Monday, May 16, 2011

"Remember Midland College, and all of the opportunities it gave you"

By Susanna Karth, Commencement Student Speaker
Midland College 38th Commencement
Friday, May, 13, 2011

Fellow graduates, faculty, and guests,

The theme of this speech is supposed to be what Midland College means to me. Well, we'd probably be here all night if I talked about that. MC has been such a part of my life. It wasn't long after my family moved to Midland in 2007 that I started taking classes here. Since then, so many people here, students, faculty, staff, have touched my life in so many ways; I couldn't even begin to name all of them.

What I really want to share with you tonight are some of the lessons I've learned in my time at MC. These are lessons I learned outside of the classroom, although I did learn a lot in class as well.

The first lesson was to keep going. Life is tough. I'm sure we've all had those days where we stumbled home after a long day with class in the morning and work in the afternoon and then stayed up all night studying for that test at 8:00 the next morning. I've been told it only gets tougher from here.

Life, or fate, or whatever you want to call it has thrown me a few curveballs which made my life even tougher. The most devastating of which was when I was diagnosed with CMT. Charcot-Marie-Tooth Syndrome is a muscular neuropathy. It affects my feet, hands, legs, even my breathing. I have to deal with poor circulation, numbness, and extreme temperature changes make me feel literally ill. My body is so easily fatigued some days I can barely stay awake. The way my hands are shaking right now is only partly from nerves. It might have been easier if CMT was a disease everyone knew about. Hardly anybody knows what CMT is. Most people think it just stands for Country Music Television. Well, that's not the only thing it stands for. But I am not going to let it stop me.

I hate sob stories in speeches because they are way overused, so I hope that didn't sound too much like one. Anyway, the point is: what devastates you? Is there something in your life that hampering you from achieving your full potential? Maybe you're a single parent trying to raise a family, get an education and work all at the same time. Maybe you or a loved one is struggling with a disease or disability. Or maybe you have an awful roommate who drives you crazy and keeps you up half the night. No matter what it is, I challenge you to keep going. Do not let it conquer you. Be like Dory in Finding Nemo. “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.” When you're stuck in a whale and feel like you're drowning from stress, stop, take a deep breath, and then move forward. Don't give up; don't give in; keep going.

 And as you keep going with your life, whether it's school, or work, or family, make sure you're going in the right direction. There's no point in moving forward if you're on the wrong side of the road. Find something fulfilling that you can pour your heart into. Something that will give you a purpose and direction. I was involved in more than one group here because each group was a different part of me. Drama club appealed to my creative side. I was able to release tension as I acted out different roles. Students in Philanthropy was my giving side. I wanted to help people, and giving away money was a great way to do it. Student government trained me for leadership. I wanted to make a difference, and I still do. These groups gave me a purpose outside of my academic endeavors and I think some days kept me from going insane in reaction to all my schoolwork. So, I challenge to find a group that can do the same for you. Whether it's a church group, or a club on campus, or a form of community outreach, or something else entirely, get involved. All work and no play will just discourage you. Find a balance. If you're doing something fulfilling, then I guarantee you no matter how much work it is it will feel like you're not working at all.

Second, don't go through life alone. No one can do everything by himself/herself. Even the Lone Ranger has Tonto.

During my time at Midland College, I have been blessed to achieve multiple academic endeavors.  However, I never would have earned all those awards by myself. It is because I was involved in so many things and interacted with so many people that I was qualified to earn those awards. It wasn't easy though.

There was a point in my life last semester where I was this close to giving up. It was one of those times when every class had something due, SIP was fund raising, the SGA convention was coming up, and, on top of all that, I had a bad cold. Again. Every cold germ always seems to find me. One day I just had enough and started crying my eyes out. I was so overwhelmed. And then a very wise lady told me that I didn't have to do it all. I had told myself that many times, but when someone else told me, it made all the difference. It finally sunk in. I don't have to do it all. And neither do you.

Yes, we should all try to make a difference. And yes, we should all try to succeed. But we don't have to do everything. Surround yourself with friends who will take care of you. Not just people who will follow you, but people who will argue with you if you are wrong; people who will work alongside you to achieve a goal; people who will watch your back; and you will do the same for them. I have many friends who have been there for me. So many in fact that it is very hard for me to mention only a few. There's my SIP friends, Susy and Amanda and Nancy and JR and Hilary and Matt and Jasmine and Kristen and oh, everybody else. They would all ask me “how's life?” and they would really want to know. And of course I'll never forget my friends in SGA: Aide and Malina and E.C. and Andre and Karla and Moriah and Dauvy and Carl and LaMark and Jeff and Vanessa and Joe; and that's only a few. They always stood by me. Always. And none of them were ever afraid to point out if everything wasn't the way it should be. It's hard to go wrong with friends like that.

