Campus Update 3/26/2020

Below is my latest, now daily, encouraging notes to the MCCC Family

Dear MCCC Family,

Another day with more dire news. More people are dying across the country and the world. They  say it will get much worse before it gets better, but we must stay positive. There are ways to fight this unseen enemy; one way is to stay at home, which we are facilitating my keeping our campus closed. Please do not go out unless your life depends on it, but if you must, stay away from others. Here at MCCC, we have been gathering and providing supplies to our local/regional healthcare facilities. These supplies include, thermometers, safety glasses and goggles, and ventilators (yes ventilators!). We also have emergency funds available for students. Our community needs us now more than ever.

Next week, we will begin special outreach efforts to students as we attempt to ensure that they are adjusting to this “new abnormal” personally as well as academically.  I sent an encouraging personal email to students yesterday. I hope they read their email. We must continue to reach out and help as many as we can. I just cannot emphasize that enough.

As our first full week working remotely comes to a close, please attempt to complete whatever work you have today and take tomorrow off to spend with family. To the extent that you can, please take Fridays during this period to spend with your family at home.  Again, a special thanks to all of you – faculty, staff, administrators, and Board, during these very trying times that no one could possibly have anticipated. We are all in this together, and together we can defeat this scourge. I end by saying, stay positive and I assure you that this too shall pass.



Corona Virus Update

Dear MCCC Family,

I hope you are all well this morning after a very “different” weekend. The world is changing and it appears we have a new, albeit temporary normal. The entire world is besieged by a virus for which there is no vaccine. Coronavirus, the most dreaded word in the world today. Frightening, yes! Devastating, yes! Manageable, yes!  Please do note that while our campus is safe, we simply need to take the right precautions to keep it so. I remain committed to keeping our institution operational through this time, yet I fully understand that we must take prudent steps to do so.

My emails over the course of the last two weeks have focused on what MCCC is doing to stave off this virus on our campus and to keep our people safe. As a reminder:

  • We have purchased additional hand sanitizers and hand wipes for all areas on campus.
  • We have asked all those who are feeling sick to stay home or self-quarantine.
  • We are cancelling all events on campus with 100 or more people, through April 30.
  • We are cancelling all College-related travel through April 30.
  • We are preparing and are about to provide training to faculty to facilitate transitioning to online courses.

The bottom line is, we are following the CDC and the Governor’s guidelines.

Here are recent additional developments and advice:

  1. In an attempt to further reduce campus traffic, faculty who are prepared to deliver instruction remotely and/or who are not in need of campus support from the e-learning office, will not be required to report to campus during the class suspension period, March 16- 19.
  2. Over the weekend, Brian Lay’s team began migrating our emails to Outlook 365. This will facilitate remote work and meetings and should be completed over the course of the next week.
  3. Each administrator, in consultation with their vice president, may make the decision to allow employees to work from home should there be special circumstances that necessitate this arrangement. Employees will have to work with their supervisor to accommodate flex time.
  4. Anyone who travels to a high-risk area, domestically or internationally, will be asked to self-quarantine for at least 14 days. Please let us know if you have made such a trip.
  5. Almost all face-to-face meetings are canceled or postponed until otherwise informed by the organizer, and we will attempt to meet remotely when possible.
  6. The Market 24 Seven finger print capability has been disabled and hand wipes are available for the touch screen function.
  7. The CDC is urging all of us to practice social distancing. As you interact, please keep 3-6 feet away from each other (I suppose that means no elbow bumps), so handshaking is out of the question. Should you attend face-to-face meetings, sit at least 3-6 feet away from the next person.
  8. According to reports, it is not necessary to run to the store and purchase several months’ worth of stuff to hoard, this makes it worse for the rest of us and is deemed unnecessary panic.
  9. Reports also suggest avoiding touching door handles, handrails, and other hard “public surfaces” with your bare hands. Here’s where gloves may come in handy. Also wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face.

The situation is rapidly evolving everyday/hour, so please stay tuned. I know many of you may have some great ideas about how we can better manage this situation, if so, please let us know.

We continue to do our best, so family, please continue to grant us plenty of grace as we move through these uncharted waters. We will make it through, but it will take all of us working together to make it happen. I end by assuring all of you that this too shall come to pass.

