Emotions, Images, and Tolerance

As I began writing this blog, I thought about comparing powerful emotions. But then I decided that perhaps emotions should not be compared, because each has its time and place. Emotions like love, grief, fear, joy, and hate. Yes, hate! Now, hate is indeed a very powerful emotion and has led to much death and destruction throughout history, and will unfortunately, lead to even more in the future. Is there a way to get beyond hate? If I had the answer, I would win the Nobel Prize.  One way, to not get beyond hate is to pretend it does not exist and have no conversations about it. There must be honest dialogue if we as a human race are to make any progress.

That brings me to the exhibit on hate and intolerance that is “THEM: Images of Separation”. This exhibit contains graphic images that include racist, sexual, and violent content that visitors may find upsetting (maybe a euphemism). But it is part of our ignominious history born out of hate and it is the truth! This exhibit is the brainchild of Dr. David Pilgrim, the founder and curator of the Jim Crow Museum at Ferris State University, Big Rapids Michigan. Please feel free to google it.

As controversial, offensive, horrifying, and repulsive as some of the images are, we at MCCC, as the center of intellectual excellence in Monroe County, felt it necessary to bring the exhibit here to elicit discussion and to further educate, edify, and illuminate our campus and community. This is how we learn.  More importantly, facing the uncomfortable truths about our past is how we as citizens can fight hate and prevent it from infecting future generations and repeating itself. It is a use of images of hate and intolerance to teach tolerance, understanding, and respect.

Please feel free to stop by the Library anytime over the next month. Warning signs are posted outside.

What it Means to be Student-Focused

One of our core values at Monroe County Community College is to be student-focused. Over the past few months, I have heard several individuals discuss the term “student-focus”. Oftentimes, the conversations conclude with a question. What does it mean to be student-focused? In our Mission, Vision, and Values document we include student-centered decision-making. According to the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education, “In student-centered schools, the decision making process is transparent, inclusive, and perhaps most importantly, dictated by the needs of the students.” (https://edpolicy.stanford.edu/node/1214).

In a recent conversation, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Chancellor, Devinder Maholtra, stated that we are always concerned that students are not “college ready.” He went on to say that perhaps we should reverse that and make certain that we are “student ready.” Students come to MCCC for a variety of reasons. What can we do to facilitate their success? Students are changing, and so should the ways colleges think about serving them. (Selingo, The Future Learners) I believe that students come first, because without them none of us would be here. With that in mind, we will develop more programs that have students at their core.  It cannot be about us, it has to be about them. They are our reason for existence. It cannot be about what is more convenient for us, as it has to be about what is best for our students. Student-focus and success must drive everything that we do, as evidenced by our new vision, which was vetted and approved by all stakeholders here at MCCC.

Our Vision states:  Monroe County Community College will be recognized for our student-focused service, academic excellence, affordability, innovation, community responsiveness and student success.

The only way that we can achieve this is to focus on our students and make sure that they are our sole purpose for existence. Without that singular focus, our vision is mere words without action. As we develop our Strategic Plan over the course of the next few months, we must live and breathe the mantra of student-focus; this is what will lead to greater student success.

 

Historically Black Institutions and Putting Students First

As the month of February, Black History Month, comes a close, I wanted to share some thoughts about the culminating event. Yesterday, I presented on “The Legacy of Historically Black Colleges (HBCUs)”. The presentation was poorly attended but well received. I am a proud graduate of an HBCU, Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland, where I earned both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees. HBCUs are a part of the proud tradition of creating Black Educators, as many, if not most of them were founded as “normal” or teaching institutions in an effort to create more literacy after emancipation. I was minted at HBCUs and so were many successful African-Americans. These institutions, like our community colleges, take students, inspire and motivate them, instill hope in them, get them to dream big dreams, and get them to believe in themselves. That’s what Morgan did for me and that is what we should be doing at community colleges for our students. The HBCUs are successful in graduating their students because they put those students first. That is what we should be doing at a community college such as MCCC – putting all students first.

I never felt like a second class citizen at Morgan, and when I taught at Talladega and Lincoln (Missouri), I ensured that I went out of my way to do for those students what Morgan had done for me. Now, those students are reaching out to me on Facebook and telling me how much I impacted their lives. We must put students first in everything that we do as educators. It cannot and should never be about us. It must always be about the students. My instructors at Morgan took a personal interest in a directionless, first-generation college student and they molded me and shaped me into the person that I am today. I went to Morgan not sure about my major, with no money, inadequate housing, and all alone, with my family thousands of miles away. I was poor, lonely, and clueless. I am sure there are many like me here at MCCC today.

