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Educators from nine community colleges recently met with mentors who will help them launch or enhance their technician education programs.
Some of the newest MentorLinks grant recipients are starting degree programs in biotechnology and energy, while others plan to revive welding and construction programs.
“We want to help you succeed. This is a seed money grant, a start-up grant. We want to allow you the flexibility to succeed,” Ellen Hause, program director for academic, student and community development at the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) told the new grant recipients at a recent meeting.
AACC funds MentoLinks as part of its Advanced Technological Education (ATE) grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Since it began in 1999, MentorLinks has helped 24 community colleges enhance existing technical programs or start new technician education programs. Each college sets its own goals, and many of the participants have successfully leveraged their MentorLinks experiences into additional support and far-reaching changes on their campuses.
The transformational power of the grants stems from the expertise of the mentors and the collegial support the grant recipients receive from the other mentors, each other and AACC.
“You’ve all been adopted by this new family,” Brenda Norman Albright told the educators when they met their mentors in Washington, D.C., this fall. Albright serves as an outside evaluator for the project and facilitated part of the planning session with the grant recipients.
The $15,000, two-year grants to the colleges cover travel reimbursement for faculty to attend project meetings and professional development programs. The mentors, who are also community college educators, receive stipends and travel support to visit the colleges they are helping and to attend project meetings.
“It’s not about the money. It’s about the networking,” said Vince DiNoto, dean of college and systematic initiatives at Jefferson Community and Technical College (Kentucky). He is mentoring a faculty/administrator team from Lincoln Land Community College (Illinois) as it develops a geographic information systems (GIS) program for state agencies.
DiNoto has experienced MentorLinks as a grantee and mentor and has leveraged both experiences to advance professionally. He received a MentorLinks grant in 2002 to start a GIS degree program in the Kentucky Community and Technical College System. From 2005 through 2007, he mentored two MentorLinks colleges that successfully grew their own GIS programs.
DiNoto and another MentorLinks grantee turned mentor, Michael Rudibaugh of Lake Land College (Illinois), used what they learned through MentorLinks to become co-principal investigators for the new National Geospatial Technology Center of Excellence at Del Mar College (Texas), one of 36 Centers supported by NSF’s ATE program.
“I would not be doing what I’m doing in GIS if it were not for being in MentorLinks,” DiNoto said, explaining that MentorLinks “helped open some doors.”
As a result of the educators and industry people he and Rudibaugh met through MentorLinks, they have grown GIS programs on their respective campuses, assisted with the development of other GIS programs and made presentations at AACC and industry conferences, which connected them to other people and programs. Rudibaugh recently addressed the Illinois Workforce Development Conference.
The other new MentorLinks colleges are:
• Bluegrass Community and Technical College (Kentucky) will develop degree, certificate and post-baccalaureate programs to prepare biotechnicians to work for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies in Lexington, Ky. Lisa Seidman, biotechnology program director at Madison Area Technical College (Wisconsin), serves as mentor.
• Clark State Community College (Ohio) will enhance its curricula and develop a strategic plan to expand high-performance computing and cybersecurity programs to meet the needs of defense industry employers in Springfield, Ohio. Ann Beheler, the principal investigator of the Convergence Technology Center at Collin College (Texas), serves as mentor.
• Lewis and Clark Community College (Illinois) will revise its two welding courses into a new certificate and degree program to meet demand among petroleum refineries and ethanol producers for skilled welders. Rassoul Dastmozd, vice president of instruction at Clark College (Washington), serves as mentor.
• Mid-Plains Community College (Nebraska) will use distance technologies to deliver a new biotechnician degree program to a 20,000 square mile rural area that crosses two time zones. Bart Gledhill, deputy director of Bio-Link, a national ATE resource center, serves as mentor.
• Neosho County Community College (Kansas) will strengthen its building trades program in collaboration with a Chanute, Kan., effort to build low-cost housing. Spencer Hinkle, department co-chair of building construction technology at the Rock Creek Campus of Portland Community College (Oregon), serves as mentor.
• Pueblo Community College (Colorado) will add a technician program that prepares people to maintain and build wind turbines and other renewable energy equipment. Michael Schmidt, wind energy program director at Laramie County Community College (Wyoming), serves as mentor.
• West Virginia University at Parkersburg will develop energy technician programs that emphasize conservation and efficiency and supply professional development for technical educators from other West Virginia community colleges. Roger Ebbage, director of energy programs at Northwest Energy Education Institute (Oregon), serves as mentor.
• Westmoreland County Community College (Pennsylvania) will revamp biology, chemistry and mathematics curricula to meet industry’s need for skilled technicians and start an undergraduate research program. David Brown, chemistry professor at Southwestern College (California), serves as mentor.
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