In some ways, the ribbon cutting at New Jersey City University’s Business Center at 2 Harborside in Jersey City on Dec. 1 may have been a retelling of the classic movie, “On the Waterfront.” As in the 1950s film, people from diverse ethnic backgrounds have come to the Hudson County waterfront to earn a living.
The waterfront 60 years ago was the source of jobs and much of the economic strength of the region. After years of decline, the waterfront again has emerged as an economic engine for the region. But instead of manual labor, loading and unloading cargo ships, students come to the waterfront to learn about business and to rub shoulders with some of the most prominent people involved in both national and international economics.
When you walk into the recently-opened facility, the first thing you see beyond the reception desk is a room that looks like a miniature of the trading floor on Wall Street. Indeed, the business school is situated in a part of Hudson County that has been called “Wall Street West.”
“Some people refer to Jersey City as ‘Wall Street West,’ and indeed we are,” said Susan Henderson, president of NJCU. “[The school is] located in the heart of the financial district. Our students get to study with some of the best and brightest minds in business. As a matter of fact, we have faculty whose expertise was gained in Wall Street or the marketing field.”
“Our students get to study with some of the best and brightest minds in business.” – Susan Henderson
She said it was critical in a number ways for students to be close to the action, partly to be inspired by the surroundings, but more importantly to interact with some of the professionals in the world where they work.
Designed to feel comfortable
The design of the school focuses on openness. Classrooms have glass walls. Pastel colored walls in halls and other places provide a soothing, tranquil feel that school officials believe will help students learn.
The school, which officially opened in September, is about 68,000 square feet and accommodates about 1,200 undergraduate students and about 250 graduate students. Most are majoring in accounting, business administration, finance, economics, and marketing.
The architectural plan for the School of Business features cutting-edge technology, a simulated trading floor, classrooms, faculty offices, and a conference space with stunning views of lower Manhattan. The location centralizes NJCU’s growing undergraduate and graduate business programs and provides students with convenient access to corporate employers both in Jersey City and New York City.
The new digs have their own TV studio. Every day after the 5:30 p.m. news broadcast from its studios on the main campus, the feed will shift to this site, where a business report will be broadcast, Henderson said.
She said the location on the waterfront means instant access to student internships and extended study of business programs. The school already has partnerships with some of the leading financial institutions in the city and region. She noted that students from NJCU have already made trips to places like Mumbai and the schools had welcomed international students from places as far away as Sweden and China.
“Today in this country in k-12 school, the majority of students are non-white,” Henderson said. “The future of this country looks very much like Jersey City. NJCU is educating the future leaders of this country. Not only do they need to know business, but they sit next to someone who is from different ethnic persuasions and that makes us more powerful as an international city because business is international.”
In the middle of things
Having classrooms that resemble the trading exchange of Wall Street, school officials said, was intended to create an atmosphere for students similar to the real world. It will allow students access to professionals through internships and other arrangements with local financial institutions. Henderson said the school has already developed relationships with a number of high-profile companies, including Goldman Sachs.
Located directly on the Jersey City waterfront, adjacent to the Exchange Place PATH station, the business school also has access to a station for the Hudson Bergen Light Rail, which means students can easily go from the main college campus on the west side of Jersey City to this center.
For months, officials from New Jersey City University looked for space on the Jersey City waterfront to locate their new business center.
“This time last year, we were just thinking about this. We had toured so many locations down here, we had to decide where we’re going to do this,” she said, noting that Mack Cali – a well-established developer – was a tremendous partner in making the new center “a stunning reality for our faculty, staff and students.”
Rafael Perez, Esq., chairman of the Board of Trustees, NJCU, called it a wonderful building and a wonderful center for education.
“It’s hard to believe this was accomplished in almost a year,” Perez said.
Freeholder Bill O’Dea, who represents the west side of Jersey City where the main campus is located, called it a great success.
“This is a beautiful building and best view of New York City,” he said. “When we look at all the great things going on in Jersey City, it’s New Jersey City. This university is part of the great newness coming to Jersey City, from Joe Scott and the Jersey City Medical Center to many of the waterfront developments, and even some of the skyscrapers of Journal Square.”
Jersey City Council President Rolando Lavarro said he was impressed.
“As I walk though the hallways,” he said, “I imagine the possibilities for Jersey City students, and I’m reminded of my wife, a graduate of NJCU in 1997, when it was still a state college, and so many of the student there were first generation immigrant students. Here they are now on the waterfront, and no longer a dream, it’s a reality, to be able to touch and be apart of Wall Street West to have access to opportunities.”
Learning to compete in a global economy
Former Rep. Frank J. Guarini, who has had a long and positive relationship with NJCU, was very impressed by the new facility.
“When I walked through this building and saw how everything was laid out, I felt very emotional about it. It is great to know this is here in Jersey City.”
He said the first business school was Wharton Business School in the University of Pennsylvania. Since then, many colleges have business schools because of the huge demand for the country to compete in a global market.
“You have a university here that has the latest technology and architect, and has to be at this moment so far ahead of the great business schools,” he said. “Our success as a country depends upon how we conduct our affairs.”
He said America needs to learn how to conduct business on a global scale in order to maintain itself as a world economic power, and NJCU is poised to teach that to its students here in Jersey City.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.