Monday, February 15, 2010

Beyond the Meetings

A significant part of my job consists of a daily calendar filled with meetings that leave little chance for genuine interaction with students. Fortunately, I’ve been able to seize opportunities and create others to keep me grounded through meaningful student conversations. These experiences provide me with tremendous perspective and insight into the student experience at Mohawk Valley Community College.

With the help of our student life office, I’m into my second year of monthly luncheons with 4-6 students. It is here that I receive the most direct feedback. In 90 minutes over a sandwich in the residence dining hall in Utica or at the Rome Campus, I learn the story behind the returning adult student and the record of the presidential scholar. I gain perspective on registration, advising, classroom and non-classroom interactions, course offerings in Rome, and of course…parking. One thing I’m always struck by is when the students say, “MVCC is harder than I thought.” I can then share stories of recent alums who stop by my office or come back to visit campus and comment on how well prepared they were for their next step. It’s the same for those that transfer as it is for those who are in the workplace – they’re ready.

In addition, I joined members of my Cabinet and the MVCC Board of Trustees for our annual dinner with student leaders. The small group discussions provided all of us with valuable insight into the student experience here. With the great support of Sodexho, I joined about 10 MVCC staff members who came in around 10 p.m. to serve a “midnight breakfast” for students in our residence halls just before final exams last December.

Our student clubs and organizations are another opportunity for me to meet students. Whether it’s talking with our Student Trustee or attending a Student Congress Officers meeting, I get feedback on how we’re doing as a College and how we can improve the student experience. And when I attend an event of our Black Student Union or production of our theatre students, participate in an induction ceremony for our Phi Theta Kappa honor society or athletic awards banquet, I get to enjoy and celebrate the growth and accomplishment of our students – making all of my daily meetings worthwhile.

And whether it’s meeting students who join us on our annual safety walk at night to evaluate improvements we can make on campus for safety measures or student athletes who I’ve come to know from attending games, the size and scale of MVCC is such that I don’t get lost in that calendar of meetings. Rather, I have the good fortune to meet so many of our incredible students and learn their individual stories that stay with me throughout my days at the College. After all, our students and their stories are why we come to the College each day to do what we do on their behalf.

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