Nonverbal Communication and Customer/Student Service

Yesterday, on the first day of classes at MCCC, I walked the campus and visited a several classes. As I made my usual rounds, I stopped in Prof. Mark Bergmooser’s SPCH255 – Nonverbal Communication class. The class had just begun an exercise in nonverbal first impressions. Professor Bergmooser invited me to stay and partake in the exercise.  I was eager to participate in this free educational endeavor. We were to congregate in groups of 2/3 (it was pairs of two, until I walked in and messed it up, so we had me as a third person in some groups) as we talked and discussed various topics and determined our first impressions of each other based on body language and other nonverbal signs.

As we concluded that exercise and discussed our impressions of those with whom we had interacted, I was struck by the fact that there is so much we can tell about people even before they say a word. Here are a couple of personal examples.  Just two days ago, I was on a Delta Airlines (yes, I have called them out!) flight from Accra, Africa to New York. My aisle of the plane was attended to by two flight attendants who were obviously seasoned veterans. Throughout the 12 hour ordeal (there was a two hour delay), I did not see either one of them smile even once at any passenger! My conclusion based on their nonverbal communication, they hate their jobs. By contrast, on my flight from New York to Accra, we were attended to by a young lady who smiled consistently and even joked with passengers. At the end of the flight, I walked up to her and personally thanked her for keeping the smile on her face and for her positive attitude. Her response: “when you enjoy what you do, it is easy to keep smiling”. Enough said.

My other example has to do with interaction with individuals on campus, especially students. I make it a point to always say hello to anybody and everybody I encounter on campus – it is easy, simple, and the right thing to do. It is a loose version of the ten foot rule. Based on what I learned on the first day of class in Prof. Bergmooser’s class, nonverbal communication can make or break potential relationships. Even if we do not speak to those we pass in the hallway, a simple smile, a nod, a fist bump, a thumbs up, a wink – be careful who you wink at – Former President George W. Bush winked at me once, but that’s a whole different storyJ Of course, there is positive and negative nonverbal communication. Examples of positive would be a smile or an appropriate hug (underscore “appropriate”). Examples of negative would be a frown, a growl, a slap in the face, a kick in the shin, or a punch in the nose. Hopefully we have not experienced too many of those here on campus or anywhere else, for that matter.  My point is, the body language we use when we interact with our students the first time we meet them may shape their opinions of us for a long time and may determine whether they stay with us or leave us. We are a student focused institution and we need to be cognizant of how well we are relating to our students and colleagues nonverbally. And to think I learned all that just on the first day of class.

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The First Day of Classes

Today is the first day of fall classes at Monroe County Community College. There are many bright-eyed and seemingly eager students all over campus who appear to be genuinely excited about being back in school after a long summer break. Well, maybe I am just speaking for myself—yes, I am eager and excited to be starting a new semester with renewed hope and enthusiasm. I certainly hope all of us are.

As I walked from building to building and class to class greeting and welcoming students today, I noticed that naturally, not all are excited to be here – there are some who are filled with a certain amount of trepidation, some filled with uncertainty (not knowing what to expect) and others are just plain scared. I understand; many of us fear the unknown, and there is nothing wrong with that. One of the reasons why I do attempt to interact with students on the first day of classes, and throughout the semester, is to ease some of those fears they may have. As I have always said, the most important job that we do at institutions such as MCCC is to motivate and inspire students to be the best that they can be. We need to inspire these students to dream big dreams, keep hope alive, and believe first and foremost in themselves. That is our ultimate mission. Please join me with renewed vigor and enthusiasm as we attempt to enrich and transform the lives of our students.

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!