Thursday, February 14, 2008

Day Thirteen in America - Valentine's Day!

Valentine's Day...

Everyone here celebrates Valentine's day, so I would give cards to everyone I know. They call it a 'Hallmark holiday' after the Hallmark company. Valentine's day is REALLY big here! My host's sister sent her a card, they send them to their neighbours etc.!

Happy Valentine's Day!

About Shrewsbury town:

Many people that I have met have asked about Shrewsbury, so here is some information about the town here:

Wikipedia information about Shrewsbury

view from the front of Shrewsbury College

On the way to Middlesex Community College, Sam and I stopped off for a bagel at my 'usual'. The kind man there stated that for a small Fed Ex charge, and the normal price of bagels, he would ship some over to the UK for me. He won't be hearing the last of me!

Middlesex Community College - February 14 2008

Middlesex Community College is in a rural location in Middletown, and is therefore the closest in terms of demographics to Shrewsbury College. I was shown around by Mensimah Shabazz, the Director of Admissions.

Mensimah Shabazz - Director of Admissions

Mensimah is an incredibly interesting person and she told me all about how she arrived to the position that she is in today. She grew up in Ghana, has lived all over the world, including Italy, and is now a published writer. Her autobiography, "Sankofa; Learning from Hindsight" (ISBN: 0-9786193-0-7), will be keeping me entertained on my flight home tomorrow.

Mensimah took me around the campus; I saw the college shop, which was operated by a franchise who services many of the colleges in the USA. The shops sell t-shirts and hoodies with the college logos on.

We went into the student lounge. Here, students can hang out, or can receive talks, watch TV or play pool.

We visited the student counselors who give advice and guidance to learners wishing to join the college, transfer or who generally need careers or study advice. The centre was warm and friendly. I asked the two counselors, Emily and Gail, how they keep up to date with the many career updates, and they stated that they read a lot, but that they are also part of NACE.


Irod L. Lee - Director of Academic Support

My next stop was with Irod Lee. He stated that Middlesex CC was the third smallest community college with 1,200 FTEs. Many of the students were part time. We spoke about the differences between the UK and the US CCs, and Irod felt that retention should be evalutated in terms of quality practice. I spoke about the tension that can be fostered as a result of retention, and he agreed, however, it was felt that measuring retention is still a good quality measure that the community colleges are missing out on. Perhaps this should be a quality measure only, and not necessarily linked to funding?

Irod stated that in order to get a rounded understanding of all the community colleges in the USA, it would be good to visit Florida. (I am more than happy to do this! Greg, I hope that you're reading!) In Florida, there are 25 community colleges with a total of 45,000 students. There is less of a stigma in terms of using the community college route in order to get into university.

Irod explained that the New York community college system was very good, it was far more vocational in terms of approach and did prepare people for work as well as university. The state of Connecticut is mainly manufacturing in terms of industry, and it was felt that this is a factor in the offer being less vocational than in other states.

Again, Irod reinforced that many students come in with poor literacy and numeracy skills; it would appear that this is not only a UK problem.

In terms of standardising qualifications, like in the UK, there are non academic reasons why this isn't happening. The autonomy of the state is fiercly guarded in the USA.

Irod felt that I'd get more information about community college education from the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).

Irod explained that staff at community colleges do not enjoy the same number of days holiday as we do! For that I'm feeling grateful!

Back to Mensimah...

Back in Mensimah's office, we spoke at length about the addmissions process.

  1. Application: Students fill in an application form. This is now 33% online. They have to declare that they've had an MMR injection! All students pay a $20 fee to apply
  2. All information is processes and uploaded into the college's MIS system (Banner). This looks very much like our Eclipse system
  3. Students will get a letter stating, "CONGRATULATIONS! It is with great pleasure that..."
  4. Students choose to come along to one of a number of Registration events. Here, they do the Accuplacer and speak with an advisor (usually a professor) who will determine the route to their course; this could mean a developmental course if their Accuplacer results suggest that they'll struggle right now. There are, however, some components of a programme of study that can be done up front (with lower levels of English and maths) if they don't require higher levels of English and maths
  5. Timetabling is completed locally

Following our discussion about admissions, Mensimah took me around the other campus; there were some interesting initiatives. For example, I saw a room that was dedicated to retired people; they used it as a conference room for a variety of reasons. This was seen as a great way to reach the community. If the community elders support the college, the word will spread. This is at no cost to them.

They have a wonderful conferencing facility, which is rented out frequently. This generates some revenue for the college.

Mensimah spoke about different celebrations of culture that she organises; for example, there is Black History Month, and this is being widely celebrated throughout the campus. Mensimah explained that she has lived all over the world, but the US was still the most racist. I asked what could be done, and one of her strategies is to bring in African American musicians etc. and have food events celebrating different cultures. As well as Black History Month, there are celebrations of women and gay/straight students, as well as other minorities. I felt that this was extremely positive.

Areas of Learning:

  • College shop is outsourced
  • Student lounge where talks can be given or pool can be played
  • Skills based education and literacy / numeracy is important
  • Very warm letter of acceptance
  • Students are accepted onto a chosen course, but the route to this may vary (i.e. they may have to do a developmental course first, in order to prepare them for their chosen course). Therefore, they don't fail to get in, they just take longer to complete it!
  • Facilities loaned out to community groups, e.g. retired people in order to reach out into the community and spread positive statements about the college
  • Celebration of cultural diversity ongoing and visible throughout the campus. All involved!

Arriving 'home'. This is an image of Sam and Sharon Brown's (my hosts) house in the sunshine, surrounded by snow. There are coyotes, bears and wild turkeys nearby!

1 comment:

Richard Booth said...

Like the idea of a student lounge. This is something which is very much needed at Shrewsbury where students could go during break and lunch times to socialise and meet their friends and new students on their own courses or across the College.