From Business Pitch to Social Entrepreneur — Lawrence White

Yesterday, while I was on the “Eastside” of town, going from the Learning Bank to the Oak of Righteousness Church warming shelter, I had the opportunity to engage Mr. Lawrence White in a conversation. You see, Mr. White placed second in our inaugural Business Pitch competition two years ago. I recall that Mr. White’s idea had to do with real estate and development. It appears that he is involved in development of the “Eastside” of town, more as a social entrepreneur.

Now, before I expound on what Mr. White is doing, let me tell you a little about the “Eastside” – the “other side of the tracks”. I live on the eastside (small ‘e’ but close enough) of Monroe, granted, I do not live on the other side of the tracks, so it would not be true if I said I live on the real “Eastside”. The actual “Eastside” is a neighborhood with a large African-American and Hispanic population, Orchard High School (Monroe’s alternative high school), the Arthur Lesow Community Center, Navarre Library, the Learning Bank, Oaks of Righteousness Church, and other African-American churches, the Salvation Army, two community gardens, and much more.

The “Eastside” is a lower income area, has worse roads than the rest of Monroe and in need of much more development. Now, back to Mr. White. Mr. White has purchased an entire block of land and has worked with the community to convert half of that block into a community garden that is verdant with all kinds of vegetables. He told me that the local police department provided the water spigots for the garden.  What a wonderful collaboration. It is a joy to see community members of all ages and races tending to their gardens at all hours of the day. The garden has a social, cultural and economic impact on the community.

Mr. White is African-American, young (about my age – yes, young!), and committed to making a difference in his community. He is also still a Monroe County Community College Student whose life has been enriched and transformed by this College. His next project is to develop a farmer’s market and purchase additional land to further develop the “Eastside”. An entrepreneur whose involvement in our Business Pitch competition served as a catalyst for his social entrepreneurial spirit and efforts.  I told Mr. White how proud I was of him and his efforts to develop the “Eastside”. His response, “I have no choice but to do my college proud; I am putting my education to good use”. MCCC, enriching and transforming lives and whole communities, that’s our mission.

Statement on Latest Terrorist Attack

Last night there was another terrorist attack. This one was in Nice, France. They used a truck to mow down innocent people.  The death toll continues to rise. Our hearts go out to the people of France, even as we mourn our own and deal with our own tragedies in this nation. Let us continue to keep all the victims in our thoughts and prayers in these most difficult times.


Tragedies and the Law

I went to bed last night bemoaning the fact that there had been two police shootings of two different individuals in two different states. I woke up in the middle of the night to hear of five shootings of the police by civilians in Dallas, Texas. Unbelievable! Tragic! Those are all understatements. What is this world coming to? Terrorist attacks, mass shootings, police shootings, shootings of the police, all acts of violence that I am sure most of us abhor. Our hearts go out to all the victims of the shootings and their families.

The work that our law enforcement officers do is hard work. Many of them are in harm’s way on a regular basis, so we honor and appreciate the work they do. Just as in any profession, there are good law enforcement officers and there are bad ones. Most are good and work hard to keep all of us safe.

In the face of these tragic events, my advice to young people and to anyone who cares to heed it is simply this: do your best to obey and comply with the law. When stopped by the police, please just do as they say. Their job is to enforce, our job is to obey.

The Value of Student Organizations: My Experiential Perspective

A couple of weeks ago, I sent an all-campus email asking for advisors for student organizations and sports clubs.  I want to support that email with this blog which provides some additional information about my call to action.

In my over 30 years in academia, I have been fortunate to have worked at institutions where I directly mentored, nurtured, and advised students. None of the work we did at any of those institutions were contractually obligated, we did what we did because it made a difference in the lives of those needy, underserved, and many times, at-risk students. I hear for some of these students now, and I have no doubt that we transformed and enriched their lives.

It is in that spirit that I propose the formation of various student organizations such as Business Professionals of America (BPA), Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA), and Future Farmers of America (FFA), among others here at MCCC.

My entire academic academic career has been shaped by my involvement with student organizations and involvement in my community. Do these student organizations really have any value?  Well, based on my many years of experience working with business students as a faculty member and dean at three different institutions, they do.  What works in one place could work elsewhere (dare I say, even here at MCCC).  I believe my experiences have some value. Research also shows that students who are involved are more likely to stay. In essence, affinity groups are a retention tool.  The competitive student groups give institutions a positive reputation and sets them apart from the rest.

