The MCTC News Blog

MnSCU Honors MCTC Faculty with Awards of Excellence

Posted on: April 22nd, 2013 by insidemctc No Comments

The highest honor earned by faculty members in the MnSCU system is The Board of Trustees Award for Excellence in Teaching, given by the Office of the Chancellor. Minneapolis Community and Technical College’s Marcella Jones and John Plomondon have been honored with the award this year, which recognizes achievements above and beyond the call of duty and addresses important outcomes connected to student learning.

“MCTC prides itself on academic excellence and its faculty leads the way in making this possible,” said Phil Davis, president of MCTC. “A common theme between Marcella and John is their immeasurable commitment to supporting their students and recognizing each person’s ability to be successful.”


Marcella Jones, mathematics instructor at Minneapolis Community and Technical College.

Marcella Jones: Nurturing the Individual

“None of us possess the capacity to see what another person is capable of or has inside of them,” said Marcella, who aims to nurture each of her students and bring out talents that are sometimes unseen.

“My students are the flowers in the garden of my life. As a gardener, I nourish and cherish the flowers,” said Marcella, sharing her teaching philosophy. “I have a bountiful harvest when each and every student has gained the mathematical self-confidence to successfully climb over any mathematical fence which lies between them and the achievement of their academic and career goals.”

Marcella began her college career at the University of Kansas. Prior to completing her bachelor’s degree, she took 11 years off to spend time with her children. She returned to college at MCTC (then called MCC) which set the course for her career. “The outstanding instruction I received prepared me so well for my subsequent classes at the University of Minnesota, I was ahead of the curve,” said Marcella.

When Marcella began teaching at MCTC in 1994, many of the instructors who had provided her wisdom when she was a student were now her valued peers. “Together, we nourish our students so they can advance in their education,” said Marcella.


John Plomondon, American Studies instructor at Minneapolis Community and Technical College.

John Plomondon: Electrifying the Classroom

Walk into one of John Plomondon’s American Studies classrooms at MCTC and you’ll feel the electricity. “I am always energized by classroom conversations at MCTC because they take many different forms,” said John. “The energy is fed by the students’ thirst for knowledge and the diverse mix of ages, races and cultures represented on campus.”

John began as a guest lecturer at MCTC in the mid-1980s and joined the faculty full-time in 1987. His face lights up when he talks about his students and his constant goal to make the classroom a safe and respectful space for everyone. “When students discover they have an important voice and learn how to communicate effectively using that voice, they realize they can share their knowledge with their own community and make a difference in society,” said John.

Long after John began teaching, he discovered he had a great grandfather, also a teacher, named Plato Ross. “I hope he would have approved of my using the Socratic method of teaching which asks questions to facilitate thinking, ideas and dialogue to inspire new ideas,” said John.  No doubt he would have won his great grandfather’s admiration as an instructor who helps students understand that what they learn in the classroom has meaning in their own lives.

Read this story and more in MCTC’s Spring 2013 edition of The Groove!

A welding instructor with a liberal arts background

Posted on: April 10th, 2013 by insidemctc No Comments
Todd Bridigum, MCTC instructor

MCTC welding instructor Todd Bridigum inspects the work of a student

What sort of academic background would you expect of a welding instructor who also teaches machine tool technology and HVAC-R, and dabbles in the art of printmaking?

Todd Bridigum has a bachelor’s degree in English.

Todd fell in love with visual arts and sculpture while he was studying for his bachelor’s degree. After completing his degree he went back to school for welding and metal fabrication. He worked in a manufacturing company for several years before joining Minneapolis Community and Technical College as a welding instructor and faculty coordinator. He also has his own studio space where he continues his studies in printmaking, drawing and metal sculpture.

Todd’s liberal arts background has come in handy—he was given an offer to write a book on welding. Since its publication, his book How to Weld has received international demand.

Read more about Todd here.

Exploring MCTC’s welding and metal fabrication program with Todd Bridigum

Posted on: September 20th, 2012 by insidemctc No Comments
Todd Bridigum assists student Lizzy Hallas

Todd Bridigum assists student Lizzy Hallas

Talk to anyone in the welding field and they’ll inevitably tell you two things: first, the work itself is a unique mix of art and trade, and second, there are myriad job opportunities on the horizon.

