraces downtown Cleveland’s urban landscape. It boasts an impressively close-knit average class size of 18 and has more than 5,500 students enrolled per semester.

Known for its strength in health-science careers ranging from nursing to dietetic technology, Metro’s place near the heart of the city’s health hub makes for easy access to jobs in the medical industry, as partnerships and internship opportunities abound at prestigious institutions such as the Cleveland Clinic. But new campus renovations and investments are providing a hands-on approach to the arts as well.

“I really see us at a pivotal moment. Physically, we’re being revitalized,” says Michael Schoop, Ph.D., president of the Metropolitan Campus of Cuyahoga Community College. “We’re that place in the city where you can start and you can continue your education that feels like home, that doesn’t feel like you’re walking into a big institution but feels like you can actually connect with people.”

At Tri-C, flexibility creates that sense of home. Students can attend full time or part time, utilizing a combination of traditional daytime classes, night classes and online courses. Regardless of which path students pursue, professors, counselors and staff members are accessible each step of the way.

“No matter what option you chose, we provide really extensive support,” says Schoop, “both because our faculty are very involved with the students, and because our support services are provided in a way that if you need to be here in the evening or you need to be here on the weekend, we’ll be here as well to support you.”

That range of course options draws a diverse group of students, from full-time professionals pursuing further education to young mothers, such as Lovie Leeper, who take advantage of dual-enrollment programs with universities such as Cleveland State.

Leeper, a dual-enrollment student in early childhood education and Metro’s student body president, began her studies at a large four-year institution but found the depth of student resources and affordability at Tri-C to be irresistible. While she usually takes day courses, Leeper recently took her first night class, and the experience made an impact on her time in the classroom.

“I met a lot of more mature students,” she says. “They’ve already been in the field, and their input to the class was much richer than attending class with all the younger students when we’re all in the same boat. I learned a lot from the more experienced and nontraditional students.”

The FirstEnergy Power Systems Institute, a cooperative program between Tri-C’s engineering department and the electrical giant FirstEnergy, is currently putting a select group of 22 students through a rigorous two-year training program, where the first half of the week includes field work, while the second half of the week is spent in class.

The co-op was created to target a specific deficit in the workforce and to train students to fill that gap through developing skills that translate to a career as a utility line or substation worker.

“What we learn in our program, we’re actually going to use,” explains PSI student Trevor Schneck. “Here, we’ve been blessed with people who work and go beyond what they normally would have to do to make sure that we can learn.”

Professors in the program deviate from the normal lecture-based classes, some even creating interactive games for students, as a way to make the workload manageable for those who have commitments such as full-time jobs and families outside of the program.

“Homework, while it’s necessary, can be the difference of deciding am I going to sleep tonight,” explains Schneck, adding that the interactive methods keep students engaged and inspired. “That kind of stuff, it seems goofy, but it can make all the difference, because when it’s fun to learn, it’s easy to learn.”

The FirstEnergy Power Systems Institute is not the only area where students are given the opportunity to work in an innovative space.

For those pursuing opportunities in the manufacturing sector, the Manufacturing Technology Center’s Ideation Station is a new chance for students to engage in hands-on learning, while the Tommy LiPuma Center for the Arts and Studio 101 are driving learning in the arts and music production.

The LiPuma center is filled with state-of-the-art recording spaces that serve as a playground for creativity and innovation, all while preparing students for the Associate of Applied Science in recording arts and technology degree. Students have gone on to pursue careers as self-recording artists and entry-level jobs in broadcasting and the music industry.

Studio 101, an interactive black-box space and colorful study lounge equipped with movable dry-erase boards for group study, ascribes to the same philosophy: Engaged learning will prepare students for the job force. Open to all courses and study groups, the space promotes lecture-free learning, where professors can develop classes and activities that invite hands-on interaction.

“The workplace is not sitting in a row and working on your own to turn something in. It’s collaborative in nature,” explains Studio 101 coordinator and professor of English Brian Hall. “I think that a space like this really helps build that collaboration, but it also strengthens the soft skills that are needed that maybe [students] don’t get in other types of courses or direct lecture.”

These types of learning innovations taking place at Tri-C Metro’s campus are an education renaissance. From hands-on patient clinics in the Community Health, Wellness and Preventative Care Center to re-enactments of Plato’s Cave in Studio 101, students are drawn to the campus as a place where interactive learning translates to a full-time career.

“I would love, down the road, for students, when they decide which campus to attend, to make the decision to come to Metro because they know it’s going to be a different type of learning opportunity and experience,” says Hall. 

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