Here are some of my experiences:

At Talladega College in Alabama, where I was the founding dean of the Business Division, we had a strong Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) program with almost 20 students. I was co-advisor for a few years. We won several regional competitions and went to State and Nationals on several occasions. Retention and completion rates of SIFE members was 100%, compared to a 32% completion rate for the institution. Impact on our community, 200 plus students in K-12 and many others. We parlayed these, along with other efforts, into a $250,000 a year grant which became the largest employer of students on campus. We also leveraged our SIFE efforts to recruit local students to come to TC. We became the largest division on campus at a liberal arts institution. We took students who could barely talk and made them national stars. In essence, we transformed and enriched their lives.

At Lincoln University in Missouri, we had DECA, BPA, and an MBA organization — 25-40 members. Again, we won numerous awards and national championships year after year (I have plaques and pictures in my office now) – it was great recruitment material. Student retention and completion was 95 -100%. I have pictures of these students showing that it impacted diversity and that diversity works! Our business programs thrived because of these groups. The largest major on campus was business, the second largest was “undecided” — these organizations helped us convert many undecided students to business. We parlayed these organizations into a $225,000 grant. We transformed and enriched their lives.

At Davenport University in Grand Rapids, MI., we had huge BPA and DECA Chapters and won many national awards year after year. Retention and completion of these students was 90% plus, over four times what it was for the rest of the institution. We hosted, judged, and attended state, regional, and national competitions.  For several years in a row we won more BPA awards than any other institution in the nation.  That was part of my recruitment speech when we spoke to high school students. The enthusiasm of the students and advisors was electrifying. We transformed and enriched the students’ lives.

So, those are some experiential anecdotes and data from other institutions behind these inspirations, encouragements, and calls to action, even as we allocate precious time, energy, and resources. From my experiences, this is a critical retention and recruitment tool; perhaps more retention than recruitment. My data is from living this at three other institutions where these groups were very successful. We have no chance if we do not try. If it helps it helps, if it does not, at least we will have tried to transform and enrich the students’ lives.


Summer Camps for Our Community Youth

On Monday of this week, I stopped by the culinary classroom and interacted with approximately 20 children ranging in age from 8 to 12 – they are part of the Cooking Camp. The Cooking Camp is one of many youth camps that we are running this summer to serve the youth of our community. Besides the Coking Camp, we have a Car Camp, Construction Camp, Welding Camp, Robotics Camps and many more.

While our children are out of school for the summer, it is important for them to be involved in some activities which further educate and illuminate them, even as they have fun. As a child, I can recall going to summer school a few times (that was probably to make up for those bad grades). I really do not remember being involved in any truly fun learning activities when I was not in summer school. The only organized activities were mostly recreational. The world has really changed since the early 1900’s when I was a child (anyway, it was sometime in the 1900’s). In those days we played outside, rode our bikes and had fun with our siblings and friends. Even if we were not involved in any formal activities, sometimes we organized our own. Yes, those good old days.

The world is a much different place now. Very different! It is not as safe, our kids are obsessed with staying indoors and playing video games (some very violent). In this day and age, we need to provide more creative outlets for our children, and that is exactly what MCCC is doing with its summer camps. Here’s a list of some of the summer camps being offered by MCCC:

  • Child and Babysitting Safety Camp
  • Firearm Safety Camp
  • Rifle Safety Camp
  • Science Technology Engineering and mathematics (STEM) Car Camp
  • STEM CAD (Computer Assisted Design) Camp
  • STEM Building Construction Camp
  • STEM Metrology Camp
  • STEM Welding Camp
  • Cooking Camp
  • willpower for girlPower Camp
  • Aspiring Artist Camp
  • Theater Camp
  • Guitar Camp
  • Photography Camp
  • Dissection Camp
  • Basketball Camp
  • Volleyball for Girls Camp
  • Robotics Camps (with the ISD)

These camps accept children ranging from grades 2 to 12, depending on the particular camp. While some of these camps started this week, others will begin in July and some in August. The STEM camps are sponsored by Laibe Electric/Technology, Detroit Carpentry Apprenticeship School, DTE Energy, Miller, Plumbers and Pipefitters Union, Baker’s Gas and Electric, AFL-CIO, United Way, Hexagon, Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and Consumers Energy. Many thanks to all our sponsors.

