Longtime SC4 Professor James Jones honored with national AACC award

St. Clair County Community College Professor of Criminal Justice James Jones has been awarded the American Association of Community Colleges’ (AACC) 2020 Dale P. Parnell Faculty Distinction Recognition for his work in making a difference in the classroom.

As a Faculty Distinction recipient, Jones will be recognized on the AACC Faculty Wall of Distinction, on the AACC website and at AACC’s 100th Annual Convention in March, where he will be honored with a private reception.

“Jim has devoted his life to giving back to others, and we are thrilled to congratulate him on this prestigious award,” said SC4 President Dr. Deborah A. Snyder. “His dedication to the success of SC4’s criminal justice program is admirable as is his devotion to ensuring that his students gain hands-on knowledge and experience with criminal situations and scenarios.”

Jones has been teaching at SC4 since 1997 both as an adjunct instructor and a full-time professor. In addition to his full-time teaching, he also serves as a part-time police officer with the Marine City Police Department. Jones previously served as a full-time officer for the Port Huron Police Department for 28 years.

At SC4, he organizes off-campus learning experiences for students, including visits to the city of Detroit to shadow the Detroit Police Department on ride-alongs. He also is actively engaged in other college activities as well, including leading and serving on event, recruitment and curriculum committees.

According to Snyder, Jones is known for going out of his way to ensure that his students succeed and complete their goals.

SC4 joins statewide basic needs initiative to support students

PORT HURON – St. Clair County Community College announced today that it will join a statewide initiative to help students connect with resources to support basic needs. The Michigan Community College Association was awarded a $442,000 grant to launch the initiative focused on improving student completion and success by addressing economic instability among students including access to food, housing, transportation, childcare and other basic needs.

The Michigan – Building Economic Stability Today (MI-BEST) effort is funded by a grant from the ECMC Foundation as part of its Basic Needs Initiative, designed to address and alleviate basic needs insecurity among students.

The initiative kicks off this month and continues through June 2022. SC4 will begin by forming a team of college personnel and community leaders in January.

National survey findings reported that 45 percent of respondents had been food insecure in the past 30 days, 56 percent had been housing insecure in the previous year and 17 percent had been homeless during that year.

“We know that the lack of access to basic needs is frequently the reason that students leave college,” said Erica Lee Orians, executive director of the Michigan Center for Student Success at the Michigan Community College Association, “SC4’s participation in this initiative is a critical component of our student success efforts.”

The Michigan Center for Student Success is leading the initiative for the MCCA and will partner with nationally-recognized organizations including the National Center for Inquiry and Improvement and Trellis Research along with Michigan-based organizations including the Michigan Association of United Ways, MiBridges, and Public Policy Associates to support Michigan’s participating community colleges.

“We have focused on a number of initiatives to improve student completion at SC4 and MI-BEST is another opportunity for the college to eliminate barriers to student success,” said SC4 Vice President of Student Services Pete Lacey. “We are grateful for the partnership from the ECMC Foundation and the Michigan Community College Association and their visionary leadership to address economic instability to improve student success.”

Other student needs and completion initiatives at SC4 include the Complete Your Degree Program as well as working collaboratively with Literacy and Beyond, which assists single moms with GED completion and helps provide support to enroll in college. The college also provides students with nutritional food options via free Skippers Snacks bins located around campus. 

The MCCA basic needs initiative was created in response to research from the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice (Hope Center), California State University, MDRC and the National Bureau of Economic Research, showing that basic needs insecurity is prevalent among students at two- and four-year campuses and impacts students’ persistence and graduation outcomes.

The Michigan Center for Student Success, founded in 2011, serves as a hub connecting leadership, administrators, faculty, and staff in their emerging and ongoing efforts to improve student outcomes, emphasizing linkages between practice, research, and policy. The Center has led statewide initiatives focused on re-engaging adults, developmental education, transfer, veterans, and advising. The Center is part of the 16-state Student Success Center Network working with over half of the community colleges across the nation.

