HFCC President Dr. Gail Mee on ‘The New WHFR Journal’

During an exclusive radio interview on WHFR (89.3 FM, www.whfr.fm), Henry Ford Community College’s non-commercial radio station, HFCC President Dr. Gail Mee discussed many of the aspects of life at the college.

Some of the topics covered include:

The renovation of the Science Center

“It is, I think, going to be an extraordinary addition to the campus when it’s finished, because if you think about it, some of the sciences that we teach today had not even been discovered when the original building was built. So now we have the opportunity to enhance the science subjects that we teach, but also add to that; things like Biotechnology.
“The science project is a combination of a renovation of the old building and the addition of some new space. It is driven in part by environmental responsibilities. We want to not only practice environmental responsibility; we want to teach it as well. So we’ll be teaching environmental science, it will have a green roof and a number of other features. We hope to be Gold LEED Certified, which means that it will have a designation as an environmentally responsible building. Things will be growing on the roof, and in fact it can be used by the science faculty and students as an outdoor laboratory.
“The plan is that the renovation of the old will be completed by September 18, and everyone should really cross your fingers on that, but we believe that’s happening…so what we have done is reorganize our science schedule so that the students will have as much time in class, but it be over a period of 12 weeks rather than 15 weeks.
“We are expecting that the new (building) will be done in April. We do think that the old will be renovated sufficiently to get our classes up and running, and do the 12-week class, again, with the same rigorous academic standards but just over a slightly shorter period of time. It was a very tight schedule; we knew it was going to be a tight schedule, but we certainly didn’t simply want to give up a semester of science.”

The increase in the student population

“Our growth has been extraordinary over the past couple of years. In fact, I was looking at some numbers and from 2006 to 2010—that is, fall to fall of 2010—we grew 45 percent; we went from approximately 13,000 to approximately 19,000 students. As you can imagine, that’s an extraordinary strain on the organization, and yet it speaks to the quality of the work that everyone does here at the college and our commitment to really responding to the needs of our community.
“We have a whole new group of students coming to us that might not have come before; for example, people who might have gone to the university right away out of high school, but instead choose to come here because they realize they get a great education for only a portion of the cost.
“We also have people who perhaps, in another day and age, might have gone to work in the automobile industry, but those jobs aren’t here, and so they are now looking for other pathways and that includes community college.
“And then, finally, we have those people who did work in the automotive industry, or who were working, and because of the downturn in the economy, are now looking for the knowledge and skills they need for that next generation of jobs.
“Given the high unemployment rate and given the real downturn in the economy—across the country, but felt particularly hard in southeast Michigan—it is our obligation to respond to our community and help to serve them well. I think we not only respond, but we try to be proactive and create new programs that we feel will lead to the next jobs and to the career pathways people are looking for.”

The average class size

“Our class size has remained the same, and in some cases there’s anywhere from 20 to a maximum of, perhaps, 30 students in a class, never beyond that. That’s quite remarkable. We believe strongly that the students need to get to know each other and to get to know the faculty members. That’s all part of developing a sense of community here at the college, which is important.”

To listen to the podcast of the entire one-hour interview with Dr. Mee, go to:

“The New WHFR Journal,” with host Jay Korinek, airs live every Friday, from 1 - 2 p.m. on WHFR...the station making waves.