The Most Important Day of Class — Day One!

The most important day of class is the first day of class. As a former economics professor, I knew that was the day to really impress and capture the students’ attention. That was the day that I reviewed the syllabus, and attempted to really inspire and motivate students. As educators, the most important work we do at institutions like MCCC is inspiring and motivating students to dream, to hope, and to believe, primarily in themselves.

I read somewhere that community colleges lose up to 20 percent of their students during the first week of classes; I believe that. While I am not teaching now, I spend time visiting classes to try to motivate and inspire students. I visited several classes on the first day of classes last week and have visited a few today (between meetings). I had the opportunity to sit in Professor Lana Shryock’s Web Design class last week. I participated and actually created my first webpage in her class. Needless to say, that class is off to a great start. I left her class feeling motivated and inspired to begin building webpages (not exactly), but I did have a greater amount of technological self-confidence.

I encourage all educators to continue teaching and motivating on day one, and I encourage students to take their classes seriously from day one. That is the how we can ultimately ensure STUDENT SUCCESS.

It’s Millage Time!

I have not posted on my blog for over a month now. So, it is about time that I did so. Over that period of a month, I did take a couple of weeks of vacation time — very necessary for decompression and life/work balance purposes. Also during that time, I have attended conferences in Traverse City and Boyne Mountain and traveled to Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma. There has also been a State of the College Address to the Community (my first). There have been the corporate visits and the continuation of the “50-50-50, for the 50th” campaign, among other things. Lest I forget, also during that time, we have held Board meetings, met with consultants, and planned a millage campaign. Now, as we continue to plan for the millage, we continue to seek input from all constituencies. Over the course of the next week, we will solicit millage ideas from faculty, staff, students, the Board, and other stakeholders.

The millage polling shows that the community is positive about MCCC and would likely support a millage. That is good news. However, in order to secure victory, we will need everyone’s help. Please join me as we campaign for our millage, which will ensure that MCCC continues to transform and enrich lives in Monroe County and beyond.

Please see our website for additional information. It’s millage time and we need your help!

Serving the Underserved

Serving the underserved is essentially a key mission of community colleges. In many instances, community colleges such as MCCC take students who would not be successful elsewhere, shapes, and molds them to compete globally.
In the past two weeks MCCC has continued the tradition of serving the underserved with the Learning Bank Commencement and the Upward Bound completion ceremony. The Learning Bank provides many individuals with the opportunity to complete their GED, which, is a credential of economic value. My own father earned a GED at the age of 42. Upward Bound is another service program that focuses on first generation college students. While in high school, these students are given the opportunity to receive the appropriate training that prepares them for success in college and in life. I was part of an Upward Bound bridge program in my freshman year in college.
If MCCC did not serve these underserved students, then who would? While we cannot be all things to all people, we can certainly be something to the underserved population of Monroe County. Like anyone else, they deserve the opportunity to have their lives enriched – that is our mission.

The Power of Positive Thinking

What has been on my mind the last several days? Simply put, having a positive attitude about life –the power of positive thinking. It is part of my DNA, my upbringing, and my spirituality. I always have a positive attitude about everything significant! If I did not, I would not have survived the Washington DC public school system; I would not have made it through high school; I would not have made it in the inner city of Baltimore after leaving home at 19; I would not have survived the rats in the Baltimore ghettoes; I would not have completed my bachelor’s degree in less than three years; I would not have survived being homeless after I moved to Mississippi to pursue a Ph.D. degree; and I would not be where I am today. That is my story, a positive one. That is how I live my life and that is how I do my work.

All of us could stand a little more positive thinking. I cannot imagine any coach, or for that matter, players on any sports team going into a game thinking they are going to lose. In terms of more recent international events, I cannot imagine that the U.S. soccer team ever conceived of losing to the great soccer nation of Ghana, who had knocked them out of the last two World Cups. The USA won because they believed they could and would win, and they did, even though they were outplayed.
I have always said that as an educator, the most important responsibility that I have is to get students to dream big dreams, keep hope alive, and believe first and foremost in themselves – that is the educator’s greatest responsibility – inspiring and motivating students. Inspiring and motivating his/her team is also the coach’s/leader’s greatest responsibility. In order for the leader to be successful at motivating the team, each team member must have that internal confidence/belief. That is what makes organizations successful and moves them from good to great.

MCCC family, we must remain positive in these challenging times. We must believe that we can be and will be successful in our recruitment, retention, fund raising, and millage efforts. We must ALL have a positive attitude.