The Michigan Community College Association fosters collaboration, connection, and partnerships among the 28 Michigan public community colleges and their stakeholders.  The MCCA provides strong legislative and public advocacy in Lansing and throughout Michigan, works to improve the image and credibility of community colleges, and advances numerous shared initiatives through the Michigan Center for Student Success, Michigan Colleges Online, and the Michigan New Jobs Training Program.

ECMC Foundation is a Los Angeles-based, nationally focused foundation whose mission is to inspire and to facilitate improvements that affect educational outcomes—especially among underserved populations—through evidence-based innovation. It is one of several affiliates under the ECMC Group enterprise based in Minneapolis. ECMC Foundation makes investments in two focus areas: College Success and Career Readiness; and uses a spectrum of funding structures, including strategic grantmaking and program-related investments, to invest in both nonprofit and for-profit ventures. Working with grantees, partners and peers, ECMC Foundation’s vision is for all learners to unlock their fullest potential. Learn more about ECMC Foundation by visiting www.ecmcfoundation.org and ECMC Group by visiting www.ecmcgroup.org.

New exhibits and displays enhance STEAM-based learning experience at SC4’s visionary Experience Center

The evolution of St. Clair County Community College’s Experience Center continues with the addition of a new electromagnetic exhibit, Jacob’s Ladder, boulder rock garden, a Notable Women in Science display, 3D printer and installation of a gifted Tarbosaurus skeleton cast.

“Our goal is to consistently provide guests with new and exciting opportunities to engage in STEAM-based learning activities,” says Becky Gentner, SC4 executive director of budget and project management. “Among many other new exhibits, visitors can now investigate the power of electricity thanks to our Jacob’s Ladder as well as explore time, history and place thanks to the Tarbosaurus skeleton cast, which was provided by the SC4 Foundation and two Community Foundation of St. Clair County donor advised funds.

“We are again thrilled to expand our offerings and look forward to igniting passions for generations to come through this center.”

Located in the college’s Clara E. Mackenzie Building, the Experience Center already features interactive displays, traveling exhibits, 3-D pens and technology, a circuit center, a coding station, a virtual reality simulation, an augmented reality sandbox, a fossil dig area and larger-than-life exhibits in its Dr. Bassam H. Nasr Science Museum — including a woolly rhinoceros skeleton replica, T-Rex and Mastodon skull replicas.

SC4 announced its official partnership with the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum and its Unity in Learning initiative on the 16,000-square-foot center in fall 2018. The center — the only one of its kind in the region — provides interactive teaching and learning opportunities for students and guests of all ages through exhibits, field trips and educational programming opportunities.

In less than one year of announcing the partnership, SC4 received an Innovation of the Year Award from the League for Innovation in the Community College for its work in establishing its interactive, STEAM-based Experience Center. The college won the award in the category of Community Engagement Education and Forward-thinking Partnerships.

“We are honored to receive this award,” said Dr. Snyder upon receiving the award. “The Experience Center is a place where students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members of all ages can feel engaged and inspired. We are grateful for the continued support, collaboration and leadership of our community, here on campus and far beyond.”

The Experience Center is a growing regional destination. A fee is charged to groups for a full experience at the center, including guided tours, additional hands-on opportunities, and access to technology exhibits. Individuals may drop in from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday for free and explore the exhibits on their own.

For more information on scheduling a visit or field trip, please send an email to experiencecenter@sc4.edu.

Automated floor-scrubbing robot making Michigan debut at SC4’s Health Sciences Building Grand Opening Celebration Sept. 27

St. Clair County Community College is pleased to welcome Neo, an automated floor-scrubbing robot by Avidbots, to campus for its Health Sciences Building Grand Opening Celebration from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 27.

Neo automates the cleaning process using intelligent, dynamic mapping and obstacle-avoidance technology. The first demonstration site in Michigan, SC4 will showcase the innovative technology many global businesses and heath care organizations are now adopting.

The Grand Opening Celebration will also offer guests an opportunity to learn about college programs, see demonstrations in its hospital simulation wing, ambulance bay, home setting and other exciting spaces equipped to prepare students with realistic scenarios and training. Additionally, the event offers a flu clinic, free health screenings, music, farmer’s market and more.

Learn more about the renovated building features and discover how advanced technology is leading the way in improving health and facility operations on Sept. 27.

