High marks continue for WCC’s charter high school

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When students want to jumpstart their future, they choose the Washtenaw Technical Middle College (WTMC) at Washtenaw Community College.

There, they can earn a high school diploma and a technical career certificate and/or associate degree, saving lots of time and money in the process. It’s one of the many reasons why Metro Parent magazine recently named WTMC as one of the five top-rated charter schools in southeast Michigan. It wasn’t the first general circulation publication to recognize the school’s academic standing. Newsweek Magazine rated it the seventh best public high school in the country in 2014.

At WTMC, students can choose from more than 100 programs at WCC, including accounting, broadcast arts and pre-engineering. Furthermore, students are encouraged to get involved on campus and take part in WCC’s clubs and organizations or start one themselves. They also have access to WCC’s student support services, such as academic advising, career services advising and tutoring.

“We help prepare students so they can become successful in college and the workplace,” said Dr. Karl Covert, dean and superintendent of WTMC. “It’s also an opportunity for them to explore a career path that may be of interest to them. In addition, if a four-year degree is something they want to pursue, they will enter with more than 60 credits.”

Housed in WCC’s Technical and Industrial building, WTMC enrolls 600 students from more than 30 different school districts and five counties. The school has a 96 percent graduation rate and last year, WTMC students completed 11,000 college credits with a grade point average of 3.5.

According to Covert, WTMC is a publicly funded institution that gets its funding directly from the State of Michigan’s “foundation grant” for K-12 schools. He adds that a small amount of federal education funding helps with students who have special needs. As a Public School Academy chartered by the college, WTMC receives state funding on a per-pupil basis, just like every other school in Michigan.

Because WTMC is its own school district, students must first apply to get accepted into the middle college. Afterward, they must take four 80-minute courses during the first semester to assess their skills in math, science, English, and critical reading and thinking. Students attend classes Monday through Friday for 15 weeks in the fall and winter and seven weeks in the spring.

The curriculum focuses on skill development rather than credit completion, emphasizing both hard (academic) and soft (life management) skills. The students, when they have learned and demonstrated college skills, transition into college courses.

Covert emphasizes that having a college class schedule allows students to develop other skills. “In addition to classes, our students are highly involved around campus and within the community itself, so they learn how to prioritize and successfully balance multiple responsibilities,” he said. “When they graduate from WTMC, they’re leaving with lifelong skills.”

WTMC graduate Hannah Metler, who works as a website designer at Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor and owns her own photography business, first learned of WTMC through her brother who graduated from the program.

“My experience at WTMC was everything I needed it to be. I wasn’t getting what I needed from my high school, and I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without WTMC,” Metler said. “The knowledge I’ve gained and the opportunities I was afforded is something I will always value.”

As the largest middle college in the U.S. and the second oldest in the state, WTMC has set the bar high for the past 19 years. The relevant programs of study and realistic preparation for college can’t be beat.

“The quality of education here is superb,” Covert said. “We have a talented, compassionate cohort of teachers and staff and our students overwhelmingly feel fortunate to be here. This is a great opportunity for students.”

To learn more about the Washtenaw Technical Middle College at WCC, visit themiddlecollege.org.

This story originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of On the Record.

For Washtenaw, a rosy outlook

Richard Wallace (left) and Dr. George Fulton speak at the Washtenaw Economic Club luncheon. Photo by Lynn Monson

Richard Wallace (left) and Dr. George Fulton speak at the 31st annual Washtenaw Economic Club Luncheon. Photo by Lynn Monson

For the past 31 years, Dr. George A. Fulton, research professor at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Research on Labor, Employment and the Economy and director of the Center for Labor Market Research, has peered into Washtenaw County’s economic future.

More often than not, he’s been right on the money, pun intended, and this year was no exception. For the 250 local business executives attending the Washtenaw Economic Club’s 31st annual Economic Forecast luncheon at Washtenaw Community College, it was all good news. Fulton told the crowd that the county is approaching full employment.

“The upward trend in Washtenaw County will continue over the next three years,” Fulton said.

Washtenaw County can expect 10,594 new jobs by 2018 and the unemployment rate is forecasted at 2.5 percent, which would be the lowest since 2000, according to Fulton. Also, in the next three years, Washtenaw County is expected to re-gain 73 percent of the jobs that were lost during the Great Recession at the end of the last decade.

