“Be Where Your Feet Are”

Do you make resolutions for the new year? I typically don’t. Which is not to say that I don’t respect those who do. I like to believe that new year’s resolutions reflect intentionality and thoughtfulness and self-awareness, so if you make resolutions, I applaud you. And even though I see myself as intentional and thoughtful and self-aware, I just can’t commit to a NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION.

There are all sorts of reasons why I don’t make new year’s resolutions. I know that the world will change – tomorrow, next week, next summer – and often those changes mean that my resolutions will be out-of-date. Alternatively, my intentionality will run into barriers I can’t foresee, or my January self-awareness will seem belabored by June as I’ve grown and learned more about myself. And maybe there’s just a part of me that knows I’ll fall short of the resolution goal, so I save myself the disappointment.

New Year’s Resolution 1915 postcard

Despite what I just wrote, I feel compelled to share some good ideas with you. Take these as possible resolutions, or just take them as advice to ponder. Adapt, adopt, ignore – as you choose. These words of wisdom come from a New York Times column by Melissa Kirsch and reflect submissions by readers. Enjoy!

From the “Ten Percent Happier” podcast: “Stop and recognize happy moments when you’re in the middle of them. Literally stop and say out loud, “This is a happy time.” It’s a way to ground yourself in the joyful parts of your life. We do this with moments of trauma and crisis all the time. Maybe we should flip that script.”

“You don’t have to identify with your feelings.” — Rori Quinonez, Toledo, Ohio

“I like to remind myself that my track record for getting through bad days is 100 percent, and that’s pretty good.” — Hudson, San Diego

“Everyone is going through something.” — Rose Fischietto, Macedonia, Ohio

“Be where your feet are.” — Submitted by both Pattie Saunders, Portland, Ore., and Kelly Kammerer, New York City

As you can tell by the title of this post, I love that last one. So this year, and contrary to my typical approach to the new year, I resolve to “be where my feet are” – every day, as best I can, all year long.

Happy 2023 to you!

The Community College Mission

Many of you have heard me “preach the gospel” of the community college mission. You know that I believe in who we are and who we serve. We are an open access institution and we serve all comers. We serve high school students who are getting a jump on college. We serve students who need to learn basic English. We serve students who want to pass the GED or earn a short-term credential that brings them a living wage job. We serve students who want to be welders, video game designers, published authors, sociologists, social workers, teachers, personal trainers, engineers, chemists, and nurses. And we serve students who don’t know what their pathway might be.

Two articles in Inside Higher Ed remind us of the power of our mission. This first article tells us the story of a community college professor and what she learned about her college when her son became a student. It is a powerful testament to the work that we do every day as well as to the power of patience and flexibility.

This second article tells us how the community college mission has changed in the last twenty years. You’ll see ACC’s experience in this article – as noted in the article, ACC’s dual enrollment program has moved from serving the privileged to driving equity by “widening the funnel”. In other words, we help students find their pathway to the blessings of a college education, whether those blessings are economic, social, familial, or personal. In the current Fall semester, 7,374 of our duplicated headcount was high school students – that’s roughly 21% of our total student population.

In addition to being an equity driver, dual credit can serve as a bridge for those high school students to continue their education with us rather than stopping out or starting over elsewhere. Roughly 25% of our dual credit students continue their education with us after high school. Our dual enrollment programs (dual credit, Early College High Schools, P-TECHs [Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools], and Career Academies) offer multiple options for students and support economic and social mobility in Central Texas.

Let’s celebrate who we are and who we serve. As we celebrate a day of giving thanks, I give thanks for all my friends and colleagues around ACC who believe in our mission and who help make it a reality each and every day. Thank you.

Teaching in Six Words: Teacher Appreciation Week Edition

In February I launched this form to allow faculty members to submit their six-word teaching statement. Modeled on Six Word Memoirs, I’m asking any and all faculty to submit their view of teaching in six words. (Keep those submission coming!) Since it’s teacher appreciation week, I thought I would offer a few more of the submissions for you to ponder. Enjoy!

“Home. Lights. Camera. Mic. Hidden students.”

Jacqueline Childress, Adjunct faculty in Accounting.

“Who says humanities degrees don’t pay?”

Melissa Markham, Adjunct faculty in Philosophy, Religion, Humanities

“Instruction designed to encourage lifetime learning.”

Nort Seever, Adjunct faculty in Government

“We are all in this together!”

Missi Patterson, Full-time faculty in Psychology

“An open ear can change everything.”

