Meet Dr. Sharon Pierce, MCTC’s New President
MCTC’s New President Embraces Campus and Community
Dr. Sharon Pierce joined Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC) as its new president on Friday, July 1, 2016. Since beginning her presidency, Dr. Pierce has dedicated herself to listening to the College’s internal and external communities in order to gain a full understanding of MCTC and the community it is dedicated to serving.
MCTC’s urban setting, distinctive and diverse student profile, combination of liberal arts and career and technical programs, and its mission, vision and values first drew Dr. Pierce to the College. As she continued researching MCTC, reviewing its strategic planning initiatives, institutional learning goals and last accreditation report, Dr. Pierce was intrigued by how the College’s real challenges - and real opportunities - were similar to those she’d tackled throughout her entire career.
A Background in Caring, Compassion and Collaboration
Dr. Pierce grew up in urban Baltimore, Md., the daughter of a single mom who encouraged each of her four children to work hard and go to college. Dr. Pierce did exactly that, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the School of Nursing at the University of Maryland, followed by a doctorate in Urban Education from Morgan State University (Md.).
Dr. Pierce’s first career was as a practicing nurse which she dedicated herself to from 1978 to 1990. “Nursing is a part of who I am and over time has helped to define me,” said Dr. Pierce. “Taking the philosophy of interacting with human beings and caring for people is part of my internal identity and has given me added passion for teaching and education.” Dr. Pierce spent the past 27 years at Howard Community College in Md. serving on the nursing faculty (1990 to 2010), as the nursing course leader (1993 to 2001), director of the nursing education program (2001 to 2006), chair of the Health Sciences Division (2005 to 2010) and as the vice president for academic affairs (2010 to 2016).
“I have always been passionate about patient care, teaching and education,” said Dr. Pierce who sees parallels in each. “I feel the same way about my students as I did my patients. Each deserves careful attention, compassion and our goals need to be mutual.” Dr. Pierce believes students need to be engaged and involved in planning their futures and she respects how the faculty and staff at MCTC focuses on student success, valuing each individual.
Focused on Disparities
Dr. Pierce is proud of MCTC and its goals around closing the achievement gap. Her interest in disparities began when she first engaged in nursing and was drawn to the link between health and socioeconomic status. “I was intrigued by the question, ‘Are you poor because you are sick or sick because you are poor?’” Dr. Pierce knows from experience that education is fundamental to the health of individuals and ultimately the communities where they live, referencing how when the state of Maryland looked at violence as a public health issue, seeing the issue from a different lens provided valuable information to impact positive change.
“I am interested in legislative affairs, regulation, accreditation and workforce development,” said Dr. Pierce, who believes community colleges can change the disparities that exist within communities. “Alongside my colleagues at MCTC, I will work hard to make sure our institution doesn’t work in a vacuum and we go above and beyond being a good neighbor, while we prepare the workforce of tomorrow. It’s about lifelong learning and the cultural life of the community. I see MCTC as the anchor.”
Leadership Style Built on Authenticity
“Being an authentic presence is the most important tool you bring to work every day,” said Dr. Pierce who considers herself a participative leader who values collaboration and open communication. “In my new position at MCTC, I will strive to create a trusting environment, where everyone feels free to participate. I have a visceral commitment to equity and inclusion and I know that looking at the hard things and taking them on is important to our future.”
The Future of MCTC
When asked where she sees MCTC in the future, Dr. Pierce thoughtfully responded, “I see MCTC being reflective of its mission, vision and values. I see us as THE dynamic urban institution in downtown Minneapolis serving a multicultural population, producing talented graduates, serving the needs of our community and being a hub where students can start their education and finish in one of many baccalaureate programs, if that’s the path they choose.” Dr. Pierce would also like to continue the College’s strong relationship with the Minneapolis Public Schools so concurrent enrollment and postsecondary education options remain strong. “I see the key priorities of the College being student success, retention, quality service and financial stability,” said Dr. Pierce.
“Community colleges are where a majority of our population goes for a better life,” said Dr. Pierce whose mother attended community college after all of her children graduated from college. “MCTC’s mission to empower students by giving them a rich education is critical to the future of our community. Our role is to help students figure out where they want to be, discover more about themselves and ultimately enhance their quality of life.”