I am who I am today because my Upward Bound counselors – Mrs. Reckley and Mr. McCloud saw the lost look in my eyes and allowed me to join the Upward Bound Program. I am successful (my mom thinks so) today because my Biological Science professor, Dr. Jerkins told me that he thought I was “sharp”. I persevered because Mr. Hutt, my Accounting I, professor (after the first examination) said “you should be an Accounting major”. I was inspired because Dr. Whittaker and Dr. Amegbe, my Economics professors felt me worthy of substitute teaching their classes. I was honored because Dr. Stansbury gave me the opportunity to join the Honors Program. I expanded my horizons because Dr. McIntyre compelled me to join the French Club.  I am grateful because as I struggled with my master’s thesis, Dr. Spencer took hours to personally sit down in the library with me to read (computers did not exist then) through the almost “final draft”.

After all the nurturing and mentoring at Morgan, it is no wonder that I modeled that in my own teaching and entire career. No matter what I do, I always put students first. When students are successful, we are successful. I thank all my professors and mentors at Morgan for instilling in me those qualities that have made me a better person.

A New Year Message

Dear MCCC Family,
Happy New Year and welcome to a new Winter semester! I hope you all had a happy and restful holiday season full of fun and time with family and loved ones.

As we begin another year, I trust and believe that 2019 will be a positive and eventful year as we build on the momentum from 2018. Indeed, 2018 was replete with challenges, as 2019 will be, however, we know that through our concerted efforts we can and will overcome any challenges that come our way in 2019.  MCCC continues to make progress and create new and exciting programs and opportunities. Here are a few examples:

New Mission, Vision, and Values: Joe Verkenes led the development of the new Mission, Vision and Values for MCCC. All constituents, including, faculty, staff, students, Board, and community were involved in the development of our new Mission, Vision, and Values. This is now being used to develop the new MCCC Strategic Plan, led by Dr. Randy Daniels.

Millage Renovations: As we campaigned for the millage, our CASE focused on Competitive, Accessible, Safe, and Efficient facilities (CASE). The first such space was added to the Life Sciences Building in 2018 – this space is designed to foster student collaboration, as MCCC remains competitive and accessible. Additional renovation has begun on the East and West Tech Buildings, with a focus on student success. This project should be completed in 2019.

New and Exciting Grants – MCCC in 2018, was the beneficiary of several grants. Many of these grants are being implemented in 2019. The grants include three for the Upward Bound Program, a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant, a Welding grant from DTE/Nexus Gas Transmission, the Advance Michigan Catalyst grant from the U.S. Department of Labor for robotics and automation, a Regional Prosperity Initiative grant for Advance Manufacturing Training for adults, continuation of the MDARD Agriculture grant, a Sexual Assault Prevention grant from the Michigan State Police, and the Program to Accelerate Student Success (PASS) grant from DTE Energy to support at-risk students. With the hiring of a part-time grant writer, Cajie D’Cunha, we intend to write, win and implement more grants in 2019.

New and Innovative Programs: we introduced the agriculture program last year and will be introducing a Drone Technology Program through Lifelong Learning in 2019. As the year progresses, we plan on implementing other new and innovative programs such as the Maker Space in the Career Technology Center and a new Middle College partnership with Monroe High School.

None of this would be possible without the dedication, commitment, and support of our faculty, students, staff, alumni, and community. Thank you so much for your support of OUR Monroe County Community College. Here’s to a super-successful winter semester and 2019.

Sincerely,

 

Kojo

President

 
 
 
 
 

 

Vigilance Every Time, Everywhere

I woke up this morning to news of another deadly mass shooting that claimed the lives of 13 individuals. We sympathize and mourn with the victims and their families.

Unfortunately, no community is immune from such events; it can happen anywhere. So, this morning I ask that as we keep the victims of this and so many other such tragedies in our thoughts and prayers, we remain vigilant everywhere we are and everywhere we go.

We are dealing with so many tragic events: some man-made, others natural. Man-made or natural, some are preventable. While it is impossible to completely prevent such tragedies, there are still proactive steps we can take to minimize their occurrence. Here is some information from security experts, other sources, and my own personal advice:

  • Be vigilant and keep your eyes and ears open while in public or in private. Complacency killed the cat.
  • Report any suspicious activity. If it does not look or sound right, report it.
  • Be familiar with your surroundings and always have an escape route, no matter where you are.
  • If you do not have to be at a “soft target” venue, then don’t.
  • Be prepared to run, hide or fight for your life!

