International Exposure

Last week, 66 MCCC students and faculty returned safely from their Study Abroad trip to Italy and Greece. They spent 19 days on this trip. As great as it was, I am sure they are all glad to be back home. Welcome back home! According to their program leader, Dr, Joanna Sabo, ” It was a fantastic, educational and amazing study abroad journey! We were blessed with fun, talented tour directors from EF (Education First) and fabulous sunny weather. We studied everything from ancient civilizations to modern business and the current Greek Parliament….” Also on the trip were Professors Dan Shaw, Bill McCloskey, Ed La Clair, and Wendy Wysocki.  Dr. Sabo goes on to say that  “The program has now been running ten years. We have an incredibly successful model being copied by other colleges. It has brought in over $100,000 in tuition over 5 programs, more than half of that from the last two….”

You see, these study abroad programs are not simply excursions, they are actually a form of experiential learning tied to courses ranging from art to business. Since members of our community are allowed to go on these trips (they must first register for a class), it not only benefits the students and MCCC, it also benefits our community. We cannot underestimate the importance of international exposure. Traveling internationally exposes one to other cultures, ways of business, and so much more. It brings about greater tolerance and understanding. Individuals with a true global perspective think very differently from those without. As a multicultural, multilingual individual who had lived in four different countries by age 18, believe me, it makes a big difference in one’s outlook.  My recent trips to China, the Ukraine, and Ghana continue shape my global perspective. We are shaped by our backgrounds and experiences, and traveling abroad is positive exposure for our students. If you have not traveled abroad, I encourage you to try journeying to and immersing yourself in another culture for a couple of weeks; you may never be the same.

This was Dr. Sabo’s last study abroad trip at MCCC, as she will be retiring at the end of the year. Thank you, Dr. Sabo for your many years of service to MCCC and for starting the Study Abroad program and International Studies designation. We look forward to carrying on your “global legacy”.

Paul ‘W’ on Campus

Paul W. Smith is a nationally renowned radio talk show host on WJR Radio. As I write, (the morning of May 18, 2017) he is on campus doing a live broadcast in the La-Z-Boy atrium. I had the pleasure and privilege of being his first guest this morning at 6:15 a.m. I normally do not wake up that early. Paul ‘W’ is a proud product of Monroe County Community College and he makes that known every chance he gets. Thank you, Paul W. for helping the world see the value of MCCC.

This morning, I had less than five minutes to answer Paul’s questions about the projects we are working on with the millage funds, HVAC progress, enrollment, and new programs in Agriculture and Auto Service. Joe Verkennes and his Marketing Team deserve all the credit for making the arrangements and assisting with my talking points. Indeed, there were many hours spent behind the scenes to bring this event to fruition.

This Paul ‘W’ broadcast would not be possible without our sponsors. So, a very special thanks to our sponsors: DTE Energy, Promedica Monroe Regional Hospital, La-Z-Boy Inc., and Monroe Bank and Trust. Those are the “big four” of our community and they are stalwart supporters of this institution. We appreciate them more than they will ever know.

MCCC’s 50th Commencement Ceremony

This is to express my sincerest appreciation to all those who worked behind the scenes to ensure a successful  50th Commencement Ceremony on Friday. Kudos to Tracy Vogt and  the Registrar’s Office, the maintenance crew, the faculty, staff, and administrators who made all this possible. Indeed, there is so much work that all of you do behind the scenes.

A very special recognition to our first and second presidents, Dr. Ron Campbell and Jerry Welch, respectively. Those are two of the giants on whose shoulders I stand today. Dr. Campbell, our first president, was only 39 when he assumed the presidency of an institution that had no buildings and no students, look at us now. He is a true living legend and the one responsible for passing the perpetual millage which continues to sustain MCCC. Jerry Welch was our second president who inherited the reigns from Dr. Campbell. Jerry is the one who landscaped the campus to make it as beautiful as it is today. The building where we hold commencement each year is named for Jerry Welch; another living legend. I am glad they were both able to attend Commencement again this yea

Congratulations to Prof. Cheryl Johnston for her selection as Honorary Grand Marshal and to Nick Prush and Robin West Smith for being selected as Faculty of the Year and Adjunct Faculty of the Year, respectively. Of course, we cannot forget our student speakers, Clayton Blackwell and Jennifer Cline for doing a great job, and Bill Bacarella for being selected as Alumnus of the year.  Also a  very special thanks to Dr. Grace Yackee for presiding over the program, and to the MCCC Board for their support of this great institution.

