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John McGill receives the NISOD Excellence Award!

June 18, 2012

John McGill, a Department Chair at York Technical College, and a recipient of the NISOD Excellence Award had the recent privilege to attend the 2012 NISOD Conference held at the University of Texas at Austin.  Here is an excerpt from his experiences:

The conference felt like being in the epicenter of community colleges. UT at Austin is THE place to go for leadership in community colleges in the U.S.  (Our own Dr. Rutherford is a UT alumnus.)  There is a plethora of research conducted by UT and its graduates, with a great emphasis on maximizing community college student success.

Over 100 community colleges were represented, and there was a broad scope of presentations backed by research.  But, more importantly, I quickly found myself resonating with the presenters.  They pour their heart and soul into teaching in community colleges because our student’s lives are changed by the places we work every day.  It is my hope that some of the following comments I heard at the session will also resonate with you.

From a session by Erma Johnson Hadley and Bernadine Fong:

  • Teach for the right reasons.
  • Pick your least favorite student to be your pet.
  • Make every student feel they have a relationship with you.  Break down psychological and physical barriers to engage them, to make them feel comfortable engaging with you.

From a session with Eduardo Padrón:  “Why Higher Education Is More Important Than Ever”

  • Legislators may or may not send us money, but they will definitely send us regulations. Despite this, we must take ownership and dramatically improve student performance.
  • We must debunk the standard of a student’s right to fail, to their right to succeed.  NOTE:  Dr. Padrón is the President of Miami Dade College, FL, with 161,000 students, 91% minority.  Despite multiple academic and personal challenges, MDC students are succeeding.
  • Return on Investment: It costs $50K per year to incarcerate someone in FL, vs. $3000 per year for tuition.
  • More jobs than graduates: there are 3 million more Associates Degree jobs than graduates.  The opportunity is there.

From Bernadine Fong “Getting Students to Succeed: It’s More Than Just the Curriculum.”

  • A group of educators with the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (CA) worked on retaining developmental math students.  Student interviews illustrated the students involved went from “math is not my thing,” to being “math geeks.” The educators utilized Statway™ and Quantway™ which is a unique pedagogy.  Rather than “show one do one,” this pedagogy involves creating a productive struggle for the student, combined with alleviating non-cognitive factors, particularly student mindset.  The change in student mindset was crucial because students who think “I’m not a math person” will divest from the course.  Additionally, a focus on math literacy was utilized.  One example was when a student is asked to “find x,” he will respond, “why do I need to find x, it is right there on the page!”
  • With Statway™, 42% of the developmental students were successful. Without Statway™, the National Average success rate was 15%.  In university transfer statistics courses, the 61% of the Statway™ students were successful.  This is compared to a 64% success rate non-developmental students.  I think these are amazing results. 
  • The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (CA) is currently seeking partners at community colleges. The North Carolina community colleges are interested in partnering with Carnegie in the next phase. 

I hope I’ve captured your attention. NISOD certainly captured mine. If you’d like to discuss further, I’d enjoy sharing further.  Other presentations I attended included the use of student journaling in online biology and physics courses to gauge and improve student understanding.  I implemented this with very satisfactory results.   Additional sessions included flipping classrooms, MLA student workshops, and virtual fieldtrips.

I’ll close with Dr. John E. Rouche’s closing comments:

  • If the faculty is the heart of the community college, the staff is the soul.
  • Faculty’s first day of class goal should be that students will be sorry when the first day is over, and that students will feel better about the second day than the first.

Thank you John for sharing your experiences with us! To learn more about the NISOD organization visit

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Dr. Shannon Godwin permalink
    June 18, 2012 11:17 am

    Great Job John!

  2. Lori O. permalink
    June 19, 2012 12:12 pm

    Congrats, John! Sounds like a terrific conference–keep up the good work!

  3. Ivan Lowe permalink
    June 20, 2012 4:12 pm

    You are very deserving John!

  4. Andrea Phronebarger permalink
    June 20, 2012 4:23 pm

    Congratulations, John! Thanks for sharing such inspirational comments!

  5. Lynne Fantry permalink
    June 20, 2012 4:52 pm

    Congrats John, Great job!!

  6. Greg Rutherford permalink
    June 20, 2012 4:56 pm

    Thank you for sharing your experience, John.

  7. Larry becker permalink
    June 20, 2012 8:13 pm

    Thank you for sharing your insights and knowledge

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