MCTC Welding and Metal Fabrication Instructor Todd Bridigum won’t argue with either statement. After learning welding at Saint Paul College, Bridigum worked in the field for several years before joining MCTC in 2002. We asked him for his thoughts on MCTC’s program, career prospects for welders and how welding fits into the modern-day U.S. manufacturing resurgence.

How did you get into welding? 

I earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Hamline University. While studying, I fell in love with visual arts and wanted to further develop my skills. Going into welding was a natural choice. I earned a welding and metal fabrication diploma and worked for several Twin Cities-area companies, building everything from spiral staircases to hospital equipment to industrial ovens. I also have a studio space where I’m able to continue my studies in prints, drawings and metal sculpture.

What do you teach at MCTC?

I’m an instructor for all of the day courses within MCTC’s welding and metal fabrication program, along with welding courses within the machine tool technology and HVAC-R programs. I also enjoy team teaching a direct metals course in MCTC’s visual arts program.

Are you seeing an increased demand for welding?

Yes. We’re seeing a revival in the U.S. and manufacturing, and welding touches all areas of the manufacturing process. There’s a significant gap in the welding field because many of today’s welders are in their mid-50s and will be retiring soon. As a result, there will be more career opportunities in the years ahead.

Welders are also needed outside of the manufacturing sector. Consider Xcel Energy. It’s an energy company, but you could also consider it a welding company because it employs hundreds of welders around the country to maintain its plants.

How has MCTC responded to the demand for welders? 

We recently added an evening welding program and we’re looking at expanding the day program to keep up with demand. Welding training will continue to grow at MCTC.

Why is the program so popular? 

Students gain tangible skills with a short investment of time.The program provides a strong foundation so students can go directly into the field or continue their studies in an engineering program at a four-year university.

All of that aside, welding is challenging. You can compare welding to learning to play the piano because it takes lots of practice to do it well. Once you master welding, however, you’ll have a marketable skill and will have a strong career now and into the future.

MCTC’s Lynn Bollman’s “Survival Blanket” Featured in National Juried Print Exhibition

Posted on: March 14th, 2012 by insidemctc No Comments

MCTC Art Faculty Lynn Bollman has been honored in the selection of his “Survival Blanket” print to be featured at Stand Out Prints, Highpoint Center for Printmaking’s first national juried print exhibition.Lynn Bollman Survival Blanket Print

The exhibit features 57 select impressions in contemporary printmaking from 26 states. Jurors selected the winning pieces from a total of 800 entries from 42 states.

See Lynn’s “Survival Blanket” piece, along with other creative prints at the exhibit (located at Highpoint Center for Printmaking) February 24 – April 14.

Visit the Highpoint Center for Printmaking website

Dr. Gail O’Kane Named Associate Vice President of Strategy, Planning and Accountability

Posted on: March 7th, 2012 by insidemctc No Comments

Dr. Gail O'KaneMinneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC) announces the appointment of Dr. Gail O’Kane as associate vice president of strategy, planning and accountability, a position in which she has been serving on an interim basis since March 2011. Her appointment is effective immediately.

During the past year, O’Kane led the development of the College’s strategic action plan that will guide the organization through 2013. She also undertook several key research projects that provided important data to guide the College’s future. In addition, she coordinated the College’s quality improvement and accreditation activities through the Higher Learning Commission’s Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP).

As associate vice president of strategy, planning and accountability, O’Kane will oversee aggressive goals to double the college’s graduation rate by 2015 and improve the graduation rates of students of color, particularly African-American males. She will continue to use data reports to improve outcomes at the College; support a number of technology-intensive projects, including a data warehouse, early warning system and graduation planner for students; and lead ongoing process-improvement and continuous-improvement efforts at the College.

“I am very pleased that Gail has accepted an offer to stay at MCTC to lead us through the completion of our strategic goals,” said MCTC President Phil Davis. “Her experience at MCTC and her prior experience as a statewide leader in the MnSCU system gives her a broad perspective from which to continue to provide vision, leadership and strategic direction for the College.”

Prior to joining MCTC, O’Kane served as system director for education-industry partnerships for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, where she worked since 2005. She holds a doctorate in neuroscience from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Boston College.

“I am grateful to have a chance to work with colleagues and at a college so committed to student success,” said O’Kane. “I am excited to be able to continue to support the college’s ongoing efforts to identify and enact strategies that will help students achieve their educational goals.”