Thursday, July 17, 2014

So You Want To Be An Architect?

Since July 7th, twenty-two middle and high school students have been studying architecture at the annual Architecture Discovery Camp hosted by Doña Ana Community College .  Students have visited locations in Las Cruces, Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Bandalier National Monument to see structures and examine their unique features and design.  Interspersed between these visits, campers heard about the design process, design principles, sustainable design, and the relationship between buildings and the environment. All of these experiences were building toward an authentic project; designing a visitors center for the newly designated Organ Mountain National Park.

Since Monday, students have worked in pairs and small groups, utilizing the design process, and interacting with engineers leading to their culmination concept presentation Friday, July 18.  From the concepts, students will create a 3-D model of their building and present to their peers, their ideas and considerations.  I am thankful for the architects and engineers who have donated their time to work with these middle and high school students.  Instructors from New Mexico State University, Texas Tech and DACC have worked together to make this a wonderful opportunity for campers to experience the design process.  I look forward to seeing what they create. 

Hopefully within this group is another Frank Lloyd Wright, Frank Gehry, I.M. Pei, Louis Sullivan, Maya Lin, or Santiago Calatrava. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

What was Your First Job?

While I was still in high school I had the opportunity to work part time during the summer. My mother worked in an office and they had a need for someone to help them get caught up on their filing and some odd jobs that the office workers could not complete due to the volume of work they had. One night at supper, my mother asked me if I would be interested in working two days a week for four hours helping out at the office.  I was intrigued by the opportunity. She then proceeded to tell me that I would go to work with her the next day and that I would begin the day with an interview with her boss. She and my father, who was a manger for a supermarket and conducted all of the interviews, shared with me some tips to help me get ready for my interview. 

What I did not know was the interview was just a formality and that I was goi
ng to get the job. Despite being very nervous, I took the interview seriously and began my journey into the world of work at the age of 13.  I learned professionalism, customer service, how to dress, the importance of being on time and what was expected of an employee.  I worked hard and as a result was given employment the following summer which resulted in employment during my four years of college. 

Rarely and probably never are interviews just a formality.  I was lucky to have parents and a willing employer take their time to teach me how to begin the world of work.  As I began working with college students I found myself in the role of coaching them as they prepared for their interviews to become teachers. I soon learned that many people did not have the opportunity I had at 13 to learn from my parents and employers.  Consequently, many people need to learn the basics of searching for jobs, preparing their applications and selling themselves in an interview.  

Today, Doña Ana Community College has the privilege of hosting the Jobs to Career Readiness Bootcamp sponsored by the Mesilla Valley Economic Development Alliance (MVEDA), El Paso Electric and the DACC Career Services Office. Over 126 individuals from the community signed up to learn job readiness skills such as preparing a resume, interviewing, dressing for success, and searching for jobs.  In addition, they will have the opportunity to complete an application to be considered by several employers who have recently located to the Boarder Plex region who have over 1000 jobs available in manufacturing, call centers, and general office work.  I wish each of the participants all the best as they complete the day and their applications are reviewed for consideration.  I know the tips they receive today will help them sell themselves and highlight their skills to the employers from whom they seek employment.

If you know anyone who would wish to participate in a Jobs to Career Readiness Bootcamp, let them know about the next Bootcamp being held at the Doña Ana Community College Gadsden Center. You can click here for more information about future opportunities. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

The TRANSFER Mission

"Students, especially minorities, are taking advantage of the good quality and low cost of two-year community colleges. But high hurdles may face them when transferring to a four-year school to earn a bachelor's degree" (Khadaroo, 2014, p.21). 

Doña Ana Community College began in 1973 with a focus on preparing licensed practical nursing, welding, real estate, sales and marketing, and secretarial skills training. Since then, DACC has continued to focus upon technical education in the health sciences, trades, business, information systems, fire and paramedic fields.  However, as Khadaroo points out, the comprehensive community college mission has expanded to include a focus on assisting students with obtaining their general education courses and successfully transferring to a four-year college or university to complete their bachelor's degree. 
DACC has been presented with an opportunity to support the students who come to us with the intention of completing general education courses and transferring to New Mexico State University. Our unique relationship with NMSU as a branch within a larger system should negate the competition for students.  Changes in NMSU admission requirements means that students who previously applied and began attending NMSU are coming to DACC to take advantage of the Guaranteed Pathway to NMSU. 
What does this mean to DACC faculty, staff and administration?  First, we need to embrace the transfer mission.  This does not mean that technical education is any less important or vital to our students and community.  However, it means we are serving students whose educational goal is to obtain a bachelor's degree rather than a technical credential. Second, we need to support students in their goal to transfer.  This means we need to help them select classes than not only TRANSFER, but count toward DEGREE REQUIREMENTS.  This is an important distinction that we need to teach our students.  As we help students learn the difference, we also need to work with NMSU on course and degree alignment whenever possible, particularly within degree programs designed to transfer.  Third, it means we need to identify barriers that students encounter when transferring to NMSU and work closely with our sister institution to lower the barrier or eliminate them altogether. 
As more and more emphasis is placed upon degree attainment, the importance of DACC and NMSU collaborating to ensure completion become more significant.  So, as we begin our journey in intentionally helping students in their transfer goals, lets remember that we are fulfilling our mission as a community college by ensuring that student learning comes first. 
The article referenced above: 
Stacy Teicher Khadaroo, "A Better Path to a Bachelor's?", The Christian Science Monitor Weekly, May 12, 2014, 21-24.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Architecture Discovery Camp

Having traveled extensively through out the United States and a little bit abroad, I am always noticing architecture.  It is even more on my mind as I continue my quest to locate the "perfect" house in which to establish roots here in Las Cruces.  What I often wonder as I stand curiously examining the lines, curves, and building materials, is how does someone imagine such a grand or practical structure and create a design from which to build it.  Many of us have served on building committees where we describe how we may use the space to architects who turn our descriptions into a plan, blue prints, drawings and models that move from concept to design. 

