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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.”

MCTC Joins Community Organizations Training Workers to Build New Vikings Stadium

Posted on: December 20th, 2013 by insidemctc No Comments

MCTC customized training.Minneapolis Community and Technical College joins Saint Paul College and dozens of community organizations to identify, organize and train a Vikings stadium construction workforce that reflects the diversity of the state of Minnesota.

MCTC joins a coalition of community partners serving as an Employee Assistance Firm to the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority. The MSFA has committed to turning this major construction project into “the people’s stadium.” According to a recent article in MinnPost, this partnership and the coalition of partners supporting the project will not only assist the MSFA in meeting its goals of achieving a workforce comprised of at least 32 percent minorities and 6 percent women, but will also put a system in place to meet the workforce needs for future construction projects in Minnesota.

MCTC’s division of Workforce Development, Continuing Education and Customized Training offers customized training services to businesses and organizations like Caribou Coffee, Cargill, Pizza Luce, Target, US Bank, Wells Fargo and more.

MCTC’s AME Wins MnSCU Diversity Award

Posted on: June 3rd, 2013 by mctc No Comments

MnSCU recognizes outstanding educational programs and services

MnSCU awards AMEThe MCTC chapter of the African American Educational Empowerment Program (AME) received a Diversity Award from Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) for Outstanding Student Organization at the recent annual joint meeting held May 30–31 at Normandale Community College. AME consists of multiple programs that create opportunities for the educational success of students of color at MCTC. Each AME program contributes to the retention, graduation and personal growth of students and empowers them to develop leadership skills through their education, mentoring opportunities and involvement in the college community, society, nation and world.

Diversity awards recognize programs and individuals for fostering a diverse faculty, staff and student body and providing quality services and support. “We take pride in providing an extraordinary education for Minnesotans from all backgrounds, and that requires diversity on campus,” said Whitney Harris, MnSCU chief diversity officer and manager of the Educational Equity Task Force at MCTC. “Our colleges and universities serve more students of color than any other provider of higher education in Minnesota, and we serve more low-income students than all of the state’s other higher education options combined. It gives me great pleasure to recognize the outstanding work being done throughout the system that allows us to fulfill this vital role.”

“It’s important to give credit for this award to the hard work of the students and peer advisors within AME,” said Dr. Jesse Mason, psychology instructor and AME program coordinator. “The students work with the programming and planning of the AME initiative, and we can thank them for this success.” AME programs include Student African American Brotherhood/Brother2Brother (SAAB/B2B), Student African American Sisterhood/Sister2Sister (SAAS), Student Success in Transition Education Program (STEP) and African American Male Parity in Educational Success (AMP). AME was nominated for the MnSCU Diversity Award by MCTC math instructor Marcella Jones.

“The MnSCU Strategic Framework calls for our colleges and universities to ensure access to an extraordinary education for all Minnesotans,” said Doug Knowlton, MnSCU vice chancellor of Academic and Student Affairs. “That requires innovation and excellence in everything we do—from the classroom throughout every service we provide for our students. Although tremendous work is going on at every one of the 31 MnSCU colleges and universities, I am especially pleased to recognize the distinguished examples being honored today.” Read the MnSCU press release here.

Dean Paulson Co-Authors “Non-Violent Ways to Win the War on Terror”

Posted on: August 3rd, 2010 by insidemctc No Comments

MCTC’s recently hired Dean of Math and Science Chuck Paulson has co-authored a chapter, “Non-Violent Ways to Win the War on Terror” in the book, Setting the Table for Diversity (2010, National Collegiate Honors Council).

Chuck Paulson in Ghana

Dean Chuck Paulson in Ghana

Published this month, the book is a collection of chapters on different diversity issues in higher education. Paulson’s chapter, which he co-authored with Ron Lukens-Bull (Professor of Anthropology at the University of North Florida) and Kelly Heber (an alum of the University of North Florida), describes study abroad trips to predominantly Muslim countries and their potential to change stereotypes about Americans. The authors provide a detailed account of the cultural effects of study abroad, both on the students that participate and on the local people in the countries where the students study.

Paulson began his appointment at MCTC in June. Prior to coming to MCTC, and during the writing of this chapter, he was Director of the Honors Program and Associate Professor of Biology at the University of North Florida. Paulson has led trips to a number of countries, mostly in Latin America and Africa.

The idea for the chapter originated with Kelly Heber, a former student of both Lukens-Bull and Paulson. While on a study abroad trip to Southeast Asia, she and a fellow student were leaving a mosque in Singapore when a couple of local people asked them where they were from. Heber told them that they were American students. The local people were surprised that they were Americans, since they had worn long sleeves, put scarves over their heads and had taken off their shoes and washed their feet before entering the mosque. They told Kelly that this experience had changed their negative view of Americans as being insensitive to cultural differences, particularly in the case of Muslims.

Heber wrote her senior honors thesis about the idea that study abroad not only changes perspectives of American students who participate, but also has the potential to change the views that people in other countries have about Americans.

Paulson encouraged Heber to apply to present her paper at the National Collegiate Honors Conference. Heber presented her paper, and Paulson presented a paper on how colleges can make study abroad experiences more culturally immersive. Based on their presentations, the National Collegiate Honors Council asked them to write a chapter that would be published in a book on diversity in higher education.

Heber wrote about her study abroad experiences, and Paulson and Lukens-Bull wrote about how faculty can increase the impact of these experiences by preparing students to be culturally aware as they travel. The authors found that the most striking examples came from their experiences in predominantly Muslim populations. Lukens-Bull has done extensive research in Indonesia, and led trips to Malaysia and Singapore (this was the trip that Heber participated in) and Paulson has led service-learning based trips to Ghana. In the northern part of Ghana, where Paulson’s classes carried out their community service projects, the population is about 85% Muslim.

Paulson says, “On one level this chapter is about how to make educational experiences deeper and more memorable. On another level it is about our attitudes toward other cultures and how the attitude that we choose can either limit our life experiences or make them richer.”

This work will inform Paulson’s new role at MCTC as well. “My job as Dean always includes working on how to be a community where we can all learn from each other.”

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