Stephanie Long, Full-time faculty in Geographic Information Systems

“Planning+organizing+delivery+listening+sharing = teaching”

Sara Corbett-Imeny, Adjunct faculty in Adult Education

Aren’t we blessed? We are blessed to have interesting, diverse, adept, clever students. And we are blessed to have accomplished, able, smart, varied, and passionate faculty. Happy teacher appreciation week – cheers to you all!

Two Years Later

In our break room on the 6th floor of HBC there are a couple of cubbyholes where things are stored – they contain boxes, a small desk, and more boxes. While waiting for my coffee to brew this afternoon, I noticed this on the wall of one of those cubbyholes. I’ve glanced at it dozens of times in recent months, but today I really looked at it.

Look closely – what does that calendar say? Yes, it says March 2020; it’s been frozen in time on that wall since Spring Break 2020. And look at the Escher print on the wall next to it, with its interesting commentary on perspective. (Hand with Reflecting Sphere, 1935 lithograph, M.C. Escher)

How are you feeling after two years of COVID-19? How are you feeling after two years of reinvention, crisis management, mask-wearing, pivoting and pivoting again, compressed deadlines, “you’re on mute”, and calls for grace, forgiveness, patience, and fortitude? How are you feeling after two years of our reality distorted by a pandemic, after two years of COVID pummeling your perspective? Has your perspective permanently changed? Mine certainly has.

I read articles in Chronicle of Higher Ed or Inside Higher Ed that describe both students and faculty as feeling disconnected, or that highlight the need for greater mental health support, or that examine the academic “rigor wars” after two years of extended deadlines and second chances for students, or that highlight our enrollment challenges. So much has changed for higher education in the last two years, and some of those changes will be permanent.

What hasn’t changed is our crucial mission to be the gateway for our students to a better or different life. We help change the trajectories of the lives of our students and their families because our doors are open and we invite them in and we help them achieve their goals. Whether they are seeking a second career, transfer to a four-year institution, help with their English language skills, a longed-for career path, or something else, we still make the difference in Central Texas.

While perspectives have changed, and the way we move through the world after two years of a pandemic has altered, let’s find ways to celebrate our reinventions, and our pivots, and our ongoing need for grace and patience and forgiveness. Let’s celebrate getting where we are today, and let’s look forward to where we’re going. Here’s to new, altered, revised or revived perspectives!

Our Mission

I know that some of my friends and colleagues get tired of this, but I truly believe in the mission of community colleges – which means I love to tell stories about the impact that we can have. Our mission of open doors and equal access, of equity in student success, and of completion and transition to living wage jobs and/or further education is, fundamentally, a mission of serving each individual student who knocks on our door. We do this with short-term credentials that lead to an entry-level job, with associate degrees that lead to transfer or skilled employment, and with adult education and literacy programs that help students complete their high school equivalency, learn English, and make a better life for themselves and their families.

This mission is highlighted in this beautiful and powerful story from Texas Monthly. As you read through the story, look for the name of Maricela Juarez. Her story (and that of her son) is part of the larger focus of this article. And her story is also an ACC success story, thanks to the dedicated commitment of our colleagues in Adult Education.

Maricela got her high school equivalency (GED) with the help of our Adult Ed program. She then went through Adult Ed’s College Prep program to help her beef up her college-going skills before transitioning to credit classes, where Maricela earned her Associate of Applied Science degree in Criminal Justice with us. Even better, Maricela started as an intern in Adult Ed while she was preparing for the GED exam, and she is now a full-time employee managing Adult Ed’s enrollment desk at EVC. She has great skill in this role because she can connect with new Adult Ed students as one who has taken the journey that they are beginning.

Maricela plans to complete a baccalaureate degree, and we are confident that she will. She has overcome tremendous challenges and barriers, challenges which would break some people – but Maricela has persevered. She is her own success story – but ACC will claim her as well. So here’s to our mission, our open doors, our equity-minded actions, our varied programs. And here’s to Maricela!

Six Words: The Post-Spring Break Edition

I am so enjoying this experiment. A few weeks ago I created a form through which faculty could submit their “Teaching in Six Words” statements. I love hearing from faculty all over the college and learning more about how they see their role as teachers. To celebrate the beautiful Spring weather, and the return to teaching after a week away, here are some selections for this week.

“Help students actualize their abilities.”


“There is no them, only us.”

Lydia CdeBaca-Cruz, Adjunct Faculty, Composition & Literary Studies

“Touching lives one at a time.”

Ellen Baik, Adjunct Faculty, Government

“Seeing the light go off? Amazing!”

