The MCTC News Blog

MCTC Dedicates its Science Center

Posted on: December 2nd, 2015 by insidemctc 1 Comment

MCTC Ackerberg Science CenterNew names on the MCTC Science Center building belong to longtime friends of the college: Carolyn and Sanders (Sandy) Ackerberg. Nearly a hundred friends, family and community members gathered in the newly dedicated Ackerberg Science Center on November 23 to honor the life, legacy and gift made on behalf of Sandy.

“This is a thankful time all around the country,” said MCTC Vice President of Strategic Partnerships Mike Christenson, “and it’s a particularly thankful week at MCTC.” The dedication took place a few days before Thanksgiving.

The MCTC Foundation received a generous $1 million gift from Carolyn Ackerberg in memory of her late husband Sanders (Sandy) Ackerberg, who served and led the MCTC Foundation and helped lay the groundwork for what MCTC is today. Among the largest gifts in MCTC Foundation history, this donation will be used to fund scholarships and provide resources for students in need. In gratitude, the College named its Science Center for the Ackerbergs.

“Scholarships give college students the gift of time,” said Vice President of Academic Affairs Gail O’Kane. “There is no greater gift to students.”

AckerbergsSandy served on the MCTC Foundation Board of Directors for a decade and was Board President from 1986–1988. It was Sandy’s belief in the potential of all persons, and his commitment to education, that led him to serve MCTC, leading fundraising efforts and spearheading the Foundation’s first capital campaign.

A graduate of North High School, Sandy served the United States during WWII, and came home to enroll at the University of Minnesota. After earning his degree in architecture in 1949, he launched a long and highly respected career as an architect and real estate developer. For more than 35 years, Carolyn and Sandy worked together managing commercial and multi-housing real estate properties.

Sandy passed away in 2009. Since then, Carolyn has kept Sandy’s passion for MCTC students alive.

The dedication was attended by a rounded sample of community members, well-wishers and past and present employees. Attendees included former MCTC President Phil Davis, champion of the tuition relief program Power of YOU and leader of the 2009 capital funding campaign to redesign and upgrade the Science Center; Foundation Board President Harry Davis, Jr.; State Senator Scott Dibble who represents MCTC’s community and has been described as one of the foremost leaders of civil rights in the state; five MCTC students who received Ackerberg Science Scholarships; former Executive Director of the MCTC Foundation Reede Webster who led the Foundation at the time of the Ackerbergs’ donation; and many others.

“I guarantee if you invest in MCTC, you’ll get the best return on your investment,” said Foundation Board President Harry Davis, Jr.

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The Science Center is, itself, an engineering wonder. Opened in 2009, the Center was built over and around buildings purchased from businesses adjacent to campus. A dedicated team of architects, designers, engineers and College faculty agreed on an open, airy design for the building’s interior spaces, and a striking glass façade on the exterior front. The building contains energy-efficient mechanical and electrical systems, and was constructed with careful attention to waste production, recycling potential and landfill avoidance.

“Your gift, Carolyn, extends far beyond money,” said Astronomy Instructor Parke Kunkle, noting that the dedication fell on the 100 year anniversary of Albert Einstein’s presentation of his theory of relativity. “We’re excited to see the ripples you’ve created in the fabric of our lives.”
“I’m honored to be here on behalf of my beloved husband Sandy,” said Carolyn Ackerberg. “Although we all prefer that he be here himself, his gift is intended to provide the means for future generations of students and graduates to be successful. If we can eliminate just this one barrier for students, it may mean the difference in their educations and their lives.”

Click here for an album of photos from the dedication.

MCTC Director Named MnSCU Administrator of the Year

Posted on: December 1st, 2015 by insidemctc No Comments

Tom Williamson, MCTCAcknowledging his significant contributions to the development of academic and student affairs programming at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, Tom Williamson, director of academic operations, has been selected to receive a 2014–2015 Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Academic and Student Affairs award for Outstanding Academic and Student Affairs Administrator. He was only one of two administrators across the system to receive this recognition this year.

