Stockton University unveils new Atlantic City campus

Where else in America, can a school can boast boardwalk and beach views from a college dorm room?

Some New Jersey students are the first to live on Stockton University’s new Atlantic City campus located a stone’s throw from the beachfront towers that made the gaming mecca famous and an industry on the rebound.

“I think it’s an advantage for Stockton Students. We have a lot of hospitality and tourism students, so they’re in their classroom,” said graduate student Aly Smialowicz.

“I plan on actually taking my work to the beach,” said graduate student Dionia Henderson. “Actually just sitting there and doing some OT studies and things like that since I’m an occupational therapy major. So I can work on the body parts and things like that, so I think the beach is a nice place.”

The new residence halls are complete with kitchenettes, student lounges, and study halls. The campus can accommodate 534 students. Across the street sits the new 56,000-square-foot academic hall. The school says the Atlantic City campus has the capacity to seat 2,100 students in more than 100 classes in high-tech rooms. Perhaps 5,000 if and when Stockton buys the shuttered The Atlantic Club Casino and Hotel where Steve Wynn built part of his gaming empire in the 1980s.

For now, Stockton incorporates the work of local artists, builders, and businesses, and promises to be the partner critics have long accused the casino industry here of not being: a good neighbor.

“A couple years ago, the state of New Jersey designated Stockton as an anchor institution for the city of Atlantic City. And what that means is not only are we here to provide academic opportunity, but also we’re here to become part of an economic revival of this city,” said Harvey Kesselman, Stockton University president.

Stockton’s brand-new cafeteria is not just for students who have no meal plans, but for the public as well. The school’s osprey program allows students to load their identification cards with cash to encourage them to shop at local grocery stores and restaurants. Plenty of retail and potential conference space welcome the public.

One room is named after Fannie Lou Hamer, the Mississippi civil rights crusader who came to Atlantic City in August 1964 to the Democratic National Convention. She was frustrated with the lack of progress in the Jim Crow South, and here she uttered the famous words, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

“This is just another way in which we honor her,” Brian Jackson, CEO of Stockton University’s Atlantic City campus, said.

The city council has designated an area just south of the casinos as a university district. It overlaps with other districts and now allows other neighborhoods to invite and build businesses that could cater to the campus. The school says faculty members are already buying homes and moving to Atlantic City.

The new campus is chock full of images of Atlantic City’s glory days. It’s an era Stockton intends to revive.

“It’s having corporate entities like South Jersey Gas, whose headquarters which will open this fall on the top of our parking garage and they’re bringing hundreds of employees to the city, in addition to what’s happening with the gaming area. This has been a phenomenal summer for Atlantic City and we’re very optimistic about Atlantic City in the future,” Jackson said.

Stockton is Atlantic City’s only university. Buses will shuttle students to and from the main campus in Galloway — about 25 minutes away. Freshman enrollment has been booming, yet the school concedes it seems hidden in the Pinelands National Reserve.

“In the matter of just a few months, the number of media attentions that we get as a result of being in the world’s playground is nothing short of phenomenal,” said Kesselman.

The university’s president says this is also about enticing Garden State high school graduates to continue their education in the state. Classes start Sept. 5, with an official ribbon cutting ceremony Sept. 20. It’s a school that’s sending a not so subtle message to and about Atlantic City by erecting buildings with lots of windows instead of walls.

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