Update – November 21, 2011

on November 21, 2011 in Weekly Update

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

I hope you all are planning great feasts this week with your families.  I hear on the weather forecast that we will have wonderfully cool fall weather for Thanksgiving. After our long hot summer and warm fall, that is truly something to be thankful for! The first Thanksgiving feast lasted three days and served 13 Pilgrims and 90 Native Americans—sounds like plenty of good eating and calories! I hope you can find some time this week to relax, reflect, and enjoy the holiday.

It’s hard to believe the semester is coming to a close. As I talk with many of you, I keep hearing how it has been an incredibly busy semester. I agree with you, but I always reply with my standby response, “But we’d be bored if it wasn’t busy.”

The College has hosted several interesting visitors over the past few weeks. I haven’t been able to attend all of the events, but I will highlight a few that occurred recently. On November 10th and 11th, each campus recognized our veterans with special activities, and on the evening of November 11th, the San Jacinto College Foundation hosted a reception to raise funds for the Veterans Centers of Excellence. We have talked about these centers before, and we have finally reached the point where construction will begin. Many of our construction contractors will be working through the winter break to renovate the areas at the North and South campuses; with work on the Central Campus center to follow quickly once we get final plans finished. These contractors will donate the labor and many of the materials. The funds raised by the Foundation will provide dollars for computers, the remaining furniture and fixtures, and finishing touches required to get the centers ready to serve the many needs of veterans who are attending San Jacinto College. A special thanks to all of our San Jac Veterans – I appreciate your service to our country!

We continue to build relationships with industry and military partners, and we enjoyed hosting a breakfast at the Maritime Center for Rear Admiral Jim Watkins from the Coast Guard’s Washington, D. C., office; Captain James Whitehead, Houston Sector Commander; and Commander Eric Gleason, a Commanding Officer at the Houston Air Station. Dr. Sallie Kay Janes and Captain Mitch Schacter presented an overview of the past, present, and future of the College’s maritime training program, partnerships, and curriculum development. In the last eighteen months, we have trained over 900 students, most of whom are incumbent workers requiring skills upgrade or certifications. Since the Coast Guard is the licensing agency for all-maritime credentialing, this is an important relationship for the College. By the way, we are still moving forward with purchasing property from the Port of Houston in order to expand this program.  I’ll update you as progress is made.

I also had the opportunity to attend the Advisory Committee Meeting for the Diesel Technology program. Don Clayton shared information with college administrators from last spring’s program review. I know many of our advisory committees are actively engaged and ready to respond to our requests, but this committee seemed to have a real excitement about the future. Most have been involved in the committee for many years, and they weren’t afraid to jump in and discuss the real issues this industry is facing. Our diesel program has some of the latest engines and equipment due to donations of equipment or maintenance support from these advisory members. The committee also approved adding a course to the curriculum. Don commented to the group that students weren’t completing their degrees because many could not find an industry partner for the practicum work. The committee approved a course to meet this need and provide students with an alternative that will enable them to complete their credential (an associate’s degree).

This past Wednesday, San Jacinto College welcomed Dr. Duncan Copp at Slocomb Auditorium. Dr. Copp produced The Planets – A HD Odyssey, a film that we viewed at our first Houston Symphony event in 2010.  Dr. Copp discussed his love for science and the arts.  He encouraged students to follow their passions and think outside the box on how to put passions together and create a career. Dr. Copp earned a Ph.D. in Astronomy and combined that credential with a passion for the arts and film to make a career. The questions from the students were outstanding, and it was clear that they were intrigued by this kind of opportunity and interested in how he put these two areas together.

On Friday, Alpha Gamma Zeta, the South Campus student chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) national honor society, hosted the “SJC Summit on Community Colleges.” Created in an effort to support President Obama’s goal of having the best-educated, most competitive workforce in the world by 2020, the “SJC Summit on Community Colleges” featured alumni sharing their personal experiences about how SJC helped them create a better future for themselves. The San Jacinto College alumni spoke about the value of an associate’s degree or technical certification, and how San Jac contributed to their professional successes. The keynote speaker was Dr. Rod Risley, PTK Executive Director. He spoke passionately about his time at San Jacinto College, and he referred to Mrs. Mamie Hughes as the faculty member who made him realize that he had the capacity for academic success. He also expressed the highest regards for Dr. Tom Spencer because he witnessed his passion for the mission of community colleges. Dr. Risley discussed the value of earning an associate’s degree or other credential. He challenged students to complete what they start, beginning with each course so they can get to degree completion. He also encouraged students to have a plan and meet with a faculty member or educational planner to ensure they take the courses they need without taking unnecessary coursework and that they understand the impact of decisions (i.e. withdrawing without discussion with the faculty member).

Other alumni speakers included Harris County Precinct 1 Commissioner El Franco Lee, Snead State Community College President Dr. Robert Exley, and Galveston County Tax Assessor Cheryl Johnson. Each referred to people from their time at San Jacinto College who made an impact on them and helped them to continue on their college paths. Dr. Exley spoke of a custodian (Mr. Hinojosa) with whom he talked many times throughout the week as they shared coffee. Dr. Exley, during his time at San Jacinto College, was a process operator at a petrochemical plant, and he wasn’t comfortable with speaking with the faculty or others in their offices. He admitted that going to college was difficult for him, and he got his encouragement to continue his education from Mr. Hinojosa. The event wrapped up with SJC student and rising hip-hop recording artist Baby Jay performing two brand new songs titled “Respect” and “Don’t Drop Out.”

Continuing the topic of the completion agenda, San Jacinto College is working with the Center for Houston’s Future (http://www.futurehouston.org/cfhf.cfm?a=cms,c,360,3,38) on an initiative called Talent Dividend, a program to increase graduation rates at two- and four-year college institutions. The goal of this project is to target those students who are close to completing their associate’s degrees, but have dropped out for whatever reason, to get them to come back to school to complete their degrees. The initiative’s goal is to have a one percent increase in degreed (two-year and four-year) graduates by 2013.

As part of our work with Talent Dividend, we are trying to identify five San Jacinto College students who have dropped out (let’s say “stopped out” because we intend that they come back) and who may be willing to talk about their reasons for leaving college. If you know of any students who would be willing to share their experiences on camera, please contact Amanda Booren or Teri Fowle in the marketing office. We need to conduct the interviews on campus during the week after Thanksgiving.

These videos will be used for a few purposes including 1) to submit for a National Ad Council public service announcement, 2) for Houston-area businesses to use to encourage their employees who may be close to completing their degrees to return to college, and 3) to use as part of a marketing campaign to target that cohort of students.

Houston Community College, Lone Star College, and the University of Houston are also higher education partners in this initiative and will provide students for interviews. I want to be sure San Jacinto College is properly represented, so please help to identify potential interview candidates.

As I wrap up this update, I reflect on comments that I heard during the PTK Summit. One that resonated with me was that “we have a responsibility to look the students in the eye and tell them they need more than a course—they need a credential.” And the second was, “Remember the value of encouragement or a kind word to a student—that is what got me to complete.”

Have a great Thanksgiving!



P.S.  Also we need to give a “shout out!!” The volleyball team played in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) national tournament Thursday through Saturday in West Plains, Mo., and finished fourth in the nation. It was the team’s seventh-straight appearance in the national tournament, and their sixth-straight top-10 national finish. San Jac opened the tournament with wins over Wallace State – Hanceville out of Alabama, and College of Southern Idaho, before suffering losses to Blinn College and Western Nebraska Community College. This is still a great accomplishment, and I am so proud of what Head Coach Sharon Nelson, her coaching staff, and her student-athletes have accomplished this season. Way to go!

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