This prestigious award acknowledges accomplishments based on criteria like leadership, innovation and contributions to teaching, learning and the success of students at a college or university and within the MnSCU system. “The citizens of Minnesota look to our colleges and universities to provide both creativity and excellence as we continually evolve to better meet the needs of students and the state,” wrote Ron Anderson, vice chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs at MnSCU. “[Tom exemplifies] those characteristics, and I am thrilled to see [him] recognized in this visible way. These awards inspire others to follow [his] extraordinary example.”

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“Tom is a model of an effective, collegial and game-changing administrator, deserving of recognition as a MnSCU Academic and Student Affairs Administrator of the Year,” wrote MCTC vice president of Academic Affairs Gail O’Kane in support of Tom.

MCTC Psychology Instructor Identifies How to Determine Where a Student is Struggling

Posted on: November 23rd, 2015 by marketingworkstudy No Comments

MCTC’s Troy Dvorak is at it again! The MCTC Psychology instructor was recently featured in an article from the Better Weekdays blog about the “nontraditional student.” Dvorak provides experienced advice about how to make students feel at ease as well as tips for student success. The instructor and recently published author is also a self-taught drummer, guitar student and a self-proclaimed fan of 80s rock and hair metal. You can read this original story here. The story is also posted in its entirety below.

How to Determine where a Student is Struggling

Written by : Aja Frost

How to Determine where a Student is Struggling

The “nontraditional” student may be the new “normal” student.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) defines “nontraditional” in three different ways: delayed enrollment, familial responsibility, or financial constraints and lack of high school degree. And under this definition, the NCES found that around half of all students enrolled in U.S. postsecondary institutions are moderately or highly untraditional.

It’s important for career counselors to be aware of this statistic, as the NCES has also found that the more “nontraditional” characteristics students have (including age, job status, dependency status and so on), the more likely they are to leave school before getting their degree.

To help these students succeed, you’ll want to create an atmosphere in which they feel comfortable. Once they trust you, work with them to identify and overcome potential obstacles.

Establish a Relationship

“Rapport is one of the most important parts of any counseling session,” says Troy Dvorak, adjunct professor of psychology at Minneapolis Community and Technical College and the author of “Psychological Keys to Student Success.”

He advises making sure you leave plenty of time in your day for the appointment so that you don’t seem rushed or preoccupied.

“You don’t want to communicate that you are just squeezing the person in between other things,” Dvorak says.

To further put students at ease, remember to smile, be friendly and show you’re interested in them as people. The first couple questions you ask should be unrelated to school. Try openers like: “How was your weekend?” “What are you looking forward to?” “Is your day going well?”

Pinpoint the General Problem

After you’ve made the student feel a little more relaxed, you can start getting into the actual issue.

“I like to start by asking about his or her situation rather than delving immediately into what he or she is personally doing or not doing,” Dvorak says. “This reduces defensiveness.”

If you don’t immediately get an answer, he recommends gently bringing up the reason why the person booked the appointment. To engender trust, make sure you remain patient.

The Job Search

Dvorak assesses a number of factors to determine why a student’s efforts to find employment aren’t working. First, he asks practical questions, like “Do you have a resume?” or “What resources are you using?” and “What types of work are you applying for?”

If the student’s answers raise any red flags—for example, maybe he or she doesn’t have a well-crafted resume—you can start making a list of ways to help.

But you may have to go a little deeper. Dvorak will also inquire about students’ schedules, interests, transportation options, which can limit their ability to go on interviews, and what exactly they’re doing to find a job.

“Sometimes students say they are looking, but this means they surfed the Internet for 10 minutes one day,” he says.

He suggests asking how much time they’re spending looking and where they’re looking—but not too early in the session, as these questions can make students feel defensive.

Academic Success

“I personally want the person to know that there are many challenges associated with getting good grades. Some of the challenges are personal, while some are situational,” Dvorak says. “As a show of respect, I let them know that I am interested in learning more about what those challenges might be, and I ask if they are willing to share some of their personal experiences with me to help me understand how I might be able to help them.”

You’ll want to look into whether or not the student is supporting anyone or raising children, and if so, whether he or she has access to day-care. In addition, ask whether the student is working while he or she goes to school.

