Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Meet Dean Mitch
By Jamar Paris
On a cool October afternoon, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dean Mitch Holmes who is the Acting Dean of Academic Affairs here at Naugatuck Valley Community College. The goal of the interview was for students here at NVCC to meet one of their deans and to find what he does. Many of us here at NVCC wonder why there are so many different deans and we haven’t a clue as to which does what. After reading this article, hopefully more students will have a better understanding of what Dean Holmes does.
Holmes has a degree in political science and 3 minors (Spanish, philosophy, and Latin American history) from the University of Utah, a master’s degree in international relations from George Washington University and an MBA from Sacred Heart University. Holmes came to NVCC in 1999, after working at Sacred Heart University for a number of years at various positions. Holmes came to NVCC as the Business Division Director before taking the role he has now. He accepted the role of Acting Dean of Academic affairs at the request of President De Filippis. “The President asked me. I love the institution and I believe in her. So it seemed like the right thing to do and I feel honored and privileged to be in this role.”
So what exactly is the role of Dean of Academic Affairs? Well as Holmes’ puts it, “I support and cheer for the academic divisions within the campus. Within an organizational chart I oversee the 6 academic divisions: arts and humanities, social behavioral science, math & science, business, engineering, and allied health. I also work with the library, oversee distance learning, and support the operation in Danbury where we also have a campus. I sit on the cabinet which is the Presidents cabinet with the other deans and we help make decisions to best manage and be stewards of the government’s money and taxpayer’s money and to also make sure students have the availability of courses and the support and agreements to leave us and go to the work force or a university. It’s a big and exciting job.”
When asked about his experience here at NVCC Holmes replied, "I'm delighted at the excellence level of education here. We do education very much as well as many of the privates in the state and I'm sure as well as most of the public in the state. We get real high level education and in a way that allows our students to afford it and move on to bigger and better days.” He went to say, “By and large what we do here is way above standard, and certainly in the state of Connecticut. I think we have one of the best technology programs and nursing programs in the state, I'm sure of that. And I know that we are unique in aviation, horticulture, digital arts, all of these programs you can't get anywhere else."
Some of Holmes’ accomplishments here at NVCC include playing a major role in the development of the A.C.E. learning center, leading the Connecticut Charitable Giving Campaign and many more including the Workforce Achievers Value Education, or W.A.V.E. W.A.V.E. is an urban youth program on campus. Holmes said, “I’ve been delighted to have an impact on our diversity graduation rates and the number of active urban youth on campus and how well they’ve done in school. My students graduated between an 88-92% rate depending on the year and as a result that’s impacted the college’s ability to graduate people of diverse backgrounds. I run that in conjunction with other colleagues but I was the originator of the grant and I’m the one that oversees the grant every year.”
One of Holmes’ goals as dean of academic affairs is to graduate more students. He firmly believes that education is the key to a fulfilling life. “The more people that are educated, in my mind, the better our society will be. The only barriers in my mind left in America aren’t about race or religion or money. It’s all about education. It’s going to be about those who have an education and those who don’t. We’re going to be divided by education and I see it happening already. The results of that will be socioeconomic, but the barrier really is education. The world according to Mitch, that’s’ my world.”
Holmes also feels that, “students don’t always realize how lucky they are to have a campus like this, that’s small, where you have access to your president, deans, faculty, and directors. And my one message to students is take advantage of it. Get to know your faculty and administrators because those folks can be really valuable to you in your education and connecting you to go forward with your education. I have always relied on faculty and administrators to help me find jobs and help me be connected with the community. And I find that not enough students ask me for that kind of help.”
“You have to find your voice. Students are adults. You turn 18 and society looks at you as an adult. In an adult world where you are choosing to be in school it’s an obligation in my mind to talk and ask questions. And if you’re not asking questions and engaging your faculty you are missing out on an important part of your education because the 100 plus full-time faculty here and the other 200 administrators and support people all were carefully chosen to do important work here on campus and they all have connections. In my mind we’re the best example of a bureaucracy because we’re supposed to be responsive and for the most part we are. But students don’t take advantage of that, and don’t seek out help when they’re having difficulty in a class, that’s a mistake. It’s a mistake certainly that the faculty member or administrator doesn’t reach out but it’s also a mistake of the student. Success is all about engagement. Students who are engaged succeed. Students that are not engaged don’t succeed. You are the measurer of success. What are you doing here? What are your goals? Make sure that your goals are able to be realized while you’re here. Now if your goal is only one class, then your successful if you finish that one class but I hope our students have a goal of graduation. What’s your goal?”