Howard Community College's focus on students will carry on [Commentary]

Special Commentary to the Howard County Times

Part of our series of essays from leaders imagining the future of Columbia.

Jim Rouse would be very proud to see the changes that have occurred at Howard Community College since we opened our doors to students in 1970. While our 50th anniversary is still a few years away, we are proud to join Columbia's 50th anniversary celebration this year because the idea of having a college for the community was part of the initial plan for Columbia.

Rouse was a visionary, and he always encouraged everyone to think big. At HCC, we have certainly achieved that goal with the wide range of associate degrees, certifications and certificates that we offer. Our mission is "Providing pathways to success," which is evident by the work of our talented faculty and staff every day. Our focus is on students and ensuring we do everything possible to prepare them for transfer to a four-year university or for work immediately upon graduation.

So will that change 50 years from now? Highly unlikely. Our emphasis is on student success, and that will never change. But many things that have affected colleges and universities over recent years will continue to impact HCC going forward. One of the most powerful changes is the influence of technology. Enter one of the classrooms in our new Science, Engineering, and Technology Building, and you will immediately be impressed by how technology intersects with the teaching and learning that occurs in the classroom. Or go into our Health Sciences Building and see how simulated mannequins, which mimic real-life patients and their symptoms, are used to help prepare students to be the best nurses and health science professionals in the region.

We are training students for today's jobs, as well as the jobs of the future, including ones that have not even been determined. Certainly this is quite the task, but it is one reason why all HCC students have a basic foundation in general education. We want students to be proficient in oral and written communications, critical thinking, quantitative and qualitative reasoning, technology proficiency and other educational experiences.

Howard Community College is on the cutting edge and will be 50 years from now. We are one of the few community colleges in the country that offers our students the opportunity to engage in undergraduate research, which is too often reserved for upper-level and graduate students. We offer degrees in the latest technologies, from additive manufacturing and cybersecurity to gaming. We gather information from our community to determine the best programs and services to offer our students and greatly value the recommendations generated by our Commission on the Future, a collaborative of community leaders that is convened every five years to help shape our strategic plan. We also are proud of our partnerships with local businesses and organizations that strengthen all of Howard County.

Howard Community College will remain a vibrant part of Howard County 50 years from now because the college has an entrepreneurial spirit, is agile and flexible, and uses data to influence decisions that shape what we do and what we want to be going forward. Most importantly, through the work of our outstanding board of trustees, faculty and staff, we have created and will continue to provide a welcoming, supportive and inclusive environment for the diverse students who enter our doors.

While HCC is a first choice for many students, it is also the place for a second chance. Most of our students are older, with an average age of 27. Many students are raising their families while going to school and working one, or even two, jobs. The grit and determination displayed by our students serves as a constant inspiration for the faculty and staff who serve them.

Jim Rouse appeared in a film a few years before he died, talking about the impact of love and the importance of keeping it front and center in all that we do. In higher education, we rarely talk about love, but I see each day the commitment and passion that our faculty and staff have as they teach and serve students at Howard Community College. I believe that 50 years from now, we will continue to celebrate Jim Rouse's message and use it to shape what we value most in Columbia.

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