Now that Interim President Avelino Mills-Novoa’s two-year contract is ending this year, MCTC has spent five months conducting the search for his replacement. Since this campus boldly claims to be an “active partner in initiatives designed to strengthen the social, economic and cultural vitality of the Twin Cities metropolitan area”, finding a new President that reflects that is imperative to the success of this very needed community college.
President Avelino’s well-earned retirement is a great loss for MCTC and higher education in Minnesota. Thanks to his tireless and constant devotion to student success, President Avelino inspired the transformation of MCTC from a collection of insular thought into a college challenged to look beyond their greatest expectations. How a college goes about finding a person that will fill all the needs of our college, both structural and organic, is very difficult.
Many staff, faculty, administration, and students have seen the MCTC campus failing to take bold positions on public matters, such as essential cultural competency training, that merit serious debate. As vulnerable members of this campus, students need to be ever cognizant of what is happening on this campus, as it directly affects you.
The week of Feb. 14, students were invited to meet with the four selected candidates for our next president. Each candidate was given an hour, from 12:30-1:30 p.m., to field any questions or concerns the students had. The problem with this is that students were only given the option to attend this session, and not invited to attend any other sessions. The question here is whether or not the student voice matters.
Students are often in the midst of lunch or running between classes, so not being invited to attend other sessions eliminated more student voices. Yes, technically all students were welcome to attend any session, but the invitation only gave the one option, therefore limiting the amount of students able to attend – which was extremely evident at each session. Another challenge facing the students in this hiring process, was providing feedback on each candidate. The process was to have feedback forms provided for students to fill out after each candidate session.
However, no forms were provided for students after the first candidate for president, Julie Leidig, met with students. At a student session with another candidate, feedback forms were available for students to fill out before leaving. This inconsistency in availability of student feedback forms again begs the question of whether or not the student voice matters. This is not only unfair to students, but unfair to the candidates. We can do better, MCTC.
Under the leadership of a new president, this urban campus could potentially anchor a rebirth in downtown Minneapolis. A slew of new, and successful processes could be implemented to smooth the way for students to engage in higher learning and transfer seamlessly to other institutions and or find job placement upon graduation. More active engagement between the students, faculty and staff that is on an equal give and take level could change the trajectory and retention of students.
President Avelino leaves behind a legacy of excellence, but a college is more than one individual. The culture of quality he instilled will continue. However, it is imperative that the Minneapolis Community and Technical College system chose a new president who is an energetic, visionary educator with a distinct record of innovation and cultural competency at the community college level.
Just know, the MCTC community is watching.