Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Monday, September 10, 2012

Adult Students – Beyond the Textbooks

One of my favorite memories from attending a community college right out of high school was my Intro to Sociology class – 10 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. Mr. Cherry was the instructor and he facilitated the class with the measured hand of an orchestra conductor. He knew how to make the course content come to life through the voices of the adult students in the class. He would begin each class with a brief lecture and add a unique twist – he would first ask us 18-year-olds questions to which we would work hard to summon the correct answers based on what we had read from the textbook the previous night. After we provided our often weak, simple answers, he would then ask the older students (who had lived a little) how the particular subject matter applied to real life – think of the difference between reading about marriage, domestic violence, racism, and any other isms and living them. We’d then break into small groups where all of us – younger and older – would devour the content.

I couldn’t help but think how lucky I was to have chosen to attend a community college and learn so deeply when so many of my friends attending universities had to learn this same content in a 300-seat lecture hall with 299 other 18-year-olds, taught by a teaching assistant who was still working on their master’s or doctorate. I’m still grateful for what my older student peers taught me back then and for the artful skill of Mr. Cherry, who worked his craft every day.

Here at Mohawk Valley Community College, more than 33 percent of our students are 25 years or older. We welcome and embrace returning adult students. Our adult learner services office provides tremendous support to our older students. The wonderful staff in this office (and the rest of the College) understand that the older you get, the more complex life becomes and the more support you need. The Returning Adult Student Association (RASA) is a key element to our support structure and is one of our most vibrant and active student clubs. It provides peer-oriented support and activities for returning adults and meets every Thursday at 3 p.m. in Room 212 of the Alumni College Center on the Utica Campus.

Many of our returning adults are only able to attend on a part-time basis, taking a few classes at a time. The part-time tendencies of our students are why we have maintained the lowest part-time tuition rate in the state for five consecutive years. I personally find inspiration in every story of our returning adult students – stress from raising children; caring for aging parents; working multiple jobs; taking care of oneself; and then trying to fit in time for a college education – a logistics dance for the ages played over and over again on our campuses. To help understand the power of these stories, I encourage you to take a moment to watch this brief two minute video of one our students.

The other evening, I was leaving my office and encountered an older student in the hallway. We struck up a conversation and I learned his story. He’s here to switch careers and go into health care because he wants to prepare for a future where he can see himself no longer being able to do the manual labor work he is currently doing – he wants to have options in a few years. The focus he has on his studies was inspiring – he knows what he wants to do and why he wants to do it. The life he has lived thus far gave him a vision of how he wanted to change his life by furthering his education and changing careers. Many older students share this focus and add to the diversity of our learning environment and help to make a MVCC an incredible place to learn, grow, and change your life for the better.

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

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Honor Students & the Courage to Succeed

The Spring 2012 inductees to the Lambda Beta Chapter
of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society at MVCC.

 This fall, MVCC is enrolling more honors students than ever. We have 47 new Presidential Scholars – students who graduated in the top 10 percent of their high school class in Oneida County and received a full-tuition scholarship to the college through the MVCC Foundation. And last spring, our Phi Theta Kappa honor society inducted the largest class ever of honors students whose grade point average was 3.5 or higher.

A new class of PTK honor society members will be honored this Wednesday, Sept. 5, at 3 p.m. in the Theater on the Utica Campus, when our Lambda Beta Chapter inducts this fall’s crop of our best and brightest. The ceremony is open to all who wish to come and be inspired by their success.

So many inspirational and courageous stories come from our non-honor students who have overcome barriers – financial, academic, language, cultural, or previous lifestyle choices that did not lead to academic success. Yet I find a similar inspirational story in the courage of our honor students – they have found the courage to succeed.

Last spring I was asked to speak at an induction ceremony of a local high school honor society. The theme was “profiles in courage.” I was struck by the poise and focus of these high school juniors and seniors and thought of myself at that age. I was inspired enough to leave my prepared notes and talk about the courage to succeed and my own profile. Usually, an honors student needs a 3.5 grade point average or higher to join an honor society. As a high school student I was on the accelerated honors track in eighth grade, but by ninth grade I went back to the regular curriculum track with a fair number of study halls versus advanced placement classes. With my 3.3 grade point average in high school, I was able to stay away from the high expectations that come with a high grade point average, but enjoyed the safety of not falling short of whatever expectations I had. Later in my undergraduate studies, I continued with a safe 3.3 grade point average that was good enough, but with a little more effort certainly could have been higher. It wasn’t until graduate school that I found the focus and determination to reach my potential – and the courage to succeed.

I think that’s why so many of our returning adult students are admitted into PTK as honor students – they know why they’re here and what they want to accomplish. And the dramatic increase in honor students coming directly to MVCC after graduating high school has prompted our attention to reinvigorate our honors program. A recent design team looked at best practices around the country, took the best of our long-standing honors program, and made recommendations to launch exciting new directions to support our ever-increasing number of honor students at MVCC. I’m excited to work with our Lambda Beta PTK chapter again this year and look forward to welcoming another class of honor students into membership this Wednesday. I hope you can join us to celebrate those with the courage to succeed.

If you have any questions, please contact me at presblog@mvcc.edu.