Convocation
Sept. 18, 2013
Dr. Debra Derr, MHCC President

Welcome! Before we begin, I would like to recognize a few individuals in the audience. We are joined by two members of the Board of Education, Susie Jones and Jim Zordich. Would they please stand? Thank you for all you do for MHCC!

We are also joined by the new president and vice president of ASG, Laura Aguon and Eduardo Ortiz. I hope you will have a chance to meet these two dynamic student leaders–they have some great ideas for making our favorite college even better!

In my wildest dreams, I could not have imagined 11 years ago when I left Mt. Hood Community College that I would be standing on this stage, talking with you as the college’s 10th president. That first day when I opened the door to the president’s office, walked in and saw Mount Hood through the windows and realized that this was now ”my” office–I had to pinch myself. I have to pinch myself almost every day. I am so excited to be home again, at a college I love, and working with people that I admire.

I thought so many times, often in the middle of the night, about what I wanted to say today. I tried to imagine what you might want to hear from me and honestly, right now, the only thing I am thinking is, don’t mess this up.

So…this is what I decided…share with your colleagues what you believe in. Share what you are passionate about.

In 1968, an amazing movie was on theatre screens across the nation. I was 11 years old and remember my parents taking my brother and me to the movie theatre to see it. Now, not to put anyone on the spot, but how many of you remember:

  • HAL
  • David Bowman
  • The Monolith
  • Star Child

I remember the fascination of a vision of our future as portrayed in the movie, “2001 A Space Odyssey.” What would the world be like when I was in my forties? (And, at 11-years-old, 40 was ancient!) Would televisions really be flat and hang on a wall? Would we really have computers to help us with our work? Would those computers talk to us? Would there really be food that didn’t require refrigeration and didn’t taste like cardboard? Would I really be able to see the person I am talking to on the telephone? Would I really be able to play chess with a computer and the computer would win? And having been a hockey mom, would I have survived without Velcro?

What does this story, of a young girl imagining the future have to do with today and what I want to say to you?

We, all of us here today, are in the business of imagining the future. Our students and our communities depend on us to imagine the future. What will our communities say about Mt. Hood Community College in 2020? Who will our students be? What kinds of jobs will there be in 7 to10 years? What do we want our campuses to look like in 2020? What will our facilities and equipment look like? What new technologies will our students use to learn and use as a member of the workforce? Speaking of evolving technologies, I was fascinated by the news last Friday about the Voyager spacecraft finally exiting the solar system. It turns out that Voyager was launched in 1977 carrying an eight-track tape recorder and computers with 240,000 times less memory than a low-end iPhone. Who could have foreseen those technological changes in the past 36 years?

Continuing with our look at 2020: What programs will we have? What new teaching strategies will we use? How will we know our students are learning? Who will our business and educational partners be? How will we engage with members of our community? What arts and cultural events will resonate with people and what role will our college play in the arts and humanities–essential areas of education, enlightenment and entertainment?

I’m sure many of you have watched the YouTube video, “Did you know?” It puts an interesting spin on the challenges of planning for the future.

The video has been updated frequently, but the message is constant. Our world is changing exponentially. As educators, this fact will lead us to be more aware, more responsive, more innovative and more creative. One of the most significant statements made in the video is, “We are currently preparing students for jobs and technologies that don’t yet exist . . . in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.”

Think about that! Former Secretary of Education Richard Riley stated, “The top 10 in-demand jobs anticipated in 2010 didn’t exist in 2004. The amount of new technical information is doubling every two years. This means for students starting a four-year technical or college degree, half of what they learn in their first year of study will be outdated by their third year of study.”

My mother will be 85-years-old this November. Consider what has happened in her lifetime. What has happened in my lifetime since watching “2001 A Space Odyssey” with such fascination? What will the world be like for the young people entering kindergarten this month when they attend Mt. Hood Community College?

