Women’s History Month – The Status of Women around the World

March is Women’s History Month and MCCC has scheduled several activities for your edification. In many parts of the world the plight of women and young girls, who will become women, is dire. The information below is positivistic (factual) as opposed to normative (opinion based).

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) develops and publishes the Gender-related Development Index (GDI) for almost all nations in the world. The GDI is essentially a measure of the status of women based on health (life expectancy at birth), education, and income. This uses the same variables as the Human Development Index (HDI). The GDI tells us generally how women are faring in any particular country in terms of progress and opportunity.

Surprisingly, at the top of the GDI ranking is Slovakia, which ranks 37th on the HDI scale; second for GDI are Argentina (say Evita!), which ranks 49th on the HDI scale, tied with Venezuela (67th on HDI scale) another surprise!

Below are the top 10 GDI nations and their corresponding HDI rankings in 2014 (source: hdr.undp.org)

GDI Ranking Country                                     HDI Rank                   Comment

  1. Slovakia                                                      37
  2. Argentina                                                    49                          Tied for second with Venezuela
  3. Venezuela                                                  67
  4. Hungary                                                     43
  5. Norway                                                        1
  6. Sweden                                                       6
  7. United States                                               5
  8. Finland                                                      24                          Tied for 8th with all those below
  9. Slovenia                                                    25
  10. Bulgaria                                                    58
  11. Trinidad and Tobago                                64
  12. Armenia                                                    87

As you can see, quite a few countries tied for the final spot, so I list them all. A visit to the UNDP Website will provide you with comprehensive information and reports along with a complete list of all the HDI and GDI rates and rankings. Interesting stuff (to me anyway).

Ted Toles, Jr. to Speak on Campus Tomorrow for Black History Month

I enjoy reading, watching documentaries, and listening to lectures about various cultures and history. The book I am currently reading is about Native American history, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, by Dee Brown. The documentary I am watching (bit by bit), is The African-Americans: Many Rivers to Cross, narrated by Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. I also have the book of the same title, which I will be reading soon.

Yesterday, I was given another book, Living on Borrowed Time: The Life and Times of Negro League Player Ted Toles, Jr. Ted Toles himself stopped by my office yesterday and handed me his book; I have already started reading it. Please allow me to put this in perspective for you. Ted Toles is an 89-year old who played in the Negro Leagues with Jackie Robinson and Satchell Paige before baseball was integrated in 1947. He is a living legend! Mr. Toles is one of those individuals who endured severe hardships in order for some of us to be where we are today. Mr. Toles is featured on the front page of today’s Monroe News.  Tomorrow, Saturday February 28, 2015, Mr. Toles with be our featured Black History Month speaker at 1:00 p.m. in the La-Z-Boy Center on campus.  This will be the culminating lecture for Black History Month. We hope you will come to be edified, illuminated and educated.


If Not MCCC, Then Who?

Today I had the honor of presenting to a group of business people and other community leaders on “The Role of Monroe County Community College in Building ‘Place’ in Monroe County”. The subtitle was “If not MCCC, then Who?”
“Placemaking” is defined as, “A concept, based on the principle that people choose to settle in places that offer the amenities, social and professional networks, resources and opportunities to support thriving lifestyles”.
So, then the question is, how does MCCC support thriving lifestyles in Monroe County? I began with a couple of quotes, one from this morning’s keynote speaker, Daniel Gilmartin, and the other from Lou Glazer – both culled from the publication, The Economics of Place. Lou Glazer states, “We believe the single most important step policy makers can take for the future economic success of Michigan is to ensure the long-term vitality and agility of our higher education system”. From our speaker, Daniel Gilmartin, “we know that educational attainment is the biggest predictor of success for cities and metro areas today. The research is unassailable”.
In order for cities to thrive, education is the variable of the greatest magnitude. My presentation provided data comparing Monroe County educational attainment with Michigan and the nation. Monroe lags behind the rest of the state and nation in educational attainment beyond the high school level – the numbers are clear. MCCC adds value not only in educational attainment, but in other areas as well. To be able to close this gap, this community needs MCCC more than ever, for without MCCC, the gap would be much wider.
The following is a partial list of MCCC programs that add value to this county and help build ‘place’.
 Community Training – provided to several firms county-wide
 Speakers Bureau – several speakers made available on numerous topics
 Two four-year institutions on campus (EMU and Siena Heights)
 Dissections – grant to demonstrate pig heart and lung dissections for elementary schools
 Community Mentoring – students mentor and tutor in community
 SUPER Monroe – collaboration among ISD and BDC for career technical education
 Current Affairs series – current topics in the news are discussed on campus for community edification
 Diversity Series – months are celebrated with topics of interest
 County Diversity Committee – being led by MCCC
 Campus Meetings – Nar-Anon, Turtle Island Dream keepers and others
 Business Summit – co-sponsored with the Monroe Chamber on campus
 Business/Entrepreneurship Pitch Competition
 Corporate Training – other companies use MCCC facilities for training
 Non-profit training – ISD, School Districts, Police, Fire, others use MCCC facilities
 Themed Culinary Events involving the entire community
 Study Abroad opportunities which include the community
 Political Candidate Forums
 Family Fun Night for the entire community
 Parcourse and walking trail available to the public
 Ms. Monroe Pageant
 Habitat Events
 Blood Drives
 Native American Pow Wow
 March of Dimes (March for Babies) – this year the event will be at MCCC instead of Sterling State Park.
 Electric Car Charging Stations – the only public charging stations in the county
 Heroine Summit
 Human Trafficking Summit/Panel Discussion
 Veterans Organization
Again, I ask, if not MCCC, then who? There is no other full-service higher educational institution in this county, there is no other facility like the La-Z-Boy facility and Meyer Theater in this county, there is no other place that provides the variety and breadth and depth of programs that we do. No other place offers the amenities, social and professional networking opportunities that support thriving lifestyles (Placemaking) that we do. IF NOT MCCC, THEN WHO?

