Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Community Colleges: Helpful Places Where People Can Realize Their Dreams

“Community Colleges: Helpful Places Where People Can Realize Their Dreams”
Darrel L. Hammon, Ph.D.

Calling community colleges “helpful places,” where “people realize their dreams,” past and present U.S. presidents, Bush and Obama, two very different presidents, believe community colleges are “major assets of our country.” For most, this revelation is not new. But, unfortunately, the revelation about how good community colleges are and have been somehow has not been received by many who are not educationally in tune or they have not had to use the services community colleges offer.
But there is hope. Many leaders maintain community colleges are integral parts of our educational society, especially when we listen to the needs of the communities they reside in and the workers who need to upgrade their skills to compete in today’s ever-changing marketplace.
Community colleges are all about access, affordability, and quality.
First access—Throughout the United States, students are clamoring to enroll in community colleges. Enrollments are up in almost every community college in the country. Community colleges do not have long lines or large classes or professors who don’t know your name. If you want a course, the chances are great that you will be able to get into it. Community colleges offer a variety of options for learners: day and night courses, on-campus and off-campus courses, non-credit or continuing education courses, customized workforce development programming, and online courses.

Many community colleges offer courses in outreach sites throughout their service areas—some in schools, others in shopping malls, and others in churches or community buildings. Community colleges also encourage high school students who are ready to enroll in dual and concurrent enrollment courses already articulated at their high schools or attend courses via video conferencing or the Internet. Bottom line is this: Community colleges provide great programming that is accessible to everyone.
Second, affordability—Community colleges are notoriously less expensive than universities and four-year colleges. Community colleges are better educational buys for the State. With the local county usually providing about 50% of the total cost of the community colleges, the State is able to educate/train students at half the cost or less, truly a great investment for taxpayers. Students from the local area usual stay in their states and in their communities, thus providing additional economic development for the community. Statistics show that each student contributes more than $10,000 per year to the economy, in form of housing, tuition, books, groceries, entertainment, etc. Ask any pizza joint in a college town. They can tell you when students are in town and when they are not.

What is even more blatant is it definitely less expensive to send your children to a community college for the first two years. When parents consider the first two years at any college, everyone has to take core subjects like English, speech, literature, computers, science, math, history, social sciences, and others.

So the question begs: If student can enroll in quality programs at affordable prices and take the courses for 1/3 of the cost, why not do it?

When you compare the cost of attending a community college to other postsecondary institutions in your state, community colleges are, by far, the best educational great bargain, especially if you are a taxpayer, and that pretty much includes all of us. With our economy the way it is, attending community colleges just makes good economic sense.
What about quality? Many times the question about quality emerges from discussions regarding sending young people to community college. The answer is quite simple: the quality and rigor do not suffer. In fact, many community college graduates who transfer to four-year colleges and universities do as well as or better than their counterparts who began their education at the university.

Some years ago, a chauffeur of a shuttle was driving some community college people to a national convention where President Bush was going to speak. During the drive, the discussion turned to community colleges and why these people were in town. The chauffeur told the group that he was a graduate student at the University of Minnesota, an extremely good university. When he found out who his audience was, he was anxious to discuss his experiences as a community college student.
After attending a community college in Wisconsin, he transferred to the university. At first, he was a bit tenuous about moving from a small community college to a large university and wondered how he would do academically. He did well. In fact, he said, “I believe I had to work harder at the community college than I did at the university.”

Community Colleges truly offer quality programs, everything from the GED for those who have dropped out of school and wish to return to college to professional-technical programs such a building construction, auto mechanics, health information sciences, nursing, wind energy, and computer technology, including networking. Most of these programs offer internships to help students participate in real, hands-on skills training already being used in the workplace. Also, with a professional-technical two-year degree or a one-year certificate, you can immediately enter the workplace, equipped with the appropriate skills employers want and desperately need.

Interesting, many famous and successful people attended community colleges: Ross Perot, Jim Lehrer, George Lucas, Nolan Ryan, Sarah Palin and many others, including senators, journalists, university and college presidents, and successful business people.

Whether you attend one of the community colleges in your state or in your hometown, you will be offered quality programs that are extremely accessible and especially affordable. In essence, community colleges are educational bargains—and everyone loves a bargain.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Intellectual Aristocracy: Bring Your Own Containers

Intellectual Aristocracy: Bring Your Own Containers
Darrel L. Hammon, Ph.D.