Charles F. Smith wrote an article in 1994–“The Merlin Factor: Leadership and Strategic Intent.” The author realizes that we may not have all the answers to what the future will bring, but we know that we must have a strategic intent. The Merlin Factor is: “The ability to see the potential of the present from the point of view of the future. It is the ability to enlist people throughout the organization as ambassadors who listen, speak and act on behalf of the future. It’s an absolute commitment to performance breakthroughs that explode the existing cultural limits on what’s possible.”

I believe strategic intent, imagining the future and planning action now to make it happen, is essential. Strategic intent, and a desire to evolve in the face of uncertainty, is what drive strategic planning. But our planning must be fluid, flexible and responsive. A plan that accomplishes these three elements serves as a guide and reflects the strategic intent of Mt. Hood Community College as we envision another 50 years of service to our community. We know a lot about our strategic intent already. I see our values and goals as the core to our strategic intent. We value:

  • Being decisive, intentional and forward-thinking in transforming the college to meet the ever-changing needs of our communities.
  • Innovative education and training.
  • Inclusive environments that celebrate, respect and support diverse communities.
  • A creative, enterprising, joyful and positive spirit.
  • Accountable, credible, principled, responsible and truthful actions.

Being decisive, intentional and forward-thinking in our efforts to transform the college to meet the ever-changing needs of our communities–these values, I believe, commit us to a strategic intent. We are a community of learners striving to continuously improve, to be ambassadors of the future and imagining what our college will need to be 10 years from now. We need to do things now that will secure the future that we can imagine. Pablo Picasso, known more for his paintings than his clairvoyance, once said, “Everything you can imagine is real.” It is our time to make our dreams real.

One of the reasons I am so proud to be a part of Mt. Hood Community College is because my beliefs and values about education align with the college’s stated values. My beliefs are pretty simple. First, that education is a personal right; all people should be afforded the opportunity to learn, to better themselves and to maximize their individual potentials. The second belief is that learning is a lifelong process. Third, I truly believe in the Learning College Principles presented by Dr. Terry O’Banion in his book, “A Learning College for the 21st Century.” I am also a principle-centered president. Know that as I work with you to move our college forward, I embrace these principles and they are at the forefront of how I approach a challenge.

Dr. O’Banion defines learners in a way that includes not only those who would be identified as students, but each person who is touched by and benefits from the Mt. Hood Community College experience. This includes students of course, and also teachers, facilities personnel, office and administrative folks, our community partners, our clients. We are all learners. These principles also define our responsibilities to our learners and our communities.

  • Principle 1: Create substantive change in learners. Can we answer the questions: Are MHCC students successful? Are we making a difference–and how do we know we’re making a difference?

  • Principle 2: Engage students as full partners. Are we taking advantage of teachable moments? Do we do for our students or do we give them the skills to do for themselves so that they may always be lifelong learners?

  • Principle 3: Create and offer a variety of learning options. Are we providing all learners with learning opportunities that meet their needs–and do we know what those needs are?

  • Principle 4: Assist learners in forming and participating in collaborative learning activities. Are we giving our students the tools and skills they will require to be part of a vital workforce? Do they have strong communication skills, critical thinking skills, skills related to global awareness and living and working in a diverse society? Will our students be collaborators? How will we know?

  • Principle 5: Define our roles in response to the needs of learners. Every person that works at Mt. Hood Community College has a role related to the success of our students–it does not matter what your job is–your primary role is to support our learners.

  • Principle 6: Document improved and expanded learning. Accountability–we hear it over and over again. It isn’t a dirty word–it is an opportunity to strive to be great.

  • Principle 7: Create and nurture an organizational culture that is both open and responsive to change and learning.

A professional friend of mine, Dr. Alicia Harvey-Smith, researched and created an eighth Learning College principle. Alicia stated, “In order to create substantive change in learners, an environment must support learning for all. Systems must connect the learner to learning experiences in environments that meet their needs, even if those environments are external to our institutions. It is paramount that learning environments embrace the notion that all learners are capable of some measure of success. There must be a willingness to understand and apply new levels of knowledge as it relates to teaching and interacting with diverse members of our community. Innovation and creativity must be applied to learning . . .”

