Harford University Center

The Higher Education and Conference Center at HEAT in Aberdeen has been rebranded and rededicated to emphasize its primary mission to provide bachelor's and master's degree classes from several colleges and universities.. (MATT BUTTON | AEGIS STAFF, The Aegis / September 24, 2013)

The next time you visit the HEAT Center in Aberdeen, you will probably notice the a brand new logo highlighting the name change of the campus' conference room and educational center.

On Thursday afternoon, a crowd of business leaders, academics and local politicians met to celebrate the renaming of the Higher Education and Conference center to the University Center.

The rebranding effort is designed to showcase the facility's commitment to providing opportunities for residents of Northeastern Maryland to obtain degrees closer to home and its connection to Maryland's top universities.

John Fritter, chairperson of the Northeastern Maryland Higher Education Advisory Board, called the University Center a "jewel, showing the importance of education to the whole community, not just the government, but outside the [Aberdeen Proving Ground perimeter] fence."

Fritter said the name change helps show the public the purpose the facility.

"The center allows people in the community to go beyond a two-year degree to a four-year degree and beyond," Fritter said. "I don't think people in Harford County or Cecil County understand they can get a degree here."

The University Center allows people who live or work in the area to partake in course work and programs with six Maryland colleges and universities: Johns Hopkins University, Morgan State University, Notre Dame of Maryland University, Towson University, University of Maryland College Park and University of Maryland University College.

Nancy Spence, director of the University Center, echoed Fritter's sentiments.

She said is often a lot of confusion among the public about what is offered at the facility.

"When we were called the HEAT Center we often received phone calls from people to repair their heat," Spence said. "Finally we have a name that fits who we are. It's a new image and we are trying to meet the needs of the northeast region." HEAT in this case stands for Higher Education and Applied Technology Center.

Spence said the University Center is one of eight regional university centers in Maryland.

"We bring the opportunity for bachelor's and master's degrees and programs to areas where there is not a high density of opportunities," Spence said. "In Baltimore you have many, many choices but up here you have no university choices. This was created so area residents can proceed with workforce development without having to travel to meet their needs."

During the rededication ceremony, the University Center also unveiled a new partnership with the U.S. Army Communication-Electronic Command (CECOM) and DoD Aberdeen Proving Ground tenants.

Gary Martin, deputy commander of CECOM, said before the partnership, APG would have to reach out to each individual university to create programs and courses that met the needs of employees at the installation. He said the partnership allows APG to go to one centralized location to receive different options for education opportunities for their 22,000 employees.

"We will always have a need to grow our workforce," Martin said. "The University Center partnership provides a more convenient mechanism for people on the installation. If we don't have enough people to fill up an entire class we can use the University Center to reach out to some of the area companies who contractors might also be interested."

The University Center is also developing programs with UMBC, the University of Baltimore, Salisbury University and McDaniel College.

Bonnie Wohlfort, 55, and her daughter, Jamie Stromberg, 27, are master's degree students in nursing with Notre Dame of Maryland University at University Center.

Wohlfort said she chose to complete her program at the University Center because of the convenient location to her home in Fallston, the great parking and the accessible security guards who monitor the campus when she takes courses in the evening.

"Looking for parking is one stressor we never have here," Stromberg said. "We have small classes and we've been with the same cohort our entire time here."

The mother-daughter pair will ∂finish their program in seven weeks.