For many years now, there has been a dinnertime tradition at my house: As we sit down to enjoy each other’s company and the evening meal, we share something we are thankful for and something we are hopeful for.
There aren’t too many rules about what we call our “Thankfuls and Hopefuls.” We used to say them first and try to keep the lists short enough that the food wouldn’t get cold, but as my daughters grew older, and the “Thankfuls and Hopefuls” became even more involved and interesting, we finally decided to go ahead and eat while we share (and do what we can not to speak with our mouths full).
As idyllic and Norman Rockwell-ish as this tradition of ours may sound, it actually began during a time of hardship in our family, when seeking out things to be thankful for and dreams of the future to aspire toward helped us get through the many difficulties of the day.
As Thanksgiving approaches, and we all prepare to sit down and enjoy the company of those closest to us over a good meal together, whatever challenges and rewards the past year has held for you, sharing a sense of gratitude and hopefulness may be just what we all need most.
Here are a few things from 2022 that I’m Thankful for:
A Swift Recovery
I wrote about my recent health challenge in A Competitor’s Heart, and am happy to share that my surgery in October was successful and my recovery was swift.
I am grateful for the tremendous support of my NECC and community friends and colleagues, including the cards, phone calls, flowers, fresh fruit, matzo ball chicken soup and other thoughtful (and delicious) healing gifts and good wishes.
I will be returning to campus again next week and will be starting my training soon for next year’s Mount Aconcagua climb.
One of the most frequent comments I hear from NECC alumni who transfer to four-year universities to complete their bachelor’s degrees is, “I wish I could have stayed at NECC!”
It’s not that they don’t enjoy their new schools, or benefit from larger, often better-funded campuses. Massachusetts is home to some of the best public and private higher education institutions anywhere in the world.
But they aren’t all NECC, and our students know a good thing when they experience it.
One of the best things about Northern Essex Community College is our small class sizes with tremendously talented faculty, and the personal attention students receive from them, including:
- Reading Professor Patricia Schade and Art Adjunct Professor Brian Martin, who were honored this year with Course of Distinction (COD) Awards from Massachusetts Colleges Online for their creative use of technology, video production, Open Educational Resources and other teaching tools that help students learn more effectively online.
- Criminal Justice Professors Paul Cavan and Scott Joubert, who are creating a new National Intelligence and Security Certificate program as part of a $2.5 million collaboration with the University of New Hampshire and other colleges to train the next generation of intelligence officers.
- Early Childhood Education Professor Deirdre Budzyna, Career Pathways Director Doris Buckley, and Professor-Recently-Turned-Dean Jody Carson who collaborated to help NECC become the first community college in the country to offer a competency-based degree in Early Childhood Education to help connect more students to this in-demand field affordably and flexibly.
- Art Professors Michelle Carter and Marc Mannheimer, and Art Adjunct Professor Dianne Pappas, along with their colleagues and students in the Art and Design Department, Liberal Arts Dean Amy Callahan and Assistant Provost Sharon McDermot who have transformed the lobby of the Louise Haffner Fournier Education Center on NECC’s Lawrence campus into a new Student Art Gallery.
And the list goes on, with hundreds of full-time and adjunct professors who are not only recognized experts in their fields, but gifted teachers as well, who care about the success of all of their students.
NECC Knights Athletes
What a thrilling year it has been so far for NECC Knights athletes!
The Men’s Soccer team recently finished their season 7-5-1, tying for third place in Region 21, the best record for the team since it started playing again in 2019 after a 25-year hiatus.
And after an astounding 109-79 win over Mass Bay on Saturday, the Men’s Basketball team leaped into the national NJCAA standings at #14 this week.
Want to catch these guys in action? Join me at “Pack the Stands Fan Fest” next Tuesday evening from 5:00-7:30, get free dinner and a t-shirt, and cheer the Knights as they take on Bristol Community College.
The Center for Professional Development
There are many things that make NECC a special place to learn, to work, and to grow, and right there at the heart of it all is our Center for Professional Development.
Dean of Academic Innovations and Professional Development Marcy Yeager, Assistant Director of Professional Development Lorena Constant, Director of Instructional Technology & Online Learning Melba Acevedo, Executive Director of Human Resources Patty Gauron, and dozens of other talented and supportive faculty and staff collaborate on an amazing array of professional development experiences, from our very own NECC Leadership Academy to Teaching and Learning Academies, Mental Health First Aidtraining, instructional design workshops and a whole lot more.