In the next year, it is my goal to have opportunities for our college community to imagine our future. My hope is each of you will be an ambassador for the future of Mt. Hood Community College. The college will ask you, “So, now what?” I hope that you are already thinking, “So, now what?” What does this mean as a learner and as an important and vital member of the MHCC community? Here are a few thoughts to begin this conversation:

  1. Assess our culture. What in the culture of Mt. Hood supports or threatens our ability to focus our energies on future-oriented values and goals?

  2. Hold one another accountable. Are we responsive to our community of learners and do we provide support for our community members in ways that they will understand and where they can connect to our college? We must recognize and respect the differing perspectives that will be brought into these conversations. I think about this as embracing ideas different from our own and agreeing to disagree at times.

  3. Use honest and effective communication. We will seek input from our learners and all of our stakeholders. Their voices are essential.

  4. Fostering relationships will lead us to our future. One of my favorite writers on leadership, Margaret Wheatley said, “In life, systems are a natural occurring phenomenon. All life organizes into networks, not neat boxes or hierarchies. Wherever you look in the natural world you find networks, not org charts. These networks are always incredibly messy, dense, tangled and confusing . . . but they are extraordinarily effective at creating greater sustainability for all who participate in them.” I anticipate that we will be a bit messy at times and that is really okay. I believe we can imagine a future and develop a clear strategic intent as long as we always look at what is in the best interest of our students and our communities and if we agree to disagree at times, it simply means we are facing the tough questions head on, and we are committed to solving our greatest challenges.

  5. Foster a culture where risk-taking and innovation are encouraged and supported. I have already observed and experienced Mt. Hood Community College’s ability to take risks and be innovative. One of my first experiences this summer was to hear the story of a student in our VESL Machine Tool program and the success he experienced at MHCC. Bottom line, our students and community reap the benefits of MHCC’s creativity.

  6. Wouldn’t it be a boring world if we all thought the same or we all brought the same life experiences to the table? Won’t it be amazing when all members of our college community feel connected and valued? That is what we must strive for. That is how diversity enriches the learning experience through the sharing of those differences in a safe and welcoming and ever-evolving environment.

  7. Learning happens inside the classroom, outside the classroom, in the library and the learning center, through online classes or a class enriched through Blackboard, by a trip to Costa Rica or in the hallway talking with friends, in the Student Union, in the wilderness, in the studio, on the playing field, in an industry conference room, or a community education class. All learning experiences are valid and valued.

  8. Compassion, appreciation, respect and empowerment are important in our relationship-building toolbox.

  9. Embrace continuous improvement. Remember, it is not that as a college we haven’t “done things the right way,” but rather we always want to be current and responsive and practice excellence and quality in our work.

As a community of learners, we are well on our way to becoming ambassadors of the future. We aim to instill confidence and pride in all who come in contact with the college by fostering a commitment to excellence in all college endeavors. This brings me back to the question I posed earlier: Now what?

First, I encourage each of you to engage in a conversation about the future through our strategic planning process. The college has had strategic planning initiatives and processes over the years. They have varied in how they have been led, their focus, how MHCC employees and students and our communities have been involved and how effective those processes were. In three years, our college and its communities will celebrate 50 years of teaching and learning, community engagement and resource development. The Board of Education recently discussed its vision and goals for the future. Our board has reasserted its commitment to the themes and values that were articulated in our last strategic planning effort, but it is time to re-visit that with our internal and external communities.

We will be initiating a strategic planning process this fall aimed at developing a renewed strategic plan and vision to take us to the year 2020. This will be a dynamic, but efficient effort that places value on both internal and external input and will include multiple pathways to participate. I have asked Michelle Gregory and Linda Vigesaa to coordinate this effort.

