October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. According to Cancer.net, 41,400 deaths (40,920 women and 480 men) will occur from breast cancer this year. Cancer, this terrible scourge continues to devastate and decimate families and lives all over the world. I am sure all of us have been directly impacted or have friends and family who have been affected by this terrible disease. I personally have lost several family members to cancer, and specifically breast cancer over the last few years. It is a terrible disease and we must do our part to fight it. If you are so inclined, there are many local organizations that you can join or donate to. The Relay for Life will be coming up again before we know it; MCCC should have a team. Please let me know if you would like to join our team.

Please join us in “celebrating” breast cancer awareness month by wearing pink sometime this week. We will arrange to pass out pink ribbons throughout the month. Let’s keep our friends,  loved ones, and even those we do not know in our thoughts and prayers.


Boot Camps and Opportunity – Alicia Harrell, a Success Story

Everyone knows that there is skilled workforce shortage. This is a local as well as national problem, and we at Monroe County Community College are attempting to do something about it. One solution was to create an advanced manufacturing “boot camp” for adult learners who were attempting to earn a GED at the Learning Bank or the Adult Centers in Bedford and Milan.

Our first Boot Camp was in 2017. We started with 19 students and surprisingly, 18 completed the entire six-week program. These individuals received soft skills training as well as training in CAD, Electronics, Welding, CNC Machining, and Robotics. The boot camps are free for the students thanks to a grant received from the Greater Ann Arbor Region (GAAR) Prosperity Initiative.

Many who enrolled had no clue what they wanted to do with their lives and were still struggling to earn their GEDs. Upon completion, some enrolled in college, others were offered employment, and almost all earned their GED certificates.

We have since offered subsequent boot camps with fewer students. Someone mentioned yesterday that the boot camps are the only attempt we make at MCCC to reach our local adult population.  While some are critical of the boot camp model, this grant is to provide opportunity for the less fortunate in our community and to make a difference in their lives, even as we at MCCC make our contribution to local economic development by providing training for more skilled workers. So, here is a quick story about the impact these boot camps are having on students, the College, and community.

Yesterday, Alicia Harrell, a 43-year-old African-American female who completed the boot camp in November of last year stopped by to see me to tell me her story. She began by thanking me profusely for conceiving of the boot camp concept and for giving her an opportunity to be a part of it. When she enrolled in the boot camp, she had no employment, no GED, and no money. She completed the boot camp, after which she earned her GED and enrolled in our Welding 115 class. Upon completion of the class, she was hired by Sunli Steel as a welder/fabricator. She is now enrolled at MCCC in our associate degree in welding program, is gainfully employed, and is well compensated. That is success!

This is why we do what we do! Making a difference in people’s lives by enriching and transforming their lives through such experiences. This is the story of only one student, but there are so many more who have been positively impacted by the opportunities that programs such as our boot camps provide.

Remembering September 11, 2001

Yesterday marked the 18th anniversary of the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.  I can’t believe it has been 18 years already.  Terrorists hijacked four planes and killed almost 3,000 people on American soil in just one day.  Truly a day that will live in infamy!

As we mark the 18th anniversary of one of the saddest days in American history, let us not forget the families of those who died on that day.  Let us also remember that terrorism is still alive and well. Al Qa’ida, ISIL, Boko Haram, and many others are still plying their trade and committing atrocities all over the world, and yes, even here in the United States.

The negative effects of that day have impacted and will continue to impact all of us perhaps forever; the world has changed. That day continues to impact families who continue to lose loved ones from the after-effects of the World Trade Towers bombing; it has led to more tension between Muslims and non-Muslims and more killings; it has impacted our comfort and the way we travel and so much more.

We must remain vigilant as we mourn the deaths of so many. The terrorists will not relent, because they are driven by one of the strongest emotions of all – hate. I know of only one other emotion that is stronger than that – love.


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.