Roland Duarte, Adjunct Faculty, Government

“Continual learning: best preparation for living.”

Kathleen Jurgens, Adjunct Faculty, Adult Education

“Empowering students to learn and grow.”

Silke Morin, Full-time Faculty, Biology

And below is a bonus, because sometimes, six words just aren’t enough!

“Passionate, caring, intellectually stimulating, engaging, student-centered, driven.”

Jyoti Parimal, Adjunct Faculty, Adult Education

International Women’s Day

In honor of International Women’s Day, I thought I’d write about some of the women I admire. These are women I know/knew personally, women who have influenced me on my journey. It’s not an exhaustive list – just a few names that popped into my head when I saw today’s Google Doodle “celebrating progress on the path to gender equity”.

In addition to honoring Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day with this post, I was also struck by the picture that popped up on my desktop today (my desktop rotates through my travel pictures). It’s a picture of the base of a sculpture with these words: Mitákuye Oyás’in. This is a phrase from the Lakota language celebrating the belief that we’re all connected. I believe in this world view of interconnectedness – the tree of life with many branches and strong roots to support us all even through divisiveness, distress, and discord. So – in the words of a Lakota prayer – here’s “to the mineral nation” that builds and maintains our bones, here’s “to the plant nation” that sustains our bodies and organs, here’s “to the animal nation” that offers “loyal companionship in this walk of life”, here’s “to the human nation” with whom we share our paths “upon the sacred wheel of Earthly life”. And here’s to the women who touch, heal, preach, lead, support, drive, build, engineer, defend, create, collaborate, serve, protect, and connect us all.

Mary Sue Butler and Betty Jean Campbell. Mary Sue was my first piano teach, and Betty Jean was my last piano teacher. From them I learned musicianship, the central role of regular practice, how to get through the terrors of recitals, how to accompany as well as how to play a solo, and most importantly, how music – all sorts of music – can save and sooth the soul.

Mrs. Endorf, Mrs. Shuck, Miss Brooks, Mrs. White, Mrs. Toole, Mrs. Tuttle – my first through sixth grade teachers. Ah, the many, many, many lessons – life lessons, penmanship lessons, spelling lessons, science lessons, math lessons – that I learned from these women.

Dr. Donetta Goodall. Donetta was the first woman leader in higher education to impact me. She altered my sense about what I could be and do at ACC, and shaped my approach to leadership. Perhaps there were other women before her on my journey – but frankly, higher education leadership was a male prerogative as I entered my early roles as a leader. Donetta is calm, gracious, funny, patient, and forthright. She saw something in me – even when I was an interim dean who knew nothing about what it meant to be dean – that she supported, enabled, and applauded. She is a lovely lady – and I learned a lot working for her and watching her in action.

Midge Jones. My Aunt Midge was a hardworking, lovely, generous lady with a great laugh, a great sense of style, and a great love for me and my sister. Among many things, she taught me that you could “color outside the lines” – NOT something my parents ever taught me. When my sister and I were visiting her and headed off to spend the day at Six Flags (we were probably 12 and 14), she fed us hamburgers for breakfast. At the age of 12, I had no idea that you could eat hamburgers for breakfast! Ah, the things I learned from Aunt Midge.

Debra Peterson. I won’t tell you Debra’s story – it’s not mine to tell. But I have known and admired Debra for over 20 years. Life has thrown her all sorts of heavy burdens, yet she perseveres with kindness, compassion, and a smile. If you want an example of endurance with resilience through life’s trials, get to know Debra (if you don’t already).

I celebrate these women and many others who helped me become who I am today. I celebrate the progress that women have made even while knowing that there is much left to do. I’ll end with a little more from the Lakota prayer that I referenced earlier. These women – and many others not mentioned here – “are all my relations, my relatives, without whom I would not live. We are in the circle of life together, co-existing, co-dependent, co-creating our destiny. One, not more important than the other. One nation evolving from the other and yet each dependent upon the one above and the one below.”

Six Words Tuesday

I love the idea of faculty members describing their teaching in six words. And luckily for me, faculty are finding this exercise to be worthwhile as well. If you would like to submit your six word teaching statement, please do so via this link. I hope to highlight several submissions each week as a way to say “thank you” to the work that our faculty do. Enjoy the wisdom of our colleagues!

