Monday, May 16, 2011

The Educational Excellence Fund

During the feasibility study for the Challenge and Opportunity Campaign, we received feedback that the community would support any efforts that address important community needs and amplified things MVCC already does well– thus the Educational Excellence Fund was created. This post provides insight into the Campaign’s fourth initiative, which is focused on launching or redeveloping five allied health programs in five years; expanding our incredible Cultural Series; and enhancing technology in our programs and services.

With tremendous support from Rome Hospital and Bassett Healthcare, we were able to launch our surgical technology program last year. With a new clinical lab at our Rome Campus, the surgical tech program is off to a great start - producing graduates for jobs that are just waiting for well-trained professionals. We also plan on expanding the medical assisting program to provide healthcare providers with a needed workforce. In addition, redeveloping a medical coding and billing program as well as a health information technology program will help our healthcare employers respond quickly to the shifting sands of technology and create flexible workforce ever-changing times. Finally, we are working with our healthcare partners at Faxton St-Lukes and elsewhere to create capacity and graduate more radiologic technology professionals for the growing and changing services in healthcare related to imaging technologies. These programs are expensive and difficult to develop, but the need is there in our local workforce, making this an important part of our campaign.

In a diverse community such as ours, the MVCC Cultural Series not only helps prepare our students for the future, but provides community members with great opportunities today. MVCC experienced another record breaking year once again with nearly 17,000 (16,776) individuals attending 172 Cultural Series events during the fall and spring semesters this year. We averaged nearly 100 (98) patrons per event this season, which included collaborating with Herkimer County Community College to bring Grammy nominee and Association of Country Music’s Top New Artist of the Year winner “the Band Perry” to MVCC’s Utica Campus (tickets sold out a month before the show.) We upgraded the Festine Auditorium at the Rome Campus and saw multiple sellouts in that venue, including Michael Glabicki, the lead singer and founder of the band Rusted Root. Our annual international festival saw more than 600 people attend various events throughout the day. The Cultural Series allows MVCC to provide programming to support our innovative Diversity & Global View graduation requirement and helps us all see beyond ourselves and experience more of the world. Providing such comprehensive and diverse quality programming is limited by student fees and College support and is a natural fit for private sponsorship and investment.

Founded as a technical institute in 1946, MVCC has remained true to our technical roots and maintains a broad array of technically-oriented career programs. With strong math and science offerings that support our award-winning engineering programs as well as our community-oriented trades programs, MVCC’s commitment to technology provides our students and our community with current industry-relevant technology and techniques. The recent $2.8 million Cyberjobs grant from the U.S. Department of Labor is a recent example of MVCC’s ability to keep moving forward at the pace of change. However, maintaining currency in our labs for healthcare programs like nursing and respiratory care and trades programs like welding and heating and air conditioning, as well as the general information technology needs of our students and programs is a perfect fit for public-private partnerships and private investment from industry.

While the Creating Opportunity and Breaking Barriers initiatives in the Challenge and Opportunity Campaign focus more on meeting the most challenging student needs, the Educational Excellence Fund complements the Revitalizing the Economy initiative by leveraging the strengths of MVCC to meet local community needs in creative ways that demonstrate tremendous results. If you have any thoughts on this post, please contact me directly at presblog@mvcc.edu.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Revitalizing the Economy

I learned a phrase here soon after my arrival four years ago – “never too high, never too low here in the Mohawk Valley.” As the economy tanked soon after, I watched the national and state unemployment rates surpass the local rate and saw Utica/Rome rank in the top 10 metro areas for housing values while other areas spiraled with devastating effect. Many shared the insight that the phrase means that this area doesn’t rise with the booms, so we “don’t have too far too fall” when the busts come. However, I believe if we work at root cause issues, like poverty, and foster a diverse economic base through an entrepreneurial spirit, this area can revitalize its economy and set a steady trajectory toward sustainable growth and prosperity.

This belief is built on the good fortune associated with the unique position MVCC holds in our community. We’re at the nexus of education system – connecting school districts and universities; we provide employers with well trained employees; we are strongly supported by local, state, and federally elected representatives; and we partner with countless non-profits and social service agencies to carry out an important mission. As a result, MVCC has identified Revitalizing the Economy as one of four initiatives as part of the Challenge and Opportunity Campaign through the MVCC Foundation.