For more information about Neo or the Grand Opening Celebration, visit Avidbots and the Keel online.

First-generation college student and SC4 alumnus pursuing passion with Detroit Lions

Pursuing a college education — one that didn’t break the bank — was a must for first-generation college student Brendan Buffa when he graduated from St. Clair High School in 2012.

“I knew deep down I wanted to continue my education after high school, but the fear of taking on a massive amount of debt was very real to me,” Buffa said. “I was incredibly grateful to my parents, who said that if I did in fact decide to go to college, they’d help pay for my first year at St. Clair County Community College.”

According to Buffa, he found much more than an affordable education at SC4, including faculty members, clubs and experiences that helped him explore options and grow prior to committing to a four-year university. He also discovered a passion that has driven him ever since.

Buffa was approached by SC4 faculty members Gary Schmitz and John Lusk in his first semester to consider writing for the Erie Square Gazette, SC4’s student newspaper. He then spent the next three semesters at SC4 writing, editing and covering Skippers Athletics. The experience helped introduce him to athletes, connect him to campus and the community, and learn about people in a whole new way.

“SC4 taught me individualism,” Buffa said. “The idea that everybody is a person and has a story to tell. That was what made SC4 so unique and memorable. Everybody on campus — whether they were young students, middle-aged students, athletes, faculty, staff —everybody had a story to tell that was so fully unique.”

His campus involvement also made him aware of new career possibilities that could seamlessly merge his passions for writing and sports.

“I didn’t really know there were alternative career paths in athletics,” Buffa said. “My SC4 professors saw hope and drive in me. They challenged and molded me. Thanks to them, I became aware of a new career path and have since been in a full sprint to achieve my goals.”

Buffa transferred to Western Michigan University in fall 2014. With collegiate writing experience already under his belt, he started as a staff writer at the 100-year-old Western Herald before being promoted to assistant sports editor and then editor-in-chief in 2016. He also served as a member of the Student Media Group Board, which was the decision-making entity of the university’s media outlets, where he advocated to give his 60-member writing team experiences they wouldn’t have elsewhere.

“That time in my life was difficult, but it resulted in great success,” Buffa said. “Leading a paper, taking full-time classes and working another part-time job in the midst of it all was really hard to juggle. But SC4’s ability to mold my creativity, leadership and independence was a direct contribution to the success I found and helped others find as well.”

Buffa graduated from WMU in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in public relations and sports marketing. Upon graduation, he served as a promotions coordinator at 97.1 The Ticket in Southfield, Michigan, and as a digital content producer and assignment desk editor at WWMT Newschannel 3 in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Grateful for all his past experiences — which also include a freelance gig for the Dallas Cowboys and covering the WMU Broncos’ undefeated season and Cotton Bowl game — Buffa remains laser-focused and is thrilled to be starting in a new role with the Detroit Lions as a new media web intern. There, he supports the new media team through backend website assistance, site photo and gallery production, media interview post-copy, article and video creation, and more.

“Working with the Detroit Lions has been the ultimate goal since 2013,” Buffa said. “It’s an opportunity I’ve only dreamed of.”

Ultimately, Buffa looks forward to expanding his roles and expertise in professional sports in the coming years and is more than ready to put in the hard work. An avid community college advocate, he’ll tell anyone who listens that his time at SC4 helped him get his start.

“SC4 is where it all started,” Buffa says. “It was the first time I was able to dip my feet into the water and experience things. It taught me so much about independence and autonomy, and about friendships and support. I found a community at SC4. I’m grateful to my professors to this day.”

He added, “If people want to further their education with college, community college should always and forever be the first consideration. It is wholly accessible to people from all walks of life. If you want to further yourself and are hindered by other commitments or still not sure where you want to direct your path in life, community college will give you the tools and experiences to do so.”

SC4 Experience Center enhances interactive learning opportunities, welcomes traveling fossils exhibit

PORT HURON – St. Clair County Community College’s 16,000-square-foot Experience Center continues to evolve, recently enhancing interactive learning opportunities in its Innovation Center and welcoming “Fossils of the Michigan Basin,” a traveling exhibit by paleontologist, author and storyteller Joseph “PaleoJoe” Kchodl.

