Governing Board Address 10/26/21

Good evening, everyone.

Last month I shared with you some of the ways that faculty are helping the District to achieve its goals. I talked about creating new baccalaureate degrees, operationalizing the new Faculty Agreement, and implementing Guided Pathways. These initiatives are big, bold, new, and important, and they will change how Maricopa operates for years to come. However, in discussing how faculty help Maricopa achieve its goals, there was one goal that I skipped over. The goal I failed to mention is not big, or bold, or new, but it is important. The goal I skipped over was “educating students.”

Leaving that goal out felt like a big oversight on my part. In trying to understand how I could have missed “educating students” in my list of recent faculty achievements, I was reminded of the following parable told by celebrated author David Foster Wallace: ‘There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, “What the hell is water?”’

Wallace meant that the most obvious and important aspects of our lives are often hard to remember — they’re so ever-present that they blend into the background. For faculty, teaching is our water: it’s not so much “what we do” as it is “who we are.”

Now while faculty are constantly teaching, the WAY that we teach is far from constant. We continually strive to hone our craft and improve our ability to convey knowledge to our students. Even in fields with long histories, today’s classes differ strikingly from the same courses taught in semesters past. To illustrate how our faculty keep their classes new and relevant, I want to discuss just one example tonight: the New Media Lab Experience at MCC, run by Dr. Eddie Webb.

As members of our Governing Board, some of you are quite familiar with this space, since you’ve had the opportunity to work with Dr. Webb on podcasts. The primary focus of the New Media Lab Experience is to welcome students of all classes to an open computer lab where they can learn new technologies and collaborate with other students to create multimedia projects. The lab teaches students how to use innovative styles of communicating, such as documentary filmmaking, graphic design, and audio podcasting. Additionally, so far Dr. Webb and his team have trained 76 faculty members to produce multimedia projects.

The New Media Lab Experience teaches students how to use industry-standard software and hardware to help them modernize the written word. The process prepares them to be competent and highly sought-after players in the ever-growing field of digital communication. Now, make no mistake: the work these students do moves far beyond “arbitrary projects for the sake of learning the technology.” The New Media Lab Experience prides itself on emphasizing novel research, meaningful scholarship, and team-building. Before they are allowed to even touch a camera to record their project, each of these students must complete at least six weeks of focused research.

When students join this program they begin by organizing into four research teams, each conducting both archival and original research centered in four main areas of study: historical overview, facts and data, analysis and discussion, and findings and recommendations. First, the teams convene a conference to choose a joint topic to research. The students then collaborate to propose a framework, including a community statement, two research questions, and four research goals. All of their research is shared across teams using high-tech tools like Google Docs, Excel spreadsheets, and a Spark page. At the same time, the students create a business plan that includes organizing video production teams and marketing teams. In the end, by engaging with these projects at every step of the way, the students find their own voices and learn to use them in ways that are new, creative, and culturally relevant, all while fostering a learning environment that is fiercely collaborative and engaging.

The New Media Lab Experience is a next-generation program, where the next generation of students learns next-generation tools to communicate with the next generation. The times, they are a-changin’, and you can rest assured that Maricopa’s curriculum is changing right along with them. Thanks to our faculty and staff working hard to keep up with change, our students will never fall behind.

Thank you for your time.