We are at a time in our college’s history when we have the opportunity to work with one another, work with our students and work with our communities to embrace our role as a member of a global community and examine what specific actions we have taken, or will need to take so that we may move forward into the future.

Do you feel a bit overwhelmed? As community college professionals we do not have the luxury of stopping everything we do, imagining the future, writing the plan and then implementing the plan. No–we must continue to work with our students, our communities and our stakeholders who depend on us as we make our bold plans. We are building an airplane while we are flying it. I see this as exciting as well as a bit scary. This is not new–this is what we do.

That’s plenty to get us started on the planning process for MHCC 2020.

I want to let you all know again, how honored I am to be president of Mt. Hood Community College. I have been touched by your welcome, your kindness and your passion for the work that we do.

Before we leave, I have a few announcements.

I would like to introduce the three recipients of the Distinguished Faculty Awards. The award recognizes excellent teaching and service to students and peers. Nursing instructor Chrissy Bloome was unanimously chosen by the selection committee. One colleague wrote, “Chrissy’s knowledge and enthusiasm for life, as well as her intense commitment to excellence, make her an asset to the nursing program! Her students adore her!”

Michelle Hampton, composition instructor, was described by colleagues as positive and flexible with a tireless commitment to everything she does. One student noted that Michelle gave her self confidence and made a huge difference in her life!

Lee Mitchell, science and biology instructor, received kudos for his teaching methods. Students wrote, “He creates a sound education foundation to enable us to accomplish our dreams.” And, “He challenges us to hypothesize and predict with the concepts we have.”

Would Michelle, Chrissy and Lee please stand? Let’s show them some MHCC appreciation!

Next, I would like to recognize the three recipients of the Outstanding Part-time Faculty Award for their contributions to teaching and learning.

Michael Jones, a Natural Resource Instructor, received praise from students for his clear instructions, patience, professionalism and friendly manner.

Nominations for Scott Plinski, a member of the Humanities division, show that he is greatly admired and respected by everyone who works with him and by the students who benefit from his instruction.

Kori Torheim, an Adult Basic Skills instructor, received high marks for her support of students. Her strengths include her deep compassion for students and an innate understanding of their individual needs.

Would Michael, Scott and Kori please stand? Please join me in congratulating them on their awards! Thank you!

Now, let’s recognize the three recipients of the Outstanding Support Staff Awards.

Vickie Lundmark-Trujillo works as administrative assistant in the Industrial Technology division. Her outstanding service extends to students, industry partners and advisory committee members.

Brenda Wise, Science Lab coordinator, is lauded for her organizational skills, friendly demeanor and words of inspiration. She is also credited with providing a safe work environment through multiple safety upgrades and required Standard Operating Procedures.

Nathalie Wright, a distance learning professional development facilitator, was described as a “lifeline for the department of English and Modern Languages. She is kind and patient! She inspires others with her enthusiasm and encourages instructors with her software knowledge."

Would Vickie, Brenda and Nathalie please stand? Please join me in congratulating them for their outstanding, professionalism, leadership and enthusiasm!

Thank you!

In further announcements, I would like to remind everyone about some fun events on campus. There will concerts, plays, art shows, planetarium presentations, volleyball games and cross-country meets this fall.

I encourage you to check out two new centers on campus. The Diversity Resource Center is a partnership between ASG and the college. It is an inspiring place that celebrates all the things that make each of us unique. And, the Orientation Center is designed to be a line-free, “sit down and let’s talk” center for new, re-starting and returning students. It is a go-to site for students to orient or reorient on the registration process, the portal, support services, financial aid procedures and more–all in one convenient location.

One final announcement: Please remember to join in the MHCC employee photo. We will start gathering at 10:15 a.m. on the grassy knoll between the fountain and Kane Road. Bring the card that you were given at breakfast this morning–it identifies your letter position as we attempt to organize ourselves to spell out MHCC. It also serves as your raffle number for a prize.

Thank you, again, everyone! Here’s to a great year!

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 Last Modified: 10/18/2013 08:29:11 AM