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Nursing Alumni Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

Posted on: December 1st, 2014 by marketingworkstudy No Comments
Nursing

Students in MCTC’s Nursing program.

Mpls.St.Paul Magazine awarded MCTC nursing alumni Be Ho a Lifetime Achievement Award for her more than 30 years of work in the field. Be earned her associate degree in Nursing at MCTC in the 1980s shortly after her time as a nurse in the Vietnam War, and is currently working with Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

Read her full story on the Children’s Hospital blog.

 

Nurse with inspirational story receives lifetime achievement award

By Erin Keifenheim

Be Ho, staff RN, surgery, knew she wanted to be a nurse when she was 4½ years old, yet she never imagined that following her dream would lead her on a journey to flee her home country and start a new life halfway around the world. Now celebrating her 34th year at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, Be recently was named the 2014 Lifetime Achievement winner in the annual Mpls.St.Paul Magazine Outstanding Nurses awards for her amazing nursing skills and perseverance to follow her dream.

Be’s inspirational story starts in Vietnam, where she was born. When her father had abdominal surgery in the French-run hospital there, Be was mesmerized by the French nurses with their blue eyes, long eyelashes and surgical gowns, and the kindness they showed her family. She knew from that moment that she would become a nurse someday. At the age of 9, she pleaded with her parents to send her to nursing school. She cried so much that they finally arranged a meeting for her with the director of a local hospital. He convinced her to hold off on becoming a nurse until she was old enough. Finally, when Be was 17, she couldn’t wait any longer.

“At that time, nursing was looked down on as a career,” Be said. “Girls were supposed to stay at home. Nurses were viewed as the ones who did the dirty work – changing diapers and cleaning wounds. I didn’t dare tell my family I was applying for nursing school.”

Instead, Be lied to her parents, telling them she was going to visit her cousin in the capital, but she actually took the entrance exam for nursing school. Three months later, she didn’t have the heart to sneak away again to find out the results. However, her neighbor had gone to see the results of his fiancée’s exam and saw Be’s name on the list. He came over to congratulate her, thus breaking the news to her parents. Her mother cried and was resistant, but her father persuaded her to allow Be to go to nursing school – he knew she would be a wonderful nurse; he was right. Be went on to graduate second in her class. And because she always knew she wanted to work with children, she took a job at a children’s hospital in Saigon. She eventually went on to become the hospital’s director of nursing.

In 1968, Be received a scholarship to travel to England for intensive nursing care training. In 1972, she visited Minneapolis with a group of young patients who needed open-heart surgeries. The Children’s Heart Fund, now Children’s HeartLink, sponsored her to escort the patients and care for them while they were here. During that trip, she formed relationships with the staff at Children’s – Minneapolis who thought very highly of her and recognized her potential.

Back in Vietnam, the war was continuing. Because Be had traveled outside the country multiple times, the communist leaders suspected her of being a spy.

“Every week I had to write an essay to the communist government saying that I was the country’s enemy,” Be said. “One day I was brave enough to ask why I was being forced to write these letters. They told me ‘because you are such a good nurse.’ It was very hard for me to say I was an enemy when all I wanted to do was provide nurturing and loving nursing care – just like the French nurses I saw as a child.”

Eventually, Be became worried about her future in Vietnam. Her colleagues at Children’s Heart Fund attempted to evacuate her in 1975, but she couldn’t bear to leave without saying goodbye to her family. Though she feared for her life, she said a tearful goodbye to her friends and remained in Vietnam. A few years later, she knew it was time to escape. She contacted her U.S. colleagues for assistance, under the guise that she needed to have open-heart surgery in Japan.

“I had to lie again to escape Vietnam. If I was caught, I would be sent to a concentration camp,” Be said. “I told the hospital I was working for that my grandmother was dying, when she had actually died before I was born.”

Arrangements were made for Be to travel by boat to a refugee camp in Thailand.

“I had to leave without saying goodbye to my family. I wanted to protect them in case the communist government came looking for me. I wrote a letter to my dad and left. It was very scary,” she said. “I didn’t know anyone. It was getting dark. We had to hide under coconut leaves on the boat to disguise ourselves from the communist police who were chasing us. When we finally made it to international waters, I was so happy I cried.”

Be spent five months in the refugee camp, where she worked as a clinic nurse and as a translator for the U.S. delegation. It was there that she also met her now husband, who found her in the crowd of new arrivals and arranged for her to have a place to sleep. While the camp provided safety, she knew there was more out there for her, and soon she was sponsored to work in the U.S. In August of 1980, Be arrived in Minnesota.

