Archive for the ‘Higher Education’ Category


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by Sara Wilkerson
The Montgazette Editor-In-Chief

Everyone has that one defining moment or period in their lives that always sticks in the back of their minds as the greatest (or worst) time they’ve ever had in their life. For me, my defining period was a life changing summer program I was in last summer. Last summer, I was one of six Montgomery County Community College students who participated in the Bucknell Community College Scholars Program, or BCCSP, where during an eventful summer I got to know twenty-six individuals who have changed my life for the better.
BCCSP was formed in 2007 as an initiative to integrate highachieving community college students into a four-year institution through a six-week program of intense academic rigor and numerous social engagements. After the end of the program, if students decide to transfer to Bucknell University upon completing their Associate degree, they receive a full tuition scholarship to finish their undergraduate degree.
The six weeks I was in the program changed my outlook on my academics, my social life and myself. I don’t normally have much trouble academically. However, I admittedly felt overwhelmed by the intensity and volume of work by taking two classes in a six-week period. I wasn’t the only one.
Mickey Arce, a student from Lehigh Carbon Community College (LCCC), spoke about the program’s academics. “This is academic boot camp… I needed to quickly rethink my current studying techniques… Adaptability and time management was key to my success in this program.”
Likewise, Aldaine Alphonse, also from LCCC, spoke about her academic challenges saying, “… English is my third language, it took me twice the time of a native speaker to organize my thoughts and put it on [an academic] paper.”
Socially speaking, the program is reliant on the students becoming close to one another. As Barb Thiel from Community College of Philadelphia (CCP) put it, “The social aspects are as intensive as the academics… You will learn things about others that will make you want to be a better person, and others in turn will want to be better for knowing you.”
For most of my life, I have been searching for a group of friends to call my own “fam.” Through the highs of the weekend excursions and the vulnerable lows of sitting in circles and getting to know each other deeply, I am proud to say that I became part of a family with my fellow cohort members. It is through BCCSP that I’ve become a stronger scholar, more outgoing, and more reflective on experiences that I live through.
Alexa Eddy, another CCP student, explained the impact of being in BBCSP: “I found myself and became much more confident with expressing myself and being myself because of it! Bucknell was the best experience of my life!”
I couldn’t say it better myself. BCCSP is a life-changing program where students are given the chance to discover not only new challenges, but also to discover themselves, in one unforgettable summer at a prestigious university.
To find out more information about BCCSP and how to apply, contact the College’s liaison, Kristin Fulmer, via kfulmer@mc3.edu.


Good_BCCSP Cohort Group

Bucknell University’s 2017 Commumity College Scholars ~Photo by Rylan Good


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by Sara Wilkerson
The Montgazette Editor-In-Chief

“Science can not grow, science can not proceed, science can not pursue, science can’t answer the questions… [it] seeks to answer without the diversity of thought. That’s what makes it [science] work. We need diversity of thought from everywhere to contribute so we can solve the questions we have about the Universe.” – Derrick Pitts, Astronomer

This November Montgomery County Community College (MCCC) hosted its Ninth Annual Presidential Symposium featuring keynote speaker Derrick Pitts. Pitts currently serves as the Chief Astronomer and Director of the Fels Planetarium at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.

Pitts’ career began at the Franklin Institute after he graduated from St. Lawrence University. Over the span of his prolific career, Pitts has held many positions, including the United States spokesperson for the International Year of Astronomy in 2009, and in 2011 was named a Solar System Ambassador for NASA. Pitts has won numerous awards including a Distinguished Alumni award from St. Lawrence University and an honorary Doctorate of Science from La Salle University.

At the start of the Presidential Symposium, a performance from the MCCC Choir featured a rendition of David Bowe’s “Space Odyssey.” Following the performance, Pitts started his speech with introductory remarks on how he became interested in science.

Pitts explained that his interest in science stemmed from seeing acclaimed astronomers like John Glenn and Carl Sagan on TV as a child. Their TV appearances, combined with his innate scientific curiosity growing up, are what led him to pursue astronomy as an area of study in college.

Thanks to Pitts’ current position at the Franklin Institute, Pitts said that he makes it his mission to inspire other future scientists by speaking at academic institutions and making media appearances on TV. By inspiring others, he explained that the scientific community can benefit from having more scientists explore the ways of the Universe.

Additionally Pitts emphasized that the diversity of scientists is what truly matters for future discoveries in the Universe. He said that while the scientific field has made progress in making the field more diverse, there still needs to be even more representation of scientists in the field who are women, and who are representative of various races and ethnicities.

After Pitts finished his ending remarks on life in the Universe, he took questions from audience members. When asked about what advice he’d give to college students looking to find their passion, Pitts advises students to, “Free [themselves] of [a] schedule… number one. Don’t impose that on yourself and make that a restriction that keeps you… [and] that forces you to do something you don’t want to do, and take some time to explore what it is that you like to do…. It’s not about just having the education just to have the education, it’s about doing something you love to do.”

To find out more about Derrick Pitts, his career and his latest achievements, visit the Franklin Institute’s website via http://www.fi.edu.


