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!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Job Creation Is Important to DACC Students

Many students attending Doña Ana Community College are doing so in order to gain the skills and credentials to obtain a job.  Some of these same students obtain student loans in order to attend DACC. Consequently, it is important upon graduation, that these students know that there are jobs available to them so they can enter the workforce and have the means to support themselves and begin repaying their student loans.

Governor Susana Martinez Welcomes Franco Whole Foods
That is why the event today announcing that Franco Whole Foods has chosen Las Cruces to locate their manufacturing plant was so important for me to attend.  The potential to add 160 new jobs to Las Cruces and  Doña Ana county is important to each of us.  The investment that Franco Whole Foods will make in our community will have a rippling effect that will bring positive results to our community.  It was also important to me to share our story of working with companies to provide corporate training so that the company continues to have the best trained workforce possible.  It is also important for the community to know that our Career Services Division is willing and able to help employers gain access to individuals seeking jobs.



This type of announcement should be celebrated.  We should also applaud the efforts of the Messilla Valley Economic Development Alliance (MVED), Las Cruces city officials, state officials, and the numerous private sector individuals involved in assisting Franco Whole Foods in assessing this area to become home for their manufacturing. I welcome Franco Whole Foods to Las Cruces.

To read more about the announcement click here.

Educational Acess: Overcoming Transporation Challenges

Sometime today you will walk to your car, get in, started it up and head to your destination.  This is an act repeated millions of times each day by millions of people.  However, for many others, transportation is a barrier keeping them from accessing the essential services, like education, they need to conduct their daily lives. 

On Saturday, June 7th, community members and leaders from the Empowerment Congress, a project of the Ocotillo Institute for Social Justice, held a celebration at the Chaparral Fire House to inform citizens of the community about the pilot transportation project in the south valley of  Doña Ana County.  The Empowerment Congress along with the South Central Regional Transit District (SCRTD), responded to requests by the citizens of the district, worked with eight communities including La Union, Chaparral, Del Cerro, Radium Springs, Doña Ana, Butterfield, Organ and Moongate to provide transportation routes in the south valley that will connect the citizens of the south valley with the doctors, retailers, employers and  DoñaAna Community College's Gadsden and Chaparral Learning Centers. 

I had the honor of congratulating the Empowerment Congress, SCRTD, and the community leaders on launching such an important initiative that will make it easier for the citizens of the south valley to access the very important locations they need.  This pilot project is only the beginning.  The future of the transportation initiative is dependent upon a levy that will appear on the November, 2014 ballot which, if it passes, will continue funding for this project. 

I had the opportunity to talk with several people who live in the south valley who attended the celebration.  Each expressed their thanksgiving for Doña Ana Community College's presence and commitment to the south valley.  Additionally, each of them shared with me how the new transportation route will help them to access doctors, grocery stores, and maybe even take a class at DACC now that they have a way to get to our Learning Centers. 

Tonight when I get in my car, start it up, and begin my short journey home, I will remember the people of the south valley who are so thankful for transportation to the vital services they need. 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Who Am I and What's My Agenda?

I can imagine there is a natural curiosity as to why this Ohioan and former Michigander would be coming to New Mexico, to become the next president of Doña Ana Community College (DACC).  Certainly people are wondering where I might be taking the college (Vision & Agenda) and what I might be like.  The purpose of this post is to try to answer those initial questions.

Being in office for only a week, it would be premature to articulate a vision for the college.  The college has been extremely busy during the past year and has put into place a number of important initiatives focused on enhancing academic quality and student success while ensuring a culture of shared governance.  I want to build upon those initiatives.

There have been consistent themes I have heard during my interview process and since signing my contract on March 12th.  Those themes have been articulated by both internal and external constituents.  They include:

1.  Transparency and communication:  This can include consistency when applying policy and procedures as well as aligning policy and procedures.

2.  Accountability:  Ensure that when we say we are doing something, we actual complete the task at hand.

3.  Academic Quality:  Ensuring that all programs that can be accredited are accredited.  This also includes developing a robust program review process that ensures quality and relevancy of programs to ensure the educational needs of our students and the business community are being met.

4.  Our relationship with New Mexico State University (NMSU):  Ensuring that there is a strong, collaborative, mutually beneficial relationship between DACC and NMSU.

5.  Dual Credit & Early College High School:  Continuing to improve our relationship with our public school partners in order to ensure that high school students have the opportunity to earn college credit while completing their high school diploma.

6.  A Pathway from DACC to NMSU for Transfer Students:  With the proposed admission standards at NMSU, ensuring that students who attend DACC earn college credit that is transferrable to NMSU and applicable to the degree programs of their choice.

In the next few months I will be working closely with my administrative team to review the initiatives currently underway that are designed to address the above themes that.  Additionally, my short term goals include:

1.  Familiarizing myself with college and university policy, procedures, and practice.
2. Developing internal relationships.  This includes: visiting different divisions within the college; attending division meetings; visiting branch learning centers; attending internal meet & greet events.
3.  Developing external relationships.  This includes visiting local businesses and industry, meeting with business leaders and community partners, meeting government officials, meeting local school officials, meeting with donors, and attending external meet & greet events.
4.  Exploring opportunities to building relationships with DACC alumni.

Last, there is a natural curiosity about me.  What am I like?  I could answer that question by describing activities I enjoy, but instead I will list adjectives that describe me as a person.  I am:

Passionate
Reflective
Introverted
Visionary
Optimistic
Principled
Spiritual
Objective
Realistic

Those are the qualities I bring to what I do.

In the next few months I am looking forward to learning more and more about DACC, Las Cruces, and the many communities within  Doña Ana County that we serve.


Las Cruces Sun News Article

Welcome to the Dona Ana Community College President's Blog

Welcome to the Doña Ana Community College (DACC) President's Blog. The purpose of this blog site is the inform the community about the activities of the President of DACC and the role the college plays in Dona Ana County.

Doña Ana Community College was established in 1973 at the request of the Gadsden, Hatch, and Las Cruces school boards to provide vocational and technical education opportunities to the citizens of Doña Ana County. DACC is independently accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The community college offers instruction leading to associate degrees and technical certificates and preparation for further academic work. Community education and adult education also are offered.

On June 1, 2014, I began my tenure as the ninth president of Doña Ana Community College. As President, I wish to keep the community informed of mattes pertaining to the educational outreach and mission of the college. This blog has been established as a means of communicating with both the internal and external communities that DACC serves. I invite you to follow the blog and learn more about how DACC serves Dona Ana country in Southwest New Mexico.