MCTC

The MCTC News Blog

Estefanía: A Confident Leader

Posted on: August 26th, 2014 by marketingworkstudy No Comments

Estefania HeadshotEstefanía Navarro was hit by culture shock when she came to the U.S. in 2005 and realized Americans didn’t like the Disney Channel show Lizzie McGuire as much as she thought they did. Born in Morelos, Mexico, the MCTC student had learned all she knew about the U.S. from television and movies.

Estefanía came to the U.S. with her single mother and younger brother. Her mother, who had lived and worked in the country previously, left Mexico for better job opportunities. Despite having taken English classes at a private school in Morelos and attending a mostly Latino middle school in South Minneapolis, the transition was still difficult. 

“I was lucky to have gone to a private school in Mexico,” she said. “I had very strict teachers who shaped me into who I am today.”

In 2007, Estefanía began attending Camp Sunrise, a free YouthCARE program that hosts urban youth at a camp in Rush City, Minn. every summer and teaches them the importance of the environment and working together. At the camp she learned the importance of working with others efficiently and how to be a proper leader. She was also struck by the diversity of her fellow campers.

“Seeing all these people with different backgrounds in the same place was amazing,” she said. 

Estefanía continued attending the camp through middle and high school, eventually becoming a junior counselor and then a full-fledged counselor. She enjoys establishing connections and getting to know the campers she oversees. She remembers herself as a shy and quiet teenager who lacked confidence when she first attended the camp. Over the years, her confidence has grown and she is now helping others who were like her.

Estefanía first walked the skyways of MCTC as a middle school student when the College was hosting a Latino-related conference and, later as a Jump Startstudent. The diversity of the campus community stood out and reminded her of Camp Sunrise. 

Estefanía was one of three Latino students to graduate with honors at her high school. Proud as she was, she felt like she had lost some of her culture since arriving in the U.S.

“I felt like I was losing a part of myself,” she said.

When she started attending MCTC, she heard about culture-related student clubs through Student Life. A representative from the Xicanos Latinos United (XLU) club encouraged her to attend one of their meetings. She felt like the club might help her regain some of her culture. After one meeting, she was sold.

“XLU is the family I didn’t have growing up,” she said.

Estefanía not only made friends in the club, but she’s also learned more about Mexican culture.

She experienced one of her proudest moments with the club when she organized a culture fashion show. She worked with more than 10 students from XLU and other Student Life culture-related clubs to model native clothing for their peers. The diversity and community she saw in the fashion show reminded her of why she came to MCTC. 

“We made friends with other students that we normally wouldn’t talk to,” she said.

In addition to her club involvement, Estefanía attended Student Senate meetings during her first year at MCTC. The more meetings she attended, the more intrigued she became by the passion she saw in the students participating. She wanted to be a part of that so she became a senator. As a senator, she wanted to make a change but she needed “a little more push.” In order to do that, she ran and became the director of diversity on the Student Senate’s Board of Directors.

“I really appreciate MCTC’s diversity, and I wanted to do something to help out and represent the minority community,” she said.

When a new election period came along, Estefanía had the option of running for director of diversity again or running for another position. She remembered her lessons from Camp Sunrise, and decided to take on more of a leadership position. 

“I knew the next president would need a strong vice president and I felt like I was the right person for it,” she said. “It felt like the natural thing to do.”

Student Senate inspired Estefanía to get involved with politics outside of MCTC. She stays up to date on political news and watches political documentaries. Her involvement with Camp Sunrise and Student Senate has also sparked a career interest in either education or politics.

“Closing in on the achievement gap is a passion of mine,” she said. “We need to keep students engaged and education is key for a brighter future no matter what your ethnicity or nationality.”

What’s New for Fall

Posted on: August 26th, 2014 by insidemctc No Comments
Renovated MCTC outdoor plaza

MCTC’s outdoor plaza.

MCTC’s fall 2014 semester presents some exciting opportunities for new and continuing students!

New this Fall

Finish Faster

MCTC has several opportunities for students looking to finish their degree faster. In addition to our evening, weekend and online courses, we also offer:

  • Accelerated English, ENGA 1110, which combines two introductory English classes into one
  • Statway, a Carnegie Foundation initiative to help students finish college-level math courses with less frustration and lower dropout rates
  • Race to Save the Planet, an eight-credit learning community emphasizing Biology and Political Science
  • Academic advisors are embedded within the College academies, so they’re on hand to work with students throughout their time at the College

Read more about these student success initiatives.

Around Campus

  • MCTC welcomes Dr. Avelino Mills-Novoa as our interim president!
  • Our Air Traffic Control program has relocated to its new space in the T Building of MCTC’s main campus after a long spell at the Flying Cloud Airport in Eden Prairie

Click here to register for fall classes, and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter!