This is advice from the perspective of avoiding being a victim. Please add more, if you feel so inclined.

The Right and Responsibility to Vote: A Message to Our Youth

The dictionary defines disenfranchise as “to deprive of a legal right, or of some privilege or immunity, especially, to deprive of the right to vote” (Merriam Webster).

For years, women and people of color were deprived of the right to vote in these United States. In fact, women were not “given” the right to vote until 1920; and Blacks continued to be disenfranchised until the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Young people between ages 18 and 21 were disenfranchised until 1971. That is  when the voting age was lowered from 21 to 18. That means, until 1971, if you were 18, 19, or 20, you could not vote; now, as soon as you turn 18 you can.

Voting is a right that anyone 18 or over in the United States has. We must exercise that right. Voting is also a responsibility and a significant part of becoming an adult.  Unfortunately, a majority of young people do not vote. By not voting they are giving up a right that so many people fought and died for.  Essentially, they are disenfranchising themselves. That has to change, and it begins with you! It is imperative that our youth register to vote when they are 17 and vote when they are 18.

In 22 countries around the world, voting is mandatory (CIA World Factbook), with various consequences ranging from fines to whatever else they can do to you. In other countries some people are still not allowed to vote. That’s the world in which we live, where some of us take our rights and privileges for granted.

Over the course of the next few weeks, Monroe County Community College will be working with several non-partisan groups, such as the NAACP, to register people to vote on campus and elsewhere. It is a simple process, and all parents, teachers, and others must encourage our young people to register to vote. The deadline to register for the November 2018 election is October 9th.

Here are a few reasons why you should register to vote and vote

  • By not voting, you are shirking a civic duty and responsibility;
  • You should be the one to shape your future – if you want to change the future, then do not let others control it;
  • It is a right you have, do not let anyone deprive you of that right;
  • If you don’t vote, you have no business complaining, so keep your bellyaching to yourself;
  • It is part of the educational experience as you learn and engage in evaluating different positions and learn about current events and key policy initiatives.

It is essential that young people take advantage of their right to vote, shaping their own future, and setting a precedent for future generations. Voting is a right and a civic responsibility, please don’t give that up.

A Tribute to My Friend, Dr. Jim DeVries

Last Friday, we held a celebratory event on campus for my friend, Dr. Jim DeVries.  There were over 100 individuals in attendance to honor Jim. While Jim has inoperable cancer and is currently in hospice, he is still alive!  The event was featured on the front page of Saturday’s Monroe News.

Dr. Jim DeVries, or as my son calls him, “Dr. Jim” is many things: educator, philosopher, historian, sociologist, veteran, author, father, grandfather, librarian (the book collection in his basement is nothing short of incredible), collector (he is the only person I know whose African art collection rivals mine — it is a phenomenal collection), and much more, but to me, he is first and foremost a FRIEND and CHRISTIAN BROTHER. Jim was a History professor at MCCC for 40 years and has served on the Board of Trustees for the last six years.

I met Jim DeVries a little over five years ago when I interviewed for the presidency of MCCC. While I did not know him then, we bonded almost immediately (after I got the job) and he reached out to me because we were both lifelong educators and kindred Christian spirits. I am thankful to God that Jim is in good spirits and understands more than many of us that God does not make mistakes and has the best plans for him here and beyond. Jim is indeed a man of faith.

Jim is selfless, and he said to me that this celebratory event was not so much about him as it was about family and bringing the community together.  Jim is always thinking about others and he loves his family, community, friends, and MCCC! I recall almost two months ago, I stopped in to see Jim after he had been admitted to Henry Ford Hospital. He was in bad shape and the diagnosis was dire. I had just had surgery a few days before and was going through some other physical issues. The first thing he did was to ask me how I was doing and to pray for me and my health.  Even now when I visit Jim, he is concerned about me and my health. That is the kind of person he is, always putting others first, even in his current condition. Also, many may not know, but Jim has helped students with tuition and expenses and much more.

Jim and I have traveled together and presented at conferences, we have broken bread together many times, attended church together, and prayed together numerous times. Anyone who knows Jim knows that he tends to be candid and is quite witty.  Jim loves children and I must admit that as one who also loves children, I am envious that he can do that Donald Duck impression and I cannot. By the way, he did the impression at the event.  Some children are amused by his impression, others are frightened by it….

I miss the vibrant full of life Jim and I know that my life will never be the same because he has touched and impacted my life in a way that many will never know. I end by saying, as long as there is life, there is hope and I am not giving up and will keep on praying until God’s will is done. I LOVE YOU JIM!