English Language Musings

I have heard that the English language is much more difficult to learn than many other languages.  What I do know is English has continued to evolve over the years, and there are different versions of it as one travels around the world, and even around our own country.   I also know it is becoming increasingly adulterated. English is one of four languages I speak, yet my grammar, diction, punctuation, spelling, etc. are all highly suspect. My father, who only had a 9th grade formal education, spoke the “Queen’s English,” and was a “master of the English Language.” I, unfortunately, cannot make those claims.

In spite of my challenges with the language, I have some pet peeves when it comes to English.  Here are a few with which you may or may not be familiar: alumni, criteria, data, and associate degree.

  • Alumni – the word alumni is the plural of alumnus, which is the masculine or general form of alumna. So, one should not say “I am an alumni of ….” One can be an alumnus or alumna (female) of … Saying one is an alumni of is using poor grammar.  Just saying ….
  • Criteria – criteria is the plural of criterion. Therefore it is one criterion, but many criteria. Again, just saying.
  • Data – this is one that has truly been adulterated and gained popular acceptance. Data used to be, (underscore used to be) plural, the singular form of which was datum. Now data is accepted as singular or plural.
  • Associate degree – now here is one that I struggled with until recently. So I checked with “Grammar Girl” on the internet. You know if it is on the internet, it must be true J However, for those of you interested in more academic sites, you can go to https://www.rit.edu/upub/academic-terminology or https://wmich.edu/writing/rules/degrees.

According to Grammar Girl, the correct way to state this degree is “associate degree,” never “associate’s degree.” However, it is correct to say “bachelor’s degree” and “master’s degree,” not “bachelor degree” or “master degree.” It is correct to say “I have a bachelor of science degree in….” But it is not correct to say, “I have a bachelor’s of science degree in….” Therefore, I have concluded that the first college degree one can receive, as well as the final degree one can receive, are treated very similarly.  Simply put, I have never heard anyone say, “I have a doctorate’s degree in….” It is always, “I have a doctorate degree in….” The same way one should not say, “I have an associate’s degree in…” One should say, “I have an associate degree in….”

Having said all that, from my readings of various catalogs and college websites, it appears that the “associate degree” is going the way of the word “data,” where alternative forms are acceptable, or the wrong form becomes the norm.

Just my musings on a Friday….

I look forward to receiving comments from those of you who are linguistically gifted, or those who just speak English in general. By the way, an English professor (Dr. Carrie Nartker) checked this before I posted.


Safety — Priority One

Last night I went to bed watching and listening to the news on the terrorist attacks in Paris yesterday. This morning I woke up listening to the news on the recent terrorist attacks in Paris. To say these attacks were horrific would be a huge understatement. There are over 120 people dead and the death toll continues to mount.

As I listened to the devastating reports, I could not help but ponder how we would react to such an attack if it happened in our own back yard. Would I know what to do if I were at one of those venues where these incidents occurred? Would you? Sometimes there is simply no time to react. But if there is time to react, what would you do? Would you run, fight, or hide? Well, it really depends on the circumstances. I recall many years ago as a freshman in Baltimore when on my first day on the job as a security guard, a young man pointed a gun at me. I ran (I was pretty fast in those days). What would you do?

This world is a much different world than what it used to be. Terrorists and other perpetrators of violence continue to plan and implement heinous acts against innocent victims? How do we respond?  While some of these acts are directed at “soft targets”, others, as we all know, occur on college campuses such as ours. We must act to ensure the safety of our students and employees – for me as president, that is Priority one – safety first. Students who do not feel safe cannot learn, and employees who feel unsafe cannot be productive.

In a perhaps unrelated event, the president of the University of Missouri was forced to resign because of inaction. A Monroe News article reports that prior to resigning, he said (not a direct quote), “the university is working to draw up a plan by April to promote diversity and tolerance”. Really?? “Drawing up a plan in the midst of a crisis? Really!! Leadership is about implementation, not planning. Anyone can plan, but it takes leaders to implement. Why was he not having conversations with students who felt endangered while his team was planning? Why was he not focusing on some interim solutions?

Since the Umpqua Community College attack, and even before that, we at MCCC have sent out and re-posted information on our campus Emergency Safety Plan. That, in my opinion, is not enough. As we continue to plan a more comprehensive approach, we will implement additional safety measures and will leave no stone unturned to protect our students and employees.  This is a crisis and we must respond to it as such! Please join us during Campus Safety week as we discuss and provide information on additional safety measures for all of our protection.

X-Tech and College Night — A Good Day for Education in Monroe County

Yesterday was a good day at Monroe County Community College. We had well over 1000 individuals on campus yesterday for the X-Tech and College Night events.

The X-Tech event was a whole day event that allowed potential students, parents, and the community to come on our campus, view our Career Technology Center (CTC), sample our programs and interact with our faculty. I observed busload after busload of students alighting at our CTC and touring the facility. These potential students came mostly from our local high schools. I assure you that this event would not be the same without our new state-of the-art CTC – a boon to this county and its residents.  Before the CTC was built, I am sure there were high school facilities better than what we had.  X-Tech is essentially a Technology Open House that provides individuals with the opportunity to see what their local community college has to offer in terms of programs, facilities, and faculty.  Kudos to Peter Coomar and the ASET faculty (full and part time), and our community partners, for a job well done. I saw faculty and staff demonstrating equipment, teaching, and doing what they do best. I personally participated in robotics demonstrations – robots built by elementary and high school students who are mentored by our students and faculty. It was a good day!

