Archive for December 2014

Berkshire Community College

images-4I’ve spent Fall 2014 of my sabbatical year from Williams College at Berkshire Community College as Visiting Professor (teaching developmental algebra) and Special Assistant to the President. I went because I had gradually come to feel that community colleges are where education meets the future, with the full diversity of students of all ages, backgrounds, interests, histories, part time and full time, soon to comprise a majority of all American college students. ellen-kennedy-11-2014I went because I loved the president (Ellen Kennedy) for her understanding of the place, her vision for the future, her humble openness in dealing with everyone. I taught beginning developmental algebra (MAT 028) ¬†because it is the most problematic course, the major barrier to students’ making it to graduation, a course in which a third of the students withdraw, a third fail, and only a third pass.

Despite the lack of funds and the challenges faced by students, faculty, and staff, everyone loves the place and its possibilities. It was an honor and a joy to be part of it. See guest blog posts by my generous colleagues Donna Kalinowsky, math chair Nancy Zuber, and Fayette Reynolds.

k10315I had two Williams colleagues and friends down to visit. Ed Burger, now President of Southwestern University, spoke on “The Five Elements of Effective Thinking.Colin Adams did his “Zombies and Calculus“; see his Nova Video 1¬†and Video 2. I established a high school speakers bureau. I ran a Friends of Math luncheon series. I organized a bus trip of over forty students, faculty, and staff to visit the Museum of Mathematics in New York City. I wrote a Huffington Post blog on “Adding Fractions.”

I was interviewed on Rick Chrisman’s “1350 West Street” local TV show, Part 1 and Part 2.

OTHER RELATED VIDEOS: Continue reading ‘Berkshire Community College’ »

Algebra Student Exhorts his Peers to Make the Most of their Opportunities

The following post was written by one of my star algebra students at Berkshire Community College, in a desire to help students in similar situations.

“Ready or Not” by Aaron Biros

The harshest thing each of us faces on a daily basis is a wakeup call. This could mean the wretched sound of that insufferable alarm clock, a pathetic paycheck for an epic work week, or struggling through a class you hate. Regardless of which of these haunts your thoughts, they are part of the many challenges of success. From my experiences thus far, the best opportunity any of us have to advance ourselves socially, intellectually, and, of course, financially is through education and perseverance. Realizing this for myself was a harsh wakeup call for sure. Continue reading ‘Algebra Student Exhorts his Peers to Make the Most of their Opportunities’ »

Fayette Reynolds: Berkshire Community College Saves Lives

Guest post by Fayette Reynolds, Professor of Life Sciences, BCC

We have many sturdy, fortunate and accomplished students who come to Berkshire Community College (BCC) for practical reasons. But there are also many students who have difficult histories, who carry overwhelming personal burdens. They may not know or believe in themselves. Nor do they believe in the possibility of a fresh start, or new direction. BCC is a place where we look at our students with fresh, curious and affectionate eyes. We believe in them and in their courage, their strength and their potential to create productive and significant lives. They are remarkable.

Whenever I myself felt overwhelmed I would call my dad, and he would laugh and say to me, “Be like a leaf floating down a stream. Just keep your head above water.” Just don’t give up.