I consider Baltimore home. I spent many of my college and most of my adult formative years there. With the recent riots after the death of Freddy Gray in police custody, Baltimore has come to represent many of the ills of our society. These include the issues of violence, racial discrimination, lack of education, disenfranchisement, unemployment, and much more.

Baltimore is a city with a population of just over 600,000, of which over 63 percent are Black, a poverty rate of more than twice that of the state of Maryland, an unemployment rate of more than three percentage points higher than the rest of the state and many more under the surface challenges.

In light of the many challenges faced by cities such as Baltimore, there are also many opportunities. There are many high-quality educational institutions in the city, including, the world renowned Johns Hopkins University and two quality Historically Black Colleges (HBCUs) — Morgan State University (my alma mater) and Coppin State University. These institutions are oases in a dessert of despair, hope in a quagmire of hopelessness, opportunity in the midst of numerous difficulties. When it’s all said and done, the solution is EDUCATION in all its forms. That is what made a difference for me and my family.

I will be presenting on “Baltimore” as part of our Current Affairs Series on May 27 at noon in the Dining Room. Please come an informative discussion about opportunities and challenges in an ever-changing world.

The Developmental Education Quagmire

Developmental education is an integral part of what community colleges such as MCCC do. Nationally the research indicates that only 10 percent of all students who take at least one remedial or developmental education course end up completing (IPEDS data). While I do not have the numbers for MCCC, I am sure that our success rate is above that. Faculty who teach developmental education courses are compelled to work harder because they are dealing with students who are not college-ready.

I refer to the developmental education track as a “roach motel” because of the dismal success rate of students who end up on that track (nationally). The courses themselves are not the “roach motel”, it is the developmental system. The way students are placed (based on a test they have not been prepared for) and what may happen to them after they complete these courses. This is part of the national dialogue, and MCCC is not exempt from that.

The faculty who teach remedial and developmental education are some of the best and brightest and deserve all the credit for what they do. The issue is a systemic one which needs to be addressed by all concerned to ensure what matters most –STUDENT SUCCESS.

What Matters Most

Monroe County Community College is an educational institution. I am sure you are all elated to learn that I know that. But what does it mean to be an educational institution, and in our case a community college? Well that is encapsulated in our mission – we enrich lives. We take students from where they are to where they need to be. We serve “our” community – however we choose to define “our community”.

As a community college, we are subsidized by local taxpayers and state appropriations so we can enrich and transform the lives of our students at an affordable rate – that is why and how we can afford to keep tuition low. It is imperative that we continue to focus on what matters most by putting our students and community first in all that we do. Our mission, however stated – “enriching and transforming lives”, “enrich the lives of….’, or whatever words we use, boils down to ensuring student success.  So, what is student success? It certainly includes completion of a credential of value or however the student defines success for him or herself.  In the final analysis, it is all about providing access and opportunity that leads to STUDENT SUCCESS. That is what matters most.

“Laborers in the Vineyard”

There is no doubt that all of us at MCCC work hard. There are the faculty who go to class every day and teach their hearts out, and the maintenance crew who brave the cold weather to remove the snow and ice and set up for the numerous activities we have on campus.

Behind the scenes though are those “laborers in the vineyard”; those unheralded individuals who work in the “back cubicles” to ensure that we receive our paychecks every other week; those who inhabit the bowels of some of our buildings to keep our computers and other equipment functioning week in and week out; and those who work directly with our students to advise and council them concerning their courses and any other challenges they may have. These are the “laborers in the vineyard”. Individuals who work behind the scenes, without who this place would be non-existent.

So, to all the “laborers in the vineyard”, I say thank you, obrigado, merci, xie xie, asante, danka, gracias, we appreciate you.


Thank You, MCCC Faculty

Tuesday’s Monroe News article about Jonathan Brown states that he has been “accepted to Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Massachusetts institute of Technology, the University of Michigan, Case Western Reserve University and the University of Toledo.” They neglected to add Monroe County Community College!  Jonathan is one of our dual enrolled students at Monroe High School. We deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence as any of those other institutions.  After all, we teach some of the same courses they teach, some of our faculty have the same credentials, and some of our students have the same qualifications. Granted we do not do the amount of research that they do, but we teach just as well as they do, or perhaps even better; because what we do here is teach. Here at MCCC we take many students who would not survive a Harvard or a Yale, we shape and mold them and then send them off better prepared for the Harvards and Yales.

Kudos to the MCCC faculty who work behind the scenes, day in and day out to shape and mold many students who transfer to four-year institutions or earn credentials of economic value.  As Commencement approaches, I wanted to say a special thank you to all of our MCCC faculty for their work with our students.

Thank you, obrigado, xie xie, asante, arigato, damawoo, midawasi, spasibo, gracias, merci, danka, I appreciate y’all.

Jonathan Brown — MCCC Upward Bound Student

I was just about to blog on Jonathan Brown this afternoon, then I walked in my office and was shown today’s Monroe News with a front page article about who else, but Jonathan Brown.

Now, you may be wondering, who is Jonathan Brown and why would the President of MCCC want to blog (and brag) on him?
Well, for those who do not know, Jonathan is one of MCCC’s Upward Bound Students. The article speaks to his acceptance to Harvard, Yale, MIT, Princeton, and other prestigious institutions, but it does not say he is one of the MCCC Upward Bound Students. It states that he is an Upward Bound Student, but that means nothing to the lay reader. Upward Bound is an MCCC college preparatory program that serves first generation underserved students. We have 110 students in the program at Monroe and Airport High Schools.

Jonathan is a humble, self-effacing MCCC Upward Bound Student who is the president of the Monroe High School Honor Society and also captain of the wrestling team. He holds a 4.0 GPA and earned a 33 on the ACT.

We are all proud of Jonathan and wish him the very best. While MCCC was never mentioned in the article, we know that we at MCCC have helped to shape and mold him.

“Honest Conversations” about Race Must Continue for Progress to be Made

Yesterday, we had a panel discussion entitled, “An honest conversation about race relations”. As I moderated, posed questions, and heard comments afterwards, I realized that these conversations are not completely “honest”. There are many who are afraid to express their opinions for fear of offending others, there are those who have opinions that they simply do not care to express, and there are those who say what they believe others want to hear. Whatever be the case, I know that these conversations must continue, for if we do not dialogue, there will be little chance of progress.

If an opinion is sincere, it is worth expressing and can be cathartic and illuminating for the one expressing it and those who hear it, respectively. But if it is simply meant to be derisive, divisive, hurtful or hateful, then it is not worth expressing. We live in a world full of so much strife and division; in order to make things better, we must realize that we are all in this together.