Monday, February 1, 2010

Breaking Barriers

The Karen New Year celebration at our Utica Campus this past weekend, coupled with a meeting I attended last week, spotlights the notion of breaking barriers for me. The Karen ceremony was beautiful and to see the faces of hundreds Karen refugees was an inspirational sight – thinking of them celebrating the Karen New Year 2749 here in their new hometown. I met one Karen MVCC student who I’ve come to know and met another refugee who has already gone through our ESL track and, then, completed his Associate’s Degree in Computer Information Sciences. Watching the crowd file in from the frigid cold temperatures, it was easy to reflect on the barriers they all face with regard to everyday life – let alone engaging in college study and career planning.

Similarly, last week I joined a number of creative staff in a conversation about their experiences serving students and the most common barriers to student success at MVCC. It would be nice if all students could just go to school full-time and have no other responsibilities beyond “finding themselves.” That scenario, however, is far from the common student profile. Work, sometimes multiple jobs; child care; elder care; financial constraints; transportation; and personal history sometimes combine to make pursuing a college education nearly impossible…or so it seems.

From passing the proposed American Graduation Initiative to securing private financial support, the coming years will see us turning much of our collective energy toward breaking barriers for students (and potential students) with the most challenges. We must strive to make our campuses (Rome, Utica and Virtual) as welcoming as possible and enhance them with innovative programs and even unexpected support services that meet both normal and non-traditional needs of our students. With that kind of effort MVCC will be even more significant. Tomorrow’s students will have more success than today’s, and our community will benefit in ways we’ve only begun to explore. To paraphrase the great composer Ludwig van Beethoven, “…. Barriers are not erected which can say to aspiring talents and industry, ‘Thus far and no farther.’”

Ni ta tha’ thah pwii (Happy New Year). If you have any thoughts on barriers that need to be broken or solutions that break them, please contact me at presblog@mvcc.edu.