Want to be part of the new aristocracy? The new aristocracy is called the intellectual aristocracy, filled with people who have invested in acquiring knowledge.
Some years ago, Jaime Escalante, whose life was depicted in the movie Stand and Deliver, spoke about a poster hanging on a wall in his classroom. It read: “Free, free, free—knowledge. Bring your own containers.” How apropos for high school students on the brink of entering college and transitioning to the new world economy. Knowledge is abundant in the new economy, but we have to be willing to obtain it.
            Since the knowledge-based economy has engulfed us, we must prepare ourselves to not only to survive but to thrive. Unfortunately, mom and dad are not always going to support your habits. Soon—for some, sooner than you think—the responsibility will fall to you. Are you ready? At eighteen, I knew I wasn’t ready. After two years in southern Chile and a year of work, I was ready to enter college to gain knowledge. Had I heard about Escalante’s admonition, I would have brought along more containers.
            Consider these suggestions:
            One, understand that going to college should not be an option. It is a must, a prerequisite to being a part of the new intellectual aristocracy. Our family has always focused on the phrase: “Not if you are going to college but where and when.”
            Two, while in high school, take a rigorous set of courses. If you can, take those that count for dual-credit, credit for high school and college. You will be further ahead when you enroll in college. In fact, some students in other states earn their high school diploma one day, and the next day they receive their associate degree in other states. Invest now in obtaining the best grades and being involved, thus enhancing your chances to earn scholarships.
            Three, when you go to college, take advantage of the most affordable one you can attend, even if it is close to home. Because most college programs require two years of general education, it is more affordable to attend a two-year college. Community colleges offer a wonderful array of core courses taught by extremely gifted professors.
            Four, take a variety of courses, particularly those that require hard work and critical thinking skills. In the global market, most employers seek talented people who can think, adapt to change, and maneuver within the organization. Possessing good skill sets will enable you to succeed.
            And five, think of your education as an investment that should be replenished often. If you don’t reinvest in yourself and upgrade your skills along the way, you will succumb to the plight of dinosaurs who couldn’t adapt to change.
            Graduating from high school is truly a huge step. But begin strategizing now how you are going to maneuver successfully through our knowledge-based economy. The best part of being part of your lifelong educational investment is that you become part of the new intellectual aristocracy.
Remember to bring lots of containers.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

"The Future is Ours"

"The Future is Ours"
Darrel L. Hammon, Ph.D.

Some years ago, I wrote: “Put simply: the future leaders are you and me, and we must lead on, we must be visionary, and we must learn the power and energy of the whole.” Since you and I are the leaders who must be visionary, I now ask the question: have you thought of yourself as a futurist?

During my doctoral program, I took an enlightening course from Dr. Gary Delka on strategic planning. While this course focused particularly on educational practitioners who were in the throes of restructuring, I sincerely believe the fundamental principles have equal relevance for business owners, especially those who are seeking some connection to the future. I wish to discuss five principles of viewing into the future. While these five do not encompass the entire strategic planning process, they represent basic principles of looking at ourselves as planners and visionaries.

Following a formula for success—Ironically, planning is formulaic. Normally, planning does not just occur. Perhaps some of you have experienced instant success without much planning, but most of us have to plan for it. Consider this formula: p x f = pr. Simply, this formula is “the past interacting with the future equals the present.” If you truly want to compete in the future, this formula should be followed as you strategically plan your future restructuring. Remember: reform is cosmetic; restructuring, on the other hand, is changing the way we do business.

Scanning to see who you are and what you are about—An important ingredient of looking at the future hinges on scanning. All stakeholders need to be involved, looked at, or even visited. Stakeholders include customers, internal and external. Additionally, you must look at what the competition is doing. Analysis of critical issues also plays an integral part of the scanning process. Certainly there are issues that are relevant to your future plans. Bottom line is scanning is taking a look at yourselves, your customers, the competition, and any critical issues that might become barriers in your quest to compete in the future.

Recognizing the present but be willing to go beyond—Many of you have heard of the story about the man who loved to drive his sports car on country roads. One day he was driving out in the country when he approached his most favorite curve. But before he got there, he saw another car coming toward, swerving back and forth, almost out of control. When the car passed him, the woman yelled out, “Pig!” Thinking her comment as rude, he yelled back, “Cow!” Still fuming how could she call him such a sour name, he roared into the curve and ran right into a pig. Instead of thinking beyond his own narrow paradigm, he failed to listen to the warning, thus causing him to crash into a pig. Are you listening and recognizing present warnings that might impede you from performing in the future?

Using the information available—Driselli once said, “As a general rule, the most successful man is the one with the information and uses it effectively.” Our current world spits out information much faster than we can assimilate it. This can cause a problem if we do know how to gather the information that is relevant to our business. As information thunders down the conveyor belt, we must be there to pick off the data that pertains to us. That means, we must know from our scanning what information is relevant to the future growth of our business. Often that information comes from within our own company.

Looking to the future and taking control of it—Many of us sit idly by, thinking—and sometimes hoping and praying— the future might actually pass us by. Unfortunately, if we take this perspective, the future will engulf us, and it definitely will pass us by, leaving us to wonder what happen to us or to our businesses. The key ingredient is that “I am in control of mine own destiny.” Often we find ourselves being puppeteered by someone or something else. Actually, “we are the final generation of an old civilization and the first generation of a new one” (Heidi and Alvin Toffler (1994) in Creating a New Civilization: The Politics of the Third Wave, p. 21). Basically, whether you want to believe it or not, the future is upon us.

Overall, we must think of ourselves as futurists with the ability to peer into the future and see ourselves there, in plain and living color. We must believe we are the ones in control of what we do. Granted, there may be “things” that emerge that we might not be totally prepared for, but our renewed ability to analyze and diagnose a problem will help us overcome these obstacles. More importantly, we must adhere to Virgil’s philosophy of old: “They can because they think they can.” Therefore, think away and be successful!