Grant from Great Lakes Will Help Students Stay on Track

Posted on: August 5th, 2014 by insidemctc No Comments

MCTC campus lifeMinneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC) is one of four schools within Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) which have been awarded a total of $988,408 by the Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation as part of its flagship College Ready and College Success grants. The funds will be used to improve graduation rates for students who have the most to gain from higher education: those from low income households, students of color and students who are first in their families to attend college.

MCTC will use its $179,962 College Success Grant to launch an “early warning” navigator program to provide early and more individualized intervention for Pell-eligible, first-year students grappling with academic performance or attendance issues. Faculty and staff will work together to assess and address students’ needs in math, English and introductory business classes. The College received $179,962 to launch the program.

“Our state colleges and universities are a place of hope and opportunity for all Minnesotans,” said Steven Rosenstone, MnSCU chancellor. “We share Great Lakes’ commitment to increasing college completion among students facing the greatest challenges. The College Ready and College Success grants will make an enormous difference in our ability to help students succeed.”

“We are called to action by the mounting evidence that too many students enroll in college underprepared academically, and too many leave before earning the degree, diploma, or certificate they set out to earn,” said Richard D. George, president and chief executive officer of Great Lakes. “We fund programs that understand the root cause of what holds students back and take bold steps to overcome these obstacles.”

Through community investments, Great Lakes leads initiatives and funds programs to help students from traditionally underserved backgrounds start and complete a two- or four-year degree or other credential. Since 2006, Great Lakes has committed in excess of $100 million in funding to programs that share these goals. For additional information, visit community.mygreatlakes.org.

MCTC Photography Student and Vietnam Vet Restores War Photos

Posted on: August 4th, 2014 by insidemctc 1 Comment

Unboxed after 40 years, Vietnam images exhibited in Richfield

Published in the Richfield Sun-Current August 1, 2014 by Andrew Wig.

Photo of children by James Thompson

James R. Thompson’s lens often captured images of shy children peeking at him from behind objects, curious, but wary of the outsiders in their midst. At the same time, he also saw, as he put it, “kids pretty much acting like kids.” (Photo courtesy of James. R. Thompson and republished with permission of the author.)

The black-and-white photos from halfway around the world were supposed to be lost to history, stuck in a box who-knows-where.

Shot in 1971, they depicted the Vietnam War, but not the fighting. Instead: civilian faces young and old, jungle-mountain panoramas, soldiers idling or reading letters or posed next to seized weapons.

Returning home from his year in-country, James R. Thompson wasn’t anxious to get the images developed. He was finished with his duties as the official photographer for his battalion in the 101st Airborne Division, and had other priorities.

“When I got home in ‘71 I pretty much just threw all the stuff in a box with the medals and everything else and they just sat there,” said Thompson, a 67-year-old Minneapolis resident.

Four decades since coming home, he had moved four times and thought the pictures had been lost in the shuffle.

“Then one day I was looking for something else and of course, that’s when I found them,” Thompson explained.

The photos’ newest temporary home is Augsburg Park Library in Richfield, where they are exhibited through August.

Having been drafted, Thompson wasn’t itching for a firefight when he arrived in Vietnam in 1970. During his first six months in-country he was assigned to a recon unit, creeping around the jungle, locating the enemy so that larger forces could attack.

He saw little action during that time, since it was monsoon season and the enemy was mostly “hunkered down,” as he describes it. Then came the golden ticket out of the muck.

The official photographer for his battalion had returned home and Thompson, who was an art student back in Minnesota and stayed attached to his camera in Vietnam, seemed a natural successor when he inquired about the opportunity.

“I walked in there, I had a camera hanging on me,” Thompson recalled.

So for the last six months of his service, he was tasked with documenting the battalion’s activities. Chiefly, his colonel wanted photos for his scrapbook, Thompson remembers. Another duty was to photograph soldiers getting pinned with medals.

But Thompson was able to float around as well. He would tag along with medic teams on “goodwill” missions near his base in Phu Bai, in central Vietnam. The medics’ job was to treat ill children and distribute vaccinations.

Along with capturing the everyday life of the soldiers, these were the excursions that formed the hallmark of Thompson’s Vietnam collection.

“I don’t have a lot of blood and guts,” Thompson said.

Instead, he has photos of villagers’ stares and soldiers passing the time during quieter moments. This, Thompson notes, is what makes up most of wartime after all.

“As one guy told me – he said, ‘War is 95 percent boredom and 5 percent terror,’ and that’s what I was trying to show here, is all the things that go on that are not war, that are not conflict,” Thompson said.

