Thursday, February 1, 2018

Martin Luther King Jr. — A Dream of Equity & Inclusion

It’s Black History Month in the 50th anniversary year of Martin Luther King Jr.’s death. I recently had the honor of delivering the keynote address at a memorial luncheon in King’s honor, sponsored by the Mohawk Valley Frontiers Club. Here is an edited version of that address, which revisits some interesting aspects of King’s speech that aren’t always widely known. 

While Dr. King’s life and legacy are filled with many fascinating elements, I have taken a particular interest in his “I Have a Dream” speech. I don’t make passing reference to it; I mean it. In 2013, the 50th anniversary of King’s speech, I downloaded it in its entirety on my iPhone and put it on a playlist of songs I listen to in quiet moments. The more I’ve listened to it, the more I've found his words to be like true lyrics. His cadence creates a beautiful baseline, his inflections and tone hit remarkable notes. His refrains of “100 years later, Now is the Time, We cannot be satisfied, and I have a Dream” create beautiful verses of what feels like a 16-minute masterpiece. I can’t recite the whole speech, but I’ve listened to it so many times over the years that I can essentially “sing along” from start to finish, like I do with most songs I listen to in private.

August 28, 1963, was a sun-filled summer day in Washington, D.C., when an estimated 250,000 individuals gathered for an event that Dr. King said was “to go down in history, as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.” It was officially called the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” Of the 250,000 marchers, an estimated 60,000 (nearly 25 percent) were white, which is partly why King said “… many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.” That got some of the loudest applause in the whole speech — there was unity among those at the march.

There were actually 10 speakers that day. I don’t know if any of you have ever seen the hilarious skit on “Key and Peele” about what the man scheduled to speak after Dr. King might have said. Can you imagine if someone had to follow Dr. King? What do you say? It’s a great skit. Fortunately, no one had to bear that burden; Dr. King was indeed the final speaker that day.

To me, the most fascinating anecdote about King’s “I Have a Dream” speech is that the “I have a dream” part was improvised. I heard about this on National Public Radio several years ago and found an interview with Clarence Jones on the website of the British newspaper, The Guardian. Jones was a speech writer for Dr. King and would often write the initial draft of his speeches, as he did for the speech that day in 1963.

The night before the march, Dr. King finished the outline at about midnight and then edited the draft in longhand. One of the aides who visited King’s suite that night saw words crossed out three or four times. He said it looked as though King were writing poetry. King went to sleep at about 4 a.m., giving the text to his aides to print and distribute. The “I have a dream” section was not in it. 

Jones recalls that King was winding up what would have been a well-received, but by his standards, fairly unremarkable oration. As King was telling people to go back to their homes in the South, singer Mahalia Jackson, who performed earlier in the program, shouted: “Tell ’em about the dream, Martin.” She had seen him deliver the dream refrain in Detroit two months earlier and was moved by it.

King continued, “Go back to the slums and ghettoes of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.” Jackson shouted again: “Tell ’em about the dream!”

King continued, “Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today, my friends.” Then he grabbed the podium and set his prepared text to his left. Jones said he turned to the person standing next to him and said: “These people don't know it, but they’re about to go to church.”

The most famous part of the speech almost never happened. And in later years, as Dr. King moved to focusing on opposing the Vietnam War and took up issues like poverty, he became more controversial. From 1965 until his death, the “I Have a Dream” speech was hardly mentioned. It was only upon his death that the speech was resurrected and memorialized as the inspirational beacon it is today.

I personally think that in the same way religious texts are used as guidance for individual behavior, Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech serves as guidance for societal behavior in this complex democratic nation called the United States of America. Just saying those words United States of America while gathering regular news stories these days can give a person pause. How united are we when it feels that we as a nation are as divided as we’ve been since Dr. King’s death?

How is it that hate has become so prevalent? How is it that misunderstanding has become so common? The internet has amplified our individual apathy to sift through the massive array of information and sort fact from fiction. Instead, we often go to our safe spaces and find information that affirms our own thinking because it’s easy, and we have other stuff to tend to in our busy lives. This allows half-truths to gain traction and fuel misunderstanding and hate. 

We don’t mention enough that hate is learned. How do we know this? Because the typical 6-year-old does not naturally hate. Six-year-olds ask “Why?” — they seek to understand the world around them. The answers they are given slowly layer one on top of another … answer after question, question after answer, and with each answer comes an emerging worldview that forms the child, molds the adolescent, shapes the teenager, and creates the adult, which aligns their individual and, in turn, societal behavior to Dr. King’s dream … or not. 