The Entrepreneurial Educator

The word “entrepreneur” is a French word, which means undertaker — a person who undertakes a venture for the purpose of earning a profit. The very first organized “school” of economists, the French Physiocrats, coined this term, perhaps because they believed that profiteers were essentially non-productive or sterile individuals who benefited at the expense of others.
That said, we know today that entrepreneurs are not sterile, and are largely responsible for income generation in the global economy. Entrepreneurs are the innovators and creators who make the world go round.
Educators are those individuals who impart knowledge to others. I have always believed that education and entrepreneurship are the two E’s that lead to economic development and growth. The two are not mutually exclusive. The best type of educator is one who is creative, risk-preferred, innovative, nimble, agile, and quick. However, education, by its very nature, tends to be methodical, regimented, risk-averse, calculated, and slow. So, educators do not tend to be very entrepreneurial in nature.
Would it not be great if we could marry these two E’s? That would mean educators who continually and constantly think out-of-the-box. Yes, creative, innovative and agile educators who are willing to take risks to provide better education to those individuals thirsting for knowledge. Individuals who constantly ask questions that lead to answers about how we make something happen, not why we cannot make it happen.
If we do not fit that description of an entrepreneurial educator, then that is what we should aspire to be.

In Remembrance …

This week, as we celebrate Memorial Day, let’s remember those who have lost loved ones and commiserate with them.  Below is a list of those who have lost loved ones over the last year here at MCCC.  The losses cover the gamut: some have lost twin brothers, children, fathers, mothers, sisters, in-laws, and grandchildren. While time helps, it cannot heal the wounds – I know. I myself have lost two of my beloved aunts in the last few months.  Please join me expressing our deepest and sincerest condolences to all our MCCC family members as we remember their loved ones this week.  Our thoughts and prayers are with them.


Loved One



Mike Nedry

Dr. Patrick Nedry

Twin Brother

Charles Berns

Randy and Lisa Berns


Ardis Nicole “Nikki” Torres Peters

Lynn Goldsmith (Retiree)  and Javier BaRa


Abigail Rose

JoEllen Locher


Irene Simons

Barry and Kelly Kinsey


Michael J. Tansey

Joe and Maegen Verkennes


Nolan Lajiness

Kellie Lajiness (Dance Adjunct)


Joan VanSlambrouck

Jeff  and Gail Vanslambrouck



Penny and Dan Dunn


Joanna Borck

Annette Russell


Frank Breeding

Kellie Kull/Rhonda Iacoangeli


Jacqueline Beaubien

Tom and Deb Ryder


Rosetta June Brooks

Bill and Lorna Myers


Kathy Soss (English Adjunct)

Jim Soss


Jacob Wahr

Dr. Philip Wahr


Lillian Madeline Gerweck

Ann Gerweck


John Gilbert

Linda Cruz-Gilbert (English Adjunct)



Peggy Jacobs


Bryan Smith

Mark Hall


Robert Boggs

Bonnie Boggs


Alice Ross (Retiree)




Dan Schwab (retiree)


Shirley Meyer

Mike Meyer


Karen (retiree)

Lexie Bopp


James Welniak

Bonnie Welniak (retiree)


Alberta Brinson (retiree)



Roberta Kerste

Dean Kerste


Evelyn Killion

Amber Smith


Walter Szuma

Darlene Szuma


James Vallade

Jim Vallade


Andy Burke (professor emeritus)

Tina Burke


Toma Paolino

Tony Paolino


Successful Inaugural “Elevator Pitch” Competition

Our inaugural “Elevator Pitch” Competition made the front page of the Evening News today. As a former Business College Dean and entrepreneur, I have created entrepreneurship programs/ organized business plan competitions at three different institutions. Each one of those programs benefited students as well as the community. It is important to note that the concept of entrepreneurship is not limited to business; entrepreneurship is about creativity and innovation in any field. I hold fast to the belief that entrepreneurship and education are the keys to economic growth (they are not mutually exclusive).

Last night, we held our first “Elevator Pitch” competition. As we discussed the idea of implementing this concept, I insisted that we make it happen sooner rather than later. Education is slow in implementation while entrepreneurship must be quick and nimble, so we made it happen. The success exceeded my expectations. Each contestant was given two minutes to pitch their idea to the judges, with an additional three minutes to answer questions.

There were nine contestants, who included high school students, MCCC students, and community members. The ideas ranged from life-saving medical devices to alcohol infused cakes. First place went to Eric Alexius whose idea is software to organize sheet music for bands and choirs. Second place went to Lawrence White who is creating a system to allow easy referral from customers for banks and mortgage companies by adding a personal artistic touch. Third place went to Alexis Stock, whose idea is alcohol infused cupcakes. The winners were awarded scholarships and cash prizes ranging from $350 to $1,500.

At the forefront of organizing the event were Barry Kinsey, Paul Knollman, Josh Myers, and Joe Verkennes. Special thanks to our blue-ribbon panel of judges: Doug Chaffin, President of MB& T Bank, Tim Lake, President of the Monroe County Business Development Corporation, Marge Kreps, MCCC Board member, and Paul Knollman, MCCC, Dean of Business.

The competition was highly successful and definitely enriched the lives of the competitors (not only the winners) and their families – that is our mission. We need more events of this nature that draw the community to this place of intellectual excellence. Please join me in congratulating the winners and thanking the judges and organizers. It is important to continue encouraging EVERYONE so we all have a mindset of how we get things done, not why we cannot get things done. Let us continue to find ways of enriching lives as we take the entire Monroe County Community to the next level.