These community partnerships are essential to the development of our youth and the viability of our community. I would be remiss if I did not note that the YMCA, and various other organizations in our community also have youth camps of their own.  If you get a chance, please stop by a few of the MCCC camps to encourage and motivate these youth.

Honoring the Victims of the Orlando, Florida Attack

Another senseless tragedy occurred over the weekend. The worst mass shooting in the history of the United States. Call it terrorism or a hate crime, we know that it is all fueled by hate!  I began to blog on this yesterday but could not continue because I was at a loss for words – I still am. So I will keep this brief and try to borrow some words.

Forty nine people’s lives were taken senselessly Sunday morning, and many more were seriously injured.   We here at Monroe County Community College denounce this crime perpetrated against all individuals. I have stated unequivocally in public forums that discrimination of any form is wrong!  Our deepest and sincerest condolences to the families who lost loved ones on this dark day in history.  Our greatest strength as a nation is our diversity and we must continue to embrace that diversity and work together with a common spirit in a world that is torn by so much hate and strife. It should not be this way! We are all human beings and should want the best for our fellow men. “Together and only together, can we create communities and a world with equality and respect for all.”  Even as the “haters” continue this onslaught, as for us at MCCC, we will continue to focus on “transforming and enriching lives” – that is our mission.

To honor the victims of the attack in Orlando, Florida, we will continue to fly our flags at half-mast until Thursday, June 16.


Buy Monroe: Applying that Concept to Monroe would Greatly Benefit the County

Any economic growth strategy must include educational attainment. Research shows that urban areas that thrive do so because of educational attainment. That can be no different for Monroe County. Also, fund inflows are positive, while outflows are negative.  My point is simply this: Monroe County is a microcosm of the state and nation, so the higher the educational attainment and the more inflows of funds we have, and less outflows, the more likely it is that we will thrive as a county.  I cannot imagine that there is a single individual in this county who does not want this county to prosper. As the old saying goes, “a rising tide lifts all boats.”

Just a couple of days ago, I attended a Business Leaders for Michigan Forum in Ann Arbor. The goal of this organization is to make Michigan a “Top Ten” state. The data shows that if Michigan were a “Top Ten” state today, 120,000 more Michigan people would be working, income would be $11,000 more per person, and GDP would be $13,000 more per person. Currently, we are ranked 29th, 33rd, and 34th, respectively in the areas above. Michigan is also ranked 31st for an educated workforce and has the 10th oldest population in the nation.

By bringing students, employers, and additional spending to local economies, colleges and universities drive economic growth.  Unfortunately, here are some telling and dismal statistics on where Michigan ranks in higher education:

  • 41st for the average number of career-oriented and/or technical education classes in which public school students are enrolled
  • 31st for share of residents aged 25 to 64 with an associate degree or higher
  • 46th for percent of entering first-year undergraduates from out of state
  • 35th for percent of students tested who met or exceeded the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks in English, reading, mathematics and science
  • 9th highest average debt per college graduate
  • Only 22 percent of students tested were career and college ready

Those numbers are indeed depressing. Fortunately for those of us in Monroe County, we outperform the state in the associate degree and college debt areas. For those who remain in Monroe County for an education, the debt is nowhere near the state average – it is much lower.

We as county need to keep as many young minds here in the county and attract as many to come into our county to be educated at the post-secondary level. Every time we send a young person out-of-county for higher education, we send money out of our county (outflow); every time we bring an individual from out-of-county to be educated here, we have an inflow of funds into our county. All that adds up as it contributes to that multiplier effect. As simplistic as it may seem, this is all part of the economic development/growth equation. The more money we spend in Monroe County, the more jobs are created, the more likely it is for businesses and, therefore, individuals to thrive, contribute to the tax base and raise this county to the next level.

With all that said, “buying Monroe” makes sense to me. Why not buy our education right here in Monroe County at lower cost and hence lower long-term debt? Unfortunately, many choose to buy from out-of-county at higher cost leading to higher debt. As one who wants the best for my county, I would rather spend my hard-earned income in my community. In order for Michigan to become a “Top Ten” state, we in Monroe cannot be left behind. Monroe County must aspire to become a “Top Ten” county. The best way to get there is by supporting higher education in our own county by “buying Monroe”. If not, we will keep falling farther and farther behind.