Monday, April 11, 2016

Community's Diversity as a Window to Our Future

A community college is inherently designed to mirror its community. MVCC strives to not only mirror our community but also provide a window to our collective future. The City of Utica is the urban center and largest municipality in Oneida County. With refugees comprising nearly one in four city residents (in addition to the 500 annual newcomers from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic!), our community is incredibly diverse.

MVCC has embraced this aspect of our community through a variety of signature elements that all make the college a distinctive learning environment. Our Educational Opportunity Center at Third and Elizabeth streets in Utica is a hub of community partnerships, including the incredible On Point for College program, to provide a safe and comfortable first point of contact for many refugees and newcomers. The unique one-year certificate in English as a Second Language is a key rung on the educational ladder of success for numerous students who start their educational journey at MVCC.

What continues to give me great pride about working at MVCC is the incredible combination of rigor and support that has somehow been hardwired into our organizational DNA. Anyone attending our “Honors Brunch” celebration event the morning of spring commencement in May will see an absolute rainbow of ethnic and cultural representation in honor students who achieve at the highest levels. Many of them are living examples of hard work paying off, but also of reaching out and accessing all available resources to succeed. The Learning Center at MVCC is just one of several academic supports that the College provides to support students as they raise themselves up to the rigorous standards our faculty maintain in the curriculum.

The nationally recognized Cultural Series and Diversity and Global View graduation requirement at MVCC celebrate the diversity of our area — bringing the world to our campuses, students, employees, and community. Our current challenge, as set forth in our updated Strategic Plan, MVCC Catalyst 2020, is to “advance diversity and inclusiveness” to include diversifying our faculty and staff to better reflect our student population; look for more posts about this in the future.

As we provide innovative programs like mechatronics, semiconductor manufacturing, and unmanned aerial systems that are preparing the workforce of the future for our region, we are also providing access to opportunity for aligning our outreach and support systems to reflect our community. Refugees and newcomers add a distinct richness to our classrooms and campuses that enhance learning and overall student experience — our faculty do an amazing job of making it so. Just as the immigration of the early 20th century continues to define Utica (and our country) today, the influx of newcomers here in the past few decades most certainly will go on to define the remainder of the 21st century.

To further understand the magnitude and significance of the refugee experience in our community, I have provided a great PBS news story link featuring a few of our students as well as our own Ibrahim Rosic, Director of the Learning Center at MVCC.

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