First “50s” Milestone!

Today I made my 50th classroom visit! That is the first of my “50s” completed, yes! That is especially significant because my priority is students. As a former economics professor, I cannot deny that I truly enjoy the classroom visits and student interactions, so I will keep going. Truth be told, had it not been for the terrible weather that we have experienced this winter, I would have reached that goal weeks ago. My 50th class was Prof. Joanna Sabo’s International Relations class where I listened to students debating “isolationism versus interventionism” and “foreign aid versus no foreign aid.” As always, I was impressed by our students and I learned something. Thank you, faculty for allowing me into your classrooms.

There are many other “50s” to achieve and a long way to go, but we will get there. Here is some indication of where we are with a few of our “50s,” in order of progress made:

  •          34 Community Interactions  (separate from speaking engagements and volunteer activities)
  •          29 high school classroom visits
  •          27 or so media appearances (includes repeats of  “Educations Matters” TV show)
  •          20 or so blogs
  •          20 meetings with part-time employees
  •          15 external contacts
  •          12 speaking engagements
  •          12 volunteer activities
  •          9 responses to my blog (not good)
  •          3 corporate visits (I have a long way to go, but we will get there)

There are some other “50s” not reflected above, but the bottom line is we are making progress. I still need to find 50 campus champions, 50 community champions, 50 alumni friends, 50 donors and 50 new brain cells (I know, that will not be enough).

Please continue to support and sign up as a campus champion. I look forward to working with you as we continue to progress toward our 50-50-50 …for the 50th by June 30,2014.

 

“Community”

As I make my way about the community, visiting high schools and interacting with high school students, I have come to learn what the word “community” means. I realized that this weekend when I asked a couple of high school students where they planned on going to college. The answer was “community.”
“Community” means Monroe County Community College (MCCC). I wonder how many of us were aware of that MCCC moniker. I see that reference as a good thing. We are the community college, and the only college in the county. In some communities/counties, the word “community” would be nebulous, at best. The depth of our programs and offerings are what determine our quality. We make the community what it is when it comes to education. Without Monroe County Community College, there would be no higher education options in this county, which is our community.

More Classroom Interactions

Wow! It’s Monday April 14, 2014, and we have less than three weeks to go to end the winter semester. As I sit in my office and begin this blog, I have so many topics I can think about blogging on, but I will go with my gut and blog on my classroom visits and student interactions this morning. After all, it is all about the students.

I canceled a trip to Lansing today because I felt it was more important for me to be on campus interacting with our students. I began the morning before 9:00 a.m. by visiting our C Building and dropping in on several classes. I would like to highlight my visits to two classes in particular, Introduction to Social Science taught by Nicole Little and Speech Fundamentals, taught by Mark Bergmooser.

When I peeked in Prof. Nicole Little’s class, she invited me in (by the way, instructors are not obligated to invite me in). I went in, sat down, and listened for a few minutes just before she began a group exercise on Social Structure and Mate Selection. The topic was so intriguing and the students so involved that I turned myself into a “guest lecturer,” asking questions of the students and soliciting responses. Indeed, our students learn better, when they have the opportunity to express themselves.

I then journeyed down the hall to Prof Mark Bergmooser’s speech class. There were three very well organized group presentations on stereotyping, language, and appearance. The students used You Tube videos and group exercises to support and buttress their presentations. Of course, as always, I had something to add.

As I make my rounds on campus, I continue to be impressed by what hear and see. Our students are, for the most part, hardworking and dedicated individuals, and so are our faculty. Faculty and students, please keep up the good work. Faculty, if you see me lurking in the hallways and peeking in your class, do invite me in, because I will always have something motivational and inspirational (according to me) to say to our students. Hopefully, my presence adds to their learning.

U.S. Air Force Band Concert Last Night — Phenomenal!

If you missed the performance of the U.S. Air Force Band last night in the Meyer Theater, to say you missed a treat is an understatement. This stellar, world-renowned group (yes, the real U.S. Air Force Band) is a national treasure. They were so versatile that they performed not only big band music, but also opera. It was a phenomenal evening!
We were able to land this band because of the efforts of Mark Felder and Tom Ryder; kudos to them for making this possible at little or no cost to MCCC (you know the economist appreciates that). Where else in this county can anyone go to experience such an event at zero cost? Yes, you know the answer, nowhere! Only at Monroe County Community College! That is our value to this community; not only do we educate, we also entertain. Thank you Air Force Band for not only playing good music, but also for serving our nation.