Little Known Black History Facts

February is African-American (Black) History Month. It is a special month set aside to celebrate the history and achievements of African-Americans. Other months are celebrated by other groups also. For example, March is national Women’s History Month, April is National Arab-American Month, September is National Hispanic Heritage Month, October is LGBT Month, and the list goes on. As we celebrate Black History, I wanted to remind all of us that the United States is the greatest country in the world because of our diversity. People from all parts of the world have contributed to make this nation what it is today – that is cause for celebration. Having said that, I wanted to leave you with a few little known Black History facts:

  • After the Transatlantic Slave Trade was banned, there were European nations that continued to enslave Africans on plantations in Africa. One such example is the village of Sesimei in the Ga District of Ghana, a place I recently visited.
  • When the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was formed, there was only one black on the Board of Directors, W.E.B. DuBois.
  • Most African Slaves who were brought to the New World were sent to Brazil, only a small fraction were brought to North America.
  • The slaves who were sent to Brazil and the Caribbean were sent there primarily to work on sugar cane plantations; those who were brought to North America worked primarily on cotton plantations.
  • It was not until two-and-a-half years after the Emancipation Proclamation that slavery ended – on June 19, 1865 (now celebrated as Juneteenth). The last stronghold was Galveston, Texas.
  • In the early 20th century, the debate between vocational and liberal arts education was a vitriolic one that pitted the two greatest black leaders of their time against each other (Booker T. Washington versus W.E.B. DuBois).
  • The non-violent protesters during the Civils Rights Movement were all trained in the art of non-violence.

Just a few little-known facts for your edification, illumination, and education.

Free Community College Tuition: MCCC Cautiously Optimistic

Below is an article I wrote that should be published in the Monroe News this weekend. Since there is much ado about president Obama’s “Free” community college plan, I decided to make my thoughts known. My article is also a rebuttal to a Wall Street Journal article published in the Monroe News that implied that community colleges are a “bad” investment. Please read on….

Since President Obama announced his plan for “free” community college tuition, America’s College Promise, a few weeks ago, there has been much talk, debate, discussion, and, of course, criticism. I am being asked everywhere I go if I am excited about the plan.

The short answer to this question is that we do not have all the needed details because they have yet to be fleshed out, but I am cautiously optimistic.   I continue to review as much information on the plan as is currently available and consider opinions that are both for and against it. The fact of the matter is that we are a long way from knowing all we need to know about America’s College Promise.

I felt compelled, though, to write this article to shed more light on my personal thoughts, especially after reading the January 19 guest editorial in the Monroe News from the Wall Street Journal entitled “‘Free’ Community College Proposal Throwing Good Money after Bad.”

I take exception to many of the points made in that article.  Money invested in community colleges is in no way bad!  Community colleges like Monroe County Community College serve a purpose like no other educational institutions.  Community colleges take “diamonds in the rough” – students who perhaps could go nowhere else for higher education – and shape them, mold them and transform them into critical contributors to the workforce and society.