Since November is National Gratitude Month, Lorena and Melba even arranged for a collegewide LinkedIn Learning “Practicing Gratitude Challenge.” All month long, participating NECC staff and faculty (including me!) have been watching videos about gratitude, reframing, and finding positivity, and (like this list of Thankfuls and Hopefuls) reflecting on things they are grateful for.
I am grateful for you, CPD.
And here are a few things I am Hopeful for:
The NECC Board of Trustees
The Board of Trustees of Northern Essex Community College consists of eleven members, nine appointed by the Governor of Massachusetts, one elected by the students, and one elected by college alumni. They are the public’s representatives in the governance of the college, and they play vital roles in ensuring that NECC successfully serves our students and communities.
Each trustee volunteers her/his time and talents for a five-year term, and many choose, and are chosen, to serve two terms—a full decade supporting Northern Essex Community College.
This year, we are saying farewell to three trustees who have all spent more than ten years on our board: Former Chair Jeff Linehan, former Vice Chair Bill Cox, and alumni representative and former Chair of the board’s Nominating Committee Ron Guilmette.
Collectively, they have attended more than 300 board meetings and countless subcommittee meetings. They have lobbied for college resources, approved major grants and partnerships that have launched new programs, as well as more than $100 million in new construction and renovation projects that have created a comprehensive college campus in downtown Lawrence and modernized our now 50-year-old Haverhill campus.
And so much more.
Their decade of leadership and service has been a remarkable one in the history of Northern Essex Community College.
And as we celebrate the contributions of these outstanding trustees, we are also welcoming three new leaders to our Board: Alumni Representative Jouel Gómez, Newburyport Bank President Lloyd Hamm, and, in an announcement to be made next week, Silverio Insurance President Evan Silverio.
They join a Board of Trustees that has been evolving and is as diverse as the student body and the communities we serve.
I am tremendously grateful for all of NECC’s trustees, especially trustees Linehan, Cox, and Guilmette, and I am hopeful that over the next decade, today’s board and the new trustees we are welcoming find their experience rewarding, and help lead the college to even greater accomplishments.
E Pluribus Unum
Last year, I reflected on the meaning of our national motto:
“Out of many, one”: The motto of the United States of America since 1776, and a recognition that our highest aspiration has always been to become greater than the sum of our separate parts.
Differences of opinion have driven us since our founding and have caused us to grow stronger; and although we have lived through perilous times, such as a bloody civil war, when our differences may have never seemed greater, today’s rancor and ideological divides have our democracy pushed quite close to the edge.
It’s time to restore some “unum” to the “pluribus.”
Thankfully, this November’s elections seem to have given us some reason for greater hope, as election denialism appears to be losing its cachet, and defeated candidates from both parties offered graceful concession speeches.
But there is still plenty of reason to be wary. A number of global surveys, like the Economist Intelligence Unit Democracy Index 2021 and the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) Global State of Democracy show democracies in more countries around the world, including the United States, slipping from “full” to “partial” or “hybrid” democracies, with an increasing number becoming “authoritarian” regimes.
The story goes that Benjamin Franklin was walking out of Independence Hall after the Constitutional Convention in 1787, when someone in the crowd shouted, “Doctor, what have we got? A republic or a monarchy?”
To which one of our most famous Founding Fathers reportedly responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.”
I am hopeful we do.
A Congressional Solution for DACA Students
As I recently wrote in this piece for Commonwealth Magazine, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has been one of the most popular and successful immigration programs in US history; but it has always been a temporary, imperfect quick fix calling out for a more permanent solution.
Following an October ruling by the Fifth Circuit US Court of Appeals that ruled DACA unlawful, now is the time that Congress needs to find one.
American voters, even in deep red Texas overwhelmingly support DACA. So does the Coalition for the American Dream, representing thousands of American businesses, large and small.
We need DACA students, and Congress needs to protect them. Hundreds of thousands of young people, including many at Northern Essex Community College, cannot wait any longer.
Finally, I am hopeful for a peaceful, restful, healthy, and enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday for you and yours. As you sit down to dinner and enjoy the company of those closest to you, may you truly give thanks for the good things in your life, and let the spirit of hope lift you up and inspire you and those around you.