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Michael J. McDonough, president of Raritan Valley Community College (RVCC) in New Jersey, has been recognized as a “Standout President” by the 2023 ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge. He is one of two recipients in the country honored as a “Standout President or Chancellor” of a college or university.

The ALL IN Awards elevate exemplary leadership in helping advance undergraduate student democratic engagement, including nonpartisan civic learning, political engagement and voter participation, while advancing the work of ALL IN on campus. The award recognized the college’s efforts for the 2022 elections.

As part of RVCC’s voter engagement work, and with McDonough’s leadership and support, ALL IN observed that RVCC’s first-ever poll worker project was developed during the November 2022 general election. The project was implemented in a timely response to a June 2022 announcement by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, who signed a law permitting institutions of higher education to offer undergraduate credit to students who serve as poll workers during elections held in the state.

More than 50 RVCC students served as poll workers as part of this initial offering. The work caught the attention of Don and Penny Pray, whose gift of support through the RVCC Foundation covered the participating students’ required training before becoming a poll worker. It is anticipated that more RVCC students will participate in the project for the upcoming 2024 election, according to a release.

Virginia Meléndez, director of strategic initiatives at Rockland Community College in New York, has been selected as a fellow in the 2024 cohort of the State University of New York Hispanic Leadership Institute. The program aims to cultivate the growth of Hispanic/Latinx leaders, offering a comprehensive six-month curriculum that blends in-person and virtual activities to enhance leadership skills through exercises, mentorship and collaborative experiences.

Obituary

Constance “Connie” DuBose Odems, who retired in 1994 as senior vice president at the American Association of Community and Junior Colleges (AACJC), passed away on November 12. She was 90.

With a national reputation for leadership in staff development, Odems joined the association — which later was renamed the American Association of Community Colleges — in 1979 as vice president of programs and retired 15 years later at the senior post. At AACJC, Odems served three different association presidents, and each credited her with expanding diversity at the association and among its member colleges, according to the book “Unexpected Influence: Women Who Helped Shape the Early Community College Movement” by Anne-Marie McCartan (AACC/Rowan & Littlefield, 2017).

“Clearly, Connie was a strong, steady influence who, as a competent, influential person within AACJC, gave a huge boost to people of color in the field in need of that kind of leadership,” according to the book. “She was always on the lookout for new leaders, and she gave them chances to shine in the national spotlight.”

Odems started her career in community colleges in 1964 at Miami Dade College (then called Dade County Junior College) as its first Black counselor. She later focused on staff development at the college, including increasing diversity.

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
Matthew Dembicki edits Community College Daily and serves as associate vice president of communications for the American Association of Community Colleges.