The MCTC News Blog

MCTC Psychology Instructor Identifies How to Determine Where a Student is Struggling

Posted on: November 23rd, 2015 by marketingworkstudy No Comments

MCTC’s Troy Dvorak is at it again! The MCTC Psychology instructor was recently featured in an article from the Better Weekdays blog about the “nontraditional student.” Dvorak provides experienced advice about how to make students feel at ease as well as tips for student success. The instructor and recently published author is also a self-taught drummer, guitar student and a self-proclaimed fan of 80s rock and hair metal. You can read this original story here. The story is also posted in its entirety below.

How to Determine where a Student is Struggling

Written by : Aja Frost

How to Determine where a Student is Struggling

The “nontraditional” student may be the new “normal” student.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) defines “nontraditional” in three different ways: delayed enrollment, familial responsibility, or financial constraints and lack of high school degree. And under this definition, the NCES found that around half of all students enrolled in U.S. postsecondary institutions are moderately or highly untraditional.

It’s important for career counselors to be aware of this statistic, as the NCES has also found that the more “nontraditional” characteristics students have (including age, job status, dependency status and so on), the more likely they are to leave school before getting their degree.

To help these students succeed, you’ll want to create an atmosphere in which they feel comfortable. Once they trust you, work with them to identify and overcome potential obstacles.

Establish a Relationship

“Rapport is one of the most important parts of any counseling session,” says Troy Dvorak, adjunct professor of psychology at Minneapolis Community and Technical College and the author of “Psychological Keys to Student Success.”

He advises making sure you leave plenty of time in your day for the appointment so that you don’t seem rushed or preoccupied.

“You don’t want to communicate that you are just squeezing the person in between other things,” Dvorak says.

To further put students at ease, remember to smile, be friendly and show you’re interested in them as people. The first couple questions you ask should be unrelated to school. Try openers like: “How was your weekend?” “What are you looking forward to?” “Is your day going well?”

Pinpoint the General Problem

After you’ve made the student feel a little more relaxed, you can start getting into the actual issue.

“I like to start by asking about his or her situation rather than delving immediately into what he or she is personally doing or not doing,” Dvorak says. “This reduces defensiveness.”

If you don’t immediately get an answer, he recommends gently bringing up the reason why the person booked the appointment. To engender trust, make sure you remain patient.

The Job Search

Dvorak assesses a number of factors to determine why a student’s efforts to find employment aren’t working. First, he asks practical questions, like “Do you have a resume?” or “What resources are you using?” and “What types of work are you applying for?”

If the student’s answers raise any red flags—for example, maybe he or she doesn’t have a well-crafted resume—you can start making a list of ways to help.

But you may have to go a little deeper. Dvorak will also inquire about students’ schedules, interests, transportation options, which can limit their ability to go on interviews, and what exactly they’re doing to find a job.

“Sometimes students say they are looking, but this means they surfed the Internet for 10 minutes one day,” he says.

He suggests asking how much time they’re spending looking and where they’re looking—but not too early in the session, as these questions can make students feel defensive.

Academic Success

“I personally want the person to know that there are many challenges associated with getting good grades. Some of the challenges are personal, while some are situational,” Dvorak says. “As a show of respect, I let them know that I am interested in learning more about what those challenges might be, and I ask if they are willing to share some of their personal experiences with me to help me understand how I might be able to help them.”

You’ll want to look into whether or not the student is supporting anyone or raising children, and if so, whether he or she has access to day-care. In addition, ask whether the student is working while he or she goes to school.

Dvorak also recommends asking:

  • Does the student have family or social support? Does he or she live with someone?
  • Is English the student’s first language?
  • Does the student have transportation? Is he or she regularly attending class?
  • Has the student recently experienced a hardship (loss of a home, death of a loved one, divorce/relationship break-up, etc.)?

The student may also be struggling with personal factors such as study skills and habits, time management abilities, self-confidence, mental health, previous academic experiences, and motivation and goals. To get to the root of these issues, Stacy Haynes, a licensed clinical psychologist and the chief executive officer of Little Hands Family Services in Turnersville, New Jersey who has a doctorate in education and helps people of all ages with academic struggles, likes to ask questions such as:

  • What subjects are you having a difficult time in?
  • What makes learning difficult?
  • What in the learning environment makes it difficult to learn?
  • Is there something the teacher is doing or not doing that is making it harder to learn?
  • What’s your favorite method of learning something?

Show Respect

No matter what, make sure you’re always showing respect for the student.

“These people have significant life experience,” Dvorak says. “Many have worked for a long time. Many are from other countries. They speak many different languages. They have children to support. They have limited time. And they are often trying to better themselves and the opportunities for their families.”

To allow students to open up, he believes you should always spend more time listening than talking. If you’re too quick to offer suggestions, the person you’re talking to will likely become non-responsive.

If you use these tips and questions, you’ll be able to discover why students are struggling, which will make finding solutions to their challenges that much easier.

Psychology Instructor Finds Creative Way to Support Students this Thanksgiving

Posted on: October 6th, 2015 by insidemctc No Comments
MCTC Psychology instructor Troy Dvorak

MCTC Psychology Instructor Troy Dvorak.

MCTC can’t take poverty out of a student’s life, but the College community can do something to help.

