MCTC Dean understands the college struggle


Keith Brooks posing in the Helland Center at MCTC in Minneapolis ,MN. Photo by Esther Callahan/ City College News

Most students who go to MCTC are there to get an education. But as Keith Brooks said, “I would like students to see their challenges as opportunities to get better at their winning ability.”

When Dr. Keith Brooks started working as the Dean of Academic Foundations at MCTC, he came with the understanding of being a part of a fast-paced community. “Growing up in an urban setting in South Central Los Angeles, there were lots of things going on in a very culturally and racially diverse community,” said Brooks.

Brooks first went to Xavier University in New Orleans, an historically black university, for 5 years. “When I got to Xavier I messed up my GPA,” stated Brooks, “I was partying, I was kickin’ it, and I was working a few part time jobs. It was my first time on my own so, you know, I’m not managing my time well. I remember having a 7:50 a.m. course and I lived off campus, and so I was late to some of my classes.”

The struggle to know if you are on the right educational path plagues most students. It was no different for Dr. Brooks, “I started off as a psychology major, because that’s the field that my father is in, but I didn’t do any real soul searching and say ‘hey, what am I good at? What do I enjoy doing? I got a C- in intro to psych and then I got like something worse than that in behavioral psych, and I had to ask WOW, is this really me?”

His education began to take off once he really asked himself what he wanted out of his education and his life. He moved into an education program with the understanding that he was on academic probation and had to step up his game.

“That was the first time I was backed into a corner like that,“ said Brooks. “Well, I backed myself into the corner, it wasn’t anybody else’s fault. So after that push, my GPA skyrocketed.” He earned the respect of his peers and even co-founded a tutoring program in one of the projects in New Orleans. While at the University of Minnesota for graduate school, Brooks was given a vantage point in terms of the narrative of people in regards to the benefits of differences, similarities and communication skills. He uses this knowledge in his job to balance competing interests where his job is to help bring success to students, faculty, and staff, all at the same time.

“At one point I was in a situation where I had become homeless, I was out of housing,” stated Brooks. “I had other challenges personally, where I felt like I could have been derailed in my life, but I didn’t allow it to take my eyes off my goals.”

Brooks encourages students to ask for help – not to have someone do the work for them, but to ask for help in pointing them in the right direction.

“I get the sense that sometimes people are, and I can relate to it, that sometimes people are in such survival modes that they get into a mentality of ‘I’ll handle it, I’ll handle it’ and they probably could, but hey, if I they ask for help it would just save some time, some energy, some resources,” said Brooks, “As an institution we are struggling to figure out how we best communicate the resources we have on campus.”

As an administrator, it is important to Dr. Keith Brooks that the MCTC student body know that he is someone who can relate to the students’ struggles and that he knows what it is like to fail and succeed in college.