As adults, we find it easy to joke about how as teenagers we think we have all the answers, but that implies we somehow get back to asking questions and learning as adults. The most important part of this is that as adults, we need to rekindle that childhood curiosity of asking why: Why are certain things the way they are? Why do others think the way they do? Why do we, as individuals, think the way we do? Where is the common ground? 

How can we find the middle way to collaborate and find solutions to problems big and small? That is how we understand each other and move forward together.

I believe curiosity comes from education, and that education is a fundamental principle to democracy fueled by an educated citizenry. I was inspired a few short years ago when President Obama and others were begging the question if the time was right to expand our baseline of a free, compulsory education from a high school diploma to a two-year associate degree. He noted how the farmers of the 1890s thought it was crazy to require children to attend school until they were 18 — with the advent of free secondary education, the miracles of the 20th century, sometimes called the American century, were made possible. As technology and society change, where will America’s place in the world be in the 21st century?

A recent study surveyed parents of high school students. They were asked to rank the importance of a college education relative to the benefits that so many of us academics see in education. Research shows that college graduates live longer, are healthier, are more likely to vote and be engaged in their communities, experience greater levels of overall happiness and well-being, have more stable home lives and families, and numerous other benefits. All of those things paled in comparison to the reason these parents wanted their children to go to college, which was to get a good job. This parallels results of the Gallup World Survey, which included 250,000 respondents in more than 100 countries. What was the most important thing people wanted in life? A good-paying job — no matter the country. More and more in today’s modern world, a good-paying job comes with some level of college education. The reality for the foreseeable future is that college has increasingly become a precondition for upward mobility.

As we contemplate that inherent linkage between education beyond high school and securing a good-paying job, we should consider that the national poverty rate has not moved since 1965. The percentage of Americans living in poverty in 1965 was roughly 15 percent. It may vary a percent one way or the other periodically, but the poverty rate remains, to this day, roughly 15 percent of all Americans. 

This stubborn percentage seems inextricably wrapped around the axle of our society. It is tangled in the fabric of our federal and state laws and policies. It is knotted in the strands of our educational system and tightened by the wrenches in our legal system — a system that, according to the Center for American Progress, increased incarceration rates 700 percent between 1970 and 2005, and, without fundamental change, will incarcerate one in three black men at some point in their lifetime.

When we remember Dr. King, it’s important to remember that he believed in the power of education. He believed in education as the primary tool to empower individuals and communities to untangle the complex, inhibiting reality of situational and generational poverty in this country. Additional education also empowers individuals to think critically, solicit opinions and ideas from others to challenge their own way of thinking, to find common ground and solve problems together. And yet surprisingly, the conversation about a college education in this country today is questioning its very value, and policies in several states are moving education from a public right to a private good — available only to the few who can afford it.

In the context of today, it would be easy to feel that we seem more pointed away from than toward Dr. King’s dream. And although he often said in later years that his dream had become a nightmare, Dr. King himself never gave up on that dream. On Christmas Eve 1967, at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, he told his congregation:

"I am personally the victim of deferred dreams … but in spite of that, I close today by saying I still have a dream, because, you know, you can't give up in life. If you lose hope, somehow you lose that vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all. And so today I still have a dream."

May those words inspire us in the same way that Dr. King’s Mountaintop speech in Memphis did the night before he was assassinated. You may recall that he took us on a mystical journey through time to tell God that given the chance, he would rather live in his time than any other time in the history of the world. There in Memphis in April of 1968, he said, “now that's a strange statement to make, because the world is all messed up. The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land; confusion all around. That's a strange statement. But I know, somehow, that only-when-it-is-dark-enough … can you see the stars.”

For many of us, in different ways, we could likely say the same thing. The world is all messed up. The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land; confusion all around. But I hope you agree with Dr. King that somehow, only when it is dark enough can you see the stars.

So let us live in our time today. Let us join together in hope. Let us work together with vitality to stay the course and fight for the inches while we hold true to the vision of the miles we must gain to move those stubbornly unjust numbers of poverty, incarceration, and educational attainment. May we find courage and resilience in knowing that it lies within us, in that unvarnished 6-year-old self we each carry within us, that which can animate and bring to life the dream of social and economic justice, equity and inclusion — and through our individual and collective actions each and every day we can honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his memory.