Thank you,




Grants: A Cultural Shift at MCCC

As you may all be aware, there has been quite a bit of grant activity since we hired a part-time grant writer, Cajie D’Cunha in 2018. This grant writing activity represents a fundamental cultural shift for us here at MCCC. These grants are a great source of funding from federal, state or foundations. Cajie finds the grants and in some cases writes them, but for the most part, it is others (many of you who are subject matter experts) that do the actual writing. Kudos to all those who have been involved in writing grants over the last few months. Whether we get them or not, we at least made a concerted effort that will reap benefits in the long run. The recent Agora article which titled ‘How does our College get grants?’ gives some insight, but here are details of people who worked on them.

The teams have already submitted these two major grant proposals this year.

  • An ‘Active Learning Center’ proposal was submitted to the Steelcase Foundation, it is valued at $132,000. The team that worked on the proposal, led by Dr. Grace Yackee, were Dr. Jeff Peters, Dr. Kevin Cooper, Quri Wygonik, Dr. Carrie Nartker, Lori Jo Couch, David Reiman, Jack Burns, Brian Lay, Matt Byrd-Meyer, and Suzanne Wetzel.
  • A ‘TRIO – Student Support Services’ proposal was also submitted to the Department of Education (Federal) for $253,032 per year for 5 years. The team that worked on the proposal, headed by Dr. Randy Daniels, were Amy Ockerman, Kristine Gerlach, and Quri Wygonik, supported by Cajie D’Cunha from the Grants Office.

Our most recent submission, just yesterday, is a proposal for $5,000 for ‘Summer Camp for Kids’ to the Walmart Foundation by the grants office with support from Tina Pillarelli.

Here are some efforts over the past several months, the grant amount requested/awarded and those who were involved in writing the proposals:

  • ‘MCCC Art Gallery Development Project’ proposal was submitted to Michigan Humanities Council for $15,000, the proposal was prepared and submitted by Thomas Adamich.
  • Another proposal was submitted to RPM Foundation – for restoration and preservation of vintage cars for $10,000. This proposal was put together by Automotive Adjunct Professor Kyle Petee, supported and submitted by the Grants Office.
  • ‘MCCC Art Collection – An Interactive Database’ proposal was submitted to the Community Foundation of Monroe County and an award of $3,000 has been received. This was prepared by Thomas Adamich, supported and submitted by the Grants Office.
  • A ‘Volunteer Income Tax Assistance’ program was submitted to Fifth Third Bank Foundation and the award of $10,000 received. This proposal was prepared by Parnella Baul, assisted by the Grants Office.
  • Three ‘Specialty Crops Block Grant’ proposals were submitted to the MI Dept. of Agriculture and Rural Development. The first on ‘Agronomics of Farm to Culinary’ was for $99,024, the other –‘Farm to Culinary’ was for $97,385 and the third on ‘Value Added Farm to Culinary’ was for $114,047. Also, another pre-proposal on ‘Sustainable Agriculture for Specialty Crop Farmers and Culinary Students’ was submitted to North Central Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education for $189,000. All four proposals were prepared by Ned Birkey and assisted by the Grants Office.
  • The two grants awarded by DTE Foundation – The ’Program to Accelerate Student Success’ (PASS) for $30,000 and the other ‘STEM Scholars Program’ for $300,000 for 3 years were both written by Kojo and Cajie D’Cunha.
  • The award of $199,234 from the Native American Heritage Fund was for ‘A Journey towards Understanding and Reconciliation’ was prepared jointly by Kojo and Scott Bentley, Superintendent of the River Raisin Battlefield, with assistance from Cajie D’Cunha. This is a great joint project with several Native American Tribes and the Battlefield.
  • Two proposals for ‘Manufacturing Boot Camp for Disadvantaged Adults’ were submitted to the Greater Ann Arbor Regional Prosperity Initiative, both written by Cajie and Kojo. One for $15,000 was awarded to the Monroe County Learning Bank Network and the other for $28,750 was awarded to the Bedford Adult Education. These are benefiting adult students who wish to return to school.
  • A ‘Campus Sexual Assault Prevention’ grant of $21,050 was awarded by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services — also written by Cajie and Kojo, where several non-profit service agencies in the county were involved.
  • In the recent past, Tracy Rayl, Andy McCain, Nick Beaudrie, Vuncia Council, Peter Coomar, Barry Kinsey, Cameron Albring, and Paul Knollman have all been involved in editing and reviewing previous boot camp and agriculture grants that were awarded. Special thanks also to the Foundation and Business Office for ensuring financial and overall compliance — Dr. Josh Myers, A.J Fisher, Linda Hawley, and Sue Wetzel.
  • Our Grants office has also been active in assisting other local non-profits in obtaining grants, so the impact goes beyond MCCC.