These are the things Midland College has taught me, and they'll stay with me for the rest of my life. As you, the class of 2011, move forward with your lives, whether it's to a university, a job, or a family, I hope you'll remember these things as well. Remember to keep going no matter what as long as you're headed the right direction. Remember to never try to live your life alone, because no one can do everything. And remember Midland College, and all of the opportunities it gave you. Thank you.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

So, how'd it go this morning, with the rally and all?

Actually, organizers were thrilled with the turnout for today's rally, showing support for Midland college, and higher education in Texas ... and warning of the consequences of severe funding cuts for schools, now being considered by the Texas Legislature. See for yourself on the Midland College Facebook page, where I've posted an album of photos I took during the rally.

YOUR College, YOUR Community ... the view from the front lines

In a demonstration of support for Midland College and to show the importance of the repercussions of the 82nd Legislative Session’s impact on higher education, MC faculty, staff and students will rally on the steps of the Murray Fasken Learning Resource Center (FLRC) at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, May 4. The current Texas House and Senate bills will result in a reduction for MC between $5.4 million and $7 million for the 2011-2013 biennium.

From Michael Dixon, Professor of Mathematics, and MC Faculty Senate President-Elect ... "I just wanted to encourage everyone to attend the Rally being sponsored by the Midland College Faculty Senate [today] from 10:30AM to 11:30AM. The purpose of the rally is to express our concern about the budget cuts that Midland College is facing for the next biennium. The more people that attend the better. We are facing a huge crisis and the only possible way we can get through it, is together. Moreover, we want to send a message to Austin that we are not quietly accepting these or future cuts without a fight."

From Damon Kennedy, Associate Professor of History and MC Faculty Senate President, states, “I would like to make a personal appeal for you to attend the rally, which will be 10:30-11:30 on Wednesday, 04 May, 2011, in front of the LRC. The timing is not perfect - I know. But the window of opportunity is narrow, so it is now or never. As the new Faculty Senate President, I am learning a number of important and sometimes alarming things. Support the efforts of Dr. Thomas and many other people and organizations who work diligently on our behalf.”

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

So, how'd it go last night, with the ballet and all?

Very, VERY well, actually. See for yourself on the Midland College Facebook page, where I've posted an album of photos taken by MC Media Director J. Don Wallace.

YOUR College, YOUR Community ... join us?

In a demonstration of support for Midland College and to show the importance of the repercussions of the 82nd Legislative Session’s impact on higher education, MC faculty, staff and students will rally on the steps of the Murray Fasken Learning Resource Center (FLRC) at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, May 4. The current Texas House and Senate bills will result in a reduction for MC between $5.4 million and $7 million for the 2011-2013 biennium.

Dr. Damon Kennedy, Associate Professor of History and MC Faculty Senate President, states, “The rally is not intended to be a negative ‘bashing’ of our State Legislature, rather it is intended to give MC administration, faculty, staff and students, as well as the Midland community, a chance to voice their support of MC and to remind people of the importance MC plays in the Midland community.”

Midland College set a new enrollment record for the 2011 spring semester, but its capacity to serve more students at an affordable cost will be severely tested over the next two years, and probably beyond. Enrollment has grown from 688 students in 1969 to 7,429 in 2011; however, state support has declined from 65 percent to 25 percent during that same time. Local taxpayers are shouldering 35 percent of the operating budget. The other major revenue stream for Midland College is student tuition and fees, which have grown steadily over the years in response to declining state support.

MC plays a key role in positively impacting Midland’s economy.

• An economic impact study was previously done by a local economist who found that every dollar which came to and through Midland College turned over at least 4 times in our local economy. This means that with an average 40 million dollar MC annual budget, at least 160 million dollars is circulated through the local economy each year.

• MC is training individuals through certificate and associate degrees to directly enter the workforce. With 31 individual career and technical programs, MC has been meeting local workforce needs for over 35 years. Advisory committees representing area businesses support each of our career and technical programs and provide feedback and continuous improvement.

• The Bachelor of Applied Technology Degree was developed to enhance the skill level of area employees.

• The MC Petroleum Professional Development Center located in downtown Midland provides specific oil and gas related training.

