November 2016, Volume 20, Number 5

Features

Northstars Shine Guiding Light

At North Campus, professors and staff are having a positive impact on their students’ lives and the lives of members in their community by matching word with deed. Following the sage advice of Theodore Roosevelt, these Northstar leaders know that “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena… who spends himself in a worthy cause.”

The stories of three Northstars here offer a glimpse of the change taking place inside and outside the classrooms at MDC.

Tapping Into Millennium Goals

Richard Tapia, a professor of political science and international relations at North Campus, takes a silver shotgun approach to changemaking, peppering his courses with strategies integrating social awareness, advocacy and meeting learning goals in the classroom.

Tapia’s students recently teamed with Farm Share, a nonprofit alleviating hunger by redistributing surplus food.

“The students got a first-hand understanding of poverty and its impact,” Tapia said. “It also gave us the chance to talk about policy, what strategies you could use to relieve poverty, and the extent to which government should play a part.”

Tapia also teams with MDC’s Institute for Civic Engagement and Democracy to help students become aware of the eight United Nations Millennium Development Goals, including reducing child mortality and achieving primary education.

“The students participate in an area agency that addresses one of the goals so they make a positive contribution and tie it to the work we do in the classroom,” Tapia said.

This leads many students to later participate in national or international policy and advocacy programs, like the Clinton Global Initiative University or the Model United Nations. Some seek coveted positions at the State Department.

“We had one student, Jeffrey Romeu, who won a prestigious Foreign Affairs Fellowship, which covers tuition through the graduate level and a fast track to the Foreign Service,” Tapia said.

Engaging on Multiple Levels

Brooke Bovee is at the vanguard of Miami Dade College’s efforts to expand the boundaries of the classroom. An English professor at North Campus, Bovee is also the campus’ service learning facilitator. In that capacity, she works with faculty who want to incorporate service learning into their curriculum to create meaningful experiences for their students.

Bovee also works with other college initiatives, including the Earth Ethics Institute’s Global Sustainability and Earth Literacy Studies (GSELS) Learning Network and MDC’s Institute for Civic Engagement and Democracy. Both help enrich her composition and literature classes by expanding the scope of instruction to include subject matter showing the interrelation of social, environmental and civic issues.

“The composition courses in particular offer the chance to bring in broader content. We work on the reading, writing and research skill sets, and I have the flexibility to cover things that will have a big impact, like civil rights or social justice,” Bovee said.

One example of Bovee’s social engagement success is a course she designed in collaboration with Professor Lisa Shaw. Their learning community comprised a set of linked sequential courses that focused on civil rights history. Bovee’s students studied some of the civil rights battles waged in South Florida and nationwide, and shared their findings with Shaw’s students.

“There is a rich history of this kind of social activism, and it is important to make students aware of it,” Bovee said.

The course has inspired Bovee to develop a larger presentation on the history of student activism at Miami Dade College from the 1960s through the present.

“All this work dovetails into our mission as an Ashoka Changemaker campus,” she said. "It’s a way to unify these activities from around the campus and celebrate them.”

Behind-the-Scenes Support

Changemaking is multifaceted, and Teresa LeFlore is leading the charge to get employees involved. A secretary in the fire science program, LeFlore is president of the Support Staff Council at North Campus.

“We engage in many service activities to help people in the community,” LeFlore said.

In essence, LeFlore and the Council are the support team for those who then themselves directly support the students.

Among its many outreach initiatives, the Support Staff Council sponsors a back-to-school drive, with employees donating items.

“We distribute book bags full of essential school supplies to at-risk public school children,” LeFlore said. The Council also collaborates in a campus food pantry and collects and donates clothing, personal hygiene items and other vital material during disasters.

“Change is inevitable, so don’t just let it happen, make it happen,” LeFlore said.


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