Sharing, Relationships, Crime, Earthquakes, Clocks, Dye, and Blood

I know you are wondering, “what the heck is he blogging on this time?” Well, I could have simply entitled this blog “my recent classroom visits,” but that would not be as interesting of a topic. Now try reading the topic without the first comma — that would be even more interesting.
As you know, I make classroom visits as often as I can. Just this week, I have had the opportunity to visit almost 20 classes. I visited Prof. Stephen Fried’s Economics class where I immersed myself in a discussion about sharing goods, when the marginal (additional) cost is zero –as an economist, I understood that and appreciated the students’ perspectives. I dropped in Prof. Mark Bergmooser’s Interpersonal Communications class where the students were roleplaying relationship communications; quite fun and interesting. I stopped by Prof. Penny Dunn’s Criminal Justice Class where part of the discussion was on the use of force to deter crime; I will continue to walk the straight and narrow. I went to Prof. Lisa Scarpelli’s class where faults, which cause earthquakes and mountain formations, were being discussed; I should have taken notes. I swung by Prof. Tom Harrill’s Electronics class where the students were building digital clocks; I was clueless. My last visit, yesterday, was to Prof. Nick Prush’s Respiratory Therapy laboratory where students were working on mannequins, simulating drawing blood; fortunately, they were using a red dye, not real blood, so I did not pass out.
It is refreshing to interact with students who are learning by discussing and doing. The more of this I do, the more I realize why I love my job so much. Kudos to all our faculty for teaching so well; that is what community colleges like MCCC do – we teach well to transform and enrich lives.

That Personal Touch…

Research shows that the number one reason why students stay at a community college is that someone there knows and cares about them. It is that personal touch that makes the difference at institutions like MCCC. As the weather has gotten better, I have had the opportunity to walk the campus, visit classes, and interact with more of our students.

Yesterday, I visited several classes in almost all of our buildings and tried to inspire and motivate the students with whom I came into contact. As educators, we must continually motivate our students to dream big dreams, to keep hope alive, and to believe in themselves. They must be inspired to have the utmost confidence in themselves; that is what will eventually lead to success.

As I interacted with students yesterday, I had the opportunity to walk and talk with a student who was headed home after a full day of classes to take care of her three-year-old baby and her mother, who had just had surgery. The baby is biologically her brothers. He passed away a few months ago at the age of 28 (I cannot say how). Such stories are gut-wrenching, but there are more of those here on campus than we know.

Please take time to talk to and encourage our students, many of them are facing numerous obstacles, which may adversely affect their eventual success. That personal touch may prove inspirational and ultimately enrich their lives.

 

Closing the Distance between Families with Immigration Reform

A tremendous amount of work went on behind the scenes to bring the One Book, One Community event to fruition. There were well in excess of 200 hundred individuals in attendance, most from the community. I am especially fond of such events because they are in line with our mission as a community college.
Reyna Grande’s book, The Distance between Us is a stirring rendition of how immigration for economic purposes divides families. She was separated as a child from her parents because her parents sought a better life for their family. She bemoans the unfair immigration laws that keep families separated. Unfortunately, her story reminds me of my own immigration story, as I immigrated to the United States to make a better life for my family. To this day, my family is still divided because of the unfair and unjust immigration laws of this great nation of immigrants. Please do not get me wrong, I still believe that the good old USA is the greatest nation in the world, bar none! It is just simply time for immigration reform to close that distance between families.