Many thanks to all of you for making MCCC what it is, and congratulations to all our 2017 graduates whose lives have been enriched and transformed by the MCCC experience.

Administration’s Budget Includes Significant Cuts for Higher Education

The information below is culled from the most recent Michigan Community Colleges Association (MCCA) weekly report.  There are significant cuts to higher education, which could negatively impact community colleges (an understatement).

Please read on….

Last Thursday, President Trump released his initial request for funding for fiscal year (FY) 2018. This ‘skinny budget’ provides some funding details and priorities of the Administration. The full budget is expected to be released in May. Ultimately, it will be up to Congressional appropriators to determine how to distribute funding for FY 2018. The Administration’s budget includes a 14% cut to the Department of Education and a 21% cut to the Department of Labor. Below is a summary of information provided in the skinny budget for higher education and workforce programs:

  • Current Pell Grant surplus is targeted with a $3.9 billion cut.
  • Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG) program is eliminated. SEOG provides aid to over 1.5 million students, a quarter of which are community college students.
  • TRIO (which includes Upward Bound) is cut by 10%, and GEAR UP is cut by 32%.
  • Budget includes unspecified but ‘significant’ cuts to Federal Work Study.
  • Funding for Title III (A) Strengthening Institutions is likely eliminated.
  • While the budget proposes $9 billion in cuts to education programs, not all of these cuts are specified. The budget notes there are 20 additional categorical programs that will be reduced or eliminated.
  • The budget includes over $2 billion in unspecified cuts to the Department of Labor, including a decrease in federal support for job-training grants, stating that states, localities, and employers should provide more funding.

Celebrating Women Today and All Month Long

March is Women’s History Month, and today, March 8, has been designated “International Women’s Day” around the world. As we celebrate today and during the whole month of March, please join me in showing appreciation for the historical and current contributions of women all over the world.

Today was designated as “A Day without Women”, and many women could have simply stayed home. How would any organization, especially Monroe County Community College, function without women?  The answer is, it simply would not exist (but then, neither would I – thank you mom!) So on this very special day and during this entire month, year, and forever, let us continue to express our gratitude to all women on campus and beyond. Women of the Monroe County Community College family and women of the world, I say thank you for all that you have done and continue to do to make MCCC and the entire world a better place!

Happy 60th Independence Day to Ghana: A Model of Political Stability

Exactly sixty years ago, March 6, 1957, the African nation of Ghana became the first Sub-Saharan African country to gain independence from a colonial power. Since then, the country has gone through its ups and downs, and is now arguably the most stable nation in Africa.

Certainly, Ghana has  had its challenges and its fair share of military coup d’états and “dictatorships”, but it has had democratically elected governments for decades. Ghana is unique in many ways, some of which include but are not limited to:

  • Freedom of press, religion and other freedoms
  • The co-existence of Muslims and Christians in a civil society
  • No civil wars or conflicts since independence
  • Low incidents of aids
  • Civilian governments that relinquish power when they lose an election
  • More slave forts than any other nation (a dubious distinction)
  • A major tourist destination with many five star hotels

There is much more to this wonderful African nation. Happy Independence Day to Ghana!

Knowing your Ancestry May Help you Better Learn your History and Shape your Future

Some years ago, scientists began to use DNA testing to determine a person’s heritage/ancestry.  Back then, there were probably one or two of these services available. Now, there is a proliferation of such services, such as,,, etc. Besides knowing one’s ethnic origins, it can help us determine “genetic predispositions” that are transmitted by the genes. For example the “sickle cell gene is peculiar to those of African and Mediterranean origin.

As we celebrate Black History Month this February and other ethnic months throughout this year, you may want to avail yourself of one of these services to determine your ethnicity and ancestry. In case you are wondering, no, I am not trying to sell any of these services nor do I collect a commission from any of them. I just want to make the point that it is worth knowing your ancestry so you can learn more about your history. I have African-American friends (Oprah, Spike, Denzell, etc.), who after taking these tests have discovered that their roots are in specific nations or tribes in Africa. As a result, some have begun making trips to these areas to connect with long-lost family members.

Whatever ethnicity you belong to, learn your history. Those who are African-American will find that their history does not begin with slavery.  Indeed, some of their ancestors were never slaves. They were kings, warriors, and scholars.  There is a certain amount of pride and self-esteem that comes with knowing that. So, as Black History Month comes to a close, we must continue celebrating our history, progress, and achievements (regardless of our ancestry) as we build on the past to secure a better future.