Hudson County Community College President Dr. Christopher Reber Named Community College CEO of the Year

AACC is one of two major national community college associations and counts over 1,000 community colleges as members. This year’s event drew several thousand attendees from community colleges across the United States.

On being named CEO of the Year, Dr. Reber stated, “I’m humbled to win this award, which is owned by our entire HCCC community. I thank every member of our beautiful HCCC Family, as it truly ‘Takes a Village.’ This is the outcome of everyone’s efforts and contributions to our students and community. Hudson County Community College is increasingly seen as a high-performing national leader in service to our students and community, but, most importantly – as our students say – Hudson is Home! It is an honor to lead this remarkable institution.”

The nationally competitive CEO of the Year Award of Excellence recognizes a leader with a strong track record in effectively participating in shared governance; supporting professional development; implementing results-driven student success initiatives; advocating for the institution and its students; participating in statewide initiatives and national dialogues; serving on local, state, and/or national boards; and demonstrating courage under challenging circumstances.

Dr. Reber’s leadership embodies the award criteria in many ways. Utilizing a data-driven approach, he spearheaded the creation of HCCC’s Hudson Scholars Program, winner of a multitude of prestigious awards including the 2023 National Bellwether Award for Instructional Programs and Services, and, most recently, the 2024 Bellwether Legacy Award, the highest honor bestowed upon community colleges by the Bellwether College Consortium.

The Hudson Scholars Program expands academic access and promotes student success through a multifaceted approach that combines proactive student support, financial stipends, high-impact educational experiences, and early academic intervention. The Hudson Scholars Program’s impact on student retention and completion is significant, particularly for students from traditionally underrepresented groups including Hispanic and African American students. The two-year completion rate for students from these traditionally underrepresented groups represents a threefold increase compared to 2018-20. Over 2,500 HCCC students have benefitted from the award-winning program to date.

Under Dr. Reber’s leadership, HCCC has signed multiple transfer agreements with four-year colleges over the past five years. These partnerships facilitate the seamless transfer of HCCC graduates to four-year institutions, removing complexity and making it easier for students to navigate this transition. The strides made in student success are further demonstrated by the more than 1,500 students who graduated at HCCC’s Commencement in May 2023, a College record.

HCCC’s progress in student success culminated in the College’s designation as an Achieving the Dream Leader College in 2023, and an Achieving the Dream Leader College of Distinction in 2024. These honors are bestowed upon innovative higher education institutions that demonstrate sustained and significant outcomes in the advancement of student success. HCCC is one of only six colleges nationwide to have been honored as a Leader College of Distinction in 2024.

While student success is one of Dr. Reber’s key priorities, HCCC students also value the inclusive and equitable environment that Dr. Reber has fostered at HCCC during his tenure as President. This atmosphere inspired HCCC students to coin the College’s now ubiquitous motto, “Hudson is Home!”

Serving New Jersey’s vibrant, diverse, and densely populated Hudson County, HCCC is home to a diverse student body, with 55% of students identifying as Hispanic, 88% identifying as non-white, and 40% having been born outside of the United States.

To better serve this diverse community, President Reber formed the President’s Advisory Council on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (PACDEI) shortly after taking over as President. PACDEI includes stakeholders from all parts of the College and surrounding community and provides leadership, support, and counsel in fostering a welcoming, diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment that embraces shared values among all HCCC constituencies. PACDEI works to continually improve the College’s policies, procedures, programs, services, and outcomes in support of a college culture that values, respects and celebrates diversity in all its forms.

The core values of DEI are interwoven into all aspects of the College, and HCCC employees can further their understanding of DEI through myriad professional development opportunities funded and supported by the College.

Under Dr. Reber’s leadership, HCCC holds events throughout the year that bolster the atmosphere of equity and inclusion, including an annual DEI Summer Retreat (which featured Reverend Al Sharpton as a speaker this year) and a number of community and cultural events. These included a recent visit from Ndaba Mandela, grandson of the late Nelson Mandela, during which the high-profile human rights advocate delivered a rousing speech and met with HCCC students as well as local Hudson County high school students. HCCC’s annual weeklong Teaching and Learning Symposium on Social Justice in Higher Education attracts panelists and attendees from around the country and around the world.