Other highlights include:

• Growth in U.S. GDP forecasted at 2.3 percent (2016), 2.8 percent (2017), and 2.5 percent (2018)
• U.S. Light Vehicle Sales for the Detroit Big Three forecasted at 44.2 percent (2016) of total sales and 44.5 percent (2017-18)
• Average Annual Change in Real Wage in Washtenaw County will be 2 percent, with the higher education service industries at 2.1 percent and blue collar at 1.3 percent over the next three years.
• CPI Inflation Rate for the Detroit region to increase from 1.1 percent in 2016 to 2.3 percent in 2017 to 2.4 percent in 2018.

Fulton was joined by Richard Wallace, director of the Center for Automotive Research’s Transportation Systems Analysis group, who shared his insight into autonomous vehicles and the role they will play in the economy.

After playing a video that showed examples of autonomous vehicles, Wallace noted that this sophisticated technology is already here but that it will take some time before most vehicles on the road would be self-driving. “But it’s coming,” he said. “Apple is working on it now.”

“To move forward with this technology, we need a highly skilled and highly trained workforce,” Wallace said.

WCC, along with The Ann Arbor News (MLive), Bank of Ann Arbor, International Transactions Clinic, and Old National Bank, sponsored the event.

The college hosts four Washtenaw Economic Club luncheons throughout the year.

For more information about the Washtenaw Economic Club and upcoming events, visit wec.wccnet.edu.

This story originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of On the Record.

A passion for student success

Bill Reichert, 73, is a favorite faculty member of many Washtenaw Community College students. Photo by Lynn Monson

Bill Reichert, 73, is a favorite faculty member of many Washtenaw Community College. Photo by Lynn Monson

Washtenaw Community College Faculty member Bill Reichert, who teaches computer networking and systems technologies, is well-known among students. They really like him and aren’t bashful about saying so.

WCC President Rose B. Bellanca found that out at one of the recent luncheons she hosts for students.

What’s his recipe for success?

“Knowing your material really well and presenting it with enthusiasm; accommodating students while getting to know them personally; and staying current are all things that have worked for me,” he said.

Reichert, a graduate of Purdue University, who majored in mechanical engineering, is all for changing with the times, including conducting on-line classes, which can better work around student jobs, family obligations, etc., but he’s quick to acknowledge that he prefers the face-to-face interaction with his students.

“It’s challenging to try and build a relationship with students through an online course when you hardly see them, if ever,” he said. “There’s nothing like the instant gratification I get when seeing a light bulb go off in someone’s head during a lecture or when a student tells me how much they enjoyed a lab after class.”

Although Reichert’s dedication to help students succeed is relentless – he writes each 30-to-50-page lab from scratch, his passion for teaching came a little later in life.

Prior to joining WCC, Reichert worked as a senior facility engineer at General Motors (GM) for more than 30 years. After first retiring in 1995, he became interested in computers and started taking courses at WCC, earning several associate degrees and certificates in the process.

When Reichert retired from GM for a second time in 1999, WCC seized the opportunity and offered Reichert a part-time teaching position the following year, which he gladly accepted. Less than a year later, he came on board fulltime.

“Making the transition from working 12-hour days seven days a week (at General Motors) to teaching, where your schedule is somewhat less grueling time-wise, takes some getting used to, but I love working at WCC,” Reichert said. “Everyone here is very supportive from the folks in IT to the deans and department chairs to (WCC President) Dr. (Rose B.) Bellanca. It’s a great feeling to be recognized by your peers and praised by your students.”

As for Reichert’s teaching style? He takes a hands-on approach. “While certification tests are certainly important, I feel it’s more beneficial to teach the actual skills they’re going to use in the real world so they’re job ready,” he said.

He even takes the time to incorporate students’ suggestions into his labs, lectures and lesson plans.

At 73, it may be surprising to learn that Reichert doesn’t plan to retire soon. “I feel I have a responsibility to give back by sharing what I’ve learned with students, so they can go on to land great jobs,” he said. “I’ve had students come back years later and share their success with me. As an educator, there’s no greater satisfaction.”

This story originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of On the Record.

An artistic touch by WCC students

Students and visors check out displays at this year's Student Art Show. Photo by Jessica Bibbee.

Students and visitors check out displays at this year’s Student Art Show. Photo by Jessica Bibbee

The Washtenaw Community College Student Center was transformed into an art gallery when more than 100 pieces of student art were recently on display at this year’s Washtenaw Community College’s Student Art Show.

Works encompassing 2D, 3D and digital arts from a wide variety of WCC courses were selected, including Life Drawing I (ART 127), Ceramics II (ART 128), and Black and White Photography (PHO 129).

