Tuesday, January 12, 2010

One Student at a Time

Sometimes blog posts are written in my head before I begin typing. This is one of those where I couldn't type fast enough. The significance of my experience at our December Commencement program lingers. Yes, the ceremony was as nice as ever - tough to beat seeing the faces of graduates close-up walking across the stage after so much effort to complete their degrees or certificate programs. It was the reception after the ceremony, however, that caught me. We have a small reception for our December graduates and their families in the lobby of our IT/Theatre Building. I stay in my academic regalia and make my way out to congratulate a few of the graduates I've come to know and inevitably get drawn into various picture-taking opportunities with them and others. The stories I heard and the interactions I witnessed made a lasting impression. So many holiday movies speak to "the true meaning of family, etc."; well, this reception was like the end of a movie about the true meaning of community colleges!

It started for me when I spotted Janet Visalli, our Director of Adult Learning Support Services, walking over to say hello. I asked her if she was here to support some of our older graduates. She replied, in her normal, understated manner, "we have a couple here for sure...oh, here comes one right now!" At that moment Kim Maxwell walked over in her cap and gown, family and friends clapping for her as she pointed to Janet and said, "it's all because of you!" Kim went on to talk about how Janet set up a table in Kim’s company cafeteria to provide information about degree programs at MVCC to working adults. Janet was there for Kim every step of the way - through the highs and lows - and finished it off by wishing her well as she readies herself to enroll at Utica College next semester. After that story there wasn't a dry eye in the group.

As I continued through the crowd, Professor Bill Judycki pulled me aside. He's been working so hard with his colleagues to launch a new Facilities Management Program and introduced me to the first graduate, Traci Chandler, who received her Certificate. After the pictures, I asked what's next for her and Traci replied, "a few more classes in the spring and I'll see you at the May graduation for my Associate Degree!" It was great to be part of that little nugget of MV history - the first graduate in a brand new program! Significant.

I then saw a small crowd gathered around graduate Claire Hayes. Art faculty Duane Isenberg, Scott Seldon, Larry Migliori and others were with Claire and her family recounting all the special memories she made on a significant personal journey through one class after another to finish her Associate Degree in Individual Studies. The pride being experienced by everyone standing there was moving. Jane Morales' graduation was a triumph as well. Her mom traveled from New York City and I know that the Residence Life and Auxiliary Services staff at the College share in her accomplishment. I didn't get to say hello, but it was fun to watch faculty member Rosemary Fucco congratulating her armada of Administrative Assistant graduates - many of whom gave a few shouts and hollers to their families and friends as they walked across the stage earlier that evening.

And finally our student commencement speaker, Eva Maria Tobin, was inspiring. I encountered a number of people who took great pride in helping her successfully pursue a full-ride scholarship to Howard University in Washington D.C. Multiple people at the reception asked me, "where's my Eva?" as they searched through the crowd.

The power and significance of these individual stories amplified and captured the essence of what makes Mohawk Valley so special. In the end, student success occurs one student at a time. And yet, as much as we feel our counsel and guidance helps shape our students' success the reception, in so many ways, reinforced for me that our students shape our lives as well! If you have any thoughts on this post, please contact me at presblog@mvcc.edu.