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International Student Leaves Career of 15 Years to Continue Her Education

Posted on: May 29th, 2014 by insidemctc No Comments

Shirleng, international studentWhen Shirleng Tan finished high school, college was not an option for her.

“My family’s financial situation wouldn’t allow me to go to school, so I went to work,” she said. And work she did. Shirleng spent 10 years at the same firm in Malaysia—a Japanese firm—and later took a job with a Swedish company.

“I learned that English is an international language,” said Shirleng, who explained she may use three languages in the same sentence when having a conversation in Malaysia. “English is a career path. I quit my job and came to the U.S. for this reason. Many people questioned my decision, but English is important, and the educational system in the U.S. is very good. If I ever go back to Malaysia, I’ll have an advantage over other candidates.”

When Shirleng arrived in Minnesota on a hot July day in 2012, her sister—a resident of Minneapolis—picked her up at the airport and drove her around the city’s lakes to keep the jet lag at bay. “When I first told my sister I wanted to go to school, she immediately suggested MCTC,” said Shirleng. “She took the time to bring me to MCTC for a visit, and the first person I met was one of the advisors. He helped me fill out my application.”

At MCTC, Shirleng took advantage of student resources in order to get the most out of her education. “Part of why I stayed at my first job for 10 years was because I was afraid of the interview process.” She sought out the MCTC Career Services office, and later competed against other students for a Career Ready Scholarship. “It was a great experience,” said Shirleng. “Career Services really helps students understand what they need to do in order to be part of the workforce of the future. After the scholarship competition ended, I had the courage to apply for work-study positions.” Shirleng’s hard work paid off: She received two calls about work-study positions within 10 minutes. “I took a position in the Business Services office because they were the first to call me back. I was so happy. I hadn’t been without a job since high school.”

Shirleng works diligently at her studies—especially English. “In order to receive my visa to come to Minnesota, I had to take an English proficiency exam,” she said. “I studied for a long time, traveling an hour after a full day at work in order to study with a tutor for four hours. I would get home at midnight, and then do it again the next day.” Since coming to MCTC, Shirleng has taken advantage of opportunities at the College: English as a Second or Other Language classes and tutors in the Learning Center offer assistance to international students. “My English still not perfect, but I’ve improved a lot—especially in my writing,” she said. “At the start, I went to the Learning Center every day. Now I’m only there two or three days a week.”

“Education is important in all industries. Even with my 15 years’ experience, I don’t have a degree, so my options are limited.” It took courage for Shirleng to leave her career and move to another country for schooling. “I went from financial freedom to the financial life of a student,” she said. “People in my culture think I’m too old to go to school, and many of my family and friends objected to my decision. When I look back now, I know I made the right decision.” Shirleng plans to finish her associate degree and transfer to the University of Minnesota or Metropolitan State University.

“MCTC is very good to international students. I pay the same tuition as Minnesota residents, and if my grades are good enough, I have access to scholarships. It’s just one more opportunity for me.”

Michael Rosenberg Gets Involved, Receives Two Degrees

Posted on: May 13th, 2014 by insidemctc No Comments

Michael Rosenberg, graduating MCTC studentCreative, Committed, Confident—Michael Inspires and Succeeds

Michael Rosenberg is accomplishing a unique feat: He will graduate from two colleges with two degrees in the same year.

Originally from Memphis, Michael lived a lifetime even before deciding to pursue his education: As a child, he heard Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. deliver his last public speech prior to being assassinated. As an adult, Michael spent three years as an Americorps VISTA, worked with AVID students to tutor fourth graders and served in the U.S. military. In 2006, he decided it was time for a change.

Having visited family members in Minnesota, it seemed like a natural place to start the next chapter of his life. “I was so committed to making the move, I didn’t even have a place to live at first. For the first three weeks after I moved to Minnesota, I slept in my car at a rest stop. However, I was determined to make it work.”

When he found housing in downtown Minneapolis, a neighbor suggested MCTC for its convenient location down the block. Michael looked into the Nursing program and decided to take the leap. “I hadn’t been to school in 35 years, and I had no idea if I would be accepted by the younger students on campus,” said Michael.

