The MCTC News Blog

Whitney Harris, Embracing L’esperance

Posted on: December 31st, 2013 by insidemctc No Comments

Embracing “L’esperance”—Tomorrow is Going to be Great

Whitney Harris-MCTCInspired by the remarkable collection of students, faculty and staff at MCTC, Whitney Harris, executive director of diversity, has a strong sense of respect for the power of education present within the walls of the College. Whitney joined MCTC during the summer of 2013 to engage students, faculty and staff in enhancing their professional development and training. He is also spearheading an equity task force to develop and implement planning to support student success and increase educational equity. To back the initiatives, he is engaging people both at MCTC and within the broader community.

“Hearing students articulate where they are going and how they are moving to the next level is exciting,” said Whitney. “Each individual comes to the College with their own personal experience, and the stories they share are amazing and diverse.”

Whitney’s own story runs deep. As the son of civil rights activists in Louisiana, Whitney developed an interest in diversity early on and was exposed to an array of topics including ability, race and gender. At school and in his community, Whitney advocated on behalf of his sister with disabilities. He also participated in civil rights marches and demonstrations alongside family members to encourage awareness for important issues, and he watched his mother tirelessly advocate for civil and women’s rights.

Whitney is extremely connected to his family, and often recalls a blessed relationship with his great-grandmother who was six years old when the U.S. outlawed slavery. He vividly recalls conversations with her in which she shared memories of her own mother feeding neighborhood children—many of whom had scars from abuse. “When my great-grandmother was a child, she didn’t realize her friends were slaves, nor did she realize the magnitude of their experience,” said Whitney. “What she remembered was the care her family—especially her mother—took with them to help meet their basic needs.”

It is the same care Whitney brings to his work at MCTC. “It has been important for me to recognize there are no magical formulas for human issues,” said Whitney. “Regardless of how we feel about another person’s beliefs, it is important to recognize it is real for them.” Whitney believes we need to experience controversial issues from a sense of justice that is accomplished when we live and work in a just manner. “I can use my own response to make a difference for others,” said Whitney. “This can be humbling, yet gives me an opportunity to learn from others and enjoy each moment.”

Whitney has experience across academic disciplines including special education, psychology, theology, sociology and philosophy. He is active in his community and stays involved with many organizations including the American Men’s Studies Association, Southern Poverty and Law Center, African American Leadership Forum and OutFront Minnesota. He also volunteers with individuals experiencing homelessness through his church.

Across his work and his involvement, Whitney embraces “l’esperance,” a French word meaning “the expectancy.”

“It means that tomorrow is going to be great.”

Todd Carlton named Coordinator of the African American Education Empowerment Program

Posted on: September 5th, 2013 by insidemctc No Comments

Todd Carlton has been selected to serve as the Operational Coordinator for the African American Education Empowerment (AME) program. Todd has worked for the last two years as a volunteer with AME, and eventually became co-chair of the Advisory Committee. During this time he has been active in program development, event planning, advising and mentoring. “It is truly an honor to have worked with the faculty and staff, especially the previous Coordinator Dr. Jesse Mason, and with the students involved with AME over the past two years,” said Todd. “I look forward to learning and growing with my brothers and sisters as we work toward their educational success.”  Todd has worked at MCTC in the Admissions department for four years and has served on the Inclusion, Access and Success subcommittee of the Minnesota Association for College Admission Counseling (MACAC). Todd is from Minneapolis and has a BA in anthropology.

The AME program has developed over the last two years to provide positive solutions to specific needs of students of color and to provide intentionally structured opportunities that support their educational success to African American and other diverse Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC) students. Open to all, AME is comprised of four groups: the Student African American Brotherhood/Brother2Brother (SAAB/B2B), the Student African American Sisterhood (SAAS/S2S), the Student Transition and Education Program (STEP), and the African American Parity (AMP) program.

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.