Ilisco_MCCC Choir

MCCC’s Choir performs David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” led by Music Associate Professor, Andrew Kosciesza, at the start of this Fall’s Presidential Symposium. ~Photo by Erin Ilisco


Ilisco_Pitts speaking

Derrick Pitts discusses the diversity and complexities of the universe as keynote speaker. ~Photo by Erin Ilisco


Ilisco_Pollock and crowd

MCCC President, Dr. Kevin Pollock, chats with the audience at the 2017 Presidential Symposium. ~Photo by Erin Ilisco


Ilisco_Opening Remarks of Symposium

Rose Makofske, MCCC Director of Equity/Diversity Initiatives, presents opening remarks at the MCCC 2017 Presidential Symposium. ~Photo by Erin Ilisco





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by David Aston
The Montgazette Staff

How many times do we stop and count the blessings we have? Chances are, as hyper-active college students, not much. Between battles with professors and sweating over grades, the valuable people in our lives often take a back seat. Montgomery County Community College English professor, Don Yost, the speaker at this year’s Writers Club Coffeehouse, knows what real battles are. He taught those who were there the value of finding blessings in the harshest times of life.

As was common practice among young men during the hard years of the Vietnam War, Professor Yost enrolled in college to avoid being drafted into the armed forces. Yost went to Seton Hall University and earned a degree in English Literature. Nonetheless, he was unable to escape the draft because the war had not ended upon his graduation. He decided to sign up after he was told how good he would have it as an Army officer.

After many grueling months of fighting on the horrific battlefields of Vietnam, Yost was reassigned and became a combat reporter for the Army in 1969. Yost’s reassignment turned out to be a blessing in disguise since he avoided battling on the frontlines of the war. However, as a reporter, Yost witnessed many fellow soldiers die or succumb to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Coming home was no better as many people called Vietnam Veterans, like Yost, “baby killers” and “men who just wanted handouts from the system.” Yost proved these misconceptions wrong as he obtained a Master’s degree and then began teaching at Montco about a decade ago.

Yost said his experiences in Vietnam have many parallels to today’s events. His most poignant parallel is that no matter how different our life experiences are, we can all understand and help one another through any crisis. He encouraged all of us to cherish the people around us, and this message hit me hard that night.

Earlier that night, I received word that my mother was diagnosed with a brain tumor. With all the other events going on in my life, I was struck hard by Yost’s story, and after hearing heartfelt poems during the open mic session, I poured my heart out. I recited the poem that you’ll read later in this issue (See “Poetic Voices”). With it, I realized how much more I must count the blessings in my life, cherishing the greatest people during the harshest moments of life.

My thanks to Professor Yost for sharing his story with the Montco community. You can buy his book Blessings: Transforming My Vietnam Experience on Amazon.



MCCC English Professor Don Yost ~Photo by Amanda Powers


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Sara Wilkerson
The Montgazette Editor-in-Chief

New Academic Year, New Beginnings…

Whether it’s your first or second (or even beyond that) year here at Montgomery County Community College (MCCC), the start of a new year can be daunting. The adjustment of getting a new routine set around classes, clubs, work in part time or full time jobs, family, friends… it can be a challenging experience to overcome. With these obligations, it can be easy to just say to yourself, “I want to give up.”

And I’m here to tell you this: You’re better than that.

I know that for me, I’m no exception to the challenge of college life and responsibilities. In addition to managing The Montgazette, I am involved in five other clubs: I’m a member of the Honors Club and Chess Club, I am a member of the Arts and Literature Magazine staff, I am the President of the Writer’s Club and I recently became the Phi Theta Kappa Public Relations Officer. Aside from clubs, I also have a part time job and have a full semester course load of five classes, with one of them being an honors course.

It is safe to say that I, along with many other student leaders on campus, can find the balancing act to be overwhelming. Yet, even as I say this, I’ve seen the excellence in the student body within the first few weeks this Fall semester. From the College’s Club Fair to the kickoff of the OneMontco Unity Series, the students of MCCC have expressed interest in involvement on campus. As a second-year student here at MCCC, I can tell you from experience that being involved in clubs is what can help you make the most of your college life – even amidst all your worrisome obligations.

I remember at the start of my first semester here at MCCC, I didn’t feel as if I belonged on campus because I didn’t have many friends. However, once I started to get involved in clubs, I realized that by joining clubs, I could hang out more with the people I saw in my classes every day. Even the simplest task of attending club meetings helped me in other aspects of my life: I’ve become more organized in scheduling my life every day – from clubs, to classes and all the other obligations that are thrown at me in life…

My point here is that I know that college life can be overwhelming, that perhaps you, a student here at MCCC, are feeling what I felt in my first semester of college. But I’m here to tell you that by simply being more proactive on campus, that perhaps all the other pieces in your life will fall into place.

If you’re interested in getting more involved on campus, I strongly recommend using the multiple resources that the College offers. First and foremost, there’s OrgSync, which is a website where you can find information on club and campus related events and activities being posted regularly. There’s also the Student Leadership Involvement (SLI) office where you can talk to the new Director of Student Life Tyler Steffy about clubs you’re interested in. And of course, you can sign up at club fairs when they happen once every semester and get information from there as well.