HCCC’s efforts to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in all facets of the College earned significant national recognition in 2023. A federally-recognized Hispanic Serving Institution, HCCC received the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) “Outstanding Member Institution Award.” HCCC also won a 2023 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award from Insight Into Diversity Magazine for the third consecutive year.

Beyond the accolades, Dr. Reber is no stranger to showing courage in challenging times and using his platform to stand up for those who need it most. He is a vocal supporter of affirmative action and an outspoken critic of the Supreme Court’s recent decision to strike it down, and he is a highly visible and staunch defender of DACA and undocumented students at a time when these communities are facing an increasingly challenging climate.

With Dr. Reber at the helm, HCCC is also garnering significant recognition as a workplace where employees are encouraged to pursue their goals and reach their full potential. HCCC offers paid professional development programs for all employees. Over the past several years, for example, more than 150 employees and trustees have participated in certificate programs from Cornell University’s eCornell online learning program.

For the third consecutive year, HCCC earned a “Most Promising Place to Work in Community Colleges Award” from Diverse: Issues in Higher Education and the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD). Surveys of HCCC employees have resulted in HCCC receiving the national “Great Colleges to Work For” award, this year earning Honor Roll Distinction from ModernThink LLC and the Chronicle of Higher Education for employee top ratings in seven of the ten survey categories of excellence.  

CEO of the Year was one of seven AACC National Awards of Excellence categories in which HCCC was a finalist in this year, the most of any college in the nation. In addition to Dr. Reber’s award, HCCC won the National Award of Excellence for Student Success, and HCCC’s Professor of STEM Dr. Clive Li won the Faculty Member of the Year Award.

Caption:HCCC President Dr. Christopher Reber was named CEO of the Year at the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) national convention in Louisville, Kentucky.    

About Hudson County Community College

Hudson County Community College serves more than 20,000 credit and non-credit students annually. The College offers more than 90 degree and certificate programs, including award-winning English as a Second Language; Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM); Culinary Arts/Hospitality Management; Nursing and Health Professions; and Humanities and Social Sciences. The HCCC Culinary/Hospitality Management program was ranked number six in the U.S. by Best Choice Schools. The College’s School of Continuing Education and Workforce Development offers cutting-edge, industry-recognized, stackable credentials in alignment with high-priority workforce needs.

HCCC has partnerships with major four-year colleges and universities in the greater New Jersey-New York area and beyond, accommodating seamless transfer of credits for further undergraduate and graduate education.

The College’s commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion has been recognized with the 2021 Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) Northeast Region Equity Award; the “INSIGHT Into Diversity” 2021, 2022 and 2023 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award, this year honoring HCCC as one of six community colleges nationally to be named “Top Colleges for Diversity;” the “INSIGHT Into Diversity” 2022 and 2023 Inspiring Programs in STEM Award, and 2024 Inspiring Programs in Business Award. The College received the 2023 Outstanding Member Institution Award from the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU). HCCC was a finalist in seven categories of this year’s American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) national “Awards of Excellence” and earned CEO of the Year, Faculty of the Year, and Student Success Awards.  

For the third consecutive year, HCCC was selected as one of 18 community colleges in the United States to be named among the “2024 Most Promising Places to Work in Community Colleges” by the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD) in collaboration with “Diverse: Issues in Higher Education.” The College was one of 22 community colleges in the nation, and the only college in New Jersey, to be recognized by ModernThink LLC and the “Chronicle of Higher Education” as a 2022 and 2023 “Great College to Work For®.” HCCC is one of two colleges in the United States to be named a Top Ten Finalist in all three program categories for the nationally recognized 2023 Bellwether Awards, and received the 2023 Bellwether Award for the College’s cutting-edge “Hudson Scholars” program, which also won the 2024 Bellwether Legacy Award.

The College’s exemplary work in advancing student success has been recognized with 2023 “Leader College of Distinction” designation by Achieving the Dream, the national nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing community colleges as catalysts for equity and mobility in their communities. HCCC was also presented the Campus Prevention Network Seal of Prevention in 2023 and 2024 for demonstrating leadership in digital prevention programming focused on student safety, well-being, and inclusion.