Dvorak also recommends asking:

  • Does the student have family or social support? Does he or she live with someone?
  • Is English the student’s first language?
  • Does the student have transportation? Is he or she regularly attending class?
  • Has the student recently experienced a hardship (loss of a home, death of a loved one, divorce/relationship break-up, etc.)?

The student may also be struggling with personal factors such as study skills and habits, time management abilities, self-confidence, mental health, previous academic experiences, and motivation and goals. To get to the root of these issues, Stacy Haynes, a licensed clinical psychologist and the chief executive officer of Little Hands Family Services in Turnersville, New Jersey who has a doctorate in education and helps people of all ages with academic struggles, likes to ask questions such as:

  • What subjects are you having a difficult time in?
  • What makes learning difficult?
  • What in the learning environment makes it difficult to learn?
  • Is there something the teacher is doing or not doing that is making it harder to learn?
  • What’s your favorite method of learning something?

Show Respect

No matter what, make sure you’re always showing respect for the student.

“These people have significant life experience,” Dvorak says. “Many have worked for a long time. Many are from other countries. They speak many different languages. They have children to support. They have limited time. And they are often trying to better themselves and the opportunities for their families.”

To allow students to open up, he believes you should always spend more time listening than talking. If you’re too quick to offer suggestions, the person you’re talking to will likely become non-responsive.

If you use these tips and questions, you’ll be able to discover why students are struggling, which will make finding solutions to their challenges that much easier.

Congratulations to MCTC Apparel Technologies Student Erica Sorenson!

Posted on: November 2nd, 2015 by insidemctc No Comments

Erica Sorenson modeling her design.

Congratulations to MCTC’s very own Erica Sorenson who won first place in a student design challenge. Erica is currently a student in MCTC’s Apparel Technologies program. She recently took part in the 2015 International Educational Conference of the Association of Sewing and Design Professionals that was held recently at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Minneapolis. She also won a sewing machine, cash prize and membership to the organization. Congratulations Erica!


More Than a Single Story: Black Women Writers, Including MCTC Instructors, Hold Panel Discussions

Posted on: September 25th, 2015 by insidemctc No Comments

MCTC English Instructors Carolyn Holbrook and Valerie Deus were featured in the Star Tribune this week for their work organizing and participating in More Than a Single Story, a series of collaborative discussions by and about black women writers.  Funded by a Minnesota State Arts Board arts initiative grant, a series of three panel discussions on black women writers will take place in the coming weeks. These sessions include:

  • African-American writers, 2:30 p.m. Sept. 27
  • Caribbean writers, 2:30 p.m. Oct. 4
  • African writers, 2:30 p.m. Nov. 15

These sessions will take place at The Loft at Open Book, 1011 Washington Av. S., Mpls.

Read the full Star Tribune story here. Be sure to check out Valerie’s poetry featured in the right-hand sidebar as well!

The original story and photo are posted below.


Writers Mary Moore Easter, Kari Mugo and MCTC Instructor Valerie Deus. Photo by Brian Peterson, Star Tribune.

Loft to host panel discussions on black women writers

Black women writers talk about what infuses their writing – and what makes them distinctive.

By Laurie Hertzel Star Tribune

At a reading at Birchbark Books a few years ago, Carolyn Holbrook was taken aback by the comment of a woman in the audience. The woman was white, and Holbrook and the other writers who were reading are black.

The white woman said, “Oh, my gosh, I’m just shocked that you’re all so different,” Holbrook recalled. “And that sort of stuck in my craw.”

From that evening came the seed of an idea that has bloomed into “More Than a Single Story,” a series of discussions with black women writers from all over — Kenya, Haiti, Somalia, Nigeria, the American South, and elsewhere — who have settled in Minnesota. The discussions, moderated by Holbrook, will be held at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis.

In July, Holbrook invited more than a dozen such writers to her St. Paul home for a potluck dinner. Over glasses of Soul Sister pinot noir, salmon salad and coconut cake, they discussed issues surrounding writing and identity. The conversation was enthusiastic and wide-ranging.

