Archive for the ‘Personal Interest’ Category

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.


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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


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


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


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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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Rahul Thevar
The Montgazette Staff

A one-on-one interview with Montgomery County Community College English Professor, Monica D’Antonio

Q. What colleges did you go to to get to where you are now?

A. I attended Rutgers University for my undergraduate and graduate degrees in English. I am currently working on my PhD in Educational Psychology at Temple University.

Q. What do you like about being a professor?

A. I LOVE being a professor. There is no job in the world I would rather have. It’s almost impossible for me to describe what it’s like to watch someone learn something new or overcome a fear they had or develop confidence in themselves. It’s truly an honor to be a part of that experience. I also like the connections that develop through teaching. I really like the way my students bond with each other and with me throughout the course of the semester. Many stay in touch after the semester is over, and it’s awesome to watch my students to continue to be successful and develop their lives beyond my class. I’m not a religious person, but I consider teaching to be a calling for me.

Q. My next question to you is since you are poll worker, how do you improve political involvement with college aged (18-25) people?

A. It’s CRUCIAL for young people (18-30) to vote, to get interested and involved in politics, to be informed about domestic and international issues, and to run for office themselves. The tough part about this is that politics seems so stodgy and exclusive. When you look at the members of Congress… they are all fairly old, most of them are white, and most of them are men. Platforms and messaging are two other issues that politicians need to address. Politicians don’t know how to convey the importance of certain issues, like health care and taxes, to younger audiences. When pols do try to reach out, they do not communicate their platforms effectively… Obama was incredibly successful with young voters. He was reasonable, knowledgeable, but also just downright cool… He also had a community organizing background, which meant he knew how to talk and relate to people of all walks of life. Rarely do our politicians have that “ground level” knowledge. Most don’t know how the average person lives. Bottom line: we need cooler, younger, and smarter people – like Obama – get involved in government.

However, the issue isn’t just with politicians. Young voters need to
actually step up and take responsibility for the country they live in and the future they want to see. They can’t just wait for the “adult in the room” to solve their problems. If you’re in America, you need to protect it and transform it to make sure it’s the place that you want to live in. Take the outrage you display on Facebook and Twitter and go out and get involved.

Q. What do you want to say to current Montco students figuring out what they want to do?

A. To MCCC students trying to figure it all out, I say: Take risks and don’t be afraid to fall down. You will fail sometimes. Get over it. Failure is where the learning happens.



MCCC English Professor Monica D’Antonio — Photo by Andrea Betancourt


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Lucy Derstine
The Montgazette Staff

I talk to myself sometimes. I lied. I talk to myself a lot. In all honesty, I talk to myself all of the time. I imagine that to some people I probably look a lot like Gollum from Lord of the Rings. I am truly ashamed to admit it, but sometimes, I even pretend I am talking on a Bluetooth when someone looks at me funny.

To illustrate my point, the other day, I slipped as quietly as I possibly could into a class to print a picture for a deadline. I was trying to be very quiet so as not to be distracting because it had been brought to my attention recently by a fellow classmate that I was too loud. He said in a mean voice, “Do you have any idea how loud and distracting you are? People are trying to work.”

The worst part was, I had no idea how loud or distracting I was at all. I asked him to clarify. He did, and well, I cried. My lip actually quivered. It was awful, and I felt so bad, mostly because I felt so crushed that I could not be accepted as myself, loud and talkative.

I did not let it keep me down though! Well, I was going to certainly try! I digress, back to the real tale… I was working quietly and was focused. I patted myself on the back because I am so killing this quiet thing, when out of nowhere, the kid next to me said, “Dude. You could totally be a voice over artist.”

“Huh? What are you talking about?”

The kid said in a genuinely impressed voice, “Do you even realize how many noises come out of you?!? It’s amazing! You should be a voice over artist!”

Confused, I replied, “I thought I was being quiet.”

Voluminous laughter erupted from within his depths. It became contagious and gained momentum from seat to seat from those who I am sure heard this entire conversation. Not entirely defeated, I left the classroom and mulled this over with myself at lunch.

There began my quest. That evening I typed into Google: “Talking to yourself.” It turns out that I am not alone; like many other humans, I just like to yammer to myself! According to Live Science, saying things out loud sparks memory and helps one to recall facts with more accuracy. Inner talking is actually beneficial to one’s health and has a special role in keeping our minds fit, organizing our thoughts, making plans, weighing actions, and regulating our emotions!

So, there you have it. Talking out loud could actually be a sign of high functioning genius, making me a more competent human being rather than one with a debilitating mental illness. Perhaps, just perhaps, the next time you catch someone talking to themselves, you can admire and learn from them rather than cut them down. I feel a lot less like a “mad scientist” and will continue to rely on the power of my very unique brain, albeit a bit more quietly!


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Lucy Derstine — Self Portrait


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By Daniel Whitney
The Montgazette Staff

Stepping into the Fine Arts Gallery at Montgomery County Community College’s Central Campus in Blue Bell, I was taken aback at how many people were in attendance at the Gallery’s Fall premier on September 13. After marveling at the works of art and sampling a fine cup of coffee, I met Arlene Reynolds, a Career Services department employee of the College and art gallery owner.

The 81-year-old owner of Creative Arts and Expressions in Philadelphia, Reynolds started her career in New York City. For six years, she singlehandedly covered The New York Times classified section as she worked through college as a journalism major. During this time, she attended countless art premieres, met numerous artists and journalists and met a few people she knew.

After regaling me with tales of her past exploits and adventures in the Big Apple, Arlene switched gears and shared a story that flabbergasted me. Arlene recalled a time when she was visiting her brother at a news casting studio in Chicago. She went through the motions of the basic meet-and-greet with all of the staff and reporters, and decided to slip off to the green room for some water and a moment of peace. She had no sooner sat down to rest her feet, when a very tall man approached her and engaged her.

In her own words, “I was sitting in the green room of this news station, and a very tall African American man approached me and, without any hesitation, began telling me about why blacks and whites should never integrate in schools. I was shocked; I didn’t know what to say. After a few minutes of [his explanation], a crew member approached and tapped [the] very outspoken man on the shoulder and said, “you’re on in 2 [minutes].” The man offered his hand and thanked me for listening, and quickly headed into the recording studio. After a moment of incredulous contemplation, I asked the crew member who the man [I had listened to] was. With a short smirk, the crew member looked at me and said ‘Ma’am, that was Malcolm X.’ So that was the day I met Malcolm X.”

I had heard of old men sharing war stories, but this woman surprised me with each new tale she unraveled for me. If I have learned anything from listening to Arlene, it’s that you should never judge a book by its cover. Beyond that, if someone ever offers to share a story from his or her life, it’s worth listening. Maybe one day you will be the one sharing your stories with a young, eager journalist.

Art Barn Gallery pic 1

Art Barn Gallery pic 2
Photos by Daniel Whitney

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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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