5 things you missed at the Feb. 24 board of trustees meeting

By Paulette Parker, News Editor
and Taylor Robinson, Staff Writer


  1. College hires advanced transportation director

Alan Lecz, previously director of employer strategies at the Workforce Intelligence Network for Southeast Michigan, was hired as the director for WCC’s prospective Advanced Transportation Center. He will be paid $104,000 annually.

  1. WCC receives $3 million skilled trades grant

As a part of Gov. Snyder’s $50 million skilled trades grant program, WCC will receive $3 million to purchase equipment for educational programs that emphasize high-wage, high-skill, and high-demand occupations.

  1. Board approves VPI search firm contract

The board of trustees approved a $53,000 contract with RPA Inc. to aid in the search for a new vice president of instruction. It is expected that a permanent VPI be in place for the start of the fall 2015 semester.

  1. Amendments to affirmative action policy approved

Amendments to the policy include an emphasis on nondiscrimination against any person “because of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.” The changes add that women and minorities employed by the college align with the employed population of Washtenaw County. 

  1. Board approves amendments to investment policy

Previously, community colleges were permitted by law to invest only in bonds, bills or notes of only the U.S. Treasury or the State of Michigan http://www.michigan.gov/treasury. Recent changes to the law allow the policy to change to permit investments in local governments, municipalities, school districts and other qualified, local investments to attain higher rates of return.

The Mar. 9, page A1 story “5 things you missed at the Feb. 24 board of trustees meeting,” should have stated that WCC received a $4.4 million skilled trades grant.

New culinary class teaches organic gardening

Groce teaching students

Instructor Kim Groce, center, works with students Holden Knapp, 19, left, and Charles Schwarz, in the LA building’s greenhouse before they plant another batch of tomato seeds. The plants will remain in the greenhouse until the weather permits their transfer to the Core Garden. Gray Bancroft | Washtenaw Voice

By Natalie Wright

Kasey Shelton spent the last five of her 27 years sitting in a cubicle. One day she realized it wasn’t what she wanted.

“So you sit at your job every day and if you like it, you love it, and if you don’t, you think about what you’d rather be doing,” Shelton said. “For me it was food.”

Shelton, of Ypsilanti, quit her job working for an auto supplier, got a job at Whole Foods and signed up for culinary classes at Washtenaw. Now, she is studying baking and pastry, and is pursuing her interest in organic gardening in the Farm Harvesting and Management class that began this semester.

The class, which is a part of the culinary department, was developed by divisional counselor Kim Groce, as a support for the Core Garden project she spearheaded last year. It brings a body of labor to the garden that was desperately needed, Groce said, and gives her an opportunity to teach students, which is why she created the garden in the first place.

“It was always my plan to be able to teach students how to grow,” she said. “I didn’t know I would be able to actually have a class.”

When Vice President of Instruction Bill Abernethy had the idea to create a formal class, Groce was excited, she said, but also overwhelmed.

“We really only had six weeks. Normally it takes about a year to put together a whole new class.”

The course could have gone into a variety of areas, Groce said, like business or environmental science, but culinary is the best fit, she said.

students mixing soil

Students Charles Schwarz, left, and Holden Knapp, 19, both of Manchester, make a fresh batch of soil from which a new batch of seedlings will sprout. Gray Bancroft | Washtenaw Voice

“We can look at the concept of ‘farm-to-table’ and teach students the importance of growing and knowing where your food comes from,” Groce said.

Charles Schwarz, a student in the class and lifelong farmer, said that even if students continue to go to the grocery store for their fruits and vegetables, this class will help make them better consumers.

“All the time people at the grocery store put down a fruit or vegetable for a ‘better one,’ because it looks brighter; it’s shinier; it has more wax on it, but that doesn’t make it better,” Schwarz said.

Learning how to grow also means learning what to look for in the best food products.

Schwarz admitted that he was a little disappointed when the class started. A farmer all his life, Schwarz, who is in his 40s, signed up for the class expecting it to cover topics like fertilizing methods, farming machinery and crop rotation.

“The first day I showed up and said, ‘Where do I park my John Deere?’” he said. “Where’s my parking structure?” While the farm harvesting class wasn’t what he expected, he stayed with it, he said, because he felt he could learn something and that his experience would be valuable for others in the class.

“I would like to see them have a good agricultural farm program here, though,” he said.

Brook Miller, 40, said that although she has been gardening for five or six years, there is still so much to learn.

“I’ve only just started,” Miller said.

While some students have as much as 30 years of experience in growing and others have never been able to keep a plant alive, they all seem to agree that more goes into gardening than meets the eye.

students gardening

Culinary arts student Chris Colaner, 52, of Ypsilanti, left, and WTMC student Imani Johnson, 17, of Canton, add water to their soil mix to bond the dirt together. Gray Bancroft | Washtenaw Voice

“I didn’t know as much about gardening as I thought I did,” Shelton said. “You have to go back generations to learn the true and tried methods.”

Only nine students make up the class, and that’s “the only way it works” Groce said. The small class size allows for each student to have more hands-on time and helps to develop a sense of community and teamwork.

On their way up to the greenhouse atop the LA building, where seedlings are housed for the winter, the students crowded 10 to the elevator.

“Family style,” Groce said.