“I knew I wanted to work at Children’s Hospital,” Be said. “It was a place of comfort for me. I talked with the director of nursing, but because my nursing papers and transcripts were thrown overboard by pirates during my escape, I had no official paperwork. They hired me as a nursing assistant in the PICU, and I was so grateful.”

With the help of a Children’s scholarship, Be went back to school full time and got her associate’s degree in nursing from Minneapolis Community and Technical College. She was then hired as a registered nurse at Children’s and worked on 4 East (now the sixth floor), before eventually transferring to surgery.

Be is now the urology team leader in the surgery department and works with surgeons and staff to make sure they have the instruments and supplies needed for a variety of surgeries. She works to onboard new surgery nurses in urology and across other services, too.

“With every patient she works with, Be is calm, comforting and compassionate,” said Pat Buzzell, patient care manager for the surgery department. “She takes care of the whole family, reassures them and educates them so surgery isn’t a scary experience. She comes in on her days off to conduct patient family tours, and she often stays late to check in on patients. She does whatever it takes to make families comfortable, using her cheerful personality to calm their fears and put them at ease.”

Be still has a deep love for Vietnam and returns there on medical missions to provide care for children at the hospital where she used to work. She has recruited Children’s surgeons and staff to join her on these trips, where they provide education to medical teams and perform surgeries.

“Be gives everything to her patients, whether they are here or in Vietnam,” Pat said. “She works tirelessly to advocate for them, and she doesn’t give up. Because of the journey she has had and how hard she has worked to get here, Be refuses to settle for anything less than perfection. She believes in hard work and practice and has earned the respect of the surgeons, anesthesiologists and all staff on our unit. Be says it’s an honor to work with kids – I say it’s an honor to work with Be.”

Now almost 70 and pondering when to retire, Be gets emotional when she thinks about potentially leaving Children’s – her second home.

“I am so grateful to Children’s Hospital for all they have done for me,” she said. “Without them, I wouldn’t be here now. This country took me in, but this hospital gave me a second chance for my life. I love Children’s Hospital from the bottom of my heart.”

Biotechnology Program Named Finalist for Tekne Awards

Posted on: September 22nd, 2014 by marketingworkstudy No Comments

TekneBiotechSTORYThe Minnesota High Tech Association (MHTA) named Minneapolis Community and Technical College’s Biotechnology Program as one of 36 finalists for the 15th annual Tekne Awards, which will be held on Thursday, Nov. 13 at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

The program is a finalist in the workforce development award category, which honors innovative approaches to training workers in transition or youth with technology skills and successfully matching them to jobs that meet the needs of Minnesota companies. Other category finalists include Creating IT Futures Foundation (Downers, IL) and Genesis 10 (St. Paul).

“For 15 years, the MHTA has honored the technological innovators of Minnesota,” said Margaret Anderson Kelliher, president of MHTA. “We’re delighted to see such a fantastic display of technological advancements this year, and are proud to shine a light on our state’s outstanding science and technology industry.”

Finalists will gather to be recognized for their vast achievements in the state’s tech-based economy. The finalists span twelve categories recognizing the organizations, products and leaders driving technological innovation locally. The Tekne Awards honor those who have played a part in discovering new technologies impacting the lives and futures of people living in Minnesota and all over the world.

“MCTC’s biotechnology program is interdisciplinary, leading to multiple career paths and diverse higher education opportunities, serving biotech students and science majors. We are very grateful to MCTC and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities support for making this happen,” said Chemistry and Biotechnology faculty Rehka Ganaganur.

This nomination comes two years after the College announced a biotechnology partnership with the University of Minnesota and Ganganur recognizes how local academic and industry partners have come together to make Biotechnology a unique, award-worthy program.

“Minnesota’s scientific industry, and the universities of higher education including the University of Minnesota have made the program robust through extending a wide range of partnerships, transfer of courses, equipment, internships, jobs, scholarships and research opportunities,” said Ganaganur. “We also thank the LifeScience Alley, BioBusiness Alliance of Minnesota, Mayo Clinic, and national centers of bioscience such as the BioLink and Cold Spring Harbor Labs, for all the support and partnerships they have provided in many ways.”

Grant from Great Lakes Will Help Students Stay on Track

Posted on: August 5th, 2014 by insidemctc No Comments

MCTC campus lifeMinneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC) is one of four schools within Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) which have been awarded a total of $988,408 by the Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation as part of its flagship College Ready and College Success grants. The funds will be used to improve graduation rates for students who have the most to gain from higher education: those from low income households, students of color and students who are first in their families to attend college.