The artwork was on display from March 3-31, and a reception was held on March 16 with awards announced later that evening. WCC faculty, staff and students, along with community members were among those in attendance.

First place winners were: Irene Mokra (2D Art – Life Drawing), Adam Rogozinski (3D Art – 3D Design), and Karolina Kocovska (Digital Media Art – Photography).

Michael Benedict, art faculty member from Ann Arbor Pioneer High School; Siyang Ziui Chen from the University of Michigan – MFA; Christina Czaja, art educator at Lincoln Consolidated Schools; Tom DeMay Jr., principal owner and co-creative director of Octane Design firm in Royal Oak; and Lynne Settles, visual arts teacher from Ypsilanti Community High School all served as jurors at the art show.

“The art show is about and for the WCC art students. We wanted to give our students a professionally juried show. An objective look at a subjective subject,” said Belinda McGuire, WCC art faculty member. “Our students have displayed tremendous personal growth through their art. The art faculty, staff and administration at WCC are extremely proud of the volume and quality of art that our students produced.”

This story originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of On the Record.

WCC’s Chinese ‘ambassador’

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Photo by Jessica Bibbee

Take a look around at nearly every Washtenaw Community College campus event and chances are, you’ll see economics major Nina Pu there smiling, greeting and engaging with the crowd.

Pu, who works at the WCC Student Activities Office (SAO), has only lived in the U.S. for two years, but her English is nearly perfect.

After calling Shanghai, China home for nearly 20 years, Pu’s husband accepted a job offer that would take them 12,000 miles across the world to Maryland. Less than a year later, it was time to move again, this time to the Ann Arbor area where Pu’s husband accepted another job offer.

Taking ESL courses here and in Maryland certainly helped, but Pu credits her love for American television shows, such as “Friends” and “Seinfeld,” for picking up English so fast.

“It’s not enough just to take classes,” she said. “If you want to efficiently learn a new language, you have to push yourself, and that doesn’t always mean speaking with someone else in that language. In my case, watching television and having it on in the background helped tremendously.”

Although Pu has come a long way since her first days in the U.S., the self-proclaimed people person remembers a time when communication was a problem. So, she started a campus ESL Club. The decision to do so came almost immediately after a lunch with WCC President Dr. Rose B. Bellanca.

“Dr. Bellanca asked us, ‘What would you do if you were president,’” Pu recalled. “I explained to her that I still kept in touch with the people who were in my ESL classes and noticed that many of them were still stuck in the introduction class. I proposed the idea of having an ESL Club because I think it would help them want to socialize more and learn English faster.

“She was extremely supportive and encouraging. We’ve had a few meetings so far and all were well attended.”

According to WCC’s ESL Club website, the organization strives to promote ESL students’ social integration and cultural assimilation through language learning and American cultural exchange. There are movie and game nights and local field trips, but there’s a small catch: Students are required to speak English only during these events.

“As Club President, my hope is that by speaking English outside the classroom, students will start to build interest in the language, which helps them learn faster,” Pu said.

Being a full-time student, SAO employee and ESL Club president, Pu has her hands full but doesn’t mind.

“My job at the Student Activities Office means a lot to me because I discovered that I have a creative side. Creativity isn’t encouraged back home,” she said. “I also overcame my fear of communicating with people in English.”

One of Pu’s first assignments at SAO? Making more than 100 phone calls to students when registration rolled around – something that terrified her then but not anymore. “I look forward to it now,” she said.

Next January, Pu will transfer to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where she’ll pursue a bachelor’s in economics with a minor in business. And it seems that her work at SAO is rubbing off – she’s deciding on whether to become a businesswoman, marketing manager or event coordinator for a college, but confident she’ll “figure it out soon.”

“WCC has and continues to be a wonderful place to start my college journey,” Pu said.

“During my time here, I found myself because I didn’t know who I was in China. I’ve begun tapping into my potential and can’t wait to see what else I can accomplish.”

The ESL Club meets monthly in the Business Education building. The next meeting is scheduled on Wednesday, April 20 from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. For more information about the ESL Club, visit orgsync.com/130757/chapter.

This story originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of On the Record.

Social worker a humble honoree

Anthony Williamson stands outside the Parkridge Community Center in Ypsilanti. Photo by Lynn Monson

Anthony Williamson stands outside the Parkridge Community Center in Ypsilanti. Photo by Lynn Monson

Anthony Williamson, community development manager at Parkridge Community Center in Ypsilanti, is more of a behind-the-scenes guy.

