Tunxis Community College professor Dr. Karen Wosczyna-Birch, also director of the CT College of Technology and executive director of the Regional Center for Next Generation Manufacturing, received an Innovative Program of the Year Award during the national High Impact Technology Exchange Conference’s (HI TEC) awards presentation held virtually on July 29.
She is one of three individuals to receive awards in separate categories for innovations in advanced technology education and contributions to the training of today’s technology workforce. The Innovative Program Award recognizes innovation that has led to a positive impact on enrollment and retention in advanced technology programs.
“Karen has been a champion of STEM education throughout Connecticut and the United States, especially for community college students,” said Dr. James Lombella, North-West Regional President of the Connecticut Community Colleges. “We are very proud of her ability to create new partnerships and initiatives that are recognized nationally. Her passion for helping students succeed in STEM careers drives her to make sure community colleges have a seat at the table.”
Wosczyna-Birch has provided leadership in engineering and technology education and has been instrumental in creating nationally recognized pathway programs among high schools, community colleges and universities as state director of the CT College of Technology (COT). A consortium of all 12 CT community colleges and 10 public and private universities, the COT was formed through Connecticut legislation in 1995 to establish seamless career pathways for students to earn certificates, associate of science and bachelor’s degrees in engineering and technology disciplines with no loss of credit upon transfer.
Since 2004, she has received more than $25 million in funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Advanced Technical Education program including over $10 million to create and expand the Connecticut State Colleges & Universities’ Regional Center for Next Generation Manufacturing (RCNGM), one of four National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education Centers in the United States. The RGNGM’s best practices for addressing underrepresented populations in STEM have been disseminated at conferences nationally and internationally.
Wosczyna-Birch’s knowledge of NSF funding has led to additional grants for the creation of high school outreach programs in engineering technologies, an international program for COT students, and industry research projects for interdisciplinary and inter-institutional teams of Connecticut community college and university students from COT member institutions.
Wosczyna-Birch has participated in higher education and manufacturing committees for the New England Council and the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP) led by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, to make legislators aware of the needs for education and workforce development in manufacturing. She has received numerous awards and grants and has been recognized for her accomplishments as a professor and for her passion for increasing the diversity of the engineering and technology population.
Wosczyna-Birch also serves on many boards including the International Honor Society EPT, the National Coalition of Advanced Technology Centers, National Visiting Committees for three NSF Centers, past president/board member for the National Association for Workforce Improvement, and Hartford High School’s Academy of Engineering and Green Technology.
Tunxis Community College offers more than 70 associate degrees and certificates, including 28 associate degrees with manufacturing, science, engineering and technology emphases. The college recently purchased a 44,000 square-foot building adjacent to Tunxis for the college’s new Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center. Renovations to 10,000 square feet of the building will begin soon, with an anticipated opening in spring of 2021. For more information on programs at Tunxis, email [email protected] or visit tunxis.edu/academics.