MCTC will use its $179,962 College Success Grant to launch an “early warning” navigator program to provide early and more individualized intervention for Pell-eligible, first-year students grappling with academic performance or attendance issues. Faculty and staff will work together to assess and address students’ needs in math, English and introductory business classes. The College received $179,962 to launch the program.

“Our state colleges and universities are a place of hope and opportunity for all Minnesotans,” said Steven Rosenstone, MnSCU chancellor. “We share Great Lakes’ commitment to increasing college completion among students facing the greatest challenges. The College Ready and College Success grants will make an enormous difference in our ability to help students succeed.”

“We are called to action by the mounting evidence that too many students enroll in college underprepared academically, and too many leave before earning the degree, diploma, or certificate they set out to earn,” said Richard D. George, president and chief executive officer of Great Lakes. “We fund programs that understand the root cause of what holds students back and take bold steps to overcome these obstacles.”

Through community investments, Great Lakes leads initiatives and funds programs to help students from traditionally underserved backgrounds start and complete a two- or four-year degree or other credential. Since 2006, Great Lakes has committed in excess of $100 million in funding to programs that share these goals. For additional information, visit community.mygreatlakes.org.

MCTC Photography Student and Vietnam Vet Restores War Photos

Posted on: August 4th, 2014 by insidemctc 2 Comments

Unboxed after 40 years, Vietnam images exhibited in Richfield

Published in the Richfield Sun-Current August 1, 2014 by Andrew Wig.

Photo of children by James Thompson

James R. Thompson’s lens often captured images of shy children peeking at him from behind objects, curious, but wary of the outsiders in their midst. At the same time, he also saw, as he put it, “kids pretty much acting like kids.” (Photo courtesy of James. R. Thompson and republished with permission of the author.)

The black-and-white photos from halfway around the world were supposed to be lost to history, stuck in a box who-knows-where.

Shot in 1971, they depicted the Vietnam War, but not the fighting. Instead: civilian faces young and old, jungle-mountain panoramas, soldiers idling or reading letters or posed next to seized weapons.

Returning home from his year in-country, James R. Thompson wasn’t anxious to get the images developed. He was finished with his duties as the official photographer for his battalion in the 101st Airborne Division, and had other priorities.

“When I got home in ‘71 I pretty much just threw all the stuff in a box with the medals and everything else and they just sat there,” said Thompson, a 67-year-old Minneapolis resident.

Four decades since coming home, he had moved four times and thought the pictures had been lost in the shuffle.

“Then one day I was looking for something else and of course, that’s when I found them,” Thompson explained.

The photos’ newest temporary home is Augsburg Park Library in Richfield, where they are exhibited through August.

Having been drafted, Thompson wasn’t itching for a firefight when he arrived in Vietnam in 1970. During his first six months in-country he was assigned to a recon unit, creeping around the jungle, locating the enemy so that larger forces could attack.

He saw little action during that time, since it was monsoon season and the enemy was mostly “hunkered down,” as he describes it. Then came the golden ticket out of the muck.

The official photographer for his battalion had returned home and Thompson, who was an art student back in Minnesota and stayed attached to his camera in Vietnam, seemed a natural successor when he inquired about the opportunity.

“I walked in there, I had a camera hanging on me,” Thompson recalled.

So for the last six months of his service, he was tasked with documenting the battalion’s activities. Chiefly, his colonel wanted photos for his scrapbook, Thompson remembers. Another duty was to photograph soldiers getting pinned with medals.

But Thompson was able to float around as well. He would tag along with medic teams on “goodwill” missions near his base in Phu Bai, in central Vietnam. The medics’ job was to treat ill children and distribute vaccinations.

Along with capturing the everyday life of the soldiers, these were the excursions that formed the hallmark of Thompson’s Vietnam collection.

“I don’t have a lot of blood and guts,” Thompson said.

Instead, he has photos of villagers’ stares and soldiers passing the time during quieter moments. This, Thompson notes, is what makes up most of wartime after all.

“As one guy told me – he said, ‘War is 95 percent boredom and 5 percent terror,’ and that’s what I was trying to show here, is all the things that go on that are not war, that are not conflict,” Thompson said.

Expanding exposure

It was a serendipitous sequence of events that led to the exposure of Thompson’s once-lost work. Around the same time he unboxed the photos he was in the middle of a career change.

