COM Employee Newsletter
Message from the President
Over the past few weeks there has been so much discussion of COM issues related to the budget and contracts that there is the risk that these issues, although greatly important, have overshadowed temporarily the mission of community colleges. The initiative of the American Association of Community Colleges is to refocus everyone’s attention on the critical role that this mission plays in the future of our nation.
Faced with ever-increasing state cuts in community college funding across the nation and with the increasingly bitter battles over funding for financial aid and community college programs in Congress, the AACC formed the 21st Century Commission on the Future of Community Colleges. Budget-cutters attempt to rationalize the cuts to our colleges using the data on our low graduation rate: only 22 percent of the first-time, full-time students earn an associate degree in three years (for Hispanics it is 17 percent and for African-Americans it is 14 percent). The graduation rate for part-time students, even over a longer period of time is much lower. The defective reasoning of congressmen and legislators is: you do a poor job; therefore, we are not going to fund you as much as in the past. What they ignore is that we are the only gateway to higher education and a better future for millions of students. We are the incubators who keep the democratic ideals of our society alive and revitalized. A strong argument can be made that without community colleges, there would be an extreme shortage of educated, skilled workforce, the poverty rolls would explode, and the gap between rich and poor, which is already at one of the highest levels in the past century, would be even greater.
I encourage you to read the report: Reclaiming the American Dream: A Report from the 21st Century Commission on the Future of Community Colleges. The report can be found at www.aacc.nche.edu/aboutcc/21stcenturyreport/21stCenturyReport.pdf. It makes seven major recommendations which can be summarized as follows and suggests strategies to achieve them:
1. By 2020 increase graduation/completion rates by 50 percent.
2. Increase college readiness by 2020. Reduce by half the number of entering students who are not college-ready. Also work to double the number of students who successfully complete the development education sequences to progress to college credit courses.
3. Focus more on career and technical education to produce the workforce that will enable the regional and national economies to compete in the global arena.
4. Refocus and redefine the community college mission and role to meet the educational and workforce needs of this century.
5. Structure support from government, foundations and the private sector to incentivize more collaboration and joint action by groups of colleges.
6. Target public and private investments to support the efforts to reclaim the American dream by creating new incentives for colleges and students to pursue education.
7. Make certain college policies and practices promote high educational standards, have transparency and have accountability.
This summary does not do full justice to this important document. We ignore its recommendations at our peril.
COM creates Distinguished Alumni Award
College of the Mainland created the Distinguished Alumni Award to honor its remarkable alumni and their achievements. At spring commencement, Dr. Larry Durrence announced the first recipients of the award: Julie Dues Masters, mayor of Dickinson; Mark E. Ciavaglia, Texas City attorney; and Troy E. Sybert, M.D. All three alumni have been actively involved, professionally and personally, in the community. Masters, mayor of Dickinson, is the executive director for Keep Dickinson Beautiful and vice president of the Optimist Club of Dickinson. She is also a board member and past president of Galveston County Children’s Services Board.
Ciavaglia; managing partner of the Galveston County office of Linebarger, Goggan, Blair and Sampson, LLP; also serves as president of the Mainland Community Crime Stoppers. He is chairman of the board of the Texas City–La Marque Chamber of Commerce and charter board member of Advocacy Center for Children of Galveston County.
Sybert, M.D., currently serves as vice president/chief medical information officer of Wellmont Health System, which operates eight hospitals in Tennessee and Virginia. A former professor at UTMB, he is an adjunct professor at the College of Public Health at East Tennessee State University.
These alumni’s accomplishments “demonstrate to our current students that their education at COM gives them the educational foundation to become leaders as well,” said Durrence. “This inaugural group of three distinguished alumni are highly deserving of recognition and are worthy examples of the type of success we desire to see our graduates achieve in life.”
Larsen wins second in National SoftChalk Competition
Designated by SoftChalk as a power user for uploading more lessons than any other user, Marilyn Larsen, associate professor of developmental math at COM, won second place in the 2012 SoftChalk Lesson Challenge. The national contest is sponsored by SoftChalk, an educational software company, and judged by educators from across the U.S.
Larsen’s winning lesson, “The Real Numbers,” combined photos, interactive quizzes and even a video of a space shuttle launch countdown to demonstrate how positive and negative numbers are used in the real world. Through SoftChalk, Larsen’s lessons are shared around the world. Through questions about an uploaded lesson, Larsen recently connected with an educator in the Middle East. Larsen’s students enjoy the lessons as well. “I use it to enhance lectures and as a tutorial,” Larsen said.
PHOTO: Larsen holds the trophy proclaiming her the second place winner in the 2012 SoftChalk Lesson Challenge, a national, educator-judged contest.
COM students named 2012 Coca-Cola Community College Academic Team Bronze Scholars
Students at College of the Mainland, Christine LaFoy and Merretta Vasquez, both of Texas City, have been named 2012 Coca-Cola Community College Academic Team Bronze Scholars. Bronze Scholars each receive a $1,000 scholarship and a special medallion.
An independent panel of judges considers outstanding academic rigor, grade point average, academic and leadership awards and engagement in community service in selecting students for this award. Community colleges may submit no more than two nominations per campus.
