The MCTC News Blog

Minnesota Legislation Funds Nursing Support

Posted on: June 25th, 2015 by marketingworkstudy No Comments

Rep. Karen Clark and David Zander

Following the conclusion of the 2015 Minnesota state legislative session, Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC) was honored to celebrate the passage of a higher education bill awarding $70,000 to MCTC, Century College and two yet-to-be-determined MnSCU colleges for the implementation of the Kathleen McCullough Zander Success in Nursing Program.

Kathleen (Kathy) McCullough Zander, late MCTC Nursing instructor, developed a 16-unit curriculum to mentor and tutor foreign-born Nursing students. The legislative funding follows the recent announcement of a strengthened Nursing articulation agreement with Augsburg College, as well as a recent remodel and launch of expanded, state-of-the-art Nursing classroom space.

“I am a nurse and a survivor of cancer myself,” said Minnesota Rep. Karen Clark, who helped author and advocate for the legislation. “This legislation was an act of love, and will leave an incredible legacy.”

Friends and family of Kathy and her husband David, as well as many MCTC Nursing faculty, gathered to celebrate the gift on June 24, Kathy’s birthday.

“This legislation is very timely,” said MCTC Interim President Avelino Mills-Novoa. “At our Nursing pinning ceremony this spring, we determined that 60 percent of the graduating class was foreign-born. The very program that you worked so hard for is one that has been deeply impactful for the MCTC community.”

Kathy is survived by her husband David Zander, who advocated most passionately for the passage of the legislation. “For me this is just a small first step in what needs to be done,” he said.

Our Voices: Thulani Jwacu, Advising for Success

Posted on: May 27th, 2015 by marketingworkstudy No Comments

Thulani-storySeeing Students Through to Success

“It’s not enough to give students access to college,” said Thulani Jwacu, Power of YOU advisor at Minneapolis Community and Technical College. “We want to see them graduate, and that takes a lot of support and individual attention.”

When Thulani started working at the MCTC Library in 2005, he was a fresh graduate from Metro State University, and received a crash course in offering student support. “I saw first-hand what an MCTC student’s academic experience is like,” he said. He found himself tutoring, orienting students to technology and mentoring work study students. “I had an opportunity to work with students to go beyond what they were learning in the classroom.”

The experience was inspiring. “I became interested in how we teach students to succeed outside the classroom. It’s more than just being present; students need help developing broader skills.”

Thulani has taken those lessons and experiences with him. Last year he transitioned into his current role as a Power of YOU advisor, and works one-on-one with recent high school graduates who are the first in their families to go to college. “What attracted me to Power of YOU is the curriculum,” he said. “It’s intended to help students become scholars—to turn them from high school students to successful scholars who transition from MCTC to a four-year college or a job.”

The Power of YOU curriculum is dependent on passion like Thulani’s. The program—almost 10 years old and one of the first in the state of Minnesota—offers free tuition to qualifying students and centers on academic support as a key to student success. Students meet one-on-one with advisors to plan their courses, make sure they meet deadlines and maintain a manageable workload. “The support makes it possible for a lot of high school students, who wouldn’t have previously thought of attending college, to become success stories,” said Thulani. “We’re giving access and support to many students in our immediate community.”

The Power of YOU enrolled around 250 students in the 2014–2015 school year, and the program continues to grow. “We’re focused on building relationships with students,” said Thulani. “Knowing that they have someone in their corner to guide them through the intricacies of being a college student is of great comfort.”

Published May 2015

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.

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.

A Leader in Her Field, Tiffni Went Back for Her Bachelor’s Degree

Posted on: December 1st, 2014 by insidemctc No Comments

Tiffni Deeb, MCTC deputy CIOA Rocky Start

When Tiffni Deeb started college at age 18, her heart wasn’t in it. After two weeks, she dropped out of St. Cloud State University, and at age 19 her first child was born.

But Tiffni has never lacked for energy. Her first job was as a clerk typist. “I didn’t know how to type,” Tiffni explained, laughing. She started by pecking at the keyboard, and eventually her typing improved. Tiffni asked her supervisor if she could use the computer in the corner. “My supervisor responded by saying ‘Sure, but to be honest, we don’t know what that thing does.’”

Moving Up

Her enthusiasm fueled her career. “I was a pest. I offered to do all sorts of little projects, and when I finished my coworkers had to scramble to give me a new task,” she said. Eventually she was given the opportunity to attend a five-day networking training, and from there her career bloomed.

As computers evolved and the internet made its entry into homes, Tiffni moved into web development, working first at Century College as a web developer and webmaster and later at the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system office in Downtown St. Paul. There, she did project and portfolio management with vice chancellors and chief information officers (CIOs) at the 31 MnSCU colleges and universities.

“There are so many people along the way who have inspired and supported me,” said Tiffni. “I am where I am due to that amazing support.”

In 2012 Tiffni came to Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC) as the director of technical services. One year later the CIO fell ill, and—true to her style—she stepped forward to tackle a new project.

“Of the 31 colleges and universities in MnSCU, I was one of only a handful of female CIOs,” said Tiffni. “It can be hard to be the only woman in a room full of men. Everyone is supportive in their own ways, but when you feel like the minority in the room, you feel pressure to perform.”

Removing the Last Barrier

Tiffni had been feeling that pressure for some time. “More than 10 years ago I wondered whether becoming a CIO was a step I would ever be able to take,” she said. “I doubted myself. I was a woman without a degree—was I capable of it? Was I smart enough?”

Doubt couldn’t keep her from pursuing success. “I decided I didn’t want a door standing in my way,” she said. “If lacking a degree was my barrier, I was going to remove that barrier. I didn’t want to hear a single excuse from hiring managers.”

Tiffni took her first online class in 2001. She received her associate degree from Minnesota West Community and Technical College and later transferred to Metro State. “My education has helped me tremendously, especially with leadership skills,” she said. Her capstone class was full of non-traditional students like herself. “I learned that you can have a full career and work toward a degree at the same time. The people in my classes helped me see what I have and what I don’t have, and gave me context.”


During her year as MCTC’s acting CIO, Tiffni had her work cut out for her. She oversaw the implementation of several new technology platforms which required converting credentials for every student and employee at the College—approximately 15,000 people. “When I think too much about hurdles, it can get overwhelming,” she said. “But I’ve learned that in order to make effective decisions, you have to be patient, and you have to listen. We were patient, we researched before we acted and our projects were successful.”

Last year—while in her role as the College’s acting CIO—Tiffni finished her bachelor’s degree at Metro State. “At first I didn’t want to attend the graduation ceremony and walk across the stage, but my family had been supporting me throughout it all and convinced me to go,” she said.

“I became both an acting CIO and a grandmother before I received my bachelor’s degree,” she said.
Tiffni’s interim role as acting CIO has since ended, and she has assumed the position of deputy CIO at MCTC. Her enthusiasm and dedication have built the foundation of her life journeys, and her achievements stand as shining examples of motivation and leadership. “I couldn’t have done what I’ve done without the support of so many amazing people,” she said. “When the barriers seem overwhelming, I remind myself that 80 percent is better than zero percent. The key for us all is to be patient, and tell ourselves what we will do—rather than what we won’t do.”