Thursday, October 25, 2007

MVCC alumni making a difference

I frequently comment that I have an informal "alum of the day" program. As I'm out in the community meeting people, I invariably cross paths with an MVCC alumnus. More recently I had the chance to see the impact and influence of an MVCC education through our alumni. I attended a "meet the candidates" forum held in our theatre. The event was sponsored by our social sciences department and facilitated by our public policy students. Of the more than 30 candidates in attendance running for County Executive, County Legislator, Utica city Mayor, or Utica Common Council, nearly one-third made mention that they were graduates of MVCC. What a proud moment for the College to see graduates going on to serve the community in so many important ways.

In addition, I had the good fortune of attending a great event for MVCC alumni in the Rochester, New York area last weekend. Of MVCC's more than 30,000 alumni, more than 700 live in the greater Rochester area. So the 30 plus alumni and their guests who joined us for the event had a great time. I had the pleasure of meeting alums from the class of '49 when the College was housed at the Country Day School in New Hartford; and members of the class of '55 and '57 when many classes were held in the old Episcopal church on state street; alums from the '60s talked about the opening of the permanent campus in Utica; and the alumni from the 70s and 80s reminisced about many of their favorite faculty members, some who are still here and some who have since retired. I met a few married couples who met while attending MVCC and have enjoyed long and happy marriages in addition to their successful careers.

I was struck by how much success and happiness people had experienced since graduating from MV - many were still in their field of study, while others had gone on to Clarkson, Syracuse and other universities for advanced degrees to pursue even greater success. To a person, their memories of their time at MVCC were special and positive. It was a wonderfully organized event, coordinated by the creative staff in our Institutional Advancement Office and it reminded me of the power of education. In this society that is set up with so many possibilities, individuals can find themselves dealing with sometimes overwhelmingly negative situations in a spiral that is difficult to escape. However, those who have found a way to complete an education, like MVCC alumni, are well-equipped to explore and experience so many of the positive benefits that come with an education.

I look forward to working with our Institutional Advancement Office and our Alumni Association to continue reaching out to our outstanding alumni base that are experience such success and making a difference in our communities. If you have any ideas for engaging our alumni in the life of the College, let me know at presblog@mvcc.edu.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Traditional inauguration or community event?

Invitations recently went out for a community event on Friday, October 26th. The event will include a brief formal element that will serve as my official inauguration to serve as the fifth president in the 61 year history of MVCC. The focus of the event however, is to have noted journalist and author David Brancaccio spend an evening with us discussing the dynamics of a changing community such as ours here in the Mohawk Valley and the role education has to play in creating the future.

While some might have hoped for an event that focused, or included employees in more meaningful ways, I chose this format for a number of reasons. In terms of a meaningful event for employees, I hope we have meaningful events every day in the normal course of events on campus in both Rome and Utica. I do believe this format will be a meaningful event, as it magnifies our ability as a college to take every opportunity to create moments for learning - and with Mr. Brancaccio on the program, I'm sure it will be.

I wanted to seize this opportunity to try something a little different. I feel that something else was needed in lieu of a traditional inauguration, with administration and faculty in academic regalia marching in a processional of some kind. Rather, this is an opportunity for us to turn outward and engage our constituents in conversation and thinking about our community and the issues we face in this region.

A community reception will be held prior to the evening event to recognize our sponsors of this event, donors to the MVCC Foundation, and elected officials. The only staff invited to this community reception were the Executive Team, the presidents of the Professional Association and the Association of Mohawk Valley Adminsitrators, and the Chair of the College Senate. They were invited to help represent the College at the reception with so many community constituents in attendance.

David Brancaccio is a well-respected journalist who has covered a vast array of topics for National Public Radio and Bill Moyers and has some unique perspectives that he's gained through his work as co-host of NOW on PBS. The evening will be an engaging and enlightening experience for all who attend and should shed light on the significant position Mohawk Valley Community College enjoys in the future of our community.

I hope you and a guest will be able to attend.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Respecting Our Surroundings

The issue of respect has come up in a variety of contexts as I've been speaking with faculty, staff, and students around campus. I gained some additional perspective on this notion when Vice President Feola and I recently visited one evening with the third shift facilities staff. Respect for our buildings, grounds, classrooms and offices surfaced as a topic of conversation in our staff meeting. Although it was late for some of us (and early for others), we talked about the fact that the third shift facilities staff perhaps have the best insight as to how we treat our facilities. With support from Oneida County and the state, MVCC has invested more than $30 million in its buildings and grounds in the past ten years. We have substantial improvements scheduled for the quadrangle of the Utica Campus next spring and are in the process of considering the best way to approach upgrading many of our classrooms. However, the cleaning staff see a disturbing trend that could lead us to a sense of neglect when it comes to how we collectively treat our surroundings.

The College continues to strengthen its sense of community and affirming a mindset about how our beautiful campuses are treated has to be part of this effort. My conversation with the facilities staff included ideas about how to get people to take better care of things. If we increase our attention to detail when it comes to our facilities, we'll all increase our sense of personal responsibility for keeping things clean - we'll take care of the little spills we make in the office; we'll stop in the hallway or on the sidewalk to pick up the piece of paper; we'll properly dispose of cigarette butts; and if an accident occurs in a classroom, it needs to be addressed as soon as possible. Recognizing that students with busy schedules have needs, we allow food and drink in the classroom. If anything is spilled during class, particularly in rooms with carpet, the student or faculty member needs to notify facilities at break or immediately after class. If that doesn't happen, the next class immediately files in and grinds the mess deeper into the carpet.

As we build on the long history of excellence and standards at MVCC, we need to hold each other accountable and work on this one day, one event, one moment at a time. We need to collectively commit to respecting our surroundings and keeping our campuses clean, while we establish a new level of excellence for how we think of ourselves - we (students, faculty, staff, and community) are worth it. This commitment will serve us well as we continue to invest in upgrading our facilities and individually serve as good stewards of these incredible physical resources that help create the dynamic learning environment at MVCC.

You can't mandate a sense of pride in things, but I guess you can blog about it to learn more about what people think. I've shared some perspective that I've gained from the staff who do the majority of the cleaning on campus. I just know that the level of pride we take in our institution is reflected in how we take care of it. However, my three months here isn't long enough to know if we're getting better, worse, or staying the same, but it's important enough to me to post here and see what others think. Please share your perspective with me, whether it's the same or different, and any ideas you have on this issue at presblog@mvcc.edu.