Community college president to announce major initiative Panel goal is blueprint for an ideal school

October 22, 1998|By Alice Lukens | Alice Lukens,SUN STAFF

After four months on the job as president of Howard Community College, Mary Ellen Duncan is beginning to make her mark.

Today, at her official installation, Duncan is to announce a major initiative that will involve community leaders in the future of the college. The event is scheduled from 12: 30 p.m. to 2 p.m. at Smith Theatre.

Duncan said she will announce the creation of the Commission on the Future of Howard Community College, a group of 12 to 20 community members who will create a blueprint of an ideal community college as it heads into the 21st century.

"This is a visioning exercise so that the college will get these notions about what a community college will be in the future," Duncan said in an interview at the college last week. " They will ask us questions, force us to think about things we may not have thought about before. I thought that's the only clean way to shock us into new ways of thinking."

Patrick Huddie, president of Enigma Technology Inc. -- a start-up company that will focus on technology in education -- will head the commission.

"They're really trying to be very open-minded and not be constrained by any old-fashioned ideas," Huddie said.

Others agreeing to serve on the commission are Maggie Brown, vice president of community services for the Columbia Association; Charles I. Ecker, Howard County executive; Jared Fast, president of Fast & Associates; and Barbara Lawson, executive director of the Columbia Foundation.

Also, Dick McCauley, chairman of the Howard County Community Health Foundation; Gary Smith of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab; Richard Story, executive director of the Howard County Economic Development Authority; and Virginia Thomas, director of community and intergovernmental relations for the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Duncan said commission members will split into sub-teams and focus on such issues as technology, collaborations with business and industry, new program possibilities and curriculum changes.

Huddie said he would like to focus on questions such as: "How should a community college market itself to customers?" "How should it organize itself flexibly?" and "What is the role of an educational institution in forming citizens who are now functioning in a global society?"

"I think the time that we live in is so complex that one person, me, or any other person in the institution, couldn't possibly know all that is to be known," Duncan said. "It would be a way to take advantage of the talent around us and to help us think out of the box, to force us to think outside our world of higher education."

Duncan said the commission will start work Nov. 1 and, she hopes, deliver a report to her and the board of trustees by March 1.

Then, she said, it will be time to implement the changes.

Duncan, who came to Howard from the State University of New York at Delhi, where she had been president since 1991, has ideas about how she wants to improve the community college.

They include:

Improving the retention rate of African-American males, who traditionally have low retention rates at community colleges.

Exploring possibilities for day care on campus to accommodate students with children.

Creating more of a campus atmosphere so that students, all of whom are commuters, will feel part of a community.

Increasing fund-raising efforts.

Bruce H. Voge III, president of the Student Government Association, said he has been impressed with Duncan's accessibility.

"It's been shockingly easy, whenever I have questions just about goofy little things, to find her," Voge said.

Duncan said she is starting to feel at home after four hectic months of early mornings and late nights.

"I will tell you that since I've been here, I've only played golf twice," she said. "You know, starting a new job is so engrossing you can't possibly think about anything else."

Pub Date: 10/22/98

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