Expanding exposure

It was a serendipitous sequence of events that led to the exposure of Thompson’s once-lost work. Around the same time he unboxed the photos he was in the middle of a career change.

Thompson spent 30 years freelancing out of the Twin Cities in the filmmaking business, shooting mostly commercials but also some major motion pictures as a first camera assistant, the person responsible for maintaining the equipment and also focusing the lens during shots.

But that work began to dry up after Sept. 11, 2001, he explains, and by 2008, he was out of the business. He then decided to turn an affliction from the war into an opportunity.

The Veterans Administration granted Thompson disability status due to exposure to “Agent Orange,” a defoliant the U.S. military used to root out the Viet Cong but which has since been found to cause health problems to those exposed.

The “Chapter 31” status Thompson gained from his exposure meant the government would pay for him to return to school. He was eight credits away from a master’s degree in filmmaking from the University of Minnesota but the window to finish that degree had lapsed, so Thompson enrolled in a two-year photography and digital imaging program at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, where he learned to restore a collection of forgotten negatives that badly needed some care.

“I think they were pretty banged up,” recalls Jack Mader, who chaired MCTC’s photography department at the time.

Several generations separated Thompson from most of his fellow students, but he found a kinship with Mader, who came from the same era.

“I was always glad to mentor him. I always had a bit of a soft spot for vets, especially Vietnam vets that got drafted,” said Mader, who is now semi-retired.

Working with Thompson, Mader added, “was another way for me to say ‘thank you’ without being overt about it.”

So with the images restored, Thompson displayed the work at his final portfolio show before graduating at MCTC.

Mader appreciates what he called the “day-to-day feel” of the photos.

“You get a chance to look at (the soldiers) as people rather than warriors,” he explained.

The photos work well in exhibition form, too, Mader believes.

“The photos hang so beautifully,” he said.

After Thompson’s studies at MCTC, the work gained exposure at the First Unitarian Society in downtown Minneapolis, where his friend, Herbie Sewell, chairs the church’s arts committee. Sewell and Thompson had gone to filmmaking school together, but had since lost touch. They had recently reconnected at a memorial tribute at the U of M for their professor, Alan Downs, when Sewell, who since studying film has made a career as a painter, saw Thompson’s collection.

“I realized he needed to have his first exhibit as soon as possible,” Sewell said.

As his first true show, Thompson had a six-week run at the First Unitarian Society’s gallery that consisted of his Vietnam work and more recent street-scene photos.

Emboldened, Thompson then brought his work back to the U of M last spring, for a show at the Regis Center for Art’s Quarter Gallery. That’s where the Richfield connection happened.

Richfield resident Phuoc Tran works part-time at Augsburg Park Library and full-time at the U of M’s Wilson Library. Tran, who immigrated to the U.S. from Vietnam in 1982, visited the exhibit and was impressed enough to leave an encouraging comment in the visitors’ log.

Thompson sent Tran an email to thank her for the kind words, and in return received an invitation to show his work at Augsburg Park Library.

“For me, it’s important for people to know,” Tran said.

Tran wants people to remember a conflict that she won’t forget. She was in her early 20s and living in Saigon during the city’s fall to the communists in 1975, and recalls the persecution that followed, when two of her brothers, officers for the former government, were imprisoned in a “re-education camp.”

In a country where veterans came home to jeers, Tran is instead thankful.

“They gave us freedom,” she said.

Tran is just the person Thompson was hoping to reach in exposing his work – “somebody from that community who would be interested in exhibiting this type of material,” he said.

There may be more demand for Thompson’s exhibitions with the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon coming in April 2015.

“I talk to a lot of people in my community,” Tran said, “and they want to see him.”

Thompson’s exhibit is on display through August at Augsburg Park Library, 7100 Nicollet Ave., Richfield. Following that, the library will display some of his more recent photos of street scenes.

Read the original story and see photographs from the exhibit here.

 

MCTC Students Receive Culinary Arts Grant

Posted on: July 29th, 2014 by marketingworkstudy No Comments
Group photo

The grant winners pose with Sue Zelickson.

Each year, a handful of women from the upper Midwest pursuing Culinary Arts degrees receive the Sue Zelickson Grant from the Women Who Really Cook organization. MCTC students Orian Lavi and Kelli Wirkkula were two of 12 students to receive $500 grants in May 2014.

Lavi is studying abroad from Israel. MCTC’s highly touted culinary programs made her choice of college simple.

“I always wanted to study abroad,” she said. “MCTC was the first school I checked.”

She’s double majoring in Restaurant Management and Culinary Arts and plans on working in a bakery that specializes in breads and pastries.