Alumni Among Us
For many MCTC students, their educational path is a transformational experience: it gives them a foothold in the job market, lifelong skills and community. Among the nearly 1,000 faculty and staff at the College, many started or continued their education at MCTC. These employees have had a 360 degree experience: from student to staff; from finals to faculty. These are just a few stories of the alumni among us.
In 2002, Josh Kirkpatrick was managing a bar in rural Minnesota. Burned out from the work—back when smoking was still allowed in bars—he entered the MCTC Barber School. After graduating, Josh saw instant employment. “One of the best things about this profession—and the MCTC Barbering program—is the high demand in the field,” said Josh. Several years later he learned his former instructor was heading for retirement, and Josh entered the applicant pool. “I think the fact I was familiar with MCTC and am a part of the MCTC community as an alumni was instrumental in my qualifications.”
Vickie Smith went back to school at age 40 with six kids at home. Working in MCTC’s Shipping and Receiving department through her Business Management studies, she thrived with the support of faculty and staff. “I definitely had my share of stress, but everyone here was so understanding. MCTC is community-based, and I graduated because of all the support I received. My experience here was simply amazing.”
Jessica Shryack just can’t leave MCTC. When she started as a PSEO student, she took a litany of courses while working part-time. Jessica’s education at MCTC informed her later educational decisions: she was inspired by MCTC instructor Darren Witwer to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Religious Studies. Jessica went on to receive her master’s degree and Ph.D in Educational Psychology. Throughout her educational experience, she kept coming back to MCTC—first as an unpaid intern with TRIO Educational Opportunity Center, later as a part-time advisor with TRIO, and finally after finishing her Ph.D as a research analyst with the Department of Strategy, Planning and Accountability. “I’ve been at MCTC in some capacity for 20 years. That’s a testament to how much I love this school.”
Jerome Lindsey’s first classes at Metropolitan State Junior College were held in Memorial Hall. The year was 1970, and there was no T Building, Science Center or Kopp Hall. Having worked for the College for the last 35 years, Jerome has seen generations of students come and go while the College changed dramatically. He has also become involved in the local community. “I do artwork in and around Loring Park,” he said. And he does: his 3-D trolley sculpture is on display in the Wells Building, and he’s compiling a book about Loring Park and the affiliated art scene. “That’s what I want to do with the rest of my life. I want to do art. I want to live art. I want to sleep art. And I want to go fishing.” Jerome’s son will start school at MCTC in the fall.
Bayla McDougal enrolled in MCTC’s Addiction Counseling program back when the College was known as Minneapolis Community College (MCC), taking advantage of the small but accessible urban campus and free daycare offered then. Bayla went on to work in the field of Addiction Counseling for more than 20 years before coming back to MCTC—this time, to teach. “I love MCTC, and I have a strong commitment to seeing the success of this program.”
After a 20-year career as a woodworker, Jim Brennan saw the recession hit his field hard and decided to go back to school in a field that had always interested him: computers. “There are more and more computers in woodshops, so it was a field that had interested me for some time,” he said. After completing his two-year ITEC degree at MCTC, Jim spent a year in a contract position with the MCTC Digital Resource Lab, a year as a temporary worker with Information Technology Services, and is now finishing his fifth year as a full-time employee in ITS. “I like being downtown and I like the MCTC campus. It was easy to transition from a student to an employee.”
After returning to his hometown of Minneapolis from the east coast in 2009, Monroe Hill came to MCTC to finish his degree. “The way the economy had turned at that time, I knew in order to get a job I’d have to go back to school and finish my education.” Monroe took a work-study position with Public Safety while completing his degree in Business Management. “I picked MCTC because it’s downtown, and because I liked the diverse population of students and faculty. Every instructor I had was thoroughly understanding of my situation as an older student working two part-time jobs with a teenager at home.” Monroe is transferring to Metro State in the fall.
Rochelle Spiel was raising her son, and realized she’d need a degree in order to support themselves. She sent grant and scholarship applications far and wide, and with the financial support she received, came to Minneapolis Technical College (MTC) as a single mother making a new start. She began taking Graphic Arts classes, working in the Learning Center and helping her peers get their first start on computers. The College’s first computer lab opened the same spring she graduated, and Rochelle shifted her career goals from art to computers. Now an ITS field support technician, she also maintains an art studio at home, and has watched her son rise through the ranks of the U.S. Navy to become a radiation lab technician.
Joe Fruth came back to MCTC—for the second time—in 2002. As a student of Minneapolis Community College (MCC) in the early 90s, he studied Spanish and tutored in the Learning Center at the suggestion of an instructor. “That was my first formal teaching experience. It was what made me consider teaching someday.” After receiving his bachelor’s degree from the U of M, his former MCTC Spanish instructor offered him to teach a class. Joe went on to complete his master’s degree and return to MCTC again to teach Spanish. Having witnessed 20 years of changes at the College, Joe stays here for the diverse community. “Having lived abroad at a young age, one of the demographics I identify with here at MCTC is the very large international community. One doesn’t tend to find that anywhere else.”
Trina Givens-Henry was a student at MCTC in 1996 pursuing general education classes when she took a career exploration inventory. “Human Services came back as my strength, so I took an introductory course and loved it.” Trina went on to pursue her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work, and spent 20 years working in the field at organizations like the YWCA, ACORN, Hennepin County and a State office wherein she wrote curriculum and trained master’s level students. Despite the frequent travel required, she kept in touch with her instructors from MCTC and learned when part-time teaching opportunities became available. “I went from being a student to a visiting professional to an instructor. I often tell my students how honored I am to have come full circle.”
Michael Bro enrolled at MCTC in 2009 after deciding he needed a degree. He held a work study job in the Counseling and Advising office for two years before moving to TRIO Starting Point. He later took a position as administrative assistant for Starting Point and has worked there throughout his educational career at the College. He graduated this spring and transfer to Metro State to study Gender Studies.
See these profiles and more in the Spring 2014 edition of The Groove.
Published June 2014