• The MC Business and Economic Development Center, in partnership with the City of Midland, is located in a minority neighborhood and provides small business counseling, home purchasing assistance, improvement of personal credit rating, help with small business/higher education IDEA savings accounts, and small business/minority owned businesses networking breakfasts and informational sessions.

• Midland College has a partnership with Chevron USA to provide highly customized technology training for new processes and technologies in the petroleum industry. The expected result is standardized education for employees, lower attrition among newly-hired employees, higher retention among incumbent workers, reduced turnover and improved work quality. Target job titles are field specialists, mechanics instrumentation specialists and plant specialists.

• The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) provided funding to Midland College to establish and expand medical health informatics education programs. This six-month on-line training is provided to enhance professionals with skills and competencies. As the state moves forward with the Health Information Exchange project (HIE), graduates will find positions in hospitals, physician practices, regional extension centers and state/city public health agencies.

• MC’s nursing program has received various grants to expand MC’s training capacity due to the great need in the Permian Basin for registered nurses. So far, this money has allowed 20 additional nursing students to complete degrees.

Since 1972, more than 200,000 people have taken classes at Midland College. The college offers more than fifty associate degree and certificate options, and is a Level II (four-year) institution, accredited to offer a Bachelor of Applied Technology (BAT) degree.

The college also invests in the quality of life in Midland. The Phyllis & Bob Cowan Performing Arts Series and the Davidson Distinguished Lecture Series recruit renowned performers and speakers to the campus for free community concerts and lectures. The campus is home to the McCormick Art Gallery and co-produces theatre presentations with Midland Community Theatre. MC’s newly renovated Al G. Langford Chaparral Center is the largest public facility in town and hosts concerts, trade shows, and sporting events.

Monday, May 2, 2011

By popular demand ...

From Tim Jebsen, MC Theatre Instructor, and MCT Executive Director ... "We have added a performance to the run of the MC/MCT musical HAIRSPRAY at the Yucca Theatre - Saturday, May 14, 2011 at 8 p.m. This will be the final performance of the run of the show, so do not hesitate to go get your tickets and see these incredible students and volunteers at work on this great musical." CLICK HERE for more info

Students should be heard when it comes to higher education funding

Susanna Karth, President
Midland College Student Government Association

While students are in college, they are basically insignificant to the rest of the world. It is only after students graduate that the world begins to pay attention to them.

I learned in government class that students hardly ever vote, and so their views are not as important to the legislature as the views of the people who do vote. Is this one of the reasons the Texas legislature seems so willing to cut higher education funding?

The Midland College Student Government Association (SGA) was scheduled to go to Austin this past February. I was looking forward to spending time with my friends and attending the state SGA conference. I was also looking forward to visiting the Capitol and meeting our representatives. I was extremely disappointed when we weren't able to go in February due to inclement weather. 

So, when the trip was rescheduled for early April, I felt like we needed to make up for lost time. We had gathered signatures for our petition asking the legislature not to cut education funding. We had studied information about the budget shortfall and college enrollment statistics. We were ready to talk, but I don't think our representatives were willing to listen.

I suppose they were frustrated. I probably would be too if I were them. But I got the distinct feeling that they really didn't care about what we had to say. What was going to happen would happen no matter what we tried to do about it. Representative Craddick was very polite, but he changed the subject. He began by saying how he was in favor of community colleges, and then he asked us if we had toured the capitol yet. We didn't have much of a chance to talk. I'm shy, so I know I could have been a little more forceful if I had tried, but I think he would have still changed the subject as fast as possible.

Our visit with Senator Seliger was a little more productive, although he spent more time discussing the allowance of concealed handguns on campus than education. He seemed more willing to talk with us than did Mr. Craddick, but I still got the impression that what we had to say wouldn't affect his decisions in the slightest.

After the visits, I started thinking. Do they not realize that the students of today are the professionals of tomorrow? If funding is cut, tuition will rise. When tuition rises, fewer students are going to be able to afford to go to college. The only reason I can afford to go to school is because of the multiple scholarships I have managed to earn. What about the students who have even less money than I?  Do they not realize how a funding cut now will affect the workforce ten years from now? Or do they know and just not care?

Students should matter to legislators. Statistically, people who are more educated vote more. Students may not vote while they're in college, but they typically do after they graduate. I'm a registered voter, and yes, I did vote during the last election, but I'm just one voter and I fall into the insignificant student demographic. It is very frustrating to want to make a difference but to have no ability to do so.

Midland College Student Government Association, students and advisors, on the steps of the Texas Capitol Building