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MCTC English Instructor Shannon Gibney Receives McKnight Artist Fellowship

Posted on: March 27th, 2015 by insidemctc No Comments

English Instructor Shannon GibneyMCTC English Instructor Shannon Gibney is one of four local writers to receive the Loft Literary Center’s $25,000 award for their excellence in creative prose writing.

The McKnight Artist Fellowships for Writers are supported by the McKnight Foundation in Minneapolis. In order to qualify for the award, writers must have published a creative prose work or had their work published in literary magazines.

“I am so thankful to the Loft, the McKnight Foundation, and our amazing community here, which makes so much possible for us creatively,” said Gibney.

Gibney’s works have been featured in a variety of publications and anthologies including Parenting as Adoptees and The Black Imagination: The Science Fiction, Futurism, and the Speculative. This fall she is slated to publish a young adult novel, and she is currently working on a novel about African American colonization of Liberia in the 19th century.

“I hope to glean as much time and productivity as possible from the grant, and then pass on its fruits and make space for whoever’s next,” she said.

“It is an absolute joy and continual learning experience to work with a professional whose creative work directly intersects with her work as a MCTC faculty, colleague, and her work providing greater service to the communities that we serve here,” said MCTC English Instructor and Faculty Coordinator Taiyon Coleman.

Gibney is on sabbatical this year and will return to teaching in fall 2015.

Race to Save the Planet: A Unique Learning Community

Posted on: March 16th, 2015 by insidemctc No Comments
Race to Save the Planet!

MCTC Biology Instructor Cathy Geist brings her classroom to real life in Loring Park.

Collaboration is key to solving some of the world’s most challenging issues. Race to Save the Planet is a unique learning option offered by MCTC that gives students an opportunity to collaborate and deeply engage with their instructors—and each other—while learning about issues involving our environment and planet.

This interdisciplinary block of courses offered this fall is set up as an intentional learning community in which students meet three days a week for a block of time each day and earn eight credits across two disciplines: Biology and Political Science.

The lectures, assignments and activities are integrated by the instructors to give students a holistic look at the environment from a broad range of perspectives. The coursework includes public work projects where students apply what they learn in class to actions in their own community.

“I’ve never had a class where people were so willing to open up to each other,” said Kristin Lessard, a former student who took the classes. “Before enrolling in the course, I never had any serious environmental focus, but now I’m going to major in environmental science. It’s the best class I’ve ever had!”

Students will earn credits in Race to Save the Planet that satisfy four Goal Areas of the Minnesota Transfer Curriculum (Goal Areas 3,5,9,10), providing a pathway to graduation/transfer.

Charlotte Ariss: Marketing Real Life

Posted on: March 6th, 2015 by insidemctc No Comments

Charlotte Ariss, MCTC alumIn 1982, Charlotte Ariss enrolled at the University of Minnesota, and promptly started on a track she didn’t expect to take so quickly: real life.

“I became a single parent,” said Charlotte. “I had to drop out of my classes, retool and figure out what I was going to do.”

After her daughter was born, Charlotte applied for every scholarship and grant she could find, and started school at the college then known as Minneapolis Community College (MCC).

“What I liked about MCC is that there was so much diversity,” said Charlotte. “In one of my marketing classes, I sat next to someone in his 50s, and another single parent, and someone who spoke Arabic, and someone who was a janitor.”

Starting her studies in the Psychology department, Charlotte dabbled in classes like the psychology of colors and packaging. “I had no idea how packaging could be used to elicit consumer reactions, or that there was a science behind packaging,” she said. “All of a sudden a light bulb turned on. From there, I started to study the science behind marketing.”

Charlotte had nearly completed her degree when she was faced with a momentous decision: Take one final class for the last two credits she needed for a degree, or take a job offer that had just been made. “I was offered my dream job,” said Charlotte. “My favorite marketing teacher warned me not to leave, because I’d never come back.”