Please send comments and questions to presblog@mvcc.edu

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Why Workplace? Why Now?

Why Workplace? 

Workplace by Facebook has the potential to transform communications at MVCC. With 70 percent of adults older than 25 using Facebook, it presents a familiar tool to dramatically change the way we communicate internally. Workplace can help evolve our organizational culture in meaningful ways to maintain and ensure continuity and input among staff and faculty. Everyone has critical insights, and this is a platform to scale and accelerate opportunities to engage with peers and provide key feedback.

One of the most powerful features of Workplace is its search feature that makes it easy for users to find files, old messages, and much more. Being able to talk to each other is one thing, but being able to go back in time and find content is critical. Workplace will provide lasting benefits for us by becoming an ever-growing knowledge base.

One of our core values is “Model the way.” Looking at innovative, collaboration platforms like Workplace helps us create an interesting and creative culture in the organization. Some might feel that embracing a leading-edge platform is a bit of a risk, but I believe it is an approach that is likely to be rewarding. 

There are three significant ways in which I believe Workplace can transform the way we communicate.

More efficient meetings: You’ll notice that many of the initial “groups” that have been created are committees and councils related to governance. Meetings can become more efficient if group members use Workplace to have conversations between meetings and share status reports and perspectives. As a result, the actual face-to-face meetings can be spent on important dialogue and debate versus the typical agenda comprised of mostly status updates and review, which leaves few moments for substantive conversation.

Increase awareness and sharing of ideas: Groups and individual posts can be used to share ideas and observations that stretch the thinking of others. The more we create affinity groups, post announcements, share articles, links, and other resources, the more we can connect ideas and find creative solutions. We can crowdsource our biggest challenges by engaging everyone in the solutions. As multiple authors like Steven Johnson write, great ideas come from a series of creative collisions, and the more organizations can find ways to create space for those collisions to occur more naturally and frequently, the more innovative the place will become.

Strengthen social connections: In this fast-paced society, slowing down enough to connect can be a challenge. Workplace provides an easily accessible platform for people to connect at work. Rather than leaving it up to chance or busy schedules to connect us in the hallways, colleagues also can connect on shared interests via Workplace. As individuals can join affinity groups with social interests via Facebook, they can do the same with Workplace. For example, if one person creates an open group titled “Adirondack Outdoors,” anyone who likes hiking or skiing could easily connect with co-workers who have similar interests — co-workers they might not have a chance to meet otherwise. Similarly, someone could create a closed group only open to a more defined group of co-workers to open lines of ongoing communications on shared topics of interest.

Why Now?

Our community faces a number of significant challenges, and MVCC is at the heart of offering solutions, so we need to be at our very best as an educational and community resource for the region. Society is changing quickly and in significant ways, and education is transforming even faster, with open educational resources, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence advancing exponentially. For MVCC to remain relevant and competitive, we need to continue finding creative solutions and, with limited resources, continue making the most of our efforts. An ever-changing and more complex future requires us to collaborate in new ways that can only occur by embracing the fact that information is power and connection is current to light the way. Workplace by Facebook is the energy grid by which we can accelerate our work together.

We’ve had more than 300 faculty and staff join Workplace in the first week alone. My expectations are that this will be an organic effort that evolves at the pace at which people are comfortable using it.  I imagine there will be some “voyeurs” initially waiting to see who posts what, but I anticipate that the more people post and use the platform to try new ways of sharing ideas and information, the more we’ll all reap the benefits I’ve described in this post.

Let’s get started. 

If you have any comments or questions, please contact me directly at presblog@mvcc.edu.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Two Dimensions of Our Core Values

I love MVCC’s Core Values. They represent the essence of who we are and who we strive to be through four actionable phrases that seemingly have countless layers and dimensions worthy of reflection and exploration. While on a recent morning run, I came upon the significance of how important it is to think about our Core Values guiding our behavior not only with our students, but also with each other. 