That’s the sentiment of Psychology Instructor Troy Dvorak, who is thinking ahead to Thanksgiving and to his students who may not have family to join or a Thanksgiving meal to enjoy. “While I have always enjoyed time and wonderful meals with family during the holidays, I know many of our students want for the most basic things, including food. That bothers me a lot,” he said.

Troy plans to address this reality by donating sixteen $25 Cub Foods gift cards to the MCTC Resource and Referral Center, which is part of the larger MCTC Student Support Center.

“A meal is a basic need. Being able to provide that meal is a point of pride,” said Troy. “I imagine there are more in our community who would like to see MCTC students well-fed on Thanksgiving and feeling proud about it.”

Troy is inviting MCTC faculty, staff and community members to join him in making $25 donations to the Resource and Referral Center to fund more grocery gift cards.

“There are many things I cannot change about a student’s situation,” he said. “But in the same way we endeavor to help students academically, I want to extend my caring beyond the classroom.”

All interested members of the MCTC community are invited to join Troy and the Resource and Referral Center in ensuring MCTC’s students have a full meal this Thanksgiving. All contributions toward these grocery gift cards can be delivered to the Student Support Center in T.2300.

“I am very thankful every day, and want to share that with others,” said Troy.

Charlotte Ariss: Marketing Real Life

Posted on: March 6th, 2015 by insidemctc No Comments

Charlotte Ariss, MCTC alumIn 1982, Charlotte Ariss enrolled at the University of Minnesota, and promptly started on a track she didn’t expect to take so quickly: real life.

“I became a single parent,” said Charlotte. “I had to drop out of my classes, retool and figure out what I was going to do.”

After her daughter was born, Charlotte applied for every scholarship and grant she could find, and started school at the college then known as Minneapolis Community College (MCC).

“What I liked about MCC is that there was so much diversity,” said Charlotte. “In one of my marketing classes, I sat next to someone in his 50s, and another single parent, and someone who spoke Arabic, and someone who was a janitor.”

Starting her studies in the Psychology department, Charlotte dabbled in classes like the psychology of colors and packaging. “I had no idea how packaging could be used to elicit consumer reactions, or that there was a science behind packaging,” she said. “All of a sudden a light bulb turned on. From there, I started to study the science behind marketing.”

Charlotte had nearly completed her degree when she was faced with a momentous decision: Take one final class for the last two credits she needed for a degree, or take a job offer that had just been made. “I was offered my dream job,” said Charlotte. “My favorite marketing teacher warned me not to leave, because I’d never come back.”

That advice haunted Charlotte for a long time. “I wish I had taken my instructor’s advice about finishing, but I couldn’t do it at the time,” she said. “I needed a job.” As a single parent, Charlotte dove head-first into her new job with Carmichael Lynch ad agency. “It’s possible I could have finished with a night class, but I felt like I had to focus.” And focus is what she did.

From the ad agency, Charlotte moved to other marketing adventures. She worked for advertising agencies Campbell Mithun, the Lacek Group and Rapp Collins, spent 14 years with Target, and most recently has moved on to location scouting.

“If you told me just a year ago that I’d be doing this, I would have laughed my head off,” said Charlotte, who recently finished filming a commercial for Timberland in downtown Minneapolis. “I’ve been working with Best Buy, Target, Medica, 3M, Polaris, Cenex, Ashland Midland and others. It’s intimidating at times, but I can pull this off thanks to the experience I’ve had.”

On a fall day 31 years after her first semester at MCC, Charlotte walked into the school now known as MCTC to drop her second daughter off for her first day of Post-Secondary Enrollment (PSEO). Hoping to thank her old marketing teacher, she found herself in the MCTC Marketing and Communications service department with a few stories to tell.

“I loved being here, and felt incredibly connected. Even though I left school with only a couple credits left, in a way I never really left.”

Click here to see one of Charlotte’s recent commercials aired nationally.

Jesse Mason Named Minnesota Minority Education Partnership Policy Fellow

Posted on: July 21st, 2010 by insidemctc 2 Comments

The Minnesota Minority Education Partnership (MMEP) recently named Jesse L. Mason, Jr., PhD an MMEP Policy Fellow. Dr. Mason is a member of the psychology faculty at MCTC and an adjunct faculty member at St. Catherine University. Dr. Mason will assist in the data collection, policy analysis, research and writing of the “State of African American Males in Education in Minnesota” policy brief.

He has also taught at Inver Hills Community College, Anoka-Ramsey Community College and the University of Minnesota. Health disparities among African Americans have been a core focus of his research and past speaking engagements. Mason has presented in Minnesota, Illinois, New York and Washington D.C. Mason graduated from Morris Brown College with a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology. He received his PhD in cognitive and biological psychology from the University of Minnesota.

Carlos Mariani, executive director, commented, “MMEP is pleased to work with Dr. Jesse Mason in developing a policy brief on the state of education success with Minnesota’s African American men. We are profoundly concerned that our failed delivery of K-12 education to this community of learners is resulting in bypassing the deep potential existing among this community of learners. We plan to describe the realities of African American males from an assets perspective as opposed to the pervasive ‘deficits’ models used by many in the past and that has reinforced negative stereotypes of young Black men.”

Dr. Mason’s work is supported in part thanks to financial support from General Mills Foundation’s Communities of Color fund.

Minnesota Minority Education Partnership, Inc., is a nonprofit collaborative, founded in 1987, that seeks to increase the success of Students of Color and American Indian Students in Minnesota schools, colleges, and universities.

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