As the packed compartment carried them up, Miller asked Groce if she needed any help tending to the plants over break.

“Absolutely, I do,” Groce said. “I’m here every day, just let me know when you want to come in.”

Last summer, Groce tended to the garden mostly on her own, for months. It was a labor of love, but took a toll on her. Having students who are not only willing, but excited to help is a huge relief for her, though she is still keeping busy, she said.

“I can focus more on the administrative side and looking for grants to help support the garden project while the students do the more hands on experience,” she said.

But she doesn’t plan to give up all her weeding and watering responsibilities. “I’ll be out there as much as I can,” she said. “I’m never letting go.”


What: CUL 103: Farm Harvesting and Management

When: Spring semester, May 15–July 17, Fridays 1-6 p.m.

Where: TI 125


WCC in search of permanent vice president of Instruction

WCC in search of permanent vice president of Instruction

Quinn Davis

Staff Writer

Washtenaw Community College always sets the bar pretty high when it goes in search of talent. But the college’s search committee could be reaching pretty high regarding what it wants in a new vice president of Instruction. “We’re looking for a sort of Superman,” said Ruth Hatcher, English professor and President of the Faculty Association. “They have to know numbers, they have to know budgets, they have to know teaching. It’s a hard job.” Former Vice President of instruction Roger Palay went on sabbatical at the beginning of January. When he returns to the college next Fall it will be to teach mathematics. The announcement of Palay’s change in roles was rather sudden, but the college was able to temporarily fill the position quickly with Dr. Phyllis Bonk Grzegorczyk, who will serve as interim VP of instruction until June 2010. After Grzegorczyk leaves, the college will employ a new, full-time VP of instruction. However, the process to choose this new leader hasn’t even begun. “We haven’t gotten there yet. Sometime in mid-February I’ll give Ruth [Hatcher] a call and she’ll tell me who her people are, I’ll put my people on and we’ll get it all firmed up,” said President Larry Whitworth. By “people,” Whitworth is referring to committee members who will be responsible for narrowing down the applicant pool. “They send the recommendations to me. I review all of the applicants independent of the search committee so if I see someone they don’t, I’ll throw them in the mix,” assured Whitworth. “Then the board will meet with the final couple of candidates. They’ll meet with probably the last two, maybe three depending on how close it is.” The committee is made up of seven to nine members. Roughly half will be faculty appointed by Hatcher and half will be administrators appointed by Whitworth. Hatcher appoints the faculty members, while Whitworth appoints the administrators. “I know Ruth [Hatcher] wants to serve and I’m confident that she’ll be on the committee,” Whitworth said. “We work very closely together. We divvy up these responsibilities.” Hatcher isn’t so sure she’ll be helping in the final decision. “Well you now, I’m not going to be on the committee,” Hatcher said. “I’m the wrong person to ask about it.” Whether Hatcher is on the committee or not, she does know a thing or two about the decision process. She was on the very committee that appointed Whitworth into his presidential position 12 years ago. “The committee sits down and talks [about what they’re looking for]. And sometimes it’s a big, long process and sometimes it’s very quick,” Hatcher said. “They’ll hash that out. The committee will have time to think about what the needs of the school are right now and what kind of Vice President of instruction they want.” Whitworth will not be on the committee. However, there are distinguishing qualities that he hopes the new VP will embody. “There are a lot of people in the academic environment that are traditionalists that want to keep doing it the same way. I don’t think that’s appropriate for us now,” Whitworth said. “We’re at a time and place where things are changing pretty rapidly and the old model needs to be brought up to speed. I’m looking for someone that has a vision for the future that understands that we can’t just keep doing it the way we’ve been doing it,” he adds. Specifically, Whitworth would like the computer literacy requirement to be reformatted. He believes that computer literacy should be a prerequisite considering how imperative the skill is in taking many WCC classes. “If you don’t have good computer skills, then you have to take a course to prepare. It’s a tool that every student needs but we need to get it at the front end and not at the back end,” he said. Hatcher has hopes for the new VP of instruction as well. However, she doesn’t have concrete qualities to look for just yet. “In the old days, we had Vice Presidents that didn’t do much. That was cool. Then we had a Vice President that was meticulous in his paperwork. I mean, it was memos forever and he was here late at night cranking out stuff,” Hatcher said. “He got his work done! If you turned in a form, he got it signed and it moved on. We’ve had a Vice President recently that walks around and talks to people, you know, was faculty so he understood what faculty did. There are a lot of things he didn’t do that he should have done.” Besides these characteristics, each applicant should have at least a master’s degree, if not a doctorate. Whitworth anticipates receiving more than 50 applications, many of which will be from applicants already in a Vice President’s position at another school. “To be a good Vice President of instruction, you need a good teaching background. They need to have been in a classroom. They need to know from the inside of the classroom out. They need to have served in an administrative position, at least at dean level,” Whitworth said. The last day for applicants to apply is Feb. 28. The new VP of instruction will start on July 1, preferably, by August at the latest. The search committee will begin deliberating in late February and should reach a decision by the end of April. Whitworth isn’t too worried about the quality of applicants. With the culture of Ann Arbor and WCC’s growing population and reputation, he expects a lot of competition for the position. “We’re a pretty attractive institution,” Whitworth said.