With that being said, I want to wish all of the students at MCCC good luck on completing the rest of the Fall semester. Don’t worry, you got this!

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David Aston & Sean Laughlin
The Montgazette Staff

In 1964, Montgomery County Community College started small. What would later become a gold mine of learning and an award-winning college with more than 190 fulltime faculty members teaching thousands of students began with only 17 driven, student-focused teachers. Retired physics professor Alec Goldberg is one of them.

Goldberg, now 93, remembers those early years vividly. “Those were tough days,” he says. He remembers the offices being held in a Conshohocken funeral parlor. Alec remembers more distressingly how many college teachers by 1968 seemed more interested in the how much they made instead of being interested in teaching. A fact a New York Times syndicated analysis published that same year picked up on.

David Selden, the president of the American Federation of teachers at the time, called for, a nationwide strike “to bring about the vast improvement in schools that we need.” The analysis also noted that the Philadelphia area was one of the major “hot spots” of the teacher strikes because classrooms were overcrowded and the “remoteness from policy making in the school system and a sense of repression from telling the public about their working conditions.”

Instead of joining the strikes, Alec Goldberg focused on helping his students succeed and feel at ease. He began every semester by telling his students, “Look, I know what it is, physics can be hard.” This simple statement made many students taking his class less anxious.

This attitude is what landed Goldberg the job in the first place. Dr. Leroy Brendlinger, the College’s first president, called up Goldberg after hearing of his student-focused attitude and his credentials that took him from the Franklin Institute to Rider College (now a university) to the Frankford Arsenal. With his Master’s Degree in physics from USC, Goldberg began a legacy that is still fresh 17 years after his retirement.

Now residing in Elkins Park, Alec Goldberg looks on his past fondly and knows what it takes for students to succeed. “Find the good teacher, that’s [the] important part.”

To the teachers here at the College he says, “You have to have knowledge of the subject. You have to be able to show enthusiasm. Otherwise, you’re not going to transmit your knowledge to the students. You also have to let go, have fun with the students.”

More than a half-century later, we keep finding nuggets of Alec Goldberg’s attitude and focus in the faculty that are here today. His dedicated focus on his students is part of what helps make Montgomery County Community College the great school it is today. To which we, the students who cherish that legacy, say: Thank you Mr. Goldberg.

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Sara Wilkerson
The Montgazette Editor-in-Chief

Commencement is upon us. It is that time of year where soon-to-be grads are cramming for finals, solidifying their plans on transferring to four year institutions, and saying farewell to their fellow classmates as they move forward in their academic endeavors. This issue, The Montgazette would like to shine a spotlight on one of the many graduates graduating on May 18th, 2017, and this graduate is our outgoing Editor-in-Chief, David Aston.

Aston’s journey at Montgomery County Community College started all the way back in 1996 when he was taking college credit courses while still in high school. Taking these college credits proved challenging, considering Aston had failed his junior year english class yet was taking English Composition 101 on Tuesday nights for three hours here at the College as a senior. With the help of the College’s professors, Aston managed to not only graduate high school but also further his education by taking a creative writing course in 2000.

Despite his initial success at the start of his college career, Aston’s personal life began to interfere with his studies. In the middle of his first semester, Aston lost the full time job he had and ended up moving to Lafayette Hill with his family. The sudden shift in his personal life caused Aston to not return to the College for over a decade as his concerns were focused primarily on supporting himself and his family.

Aston did not want to settle for the life that he had, which is why he came back to Montgomery County Community College as a digital audio major. Aston is grateful for his time at the College, stating, “This is the place where you achieve your dreams… it is where you have the freedom to be who you are without the pressures of having it forced upon you what somebody else wants you to be. You have the freedom, you have that openness. Grasp that, and God can’t stop you. And you become better because of it.”

With the support of many individuals on campus, including but not limiting to professors Gail Ramsey, Jerry Collom, Allan Schear, Jeff Asch, Stan Feingold, Matt Porter, David Ivory as well as former College President Karen Stout, Aston was able to complete his studies and find his passion. Aston claims that the professors at the College, “…find the importance and value in you and make you realize that you matter to yourself, if to no one else.”

Through the many obstacles that Aston has faced over his time in college, from dealing with age differences, adjusting to his editorial position of The Montgazette, and being a part time student while balancing his full time job, family and school life, Aston has remained optimistic and passionate about his future as he transfers to West Chester University in the fall as a communications major.

Based on his experiences over the past two decades, David Aston has proven that second chances do exist, as long as one believes in themselves. This is why Aston’s advice to readers that when it comes to self doubt, one should not let doubt cloud their ambitions. “Put the worries away, just do it. The worries will be there, they’re not going to go away… but if you focus on the worry, you won’t get anything done. Take it from someone who let the worry drag him down for 15 years. Don’t do it.”


David Aston; 2017 Graduate Photo by Erin Ilisco

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