The Garden City Telegram

ON CAMPUS: Much to be thankful for at Garden City Community College

It's that time of year when Americans reflect on their blessings and give thanks with detailed Facebook posts for the rest of us to enjoy every day, all month, 24/7. And, it's no different here at Garden City Community College. We give thanks for:

* A community that wholeheartedly supports the institution;

* Partners who forge new educational trails with us and;

* K-12 educators who prepare students for postsecondary education.

Our biggest blessing, though, is our students. Of course, the obvious reason for this gratitude is that GCCC subsists for students, and without them, we wouldn't be in business. Every employee who I have spoken with says the reason they work at GCCC is the students. Employees at every level of the Buster Nation care about and look after the students.

"Garden City Community College exists to produce positive contributors to the economic and social well being of society."

You've all heard that. It's the mission statement at GCCC.

Many times, mission statements are written and printed on nice pretty posters and repeated during speeches (and in newspaper columns) so often that they may become something we take for granted. We have one. We have it memorized. We repeat it in appropriate settings. It's a necessary part for businesses and organizations and is used to craft strategic plans and organizational goals. At GCCC, we carry out our mission statement under the direction of the Board of Trustees in strategic planning sessions just like other businesses.

Some may regard mission statements as obligatory. As I sit looking at the GCCC framed poster of the mission statement and the board-identified objectives, it makes me think of what our mission statement looks like in reality. The employees at GCCC deliver services that achieve the goals and final outcomes of our mission statement. Our commitment to produce positive contributors, i.e. successful students, is apparent in the way the faculty and staff make students the No. 1 priority at GCCC.

Obviously, our faculty members are on the frontline of delivering high-quality education to our students. Current students and alumni rave about their instructors, specifically citing personal attention as one of the GCCC faculty strengths. Regardless of the subject being taught — history, algebra or welding — GCCC faculty members put in the extra time needed to ensure their students are getting the best, state-of-the-art lessons.

In addition to regular office hours, you will find GCCC faculty, coaches and staff on campus evenings, weekends and in the summer working outside of their required hours. Many take on additional duties as advisers to campus clubs, volunteers at events and supporters outside of the classroom.

One example of this is GCCC's "Campus Closet." The closet offers much-needed items for students, including coats, blankets, toiletries, non-perishable foods and snacks, and school supplies. These items are given to any student at no cost. The Campus Closet is coordinated by social science instructors Tammy Hutcheson and Winsom Lamb, who also advise the GCCC student KNEA and Phi Theta Kappa groups, respectively. GCCC employees donate supplies to the Campus Closet — every semester, every year.

Instructors and coaches, of course, are in contact with and influence our students the most. They not only teach and coach; they are role models, mentors and confidantes. However, not just instructors and coaches make an impact on our students' lives. Staff members and the entire campus community play a huge role in providing an excellent college experience to the Broncbuster student body.

The classes of 2016 and 2017

It is interesting to note that although GCCC's faculty and staff members get older every year, the typical incoming freshmen are perpetually 18 years old. I won't implicate any of my youthful co-workers. so I will use myself as an example. When I started here at GCCC in 2006, I was 42 years old, which probably is about (give or take) the age of most traditional-aged students' parents.

Today, I'm 50 years old - older than the majority of our freshmen's parents. In another 10 years, when I'm 60 (yikes!) I will be the age of many of our students' grandparents! My point is that as an aging GCCC employee who wants to relate with and influence students, I may be getting more and more out of touch with the way they think, live and learn.

Each year since 1998, Beloit College in Beloit, Wis., has published its "Beloit College Mindset List." The Mindset list first was created so faculty could be aware of dated references in the classroom. The list reflects cultural benchmarks that form the lives of college freshmen.

Being aware of our current students' experiences, expectations and perceptions is essential when trying to teach, influence and form relationships with each year's Broncbusters. Below are just a few of the items that have formed the lives of our current college freshmen.

Beloit College Mindset List, Classes of 2016 and 2017

* They've never seen an airplane "ticket."

* Having a chat has seldom involved talking.

* There has always been football in Jacksonville but never in Los Angeles.

* Exposed bra straps have always been a fashion statement, not a wardrobe malfunction to be corrected quietly by well-meaning friends.

* Bill Clinton is a senior statesman of whose presidency they have little knowledge.

* Plasma has never been just a bodily fluid.

* With GPS, they have never needed directions to get someplace, just an address.

* Kevin Bacon has always maintained six degrees of separation in the cinematic universe.

* Their parents' car CD player is soooooo ancient and embarrassing.

* Ferris Bueller and Sloane Peterson could be their parents.

(If you would like to see the list in its entirety, please visit

These characteristics reflect the world as seen by the college students of today. These experiences are reality for a majority of the students who currently attend Garden City Community College, as well as those who will arrive on campus in the fall of 2014. More than 80 percent of GCCC's student body is what we refer to as "traditional" students - recent high school graduates and/or under the age of 25. That's more than 1,600 18- and 19-year-olds arriving on campus each fall.

Despite the fact that these students are sometimes unfamiliar creatures to us, they are the primary focus at GCCC. The most frequent comments made about the Buster Nation by GCCC students mentions one or more positive, personal relationships they have with an instructor, coach, staff member or community resident. Forming influential relationships with students is possible in many ways on campus.

How can we help?

The GCCC work study program, which is funded by federal and local funds, puts students in direct contact with employees. The college provides 90 work study jobs, according to Melinda Harrington, GCCC financial aid adviser. The program provides much-needed financial aid to students. It also gives them the opportunity to learn the soft skills needed to get and retain a job once they enter the workforce. Soft skills are abilities like showing up on time, prioritizing job duties and effectively interacting with co-workers.

Work study jobs also result in many personal relationships being developed among students and employees. These relationships become lifelong connections that seem to benefit both student and employee.

GCCC also has multiple services and activities to help our students not only attain their educational goals but to provide a progressive collegiate experience. From certified, licensed counselors to the top instructors, coaches and staff members, GCCC employees give individual and group support to students.

Whether students are involved in athletics, one of the many student organizations, or their particular field of study, devoted, caring adults provide support to them throughout their GCCC experience. Dr. Herb Swender, GCCC president, often says personnel are the college's most important resource. He says every employee contributes unique skills and talents to ensure that GCCC is an overall high-quality experience. From grounds keeping and records to technology and instruction, all employees come together to create a successful collegiate environment for our students.

Even if GCCC employees still have cassette decks in their cars or don't use Twitter and Instagram as a main source of communication, we strive to relate to students, create lifelong impressions and produce positive contributors to society.

And, we give thanks for students every day. Happy Thanksgiving from the Broncbusters!