“We thank the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation for their vote of confidence in community college students by investing in their futures,” said Dr. Rod Risley, Executive Director of Phi Theta Kappa, which partners with the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation in administering this award. “Their support is especially welcome during this challenging economic climate, as more and more community college students need additional resources to help them complete their degrees.”
COM Students inspired to mentor others
Inspired by a statewide Latino-affairs conference, members of the College of the Mainland student club AMIGOS decided to encourage high school students to pursue further education. At the Hispanic Student Leadership Conference at College of the Mainland, they shared with Texas City and Dickinson High School students via a panel what they learned.
AMIGOS historian Luis Santos said they wanted to share with high school students, “pointers for success, a little bit about our experience as students, what to expect.” They encouraged them to “continue their education, to not give up, let anything stop them,” he said.
Students learned that “they have a responsibility to achieve and pursue their goals and to help others reach their goals,” said assistant professor Julie Garcia. Garcia, along with six COM students from AMIGOS, a student club focused on Latino issues, attended the 24th Annual Student Conference on Latino Affairs at Texas A&M University. “We learned how we still lag behind significantly in higher education,” said Garcia. After hearing the speakers, “students were asking, ‘What do we do with this information? We want to do something now!’” After discussing options, they thought, “Why don’t we become the mentors?”
They are considering other ways to share more with high school students this fall.
PHOTO: COM student Jerry Solomon stands under the Aggie Ring Sculpture at Texas A&M.
Outstanding nursing graduates awarded
On May 10, four nursing graduates were honored at the College of the Mainland pinning ceremony. Janis Cappadona and Suzanne Batista received Outstanding Clinical Performance. Trayton Buhler and Adrianne Campbell received Student of the Year based on their excellent work in both clinicals and in the classroom. At the ceremony eighty-one students graduated with an associate of applied science in nursing.
PHOTO: Nursing graduates with their awards. From left to right, Wayne Miles, board member; Dr. Gay Reeves, director of nursing; Trayton Buhler; Adrianne Campbell; Janis Cappadona; Suzanne Batista; Dr. Larry Durrence, interim president; Rosalie Kettler, board member; and Roney McCrary, vice chair.
COM police academy graduates
On May 25 fifteen students from the COM Police Academy graduated after completing 769 hours of training both in and outside the classroom. Training prepared them for the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement on Standards and Education test. “We had a 100 percent pass rate,” said B. J. Whitburn, COM law enforcement program coordinator.
One new graduate was Santiago Guerrero, a former U.S. Marine. He decided to enroll in the police academy because “I already fought for my country. Why should I not fight for my community?” Guerrero said. “I want to do anything that I can to make it more secure at home.”
PHOTO: COM Police Academy 2012 graduates
Citizenship journey began with English class
When Elena Sass swore the oath of allegiance to America, she completed her four-year journey toward becoming a citizen. Originally from Russia, Elena moved to the U.S. in 2008 to marry her husband, David. In Russia she earned two master’s degrees, in chemistry and in patent engineering, from St. Petersburg State University.
Four years ago after arriving in the U.S., Elena took her first English class, a continuing education class through COM. She said the class “gave me exposure to American culture and diversity” of accents. “It was a very good learning experience.” Elida Matthews, COM Adult Learning Coordinator, remembers her enthusiasm for learning. “She was the only one who ever asked me for a reference book” so she could study more on her own.
Since July 2010, Sass has worked as a tester at College of the Mainland. She assesses students’ English before and after the class so instructors can determine their progress. As an English leaner herself, she understands their challenges. “She has a lot of compassion for them. She makes it a point to speak very clearly so they can understand her” as she tests them, Matthews said. “I love to work with people,” Sass said. “People really care about each other in this program.”
Of becoming a citizen, she said, “It’s a complex process.” She was nervous about her citizenship interview because she could be asked any 10 civics questions from a list of 100. “I had no idea what I could be asked—history of the country, names, dates, people, events,” she said.
Of the day of her citizenship ceremony, she said, “I was so looking forward to that day.” After obtaining her citizenship, Sass said, “I have mixed emotions of happiness and sadness. I have a sense of belonging to the great American nation. I am very proud to be American.” She said she also feels, “a light sadness. I know… my Russian blood stills runs in my veins. It’s part of my identity.”
Sass thanked her husband. “He supported me all the way through this process.” Sass now looks ahead to her future as a U.S. citizen. “I have a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction and now I can look forward to working toward other goals,” she said. One of the things she anticipates is involvement in the democratic process. “I can participate fully in U.S. life. I am allowed to vote in this year’s presidential elections, and I am looking forward to doing that.”
PHOTO: Elena Sass with her husband at her naturalization ceremony.
Can you canoe or bake a pie?
Get your canoeing skills ready for the great Golden Paddle Outdoor Run Race 2012 on Monday, July 2. This is a fun, interdepartmental competition with a two-member team from your department. You will win the Golden Paddle and bragging rights for the year! First come-first serve. Only six entries will be accepted.
If your canoeing skills are lacking, maybe baking is your game. Sign up for the Apple Pie Baking Contest.
To sign up, call Michelle Gerami at Ext. 8351. Details coming soon.