Thompson spent 30 years freelancing out of the Twin Cities in the filmmaking business, shooting mostly commercials but also some major motion pictures as a first camera assistant, the person responsible for maintaining the equipment and also focusing the lens during shots.

But that work began to dry up after Sept. 11, 2001, he explains, and by 2008, he was out of the business. He then decided to turn an affliction from the war into an opportunity.

The Veterans Administration granted Thompson disability status due to exposure to “Agent Orange,” a defoliant the U.S. military used to root out the Viet Cong but which has since been found to cause health problems to those exposed.

The “Chapter 31” status Thompson gained from his exposure meant the government would pay for him to return to school. He was eight credits away from a master’s degree in filmmaking from the University of Minnesota but the window to finish that degree had lapsed, so Thompson enrolled in a two-year photography and digital imaging program at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, where he learned to restore a collection of forgotten negatives that badly needed some care.

“I think they were pretty banged up,” recalls Jack Mader, who chaired MCTC’s photography department at the time.

Several generations separated Thompson from most of his fellow students, but he found a kinship with Mader, who came from the same era.

“I was always glad to mentor him. I always had a bit of a soft spot for vets, especially Vietnam vets that got drafted,” said Mader, who is now semi-retired.

Working with Thompson, Mader added, “was another way for me to say ‘thank you’ without being overt about it.”

So with the images restored, Thompson displayed the work at his final portfolio show before graduating at MCTC.

Mader appreciates what he called the “day-to-day feel” of the photos.

“You get a chance to look at (the soldiers) as people rather than warriors,” he explained.

The photos work well in exhibition form, too, Mader believes.

“The photos hang so beautifully,” he said.

After Thompson’s studies at MCTC, the work gained exposure at the First Unitarian Society in downtown Minneapolis, where his friend, Herbie Sewell, chairs the church’s arts committee. Sewell and Thompson had gone to filmmaking school together, but had since lost touch. They had recently reconnected at a memorial tribute at the U of M for their professor, Alan Downs, when Sewell, who since studying film has made a career as a painter, saw Thompson’s collection.

“I realized he needed to have his first exhibit as soon as possible,” Sewell said.

As his first true show, Thompson had a six-week run at the First Unitarian Society’s gallery that consisted of his Vietnam work and more recent street-scene photos.

Emboldened, Thompson then brought his work back to the U of M last spring, for a show at the Regis Center for Art’s Quarter Gallery. That’s where the Richfield connection happened.

Richfield resident Phuoc Tran works part-time at Augsburg Park Library and full-time at the U of M’s Wilson Library. Tran, who immigrated to the U.S. from Vietnam in 1982, visited the exhibit and was impressed enough to leave an encouraging comment in the visitors’ log.

Thompson sent Tran an email to thank her for the kind words, and in return received an invitation to show his work at Augsburg Park Library.

“For me, it’s important for people to know,” Tran said.

Tran wants people to remember a conflict that she won’t forget. She was in her early 20s and living in Saigon during the city’s fall to the communists in 1975, and recalls the persecution that followed, when two of her brothers, officers for the former government, were imprisoned in a “re-education camp.”

In a country where veterans came home to jeers, Tran is instead thankful.

“They gave us freedom,” she said.

Tran is just the person Thompson was hoping to reach in exposing his work – “somebody from that community who would be interested in exhibiting this type of material,” he said.

There may be more demand for Thompson’s exhibitions with the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon coming in April 2015.

“I talk to a lot of people in my community,” Tran said, “and they want to see him.”

Thompson’s exhibit is on display through August at Augsburg Park Library, 7100 Nicollet Ave., Richfield. Following that, the library will display some of his more recent photos of street scenes.

Read the original story and see photographs from the exhibit here.

 

MCTC Students Receive Culinary Arts Grant

Posted on: July 29th, 2014 by marketingworkstudy No Comments
Group photo

The grant winners pose with Sue Zelickson.

Each year, a handful of women from the upper Midwest pursuing Culinary Arts degrees receive the Sue Zelickson Grant from the Women Who Really Cook organization. MCTC students Orian Lavi and Kelli Wirkkula were two of 12 students to receive $500 grants in May 2014.

Lavi is studying abroad from Israel. MCTC’s highly touted culinary programs made her choice of college simple.

“I always wanted to study abroad,” she said. “MCTC was the first school I checked.”

She’s double majoring in Restaurant Management and Culinary Arts and plans on working in a bakery that specializes in breads and pastries.