While completing the requirements he needed to become a certified nursing assistant, he also took care of his general education courses and got involved in student life. He joined Veterans Upward Bound, became the founding president of the MCTC Student Veterans of America club (SVA) and later, while attending the regional SVA conference, was named State Director of SVA. Michael also worked with MCTC faculty to bring renowned Dr. Tyrone Bledsoe, founder of the national chapter of Student African American Brotherhood (SAAB) to campus, which inspired Michael to work with others to found MCTC’s own SAAB chapter. “When we formed SAAB, there was a critical need to look at the challenges facing African American men and men of color in higher education,” said Michael.

Michael excelled in his classes in addition to remaining thoroughly involved in student clubs and groups, but a period of tragedy set him back: his family experienced four deaths within a short period of time, and Michael temporarily relocated to his home city of Memphis to settle matters. “I needed to be by my family,” said Michael. “We needed to be strong. My family always said if anyone was going to succeed, it would be me.” Michael remained in Memphis for several months, though continued his studies at a local community college.

When he returned to Minneapolis, Michael picked up his studies at Metropolitan State University, aiming for his four-year degree. He completed four semesters with near-perfect grades, landing on the Dean’s List each semester. Graduation was in sight, but one hurdle held him back.

“I had great grades, an internship at Project for Pride in Living doing exactly what I want to do and all I needed was one last math course,” said Michael. “Math is not my strong point.”

He came back to MCTC because the College offers a satisfactory Logic course. “From the very beginning my instructor, Dr. Lisa Bergin, told everyone in the class ‘you can get to this.’ It has been tough. I kept thinking I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t get to it.”

Michael’s Logic instructor worked with him to find his path to success. “It’s been a long haul this semester, but my instructor worked with me the whole way. Now my last final is coming up, and my instructor told me she hopes she gets to meet my family at the graduation ceremony.”

Michael will be attending two graduation ceremonies this year—he will receive his associate of arts (A.A.) degree at MCTC’s graduation ceremony in May 2014, and his bachelor’s degree at the Metro State ceremony in December.

“These two degrees showed me I could do anything,” said Michael. “I found I could communicate with my 18-year old classmates. I learned I can bounce back, because not everything’s going to be hunky-dory. I learned to stay involved. If it wasn’t for being involved in SVA and SAAB, I probably would have fallen off and given up. But instead, I developed a sense of pride.”

“I’m getting two degrees in one year. Who does that? People ask me how I found the time to do everything I did. I made time, and it’s paying off. MCTC makes it easy for you to be a part of their family.”

Michael would like to thank MCTC Logic instructor Dr. Lisa Bergin, Sociology instructor Dr. Catherine Miller, Dean of Arts and Humanities Derrick Lindstrom and Veterans Upward Bound Director Joy Wise. “Without these remarkable instructors and mentors keeping me focused I would be just another statistic.”

The Empowering Potential of Tutoring: Vince’s Story

Posted on: April 22nd, 2014 by insidemctc No Comments

Vince Collura, MCTC tutor“I came to Minneapolis on a whim. At that time, I was cynical about the value of school and careers.”

Not every college success story starts out like Vince Collura’s. Then again, not every student has the same educational transition Vince did.

Vince left high school before graduation, hopped a train in Milwaukee and wound up in Minneapolis in 2008. “I wanted to live in community with my friends, to see live music and to be a part of that music community,” said Vince. But life as a musician isn’t an easy—or consistent—one, as he learned. “I was working part-time at jobs I didn’t care about. Paying the bills to fund my bohemian lifestyle became monotonous. I started at MCTC in 2010 with the goal of being a high school English teacher.”

Shortly after coming to MCTC, Vince got involved with the Learning Center, and eventually became a tutor. “When I started, I was skeptical about the institution of education, and pessimistic that careers or school in general could give someone a satisfying life. However, many of my critiques about education and the way I was educated were resolved by working at the Learning Center,” said Vince. “I’ve found the pedagogy of tutoring to be very student-oriented. Trust is important, and seeking tutoring is always voluntary.”

Vince engages students in Socratic dialogue at the Learning Center, and works with them to gauge how they learn. “I work with students who may not speak English as their first language and are working with grammar and idioms, and I also work with math and science wizards who struggle to see the forest through the trees.” Regardless of the struggles a student may be having, the process of learning and collaborating proved to be an enlightening experience for Vince. “I’m driven by the knowledge that critical, creative thinking can be taught, and these are skills that can be learned and transferred.”