That advice haunted Charlotte for a long time. “I wish I had taken my instructor’s advice about finishing, but I couldn’t do it at the time,” she said. “I needed a job.” As a single parent, Charlotte dove head-first into her new job with Carmichael Lynch ad agency. “It’s possible I could have finished with a night class, but I felt like I had to focus.” And focus is what she did.

From the ad agency, Charlotte moved to other marketing adventures. She worked for advertising agencies Campbell Mithun, the Lacek Group and Rapp Collins, spent 14 years with Target, and most recently has moved on to location scouting.

“If you told me just a year ago that I’d be doing this, I would have laughed my head off,” said Charlotte, who recently finished filming a commercial for Timberland in downtown Minneapolis. “I’ve been working with Best Buy, Target, Medica, 3M, Polaris, Cenex, Ashland Midland and others. It’s intimidating at times, but I can pull this off thanks to the experience I’ve had.”

On a fall day 31 years after her first semester at MCC, Charlotte walked into the school now known as MCTC to drop her second daughter off for her first day of Post-Secondary Enrollment (PSEO). Hoping to thank her old marketing teacher, she found herself in the MCTC Marketing and Communications service department with a few stories to tell.

“I loved being here, and felt incredibly connected. Even though I left school with only a couple credits left, in a way I never really left.”

Click here to see one of Charlotte’s recent commercials aired nationally.

Deborah Montgomery: Civil Rights Activist and MCTC Faculty

Posted on: December 18th, 2014 by insidemctc No Comments
Deborah, MCTC faculty

Deborah with a copy of the May 9, 1976 Pioneer Press.

When Deborah received a call from the Saint Paul mayor in 1974, she was working as a city planner. The last thing she expected to do with her career was become a police officer.

Forty years later, she’s a retired officer with two masters’ degrees, four adult children, countless awards for her groundbreaking work, and she holds the distinct honor of having been the first female police officer on the Saint Paul police force. Now, she’s teaching the next generation of law enforcement officers at MCTC.

Even before joining the police force, Deborah’s career was impressive. She grew up during an era of civil rights activism and became the youngest person ever elected to the National Board of Directors of the NAACP at age 17—a position she held for six years. She participated in the 1963 March on Washington, D.C. with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and joined King again two years later in a 50-mile march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala. to advocate for voters’ rights.

In 1974 she was working as a city planner when the mayor of Saint Paul asked her to take part in the first citywide effort to hire African American officers for the police force. Saint Paul had 600 police officers, and only four were African American. She agreed, though intended to return to her job as a city planner after trying out the training academy. “I had a master’s degree and a steady job,” said Deborah. “This was a favor for a friend.”

In 1975, the police department used the Westpoint Physical Agility Test as the bar for its upcoming officers. “To this day, I’m the only woman who competed against men—with men’s standards—and passed.” There were no uniforms for women and no separate locker rooms. Because most of the men in the training academy were six feet tall, Deborah worked with trainers to learn modified takedown techniques. Some colleagues accused her of taking a job away from a white man, saying she only received the job because she’s a black woman. “This was an era of very active civil rights activism,” said Deborah. “At the end of the academy, I realized that if I didn’t take a job, I would be seen as giving up, and future women who wanted to become officers may not have this opportunity.” Shortly thereafter, Deborah became the first female officer on patrol in the Saint Paul Police Department.

Deborah held her unexpected career as a police officer for 28 years. During that time she raised four children and went back to school at St. Thomas University. She became one of the first two people at the university to graduate with a master’s degree in police administration and police community education. “At that point, I was encouraged to consider teaching.”

Deborah arrived at MCTC in 2007 after teaching for 10 years at Century College. Now, due to legislative changes and a retiring workforce, “the next decade is crucial for the training of new law enforcement officers,” she said. Her course addresses ethics, theory and service learning, and requires 30 hours of volunteering with a culture “different from the one you grew up in.”

