In conversation with Martha A. Schoonmaker, cecD

Executive Director of Pinkney Innovation Complex for Science & Technology at Montgomery College

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We recently spoke with Martha Schoonmaker, CEcD, the Executive Director of PIC MC to learn about new developments and partnerships with the program.

Tell us about Montgomery College and PIC MC.

Montgomery College (MC) is a community college serving nearly 55,000 highly diverse students with three campuses located in Montgomery County, Maryland, within the National Capital Region. Germantown is home to the Pinkney Innovation Complex for Science and Technology at Montgomery College, or PIC MC, our integrated academic, business and research campus. Holy Cross Germantown Hospital, with an adjacent medical office building is our anchor resident partner. The County-owned incubator, the Germantown Innovation Center, is also located on our campus and houses life sciences start-up companies.

PIC MC represents an innovative model that advances tech while integrating academia, business and research. Can you expand on that concept for us?

PIC MC’s vision encompasses two intertwined elements of program and place: first, we undertake a strong program of academic-industry partnerships focused on enhancing and aligning missions of the College and those of technology businesses—to materially advance our collective goals for individual opportunity, economic growth, and community prosperity. Second, we want to develop the Germantown Campus to become increasingly known as the center of a Germantown Innovation District—a hub of education, business, and entrepreneurship— an attractive place for makers and takers of jobs, where industry partners co-locate and actively interact with faculty and students to achieve both educational and economic success. This is unique, given we are a community college and not a research institution.

How do you connect companies to your students and ‘multiply the power of partnerships?’

PIC MC and Montgomery College are changing the narrative of what a community college is in today’s evolving economic environment.  We are living in a world with integration of work, OJT (on the job training), and education. For example, PIC MC has successfully located Holy Cross Germantown Hospital, a 93-bed hospital employing about 700 healthcare professionals and related jobs, a medical office building with 50-plus doctors, nurses and medical personnel.  Students in our Allied Health Science programs do their clinical rotations at the hospital and, upon graduation, become eligible for employment. At a time when the Washington DC region is experiencing low unemployment and talent is challenging to find, Montgomery College/PIC MC provides the pipeline for current and future employees who can grow with Montgomery County companies, whether located on or off our campus.

Our goal is to blur the lines between employer, education and training through our partnerships with industry location on the campus.

Martha A. Schoonmaker, CEcD, Executive Director of Pinkney Innovation Complex for Science & Technology

What opportunities do students have to interact with local companies including Hughes Network, MedImmune and Qiagen?

We connect our students to local companies in a variety of ways. We have a number of industry advisory boards as well as foundation boards, which are comprised of local business people and worldwide companies.  Students are always included in these meetings to encourage networking, whether for mentorships or for future jobs.  We are very proud of our students and like to show them off!  Montgomery College is intentional about introducing our students to local companies through our career services and internship programs.   Career services offers job fairs on a regular basis at all the campuses.  We have good relationships with many of the technology companies who want to prepare our students as interns so they can potentially become permanent employees once their education is complete.  I also want to note that our federal institutions, such as NIH, offer exceptional internship programs, which expose our students to the available research opportunities.

How does Montgomery College bridge the skills gap in cybersecurity?  BioHealth?

The signature curricula of the Germantown Campus are biotech and cybersecurity, which are the industry sectors we are working to attract to PIC MC. Our biotech programs range from A.A.S. degrees to certificate programs. Our newest collaboration is with the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) on a Translational Life Sciences Technology (TLST) degree. Students start the first two years of coursework for the TLST program at our state-of-the-art Bioscience Education Center on the Germantown Campus, where they learn valuable industry-based skills such as polymerase chain reaction, gel electrophoresis, gene cloning, mass spectroscopy and chromatography. Successful completion of the curricula results in an AAS in biotechnology or other associate’s degree track, then students can finish the last two years of TLST coursework at the Universities at Shady Grove.Our Bio-Trac programs are targeted to Master’s and PhD levels of professionals who come to participate in cutting edge programs such as CRISPR and Flow Cytometry.

Montgomery College has every level of professional and educational development covered – from high school through PhD level.

Martha A. Schoonmaker, CEcD, Executive Director of Pinkney Innovation Complex for Science & Technology

Concerning cyber security expansion, Montgomery College has recently worked with Baltimore Cyber Range (BCR) to run their Range in our cyber lab at the Germantown campus.  Hughes Network Systems observed Montgomery College students during its ACT2 Range session.  Students who participate in the one-day Security Operations Center (SOC) range session prepare for the experience by doing about 20-40 hours of self-study on different systems and tools.  The session is a great capstone to our cybersecurity program, which prepares students for jobs and transfer.  This builds upon the work we have done through the Cyber Pathways Across Maryland (CPAM) project and other Maryland grant funded projects such as Advanced Cybersecurity Training (ACT). Some of these ACT MC students have obtained cyber/IT jobs or internships at the following companies: GEICO, NSA, Alarm.com, WUSA, and MC OIT, the college’s internal office of technology.

What are the latest developments with PIC MC?

PIC MC was approved last fall as a Regional Institution Strategic Enterprise (RISE) Zone through the State of Maryland.  We are the only community college to receive this designation to date, and currently, the only location in Montgomery County. A RISE Zone provides real property tax credits, up to 75% for five years, for life sciences and technology companies that locate on the Germantown Campus.  The beauty of this incentive is that the criteria to receive the tax credits is a demonstrated connection to the College. These connections can include internships, adjunct faculty opportunities, mentorships, and scholarships – all of which contribute to increasing the education and training of our talent pipeline.

In addition, we have been designated one of the Federal Opportunity Zones in the County (Learn more at MCEDC’s Opportunity Zone page). The program offers three levels of tax incentives for capital gains reinvested into designated census tracts, known as Opportunity Zones, through an Opportunity Fund over five to 10 years.

We are truly “in the Zone” and invite companies to come join us!

PIC MC is proud to have been selected as a Regional Institution Strategic Enterprise (RISE) Zone through the State of Maryland – the only community college to receive this designation.

For more information, visit the Montgomery College Education Page or watch the PIC MC video.