So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that Williamson almost didn’t attend a ceremony where he would receive the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Prestigious Civil Rights Carter G. Woodson Award for his ongoing service and dedication to the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti community.

“I was honored to receive the award, and it feels great to be recognized by so many people that I respect and admire, but it’s not the reason why I do this,” Williamson said. “Social work can be challenging and to do this day in and day out, you have to genuinely care about the success of other people. At (Parkridge), we care about every single person who walks through our door.”

Since 1943, Parkridge has been a one-stop shop in the community for those who need some extra guidance in their path toward success. In 2012, WCC partnered with the city of Ypsilanti to expand services to include after school tutoring, youth mentoring, noncredit classes, and a summer camp for children ages five to 13 – making it a true community asset.

As someone who served as WCC’s Harriet Street Center’s program coordinator from 2001-2012, Williamson is no stranger to giving back to others in need. “I didn’t choose social work,” he said. “Social work chose me.”

It all started when he began working with disabled adults while working toward earning his bachelor’s degree at Eastern Michigan University. “Seeing the expression on their faces whenever they learned some of the most menial things that many of us take for granted, completely changed my outlook on life and what it was I wanted to do professionally,” he said.

Williamson says he’s often asked about what it’s like being a social worker at a community college versus a child welfare agency. His response?

“As a social worker, the goals are the same no matter where you go, and that includes helping people improve their lives,” he said. “It’s important that people understand that Parkridge and WCC share the same mission. We are one, and that’s the beauty of what we do.”

It’s hard to believe that Williamson is a 25-year employee of the college considering that he still has the same passion for helping others as he did on his first day – and it shows.

“Anthony is a pillar in the Ypsilanti community. He is a strong advocate for education and quality of life for children, adults and seniors,” said Monique James, chief of staff for WCC President Dr. Rose B. Bellanca and former head of Community Enrichment at WCC. “His vast knowledge and expertise in community development positions WCC at Parkridge as a key partner with other academic institutions and human service organizations throughout Washtenaw County.

“This recognition reflects the hard work and tireless efforts Anthony demonstrates daily to ensure Ypsilanti remains a viable community for all residents.”

The Parkridge Community Center is located at 591 Armstrong Drive in Ypsilanti. For more information, call 734-483-7700.

This story originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of On the Record.

Workshop promotes women in advanced transportation

ATCCreated to help students, particularly women, to explore career paths in the field of Advanced Transportation, Washtenaw Community College will host a “Highway to High Demand Jobs in Advanced Transportation” workshop.

The event will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday, April 14 in the Morris Lawrence building. Registration begins at 9:30 a.m.

Participants can expect a hands-on tour of the WCC welding lab; an array of advanced transportation focused exhibits; exposure to industry professionals; and a panel session moderated by WCC’s Advanced Transportation Center (ATC) Director Al Lecz.

WCC’s Advanced Transportation Center was developed to meet the growing demand for skilled technicians in the rapidly growing industries of Automotive Transportation Servicing, Intelligent Transportation Systems, and Advanced Manufacturing.

These career fields will enhance public safety by focusing on ways to prevent vehicle collisions, better manage traffic patterns and combat cyber security threats.

The hands-on workshop is part of the “Highway To High Demand Jobs” series that’s sponsored by the WCC Student Resource Center. The series is held twice a year on the WCC campus.

“We want young women to explore science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and learn how these skills will prepare them for jobs in advanced manufacturing,” said Eleanor Brundage, case manager at WCC’s Student Resource Center.

“Curricula in our Advanced Transportation Center provides students with both academic and hands-on learning experiences to assure they are well prepared to enter the workforce with industry skills for the jobs of today and those in the near future.”

Students will walk away from the workshop with a better understanding of how new technologies are changing the types of skills required for jobs, including automotive service technician, transportation systems maintenance and operations technician, and intelligent transportation systems technician.

Kristin Dziczek, director of the Industry Labor Group at the Center for Automotive Research, will serve as the event’s keynote speaker. Race car driver and STEM supporter Clarity Newhouse, as well as Roush Shop Supervisor Michael Berns will join Dziczek for the panel discussion.

Registration is required by Friday, April 8. To register, visit wccnet.edu/advancedtransportation. For more information, call 734-677-5105. To learn more about the WCC Advanced Transportation Center, visit wccnet.edu/atc.

This story originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of On the Record.