So as you can see, we have a good cross-section of individuals from our campus as well as in our community involved in these efforts, and that’s the way it should be – everybody should be involved. Our efforts are paying dividends with much success. For those interested in grant writing or seeking additional grants, please reach out to Cajie, Penny, or me.  I am excited about our successes and the possibilities, and I hope you are too. Our successes, and even just our recent submissions, show what we can do if we work together for the betterment of all. It’s not so much about bringing in additional funds as it is about making a difference and enriching lives as we transform an entire community.

Giving Our Gifts to Others

The title of my daily devotion yesterday was “It’s All a Gift”. The article talked about a classy café in London called “Café Rendezvous” where everyone who comes in eats for free. There are no prices and even no donation jar.  Walk in, order what you want, eat, and leave. What a wonderful concept!

Reading this brought to mind something I tried some years ago. About 15 years ago, I built a facility in Ghana and decided to offer free daycare to children from poor families. I registered the business as a non-profit and even bought a van and put “Free Daycare” on it. The intention was to transport these children to the facility on a daily basis to give the poor working mothers a needed respite so they could earn money to support their families. I worked on recruiting children, but then I had to return to the U.S. I handed over the reins of the business to a friend who tried to make it a for-profit venture for himself. Subsequently, I gave the facility to a church, and to this day, they still worship there at no cost to them. I do get lots of free payers, which I very much need.

I recount this story, because, according to the manager of the Rendezvous Café, “we’re just trying to treat people the way God treats us”. During this season of giving, we must realize that EVERYTHING we have is a gift from God – none of it belongs to us. We have what we have because of God’s generosity, and we should be thankful.

Different Lenses

There are over 7.7 billion people in the world, and no two of us are the same. We do not think the same, and so we will disagree on some issues because our backgrounds, experiences, race and ethnicity, religions, professions, etc., may be different. These are the factors that shape our beliefs, behaviors, and how we think.

There is an idiom that says “Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes”.  Or experience his trials and tribulations. It is impossible to know what someone has experienced unless you experience it yourself. How can one truly empathize unless one has lived the experience? When it comes to difficult and painful situations, there is no such thing as a vicarious experience.

Our differences (the definition of diversity) ensure that we do not think the same way and are bound to disagree because our lenses are different. To make any progress, it is important to first seek to understand before being understood. Understanding and tolerance are the hallmarks of progress in this broken and imperfect world.


Simple Lessons on Respect, Courtesy, and Culture

As much as I hate to start my blog posts with the word “I”, I was afraid I was going to have to this time, but as you can see, I did not.

I have lived for over half a century (wow, that’s a long time!) and spent that time in four different countries and several states.  Also during this time, I have traveled all over the world, including Asia, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean. Heck, I have even been to Canada.

Here are a few little pointers that I have picked up in my travels and just plain living.

  • The words “please” “excuse me” and “thank you” go over well in any culture and with anybody.
  • Be observant when you meet people wearing a name tag. I cannot believe how many people I meet, while I have my name tag on, still ask me my name or what I do. Most of the time I point to my name tag.
  • Greeting or acknowledging people as you pass them is appreciated in every culture and everywhere. I never pass anyone on this campus without “speaking” (an expression we use in the South for acknowledgement).
  • When you meet someone for the first time and he/she hands you a business card, look at it and acknowledge the person’s position, company, name or something on the business card before putting it away. I learned this simple courtesy on a trip to China. In China, it is considered rude or insulting if a business card is received and simply put away. This makes too much sense to me.
  • When sending an email, one should begin with a salutation such as such as “Dear John”. If you know the person’s name, use it. If it is your initial communication with that person that day, it just makes sense to follow with a statement such as “I hope you are well” or “I hope you are still alive….” This is one of my pet peeves, people sending emails with no salutation or greeting.
  • Finally, kindness is an international language understood by all cultures.


October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. According to, 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.