What does the future hold for a once-cynical tutor? “My peers at the Learning Center kept iterating that I was going to graduate school,” said Vince. “That was the first time I really considered it. Now I’ve decided I want to teach college.” Vince plans to transfer to the University of Minnesota next year and develop his own course of study that will lead him to his goals. “It’s a little overwhelming to look ahead to a bachelor’s degree and Ph.D while still working on an associate degree, but I’m trying to take it a little at a time.”

Vince is taking a hiatus from his previous life as a musician, but he doesn’t see this shift as an absence in his life. “Right now I’m focusing on putting my creative energy toward knowledge production,” he said. “I’m not writing music so much anymore; I’m writing words instead. When you learn to interrogate your society with the motive of improving it, you inherently create a better world.”

Our Voices: Dominic Hartjes—A Second Career in Half the Time

Posted on: March 14th, 2014 by insidemctc No Comments

Dominic Hartjes, ITEC student.When Dominic quit his first job out of college and moved to Minneapolis with his wife and two-year-old daughter, he knew he’d need some new job skills fast.

“When our household went from a dual income to a single income and simultaneously moved to a city with a higher cost of living, I knew I needed to get in and out of school as quickly as possible,” said Dominic. Having left the world of high school band instruction, his goal was to finish a two-year Information Technology (ITEC) degree in Software Development in just one year and land a job in Minneapolis. So far, so good—with the help of his academic counselor, his MCTC instructors and a scholarship for students pursuing STEM fields, Dominic has custom-designed his path through the ITEC program so he can finish it in half the expected time.

“When I decided to make the switch from being a high school band instructor to working in software development, I looked at my past educational credits and realized I might be able to get my degree in one year,” said Dominic. “In the midst of my career switch and our move to a more expensive area, I couldn’t afford other local schools. MCTC worked for me because of its extremely convenient location, and because of its price tag.”

Dominic took advantage of how close MCTC is to his new home, and found another odd comfort within his degree program. “When I started the ITEC program I was surprised at first. Not only does the program have many students who are switching careers, but several of them are also switching from a music career to a tech career.”

“There’s definitely a connection between music and technology.”

When he first considered making the switch, Dominic took a long, hard look at his career choices.

“In my experience, people who come out of the workforce to make a career switch already have a strong work ethic.” He used the opportunity to evaluate what career would accentuate his personality strengths and better leverage his skills. “I’m opening the door as wide as possible with this new academic track. I’m hoping to work for the fun of it and happen to get paid.”

“By this time next year, I hope to be biking to work in downtown Minneapolis.”

Dominic’s days of teaching aren’t completely over. “Although I’m not teaching high school band anymore, I teach music to kids in Sunday school.”

Jamal Adam, MCTC Counselor, Instructor and Phi Theta Kappa Advisor, Named 2014 Bush Fellow

Posted on: March 6th, 2014 by insidemctc No Comments

Jamal Adam, MCTC counselor and advisorMinneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC) is pleased to announce that Jamal Adam, MCTC counselor, instructor and Phi Theta Kappa faculty advisor, was awarded a 2014 Bush Fellowship by the Bush Foundation. He is one of 24 exceptional leaders from across Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and 23 Native nations to be honored.

Adam is pursuing a doctorate in educational administration and policy and educational psychology at the University of Minnesota. He plans to use the fellowship to research ways that colleges and universities can better serve and engage immigrant and refugee students in a way that improves their prospects for academic success.

“By helping me attain my educational goal, the Bush Fellowship will bring me closer to my dream of playing a leadership role in the efforts to ensure all those who call this region home have an opportunity to access and complete higher education that will make them informed participants of the democratic process and vital contributors to the economic well-being of the region,” wrote Adam in his application.

Originally a refugee from Somalia, Adam has lived in Minneapolis for the past 16 years and has been employed at MCTC for the past 12 years. He started his educational career at MCTC, earning an associate degree in Liberal Arts. In addition, he has bachelor’s degree in Social Science and Psychology and a master’s degree in Counseling Psychology. Adam was a 2009 National Endowment for Humanities Fellow in the “American Immigration Revisited” teaching seminar sponsored by the National History Center; a 2011-2012 Humphrey Policy Fellow at Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota; a Phi Theta Kappa Faculty Scholar; a 2012 British American Project Fellow and 2012-2013 University of Minnesota DOVE Fellow. Adam serves on the boards of several nonprofit organizations.

Recently, MCTC Political Science instructor Lena Jones was awarded a Bush Fellowship. MCTC takes pride in its extraordinarily talented, experienced and knowledgeable employees.