One important aspect of the Revitalizing the Economy initiative is establishing the Cornhill Education Center. The idea is to create an educational hub of positivity and additional opportunity in the Hope VI area of Cornhill by locating classroom and lab space to deliver educational programming in unique and creative ways. We’ve begun to pilot this concept through a creative partnership with the Municipal Housing Authority by leasing a facility at 3rd and Elizabeth Streets in Utica. By offering carpentry and masonry classes there our students will be able to learn basic trade skills and then, with our partners, work on community restoration projects like home and building weatherization to increase energy efficiency in low-income housing, or a “Ramps and Rails” project for low-income seniors and disabled individuals. If we raise enough private support to match local and state dollars, additional non-credit GED and ESL classes could be offered along with introductory college courses for individuals who may have never thought college and career could be a viable alternative to the social services safety net.

Entrepreneurship is another critical tool in the economic toolbox that could create a diverse economic base and a spirit of hope in the region. With close to 25% of all jobs in Oneida County being connected to local and state governments, we have a long way to go – but there are many examples of success here locally. Many local businesses have been able to thrive through the toughest times in one of the toughest areas in one of the toughest states in the nation. However, entrepreneurship goes beyond just succeeding in small business – it’s more like a mindset that can be exploited in high demand/high growth areas. According to Upstate Venture Connect, 70% of all new jobs created in the last five years were through business startups and 40% of those new jobs came from just 1% of those startups – high growth/high demand fields. With healthcare, metals, cybersecurity, computer software, and nanotechnology thriving in a 90 mile radius of our area, there’s no reason the Mohawk Valley can’t foster and support entrepreneurs – and MVCC is once again perfectly positioned to provide smart resources and support to emerging entrepreneurs connect the dots and create viable networks for success. From relevant curriculum to access to mentors and partners, MVCC will provide that necessary support to foster entrepreneurs and revitalize the economy in the Mohawk Valley.

As one of four initiatives in the Challenge and Opportunity campaign, Revitalizing the Economy is perhaps the most focused and yet most significant and far-reaching initiative, with the potential to have the greatest impact on the region. We’re developing relationships that will continue to evolve and leverage the strengths of all of our partners in this important endeavor. If you have any thoughts on this post, please contact me directly at presblog@mvcc.edu.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Breaking Barriers

As I described in my last post, the Challenge and Opportunity Campaign has four major initiatives that serve as a call to action in helping the MVCC Foundation provide traction our students and community need to secure long-term success. While the Creating Opportunity initiative described in the last post provides more traditional support through scholarships, the Breaking Barriers initiative provides support for nontraditional needs that are difficult to address any other way – needs that are growing more complex in scope and intensity with each passing semester. Accessibility is a key element in our Statement of Purpose. We attract a very diverse student population – one of our most important strengths.

From providing the first step after high school to honor students; offering the important step in upgrading skills to returning adults, immigrants and refugees; helping those who have been incarcerated re-imagine their lives… students from all walks of life enroll in our classes each semester. More recently however, we are better understanding some of the most significant barriers MVCC students encounter. Many receive full federal and state financial aid, so their tuition and fees are covered. Often, however, some experience sudden changes to their income that supports their daily living expenses. As a result, many have no means to keep their educational dreams on track. Imagine the challenge of studying for a calculus exam when you live out of your car.

Other individuals have come to us having enrolled at MVCC years ago, when their lives were not as orderly and stable as they are today. Back then, they dropped out of college and never paid their tuition balance. Years later having successfully completed the hard work required to get their lives back on track, they’re ready to restart their educational dreams, but that old tuition balance remains, preventing them from enrolling until the outstanding bill has been paid. As you might imagine, a balance of $1,500 might as well be $150,000 to these individuals.

We’ve also identified a root cause issue associated with career education. Although MVCC offers more than 40 career camps each year to nearly 400 youth between 7 and 17 years old, the programs are non-credit, self-supported experiences that enroll only those students whose families can afford to pay the cost. Often, the students who need such important career exposure are those who do not have the means to pay – most often less than $200 for a full week of unique, career-oriented learning.

The Breaking Barriers initiative in MVCC’s Challenge and Opportunity campaign seeks to address each of these problems in significant ways. The Campaign will expand the initial support of a visionary donor who helped the MVCC Foundation recently create a Fresh Start Fund that pays the outstanding balance for students who dropped out of MVCC years ago. The Fund requires student “repayment” through volunteering 9 hours a week during the first semester at one of our many partner non-profit organizations.

The Campaign also will establish an Emergency Fund to assist students who just need a little help to navigate unexpected barriers to their education. In addition, the Campaign will provide funding for career camps for economically disadvantaged youth in the area and provide them with the important experiences necessary to help make learning and school relevant.

The MVCC Challenge and Opportunity Campaign is not so much about building buildings as it is about building creative solutions to barriers that often confront community college students and their families. Our goal is to provide our students and the greater community with a firm foundation upon which to pursue even bigger dreams and secure greater success than anyone thought possible. If you have any thoughts on this post, please contact me at presblog@mvcc.edu.