For us: Model the Way: “The Way” is not completely defined, and that’s intentional. Modeling the way is about initiative, solutions, effort, reliability, civility, emotional intelligence, and doing the right things in the right way for the right reasons. Yes, we model the way for our students, but we also model the way for each other.  Inspire Confidence: While it’s important to inspire confidence in our students, it’s also important to do that for each other. We need confidence in ourselves, in each other, and in our organization to be able to take risks and stretch ourselves beyond our comfort zones to do the extraordinary. Sometimes that confidence is needed to just make changes that seem scary or difficult. We all need confidence, and sometimes we just need to find it in each other.  Encourage Excellence: As Debbie Fields of Mrs. Fields Cookies is credited with saying, “Good enough never is.” Given our mission and commitment to our students and community, excellence must be the goal in everything we do. It goes beyond encouraging our students to pursue excellence. We must encourage it in each other. The 70+ year history of this college and the legacy of countless story of excellence and exceptional performance requires each of us to relentlessly pursue excellence and encourage it in each other.  Embrace Community: As our community’s college, we do more than reflect our community, we embrace it. Our Utica and Rome Campuses are the go-to places for large-scale community events in both cities, and Team MVCC galvanizes faculty and staff support for numerous community causes. Additionally, our Educational Outreach Center provides a long on-ramp to educational success from inner-city Utica for those who need it, and MVCC’s thINCubator serves as the hub of the new business startup ecosystem in the region. For students: Model the Way: Like it or not, we are role models for our students. The way in which we go about our jobs should represent the best of the world of work for them. They watch everything we do, and that warrants each of us bringing our best to everything we do each and every day, giving our students something they can model in return.  Inspire Confidence: Learning is all about change – going from one state of knowing to another – and change can be scary. The confidence that so many of our students must gather and act on can be the difference between persisting or dropping out of college. Too many of our students have been told why they can’t do things instead of receiving encouragement and support, and knowing that we believe in them. While others may focus on their weaknesses, we focus on their strengths.  Encourage Excellence: A great deal of research shows that people have a tendency to rise to the expectations others set for them. Our students are no different. The reason this is a core value at MVCC is that encouraging excellence carries a very important corollary, and that is incredible support. We set and keep the expectations high for our students, but we follow that up with providing them with outstanding support along the way. It all comes together in how we encourage excellence in all of our students.  Embrace Community: According to research from the Gallup organization, being connected to your community is a key aspect to personal well-being. We embrace our community through our student profile with numerous newcomers and more than 20 different languages on campus, an active LGBT community, our Cultural Series, and Diversity and Global View graduation requirement. Embracing community means finding value in every person and everything by fostering culture and connections and taking pride in who we are.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Why I Run

MVCC President Randall VanWagoner running in the 2015 Ted Moore Run/Walk.
Why I Run

I’ve always considered myself an athlete, but I never ran without a ball.

I played a wide variety of sports growing up, but when I went to my one and only day of middle school track practice, I stopped after the first half mile and left to wait for my mom to pick me up. I didn't see the fun in running. Without some kind of ball, I didn't have a “why” to run, so I didn’t.

My running world changed in 2007 when my family and I relocated to the Mohawk Valley. I was encouraged to run in MVCC’s annual Ted Moore Memorial 5K Run/Walk, so I asked my oldest daughter, who was still in elementary school at the time, to run with me. We survived it, and better yet, we had a fun time running together. As we learned about the Boilermaker Road Race, our entire family began running in the 5K each year for that event. We all enjoyed running down Court Street to the finish line with the crowds cheering along both sides of the street. It was like getting the full Boilermaker experience, but only running one-third the distance.

In 2010, Steve Zogby gave me the encouragement to run the Boilermaker 15K. He said, “C’mon, you should do it! All you have to do is make sure you can run six miles and the crowd will carry you the rest of the way.” I since have said those very words to multiple people, trying to pay it forward because I’m so glad I took Steve’s advice. I ran the 15K that year, and thought I had checked it off my bucket list. I kept running the Ted Moore and Boilermaker 5K races with my family each year, thinking that was enough for me.

But over time my “why” became abundantly clear.

We have a Wellness Council at Mohawk Valley Community College, and I attended a workshop on well-being that covered research by the Gallup organization. I made a commitment to improve my physical well-being and set a goal of running the Boilermaker 15K again in 2016. As springtime came, I found myself enjoying the reflective time to run and quiet my mind. I became more centered and focused at work and more present in my interactions with others. I also became more aware of my diet and began eating a little better, which led to lowering my weight, which led to feeling better each day.

My “why” I run became to feel better and be better.