If you know of a middle or high school student who might be interested in exploring the field of architecture, Dona Ana Community College will be hosting the Architecture Discovery Camp from July 7-18, 2014.  The fifth annual Discovery Camp will give middle and high school students an opportunity to take an overnight trip to Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Bandelier National Monument along with visiting the School of Architecture at the University of New Mexico.  Students will also have the opportunity to visit architectural firms, museums and plazas.  Students will have the opportunity to hear from professors from Dona Ana Community College and Texas Tech University along with local architects, business leaders and government officials.  The two week experience will help students learn all of the different considerations involved in design. They are sure to leave with a good sense of what a career in architecture would entail.

Give students an opportunity to learn and discover potential careers is an important way of helping students begin to think about the type of things they may want to do and enjoy for a career.  If you want more information click here: DACC Architecture Discovery Camp.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Mesquite Neighborhood Learning Center: Lending a Helping Hand

Earlier this week I had the privilege of visiting DACC's Mesquite Neighborhood Learning Center.  During my visit the Center was quite, but a number of neighborhood residents and students were accessing the computer lab and study room, diligently focused upon their educational materials.  One student was working one-on-one with a tutor. While this afternoon lull is common, the mornings from 8:00 a.m. until noon and the evenings from 4:00 p.m. until late are a buzz, bustling with many single moms who desire to advance their computer skills, language skills, and workforce readiness skills.  After taking care of their children, getting them off to school, working hard at their day jobs, receiving their children after schools, these tired mothers come to the Center and focus intently on their skills.  They are an inspiration to me.  They are also successful.

In the last five years 348 received vocational training, 1379 completed ESL courses, 1,162 have taken computer classes and 99 earned their GED.  During the same time period, 79 have continued with their studies at DACC and 37 earned their associates degree.  These women are breaking the cycle of poverty and becoming great role models for their children.  The men who have attended the Center's educational programs take great pride in being able to gain better employment to support their families. 

I encourage you to visit the center in the morning or evening to see for your self these inspirational people who are committed to learning, motivated by caring for their families, who value learning and know how it can help them accomplish their personal goals.  Click here for the location of the Mesquite Neighborhood Learning Center.  The Mesquite Neighborhood Learning Center is a valuable asset to these families in this neighborhood.  The Center is giving people hope and the skills they need to turn hope into reality. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Value of Experiential Learning

During my first semester supervising student teachers while at Central Michigan University, a very good student teacher that I was supervising declared to me during his exit interview that he decided he did not want to be a teacher. Four plus years, numerous of hours of study, significant financial output and here he was, about to graduate, and the most significant thing he learned was what he did NOT want to do for a living.  He contacted me several months later after having taken a real estate class at the community college, to let me know he was a realtor. 

I was reminded of this young man during a meeting this week where I learned about the EXCEL program (Experience-based Career Education and Learning) offered within the Las Cruces Public Schools.  The EXCEL program provides opportunities for students to explore careers through real work work experiences within the community.  This program is a collaborative effort between the Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce, local employers, educators and government agencies with the ultimate goal of helping high school graduates improve their work readiness skills. 

I believe there is another value to this program.  This program allows students to explore careers in low risk ways.  Students have the opportunity to work in a real world setting in a sector they think may be of interest to them.  Additionally, they can receive up to two elective credit hours from Doña Ana Community College at no cost to them.  During their experience they can decide if this is the career for them.  If they decide this is all they hoped it would be, they can pursue the type of education necessary to obtain the degree, certificate or credential necessary to enter to job.  If they decide this is not the career for them, they can begin anew exploring other opportunities for their future.  The students gain job readiness skills, they gain real work experience, and they form conclusions within a low risk setting. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Teachers Matter

Do you remember your favorite teacher(s)?  Did you find that you enjoyed their subject?  As a six year old walking into the grocery store with my mother on a Saturday, we encountered my previous kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Oaks.  My mom stopped to tell her hello while I sat stunned by the realization that my former teacher wasn't at school.  I thought she lived at school.  My mom said to me, tell Mrs. Oaks what you want to be when you grow up.  I proudly proclaimed I want to be a teacher, just like you.  It was unrehearsed and very real on my part.  While I changed my mind hundreds of times before declaring my major in college (after which I changed my major four times), I did become a teacher and eventually a college professor and now am honored to be the president of Doña Ana Community College.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to listen to a presentation by New Mexico's Secretary of Education, Hanna Skandara.  Her message was simple: teachers matter.  It was a refreshing message in the context of a society that seems to have grown skeptical and critical of the teaching profession.  While her message focused upon K-12 education, I suspect her message has applicability to post secondary education as well.  She presented data from the most recent administration of student achievement tests by the categories for the new teacher and school rating system in New Mexico which includes labeling teachers and schools effective, average and ineffective.  The results showed that if you have an ineffective teacher in an ineffective school as defined by the  rating system, student performance on the achievement test place them in the 3rd percentile.  If you have an effective teacher in an ineffective school, student performance on the achievement test place them in the 63rd percentile.  Her conclusion was that the teacher matters whether or not they teach in effective, average or ineffective schools. 

Take heart teachers, you do indeed matter.  At Doña Ana Community College, teachers matter.  As I speak with students during my walks through campus, they often tell me about their teachers.  They don't share stories with me about the lesson on tig welding or blood draws or MLA documentation. They tell me how their teacher matters.  So, take heart - what you do each and every day in the classroom matters to your students.  It also matters to me - so thank you for being a teacher!