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Touch Base Tuesday 5-11-21
Dear Faculty and Staff:
For too long, much of our focus as a college community has been on overcoming the challenges of COVID-19. We have all adjusted our lives to accommodate wearing masks, working from home, maintaining social distancing. The uncertainty about the future of higher education has been articulated in articles, webinars, and student survey results. But as a community of educators, we had the wherewithal to look beyond these challenges to do what was needed to ensure the success of our students and the advancement of our goals.
In fact, last week 52 of our students were recognized at the first virtual student recognition ceremony. The event, organized by the Student Activities Office, includes very selective awards and scholarships. The Maria Espinoza Presidential Leadership Award and Scholarship was presented to Alexis Finney. It is given to the SCC student who has made outstanding contributions to the SCC campus community. The President’s Rising Star Award and Scholarship is presented to the SCC student who exemplifies leadership in their work, both on and off campus. Congratulations to Abigal James for winning this prestigious award.
I extend my appreciation to Pam Ronkoski, student activities coordinator, for her good work on organizing the virtual event.
The ultimate success of our students is highlighted at Commencement. As we complete the academic year, we are thrilled to celebrate the most extraordinary event of the year. At 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 15, the College will present its first virtual Commencement Exercises, complete with addresses, music, regalia, and, most importantly, nearly 160 students who chose to participate. I encourage all of you to watch this year’s virtual ceremony. The speeches delivered by Dr. Nicole Pinaire and our student speaker, Jennylee Crachhiola, are the best I have heard in my five years as President. In some ways, the video ceremony is even more inspiring than the in-person event. Please look for an email on Friday with instructions on how to view this very unique and special SCC Commencement Ceremony. One of our top priorities for this year included increasing our diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts at the college. At a recent meeting of the President’s Council on Race and Diversity, I presented an overview of all that we have accomplished this year in meeting many of our objectives. Here’s a brief summary of our work:
- Established President’s Council on Race and Diversity
- Established new Men of Color Summit/Program
- Developed and implemented new Multicultural Student Center; hired first manager of the Center
- Explored partnership with Harris Stowe State University
- Improved recruitment process for attracting diverse candidates
- Established the Campus Police Taskforce
- Added “diversity” as one of our official college goals
We still have much work to accomplish in this area. Currently, the diversity of our faculty and administration does not represent the diversity of our student body. I appreciate all the support I have received from faculty and staff in recognizing the importance of this work and helping identify strategies that will contribute to an environment that supports equity, inclusion, and diversity.
In addition to all the activities that recognize the success of our students and strategies that advance diversity, we are tentatively celebrating some good news from Jefferson City. Last Wednesday, the Budget Conference Committee approved a $10 million core increase for community colleges. This represents more than $1.4 million in additional funding for SCC. Also included in their budget recommendations was $21 million in new MoExcels (workforce education) funds. SCC presented a proposal for additional funding to support our new workforce/technical center. Because the college had $10 million from our bond initiative as a match, we were selected as one of the top proposals. If approved by the Governor, SCC will receive approximately $2.2 million for this project. We are hopeful that the Governor will also approve the increase in core funding.
As the semester comes to an end and we rearrange our lives to enjoy long-overdue vacations, perhaps a few road trips, some scheduled time with family and friends, I wish to share how blessed I feel to have the opportunity to work with all of you. Thank you for your dedication and commitment to our students. Despite COVID-19, each of you demonstrated a positive and professional approach to your work. I appreciate your efforts and wish each of you a safe and joyful summer.