“What is the canon for black women? Do we have a canon? Who should we be reading, and why?” Holbrook recalled. “Identity — how do we each identify, and why? Does the woman from Nigeria who went to Carleton College identify as a Nigerian writer, or as an African-American writer?

“What was supposed to be like an hour and a half dinner turned into four and a half hours. None of us was looking at the clock.”

Not everyone agreed on every point — not by a long shot. But they all concurred that they speak with different voices, and that those voices spring partly from their backgrounds.

Writing from exile

African writers, said Kari Mugo, who is from Kenya, often tend to be less direct and more mysterious in their prose. “We have a lot of hidden meanings. We’re making analogies. We’re big into painting something big and elaborate and then having you find the one thing we want you to look at.”

Family history is crucial, too. “We’re so attuned to identifying with our tribe,” Mugo said. “I think in general a lot of the tribal societies tend to have some sort of oral histories. Within my tribe, it’s something that’s been there for hundreds of years — telling the past and imagining the future.”

Valerie Déus was born in Brooklyn, but she considers herself primarily a Haitian writer. “There was a time in my life when I didn’t realize there were other black people,” she said. “My neighborhood was so completely Haitian.”

The Haitian proverbs and fables that she grew up listening to have since become interlaced with her work. “If you grew up hearing tales from your grandmother, those stories become part of your stories,” she said.

Déus’ parents moved to the United States in the 1970s to escape the oppressive regime of Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, “and in that time, people came here with the expectation of being able to go back,” Déus said. “I was always raised with this idea that Haiti was this place where we were going to be.”

But her family has returned only for visits, and perhaps because of that, much of Déus’ writing deals with sadness and loss. “I think for my writing there’s a feeling of being in exile,” she said.

Mugo used the same word: Exile. At the July dinner, she said, “We talked a lot about [my] writing from the perspective of a queer African. About not being able to go back home because of that.

“There was a sort of general consensus that we were all writing from exile. We all felt detached from the larger society, felt detached from a home that was far away. Detached from a society that is predominantly white.”

For her, though, race alone was less of an issue. “We don’t become black until we move to this country,” Mugo said.

Race, and language

But for African-American writers, there is no escaping race.

“I think the nature of the concept of race is the thing that is with African-American writers all the time,” said Mary Moore Easter, a poet and memoirist who taught at Carleton College for more than 40 years. “It is part of the whole identity. It is all around you.

“In this country, no matter how much this society tries, blackness is a monolithic thing in the common mind.

“Anything that explodes that and gives evidence of the tremendous diversity of thought and feeling is significant.”

Easter said she was less interested in establishing a canon than she was in urging writers to read widely and deeply, and to pay attention to their own traditions.

“It’s hard to make a canon … of those things that should be in your ears — dialect, particular kinds of language usage,” she said. “That ancestry that feeds the writing and in which a person needs to be immersed. It tells you how the English language works — and that includes paying attention to the way that dialects or patois work.”

That said, all of the women mentioned writers they admired and had learned from: poet Phillis Wheatley, Alice Walker, Lucille Clifton, Edwidge Danticat, Roxane Gay.

And everyone mentioned Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, whose TED talk, “The Danger of a Single Story” was one of Holbrook’s inspirations for these panels. During that talk — one of the most popular TED talks ever — Adichie warned of the dangers of assuming that people of color all speak with one voice. “Show people as one thing over and over again, and that’s what they become,” she said.

Easter found the July dinner discussion fascinating because of the enthusiasm and the ideas — but also because of the disagreements.

“It’s amazing when you find differing opinions within a group that you thought might approach things in the same way,” she said. “That was one of the most exciting things about being with all of these women.

“I’m the one who said at the end of the evening, ‘This was the panel!’ The disagreement that is refining ideas and impressions, this is the kind of thing we want to do.”


What: A series of three panel discussions on black women writers, hosted by Carolyn Holbrook, funded by a Minnesota State Arts Board arts initiative grant.

When: African-American writers, 2:30 p.m. Sept. 27; Caribbean writers, 2:30 p.m. Oct. 4; African writers, 2:30 p.m. Nov. 15.

Where: The Loft at Open Book, 1011 Washington Av. S., Mpls.

Laurie Hertzel • 612-673-7302