Below is information on the next panel discussion — on immigration reform
ONE BOOK, ONE COMMUNITY OF MONROE COUNTY

PANEL DISCUSSION ON IMMIGRATION REFORM SET FOR APRIL 1

MONROE, Mich. – Families are torn apart, businesses lose workers and some of the best young minds in the world leave the U.S. for other countries.
Monroe County residents will get a glimpse into these and other issues surrounding immigration reform, one of the hottest topics facing Congress as mid-term elections approach.
A panel discussion, “Immigration Reform, A Family Issue,” will be presented at 7 p.m. on April 1 at Monroe County Community College.
The panel is part of the One Book, One Community project, which this year features “The Distance Between Us,” a memoir by Reyna Grande about the trauma that families suffer when they are split up by immigration to the U.S. Grande will visit the college for a free “Meet the Author” event Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the La-Z-Boy Center. She will elaborate on the “The Distance Between Us, and a book signing will follow.
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Panel members for the April 1 panel discussion, which is free and open to the public, will range from a leading legal authority on the subject to an activist who works with immigrant families and the supervisor of Monroe County’s immigration detention facility.
“A community is composed of families the way a house is built from bricks,” said Diego Bonesatti, of Michigan United, who will serve as a panel member. “You can’t keep a house standing if its bricks are broken, and our communities suffer the same way when families are separated.
“The immigration system is separating families or keeping families separated and that, foremost among many reasons, is why we need immigration reform.”
In “The Distance Between Us,” Grande tells the story of her life, beginning as a 5-year-old growing up in a poor Mexican community not far from Acapulco.
Her father left the family to find a new life in the U.S., and didn’t return for eight years. Then she was split from her mother when she crossed the border with her father.
Her story gives personal testimony to how families are torn apart by our current immigration policies. Efforts to reform U.S. immigration laws are caught up in the stalemate between the Democrat-controlled Senate and the Republican-controlled House.
“Our current broken system separates parents from their children, employers from their hard workers, and costs America billions of dollars in lost wages, unpaid taxes, and the expense of detaining and deporting hundreds of thousands of people each year,” said David Koelsch, a lawyer on the panel.

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Koelsch points out that most people, both liberal and conservative, agree that we need to stem the flow of bright young minds who study in our universities and then are sent away because our immigration policies don’t allow them to stay in the U.S.
“Immigration reform is needed to allow the U.S. to compete for the best and brightest global talent. Right now, we are getting beat by Canada and Europe in the race for that global talent,” he said.
One of the sticking points is what to do with the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S. Legislation that would create a pathway to citizenship was approved by the Senate last June, but House leaders haven not acted on the bill.
Meanwhile, record numbers of immigrants are being deported each year, often breaking up families. An estimated 400,000 people were deported in 2012 – a record high for the nation – and if deportation rates continue at the current pace, roughly 2 million people will have been deported by the end of 2014 under the Obama administration.
Within the last few weeks, President Barack Obama asked the Department of Homeland Security to consider finding more humane ways to conduct immigration enforcement.
The panel discussion is sponsored by The Agora, the student newspaper at MCCC. Julia Wells, editor of the Agora and a sophomore at MCCC, with moderate the panel.
Panel members include:
David Koelsch is director of the Immigration Law Clinic and the Asylum Law Clinic at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law. The Immigration Law Clinic represents immigrants on a variety of legal issues, including abandoned immigrant children and abused immigrant women.
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He also teaches U.S. Immigration Law and a comparative U.S.-Canada Immigration Law course, as well as a seminar on Spirituality and the Law. He recently was named Outstanding Immigration Law Professor by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
Diego Bonesatti is director of Legal Services for Michigan United, where his work includes running the legal services program and recruiting and training volunteers to provide immigration services, such as assistance with the naturalization process. He also advocates for community leaders in removal or detention situations and works to support immigration reform.
A graduate of Michigan State University, Bonesatti’s parents emigrated from Argentina. Before returning to Michigan, he worked for many of Illinois’ top immigration non-profits, including the National Immigrant Justice Center, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant & Refugee Rights and the West Suburban Action Project, or “PASO” by its acronym in Spanish.
Major Troy Goodnough is head of Jail Operations for the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office. Goodnough directs the county jail, as well as the Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility, which houses roughly 1,200 detainees a year – many on their way to deportation.
Goodnough, a former MCCC student and Monroe High School graduate, has a bachelor’s degree from Spring Arbor University and a variety of certifications in law enforcement and corrections. He’s also been chairman of the Monroe County Safety & Traffic Committee, the Raisinville Township Planning Commission and the Monroe County Ambulance Authority.
Members of the Monroe County Hispanic community also have been asked to participate on the panel.