In the evening, beginning at 6:00 p.m., was the College Night event. Another great service that MCCC provides to this community. Kudos to Dr. Joyce Haver and the admissions team for arranging this. Dr. Haver tells me that this is her 38th year doing this. There were over 60 colleges on our campus – this allows for all high school students to consider numerous options in terms of higher education, and for our own students to consider a variety of transfer options.

MCCC is a gem in Monroe County and we continue to provide services that no one else can provide as we attempt to take the county to a different level. If not us, then who? Indeed, yesterday was a good day not only at MCCC, but in Monroe County.

Musings about Opinions

As a college president and as a human being, I interact with a large number of people. As a result, I also have conversations with many individuals from all walks of life. In my interactions, conversations, readings, listening, and TV viewing, I have discovered that one thing that most people have is an opinion. I listen to people rant and rave about education, leadership, politics, conspiracy theories, decorum, race relations; you name it, I hear it. As I listen (I do more of that than talking), I always respond with caution, if I respond at all. Heeding my own advice that “sometimes the best response is silence”.

I have come to a very simple conclusion about opinions. There are simply certain areas or professions that everyone seems to have expertise in. First politics. While I do have political opinions, I am NOT a politician and do not pretend to know more than they do, so I do not engage in much political discourse because almost everybody seems to think they know more or better than the politicians.

Second is economics. I know quite a bit about economics, having earned a doctorate in the field.  I taught economics for many years, presented and published and became a full professor of economics 20 years ago, in spite of that, I do not pretend to know it all. It is interesting that in my discourses with many who despite not knowing the difference between monetary and fiscal policy, claim to have all the answers to our economic problems.

Third is coaching. Everyone’s a coach, regardless of whether they know the game or even understand the rules. I coached youth, high school, and college soccer for many years. My teams won championships, but the parents who did not even understand the game were my worst critics. In all fairness to the parents, the vast majority were extremely supportive.

Last is education (did you see that coming?). Yes, we all have our opinions, but there is a reason why some of us are educators and some are not.  Almost everyone out there seems to be an expert on the solutions to our education woes. If they walked one day in an educator’s shoes they would perhaps realize that it is not so easy. By the way, that goes for politicians, economists, coaches, and many other professions. This is all hard work and the individuals who work in these areas need our encouragement and support.

Taking Time to Invest in our Future

Taking Time to Invest in our Future

For me, the last couple of weeks have been full of activity and interaction with youth. I have visited several high schools; interacted with over 450 third through sixth graders; visited with kindergarteners; spoken to several classes on campus and served as a guest lecturer in three of them; had dinner in Detroit with several students who are members of our new International Studies Club; and continued to build rapport with our students on campus.

As I always say, the most important function of those of us who teach/work at institutions such as MCCC is that of motivating and inspiring our students to achieve. We must encourage them to dream big dreams, keep hope alive, and believe first and foremost in themselves. The motivational and inspirational moments must begin even before the students come to MCCC; hence my forays into the early intervention arena pre-college.

Beyond that, there are opportunities to influence our own students (some not so young) here on campus. I am not sure that many of us are aware that we offer an Advanced Welding class on Sunday mornings at 8:00 a.m. I thought that time was only reserved for Sunday school, not welding :-). I had occasion to visit with the 12 students in that class this past Sunday, and there is little doubt that they appreciate the opportunity for flexible scheduling – this could lead to a turning point in their lives.

MCCC continues to offer access and opportunity to as many students as possible as we continue to better serve our community and enrich lives – that is our mission. I encourage all of us to do our best to continue inspiring all young people, be they here on campus or in our community – they are our future, and certainly worth our investment of time.

Our VEX Robotics State Champions — Meet the Ladies

STEM, CTE, STEAM, etc. All are acronyms used for various educational programs So no doubt, many of us educators are familiar with them.  STEM, of course, is Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics; STEAM is Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics, CTE is Career Technology Education.

The acronym (which is not really an acronym) that I am blogging on today has to do with the acronyms above – it is VEX! As in VEX Robotics. Here is what the VEX Robotics Website says:

The VEX Robotics Competition, presented by the Robotics Education & Competition Foundation, is the ultimate STEM activity for middle school and high school students (ages 11-18).

Each year, an engineering challenge is presented in the form of a game. Students, with guidance from their teachers and mentors, use the VEX Robotics Design System to build innovative robots designed to score the most points possible in qualification matches, elimination matches and Skills Challenges. In addition to having a great time and building amazing robots, through their participation in the VEX Robotics Competition and their work within their team, students will learn many academic and life skills.

Now, you may be wondering, why is he blogging on robotics? The answer is simpler than you think. We at MCCC sponsor several robotics teams: we provide space for them on campus, and host regional and state competitions on campus. Oh, but it gets even better! One of our middle school teams,  Team 3547A consisting of Marissa Harrison and Tessa Garlipied entered the State competition by winning the Excellence Award and went on to become state champions! I had the pleasure of meeting these two young ladies (yes, I said ladies) last week as they prepared for their next competition.

We are proud of Marrissa and Tessa and are grateful to their mentors and coaches (who include some of our own students and faculty). This time the state of Michigan, Next, the nation, then the world!

Courtesy and Civility — Food for Thought

Courtesy, politeness, decorum, good manners, civility; call it what you will, but it all has to do with how we treat others.  That’s what’s on my mind today as I prepare for my next meeting. Every individual, no matter that person’s position or station in life deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.

Please ponder these rhetorical questions: What is the right way to respond to someone if we disagree with that person? How should students behave in class? How should we interact with individuals we do not know when we pass them on campus or in public? How should we begin an email message? Should we have private cell phone conversations in public? How do we maintain the appropriate decorum when using social media? When is it appropriate to raise your voice, especially in a professional setting? Is it that difficult to say “please”, “yes sir/ma’am”, and “thank you”?

Just think about that….