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A new day for McHenry County College, the community

Note to readers: The following guest column by McHenry County College President Vicky Smith originally published in the Northwest Herald print edition Friday, Aug. 31. We inadvertently did not publish it to our website, so we post it here today.

By VICKY SMITH

I just celebrated my second anniversary as president of McHenry County College. Over these past two years, the college has undertaken significant planning efforts as we transform MCC into an institution where members of the community can reclaim their American dream.

McHenry County College is a major player in helping county residents reclaim their American dream. Each year, more than 30 percent – or 75,000 members – of the community take certificate and degree classes, noncredit classes, short-term training classes, attend seminars, workshops, conferences, participate in a multitude of events, or work on their English as a Second Language and GED certificates. We also work closely with more than 600 businesses and industries each year to provide workforce training and education.

And did you know that 33 percent of all in-district high school graduates choose MCC as their college of choice? Not only do high school graduates choose MCC, but adults who wish to retrain or achieve their life’s goals also choose MCC. I believe part of the reason is because students who choose MCC know they are going to receive the individual attention and concern about their success that they may not see at other institutions.

A recent national study showed that MCC, with a 62 percent rate, was first in all of northern Illinois (including all community colleges in Cook, Kane, and DuPage counties) and fourth in the state in student completion, as defined by the number of our students who complete a certificate or degree or transfer to a four-year institution. More of our students completed their goals than students at 35 of the 39 Illinois community colleges.

The number of certificates awarded by MCC has increased by 69 percent, and the number of associate degrees has increased by 43 percent. What that says to me is that we successfully prepare our students to continue their higher education pursuits or to enter our workforce.

Recently, MCC’s Board of Trustees spent time developing a new mission statement for the college. The new mission refocuses the college so everyone – internally and externally – understands that their role is to support the students and the community. The new mission states:

“Our focus is learning. Student success is our goal.”

As I mentioned in my opening statement, all of the planning that has taken place and everyone’s efforts have focused on ensuring learning and student success. The Educational Master Plan helped us anticipate and grow our educational and training programming based on the needs and demands of the community.

The community wanted their education and training to be adaptable and change ready. In response, MCC is implementing programs more quickly. An example is MCC’s Fast Track program of courses, where adults can attend classes in a cohort format on only one night a week and still get their degree in less time than normal. This focused, faster approach works around students’ schedules and allows them to re-enter and accelerate in the workforce more quickly.

Over the past two years, we have implemented programs in Occupational Therapy Assistant, Culinary Management, Medical Billing and Coding, Graphic Arts/Design, noncredit welding certificates, Robotics (which is the only robotics program in northern Illinois), and a weekend RN nursing program. Programs we expect to be implemented over the next 18 months include Health Information Technology, Respiratory Therapy, Physical Therapy Assistant, Manufacturing and Engineering Technology, and Paralegal Studies.

For nearly 50 years, MCC has been engaging and transforming the lives of our community members through quality, meaningful education. It is the college’s responsibility to the community to provide extensive educational opportunities that help move McHenry County forward, both socially and economically. No longer is MCC just a place to get your general education credits, but rather MCC provides much broader opportunities for individuals to join a community where they can undertake meaningful learning that allows them to take control of achieving their personal American dream. The MCC family is here to help each and every person make that dream a reality.

I believe that education is the smartest investment you can make – for your family and for your community.

McHenry County College is a community of change-ready individuals who ensure that our students are learning and are successful so that they may go out and achieve their own dreams.

Have a safe Labor Day.

• Dr. Vicky Smith is president of McHenry County College.

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