I ran the Ted Moore 5K last spring at my best time ever. We had more than 200 people participate, and had our largest fundraising effort ever for the Ted Moore Memorial Scholarship. It was a great day for the MVCC community. Late last summer, my oldest daughter and I ran in the Crim Festival of Races 10-mile race in Flint, Mich., where I grew up. We were part of a Boilermaker Road Race group that traveled there in a show of solidarity with the City of Flint and its water crisis. The only two road races that sent people were the Boilermaker and the Boston Marathon — a pretty powerful statement.

My “why” I run gained a couple more points: to support great causes and to connect to the best of being human.

I started running every time I traveled somewhere new. I mapped out routes through parts of cities I might not otherwise see. I ran my first-ever Race to the Canal 5K along the Erie Canal.

My “why” I run now includes to see interesting sights and places.

On Boilermaker Sunday 2016, my family and I once again worked our morning routine like clockwork with all the friends, rides, pick-ups, drop-offs, and meet-ups. My wife and youngest daughter ran the 5K, as ever, and our oldest daughter and her friend ran the 15K, as did I. The local adage is true — if we could bottle the sense of community pride that’s evident on Boilermaker Sunday, the other 364 days around here would be incredible. Running down Culver Avenue, the Memorial Parkway, Champlin Avenue, and Whitesboro Street with so many friendly faces is uplifting. The views from Valley View are phenomenal and the feeling of running down a crowded Court Street through the finish line is exhilarating.

My “why” I run now is attached to something bigger than myself. It’s about being part of this community and touching a unique collective experience that can’t be replicated.

I would love to go back and tell my seventh-grade self “why” people should run. I’m forever grateful to this community for helping me discover my own “why”. This year, as the Ted Moore Run/Walk celebrates its 20th anniversary and the Boilermaker celebrates its 40th, I hope even more people discover their “why” and turn out in record numbers.

If you have any questions or comments, you can contact me directly at presblog@mvcc.edu

Monday, March 13, 2017

John D. Plumley — A Life Well-Lived

John D. Plumley speaks at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the renovated John D. Plumley Complex at MVCC's Rome Campus on February 10, 2017.
John “Jack” D. Plumley passed away suddenly on March 9, 2017. The John D. Plumley Complex on the MVCC Rome Campus is named in his honor. It is a fitting tribute to a man who served as Oneida County Executive from 1982-1991 and had the vision to support a vibrant branch campus for MVCC in Rome. In the same way the Rome Campus sits in the geographic heart of Oneida County, Jack Plumley represented the heart of this area. He was open, accessible, challenging, caring, and supportive, and made people’s lives better through his manner and way.

John Plumley at the site of construction of the Plumley Complex at MVCC's Rome Campus in 1990-91.

During my ten years at MVCC, I had the good fortune to get to know Jack through several conversations, correspondence, and a few memorable lunches. He was an incredible storyteller who had a deep knowledge about this county — when it was at its best and when it wasn’t. I learned so much from him. Jack was the kind of person who could get to the heart of a subject and cut through the fluff, often finishing interesting stories with pearls of wisdom like, “there’s always more than one side to a story — remember that,” or “not everyone’s motivations are pure, but make sure yours always are.” After every encounter or exchange I had with Jack, I always found myself motivated to be a better person, work harder, or dream bigger. I imagine his imprint was that way on most others who had the good fortune to have Jack in their sphere.

As we shared some time together at the ribbon-cutting of the John D. Plumley Complex on February 10 — nearly one month to the day prior to his passing — it was great to see the twinkle in his eyes as he took in the transformed facility that began with his vision so many years ago. And just as I thought we were all good, he said, “Every president should know that a college campus is never finished — the work goes on and you can never rest.” I imagine he shared that nugget with me because that is how he lived his life. Every leader should know that a community is never finished — the work goes on and you can never rest.

The legacy of Jack Plumley will not only remain in his incredible family and the MVCC Rome Campus, but in the hearts and minds of so many friends and acquaintances that he guided, mentored, and touched so deeply, or the millions of laughs he created throughout a life worthy of a great story.

If you have any questions or comments, you can contact me directly at presblog@mvcc.edu

Friday, January 20, 2017

Finding Strength and Value in Data

MVCC recently held its third annual Data Summit to kick off the Spring semester for faculty and staff. As we collectively paused to consider assessment results and progress made through our Strategic Plan, Catalyst 2020, I was struck at how symbolic this Data Summit is of the College living its values of encouraging excellence, inspiring confidence, modeling the way, and embracing our community.