“Invest. Engage. Inquire. Listen. Clarify. Repeat.” Stephanie Long, full-time faculty and department chair, Geographic Information Systems

“Building a foundation for Future Opportunities.” Jose Arturo Puga, adjunct faculty, Sociology

“The opportunity of a lifetime awaits!” Dan Dydek, full-time faculty and department chair, Psychology

“Teachers should be students par excellence.” Christopher Whalin, adjunct faculty, Philosophy

“Knowledge offers possibilities to everyone, everywhere.” Mindy Reed, adjunct faculty, BGTCM (Business, Government, & Technical Communications)

“Any questions? Yes? No? Maybe? Okay.” Jacqueline Childress, adjunct faculty, Accounting.

“Teach with Actions, not only words.” Tracy Partin, adjunct faculty, Health & Kinesiology

“Offer grace, even when not asked.” Heather Syrett, full-time faculty, General Studies & Student Development

Twosday Equals Six Words

In honor of Twosday (2-22-22), I thought I would launch my new periodic topic: Teaching in Six Words. (And no, there’s no clear connection – but it seemed like a good “hook”!)

We have remarkably creative, clever, committed faculty whom I would like to celebrate. So I’ve invited faculty to craft a six word vision of teaching and submit it via this form. Acknowledgements to Larry Smith who created the concept of a Six Word Memoir.

Here are a few for you to ponder. Feel free to submit your own, or, if you’ve already submitted one, to submit again and again.

“Like Frost, I am an awakener.” Theresa Mooney, adjunct faculty member in BGTCM (Business, Government, & Technical Communications) and CLS (Composition & Literary Studies)

“Can you hear me? Let’s begin.” Jacqueline Childress, adjunct faculty member in Accounting

“Hear, good; know, better; practice, best.” Cristiana Conti, adjunct faculty member in Humanities.

“Community means learning and growing together.” Cathy Angell, full-time faculty member in FOLA (Foreign Languages)

“Connect. It could make a difference.” Kerri Pope, full-time faculty member in PRH (Philosophy, Religion, & Humanities)

“Trying to communicate passion via Zoom.” Marilyn Yale, full-time faculty member in Government

“I speak. Students hear. But listen?” Azzurra Crispino, full-time faculty member in Philosophy

“Knowledge offers possibilities to everyone, everywhere.” Mindy Reed, adjunct faculty member in BGTCM

The Power of ACC

Like you, I’m exhausted.

I’m frustrated.

I’m frazzled.

I’m unfocused.

But do I have a pick-me-up for us all – a note from a student about the power of ACC and our comprehensive, open door, open access mission.

This email found its way by a rather circuitous route to Ron Johns, who shared it with me and a few others. Read it and celebrate the power of ACC:

“I have been looking for someone to share my gratitude with for the last few months and have been unable to find a suitable administrator to say thank you to so forgive me if you are not the person I should be emailing. However, I must tell someone at ACC the importance of your institution and I hope you will indulge me for a quick minute.

I graduated with an Associate of Arts degree in Arabic from ACC last Spring (2021). Before returning to study at ACC my life was a complete mess. I had no prospects and I was adrift, lost on a journey that seemed never to open into any form of a future. I was paralyzed with very little hope of becoming the man I wanted to become with little knowledge of what that even entailed. On a whim I looked up classes and saw that you offered Arabic classes. This random entrance back into higher education had no real go other than to test the waters and potentially learn a little bit of a language I was intrigued by. As I mentioned above, this informal excursion back into academia led me to attain my Associate degree at ACC. It also helped me repair a GPA I had destroyed years before as well as allowed me to reintegrate into the culture and rigor of higher learning (something sorely lacking in my toolkit). However, after graduating from ACC I became somewhat adrift, not really knowing where next I should continue my journey. I decided to take one class this past fall semester, a ceramics class (and I must say you all have done such a wonderful job with your arts department, it is an incredible experience). While taking this one class I was informed of a virtual school fair held by Columbia University’s School of General Studies. I did not attend the school fair, but it did implant the idea of applying to Columbia University, a school I would have never even considered applying to prior to ACC. Somehow, and beyond my comprehension, I was accepted to the spring semester here at Columbia. We are going into our fourth week of classes now and it has been one of the most incredible experiences of my life.

I write all of this to say to you, plainly and clearly, thank you. Thank you so incredibly much. Without ACC I would not be here at Columbia. Without ACC I would still be lost. I may not have always believed in ACC’s statement “Start here. Get there.” You have proven my lack of belief foolish. I can say without a doubt that what I started there, paved my way here. Thank you for everything you all are committed to and thank you for everything your institution has done for me. They may want me to call myself a Columbia Lion, but I’ll never stop being a Riverbat!

Thank you for taking the time to read this email.”

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