“As police officers, we become social workers, psychologists and human resources,” she said. “If you’ve got familiarity with a second language, you’re going to excel at your ability to get a job. The ability to communicate is crucial. Cultural competence is crucial.”

Deborah teaches her students to build relations, deal with conflict and navigate remediation as well as how to write a resume and practice interviewing skills. “I’ve networked with MCTC’s resources to make sure students are successful,” she said. “Ninety-eight percent of what police do is public relations. People call when they don’t understand the system, and they don’t know who else to call.”

Deborah’s work continues both inside and outside the classroom. For decades she has inspired local youth to pursue law enforcement, including three of her children, and more recently, the first Somali woman on the Saint Paul police force who has done her own groundbreaking a generation after Deborah.

Deborah’s extensive accomplishments have not gone unnoticed.

Last year she was awarded the Heritage Award by the International Association of Women Police, and traveled to South Africa to accept the award. Most recently, she received a distinct honor from the Saint Paul City Council: anyone who drives down Marshall Ave. from Lexington to Western—in Saint Paul’s historic Rondo Neighborhood—will travel a route now known as Deborah Gilbreath Montgomery Ave.

Our Voices: Modou Jaw, World Citizen

Posted on: December 9th, 2014 by marketingworkstudy No Comments

ModouBlogBreaking Out of his Shell to Discuss Global Issues

MCTC Mathematics student Modou Jaw has made the most of his four years in the United States.

The Gambian-born student delivered a speech this fall at the Association of American Colleges and Universities Global Learning Conference in Minneapolis. In his speech, he explored the international student experience, and the struggles he and his peers face every day.

“Most people think international students come from wealthy families,” he said. “That’s not always true.”

Modou had been determined to attend college in the U.S. ever since he studied American politics during the 2008 presidential election.

He was drawn to Minnesota in particular, and relocated here in 2009. International students, however, are not eligible for federal financial aid. His first year in the U.S., Modou worked full-time and lived with a sponsor family while saving for his education. The cost of international student tuition was daunting, and kept Modou from pursuing a four-year school.

In 2012, a friend invited Modou to visit MCTC. He was instantly drawn to the College’s culture and atmosphere, and knew he wanted to make it his new home.

In his first semester at MCTC, Modou often sat at the back of his classes and kept to himself. American college culture felt radically different, and was afraid of others judging him.

“When you come to a new country, at first you don’t really feel like you’re a part of it,” he said.

With time, Modou mastered his classes—and his classmates noticed. He was approached for tutoring, and the personal interactions brought him out of his shell at last.

The growth went both ways. While interacting with his classmates in one-on-one settings, Modou was able to address misconceptions and stereotypes his classmates had about African culture.

“People think we live in huts,” he said. “The room I lived in back home was actually bigger than the one I live in now.”

As he grew more comfortable interacting in the classroom, his reputation as a knowledgeable classmate with global experience spread. One of his instructors invited him to share his outlook and experiences at the annual Association of American Colleges and Universities Conference on behalf of MCTC.

“He was the only speaker at the conference representing a community college,” said MCTC Global Studies Instructor Ranae Hanson. “He was brave, and talked about subjects that nobody else would.”

Modou’s bravery and willingness to discuss global issues also won him the Walter M. Welter World Citizen Scholarship Award, a scholarship recognizing students who exhibit qualities of a global citizen.

“This scholarship is more meaningful than others because it recognizes those who see problems in the world and want to see them solved,” Modou said.

Modou has covered much ground in his relatively short time at MCTC—in addition to mastering his classes, he’s grown more comfortable with himself. “I feel more comfortable talking about real global issues, and feel like I have the courage to have more discussions in class,” said Modou. After this school year, he hopes to transfer to the University of Minnesota or University of St. Thomas to study engineering.

“I’ve always challenged myself and put myself in difficult situations,” he said. “I believe that is the best way to learn.”