Researcher Brene’ Brown says “excellence comes from vulnerability” so to encourage excellence is to encourage a sense of being vulnerable, allowing ourselves to really be seen, imperfections and all. This requires us — individually and collectively — to put our egos aside and open ourselves up to being vulnerable in order to be receptive to ideas and changes that can make us wholeheartedly committed to being better, as people and as an institution.

Allowing vulnerability takes great courage, and courage is a pre-requisite to inspiring confidence, as it allows us to admit that we are less than perfect. Tapping into our courage and inspiring confidence in ourselves — and others — builds on that gift of vulnerability and helps us find ways to improve.

It is the will to improve that helps us embrace our community by committing to finding new ways to be better on behalf of our students and community, all the while recognizing that the essence of a community college is to change as the community changes and reflect its needs through our programs and services.

When we accept the important work of identifying what data to collect, then collect it, analyze it, and apply it, we model the way by doing what’s right — even though doing what’s right is not always easy. As business consultant and author Jim Collins found in his research on organizations that go from good to great, they employ what he calls the Stockdale paradox — the unwavering faith that things will get better while simultaneously confronting (if not embracing) the brutal facts. Not all data tell you what you want to hear, and sometimes it can be brutal.

Having an organizational culture that is transparent enough to shine a light on critically important data — and trusts enough to collectively and productively analyze and apply it — is a special thing. Picture what can happen if we all increase our curiosity with data as a means to make things better. It doesn’t happen easily in organizations. It does, however, put us in the fortunate position to shift from our natural tendencies of finding blame and excuses to the more productive and better part of ourselves, exploring ideas and identifying solutions.

It’s not surprising that our culture is evolving in this manner. More than 70 percent of full-time employees have taken the Gallup Strengthsfinder. The top five themes across all the employees who have taken Strengths at MVCC are Learner, Input, Empathy, Responsibility, and Achiever. My Arranger strength can’t resist the chance to “arrange” these themes. The Learner and Input themes (and all those themes connected to them) open us up to wanting to collect more information and understand it. The Empathy and Responsibility themes strike an emotional chord that makes us want to do better on behalf of those we serve. And the Achiever theme puts into action all of the passion and energy in our minds (Learner/Input) and in our hearts (Empathy/Responsibility). Now that we know our top five themes as an organization, we continue to draw on them and turn them into our strengths.

If you have any comments or questions, please contact me directly at presblog@mvcc.edu.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The new Mandia Family Learning Commons — a special space for success

Built for success

Where do our students go to identify and find academic support on their pathway to success? It is the place where they can find experts in coping with learning — and life — obstacles to graduation, in a new, inviting space with familiar, welcoming faces.

The Mandia Family Learning Commons is the newest and coolest space for MVCC students on the Utica Campus. Located in the Information Technology Building, the Commons is a multi-functional, collaborative learning space for students to be with each other, with faculty, and with staff to help them advance on their path to success.

As it was in the former Learning Center, the heart of the Commons is the staff who inhabit the new fresh and inspiring space. With full-time professional tutoring in the Math Lab and Writing Lab, the Commons is a tremendous resource for students. Additional tutoring is available in most any discipline or program we offer, and students now have the added benefit of customized space to work with their tutors at computers, if necessary. Open computers are available for students who need to work individually or collaboratively with others.

And the Commons has much more — because of the people who are there to help. 

Four full-time faculty members have relocated their offices within the new space. Representing the disciplines of Reading, Math, English, and Physics, the faculty housed in the Commons are "all in" for student success. They are joined by three Completion Coaches from our Pathway to Graduation Project to help students with issues both in and out of the classroom. For the more complex issues, students can go to a Case Manager from the C3 (College-Community-Connection) Program who can leverage a robust network of community resources related to food, health, housing, transportation, child care, and other barriers that arise to threaten the success of students.

And that's not all! Students and faculty also will benefit from the talents of a librarian and instructional design professional who can provide tremendous resources and guidance to all. While students will draw on the "in-house" librarian talents, faculty can utilize the instructional design resources as they use the "iTeach" lab to explore new technologies and teaching methodologies, and hone their craft for the benefit of students.

While we wait for the last few pieces of furniture to arrive, the positive energy and excitement surrounding the Mandia Family Learning Commons will continue right through and beyond our ribbon-cutting, which is scheduled for Thursday, November 17, at 1:30 p.m.

If you have any questions or comments about this post, please contact me directly at presblog@mvcc.edu.