When I thought of all that MCCC provides county residents, these questions immediately came to mind:  Who else would prepare underprepared students for success in college if we did not?  Who else would offer a learning environment focused not on research but on hands-on teaching and individual student mentorship?  Who else would provide program curricula and instructional delivery to educate students for workforce-ready success?    Who else would provide the workforce training to narrow the skills gap?  And, perhaps most importantly, who else would tailor educational services to the specific needs of the community?

MCCC (like the majority of community colleges across the U.S.) is the chief provider of the aforementioned services in the areas we serve.  We provide access, affordability and success for many who choose us for certificates and two-year options that lead directly to careers or as a “stepping stone” to a four-year degree.  We provide opportunity.

The author of the Wall Street Journal article notes correctly that the graduation rate for community colleges is 21 percent.  However, because of faulty federal data, the public often misconstrues the actual graduation rates of community colleges because many of our students transfer to four-year institutions without actually earning a two-year degree.   According to the National Student Clearinghouse, six years after enrolling in a community college, more than 57 percent of all community college students have graduated from the college they entered or from another institution.  While community colleges are committed to increasing this rate, it is much higher than is commonly perceived.

Also, in many instances, students attend community college simply to earn a few credits to upgrade their skills and resumes.  This is precisely why President Obama’s administration has developed a college rating system more reflective of what community colleges do and why community college associations have developed the Voluntary Framework of Accountability, which is a much more appropriate measure of community college accountability and success than the current federal Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.

“Free” community college tuition will no doubt benefit community colleges in some ways, however, we must be cautious because the current plan lacks the necessary details and funding, as well as votes in Congress.  It is important that we not get too far ahead of ourselves until more details come to light, because many questions remain unanswered, such as:

  • Does “free” tuition ensure that students who receive it complete or transfer within two years? A student may earn a 2.5 grade point average as required but not complete a credential in two years.  What happens then?
  • Many low income students who would benefit from “free” tuition already receive Pell Grants and other forms of financial aid.
  • The America’s College Promise plan is limited to “certain community college programs.” Will the qualifying programs result in decreased enrollment in other areas, such as the liberal arts and other “transfer” programs? Will students flock to specific fields just for free tuition?
  • Will four-year institutions push back on the plan due to anticipated enrollment losses?
  • How will cash-strapped states afford their share?
  • Where and how will the federal funds be obtained?

Sure, “free college” sounds good.  But there are scant details, it is still a long way off, and it will undoubtedly face a lot of opposition.  Still, the basic thrust of the America’s College Promise plan is commendable because it would increase access for potential college students across the country.  It also sends a message to the nation that postsecondary education is for all Americans.

Embrace, Engage, Educate!

Happy New Year, everyone! A new year (and semester) has begun. Last year was a challenging year for some of us professionally as well as personally. Some of us lost loved ones (myself not excepted). There were those who celebrated the Holidays after just having lost a close relative. Just this week, I sent notice to the MCCC family about three of our own who buried their loved ones close to the Holidays. It is important for us to keep them in our thoughts and prayers. On the professional front, we continue to adjust to the loss of our millage (budget challenges), enrollment declines and curriculum issues.

Whatever be the case, this a time for ALL of us to continue to espouse the virtues of MCCC and higher education in general. We need to, as much as we can, embrace, engage, and educate the entire county. That should be our mantra for this year, as we continue to transform and enrich the lives of those we serve.

“Fires Burning our People”

So, what’s on my mind?  Over the last few weeks, MCCC has lost a millage, I have visited classes, made comments at events, interacted with students, faculty, staff and many others, and contemplated what our next “Current Affairs Series” discussion should be. I am not sure, but I do know what’s in the news.

The world we live in is full of so much strife – protests in New York, riots in Ferguson, people dying of Ebola in some parts of West Africa, beheadings in the Middle East, not to speak of the natural disasters that continue to devastate many parts of this planet. All that brings to mind, a song recorded by the Nigerian artist, Sunny Okoson, “Fire in Soweto”. Okoson recorded this song in 1977 as a protest against apartheid. It begins with the lines, “Fire in Soweto, burning all my people, fire in Angola, a burning all my people, riot in Mozambique, affecting all my people, fighting in Namibia, crushing all my people….”

Okoson’s words are especially apropos in light of the recent shootings and killings here in our own U.S.A – our people are dying. Even here in Monroe, with the drug epidemic and other issues – our people are dying. We have already had a forum on “Ferguson and Beyond”, and just this week we held a “Drug Summit”; I am unsure how edifying or illuminating another discussion on the “fires” around our nation would be. What is important at this time is that we keep all those individuals who are being consumed by these “fires” in   our thoughts and prayers.