The Innovation Center — located within the Experience Center — is now home to a growing number of STEAM-based interactive displays, 3-D pens and technology, a circuit center, a coding station and a virtual reality simulation that make learning fun for students of all ages.

“Guests to the Innovation Center now have the ability to shift energy flow through batteries and light bulbs, create video games and programs through coding and JavaScript, design three-dimensional objects with a 3-D pen and much more,” says Becky Gentner, SC4 executive director of budget and project management, who mentioned the Innovation Center is available via scheduled appointments and field trips. “We are thrilled to expand our offerings and welcome more exciting exhibits for our community.”

“Fossils of the Michigan Basin” is a Michigan-based traveling exhibit featuring fossils of creatures that lived in the Devonian Period of Michigan, long before the age of dinosaurs. It includes Brachiopods, Gastropods, Cephalopods, Prehistoric armor-plated fish and corals, and even a piece of limestone from the thumb region that was touched by a glacier in the last ice age. The exhibit is located in the Experience Center’s Dr. Bassam H. Nasr Natural Science Museum, which is home to the largest collection of fossil artifacts in the Michigan thumb region.

Experience Center Sized“Michigan at one time was the bottom of an ancient salt water sea,” says PaleoJoe. “Visitors to this exhibit can go back in time when Michigan abounded with creatures of the sea — a time when certain fish species grew to more than 30 feet long, and a time when coral reefs broke the surface of the water creating lagoons filled with life. It is a wonderful way to introduce the public to fossils that can be found right here in our state.”

Opened in the fall of 2018, the Experience Center is a hands-on STEAM center that features unique and evolving exhibits, an augmented reality sandbox, a live sturgeon exhibit and more. Recently, SC4 and the Community Foundation of St. Clair County announced a Tarbosauras skeleton cast gift from the SC4 Foundation and two Community Foundation donor advised funds. The Tarbosauras skeleton cast will join a collection that includes a woolly rhinoceros skeleton replica, and T-Rex and Mastodon skull replicas.

The Experience Center is open to the public and is a growing regional field trip destination thanks to a collaborative partnership with the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum and its Unity in Learning initiative. For more information on scheduling a visit, please send an email to experiencecenter@sc4.edu.

Donors collaborate to support SC4 Experience Center vision

A Tarbosaurus skeleton on exhibit in the Dinosaurium in Prague, Czech Republic.

The SC4 Foundation and two Community Foundation donor-advised funds will gift a new Tarbosaurus skeleton cast to St. Clair County Community College’s Experience Center as part of a growing commitment to support the college’s long-term Experience Center vision and expansion.

Read more about this donation on the Community Foundation of St. Clair County’s website.

SC4 to host 33rd Annual Sanilac County Academic Games Feb. 9

The 33rd Annual Raymond T. Dunbar Jr. Sanilac County Academic Games will take place this Saturday, Feb. 9, on St. Clair County Community College’s Port Huron Campus.

During the Academic Games, hundreds of students and coaches representing seven school districts in Sanilac County come together to challenge each other in four academic areas: science, mathematics, social studies and language arts.

The day will consist of three rounds of questioning to determine the winning school. Competition kicks off at 9 a.m., and the final round begins at 12:30 p.m. Questions are written by SC4 faculty members, who also will judge the competition.

Participating districts in the 2019 Academic Games include Sandusky Community Schools, Peck Community Schools, Marlette Community Schools, Deckerville Community Schools, Croswell-Lexington Community Schools, Carsonville-Port Sanilac Schools and Brown City Schools.

For more information about the 2019 Academic Games, contact SC4 Achievement Center and International Students Specialist Bonnie Romzek at bromzek@sc4.edu.

Photo: Jeffrey M. Smith

Students, local businesses benefit from a graphic design program that goes far beyond the classroom

For the last three years, local businesses from Port Huron to Lexington, Michigan, have been building their brands with the help of students from St. Clair County Community College’s Graphic Design program. The students are enrolled in Graphic Design I and II courses led by Adjunct Instructor Chris Krolczyk, who has helped make practical application and work with real clients a staple of the curriculum.

The projects began in earnest when the City of Port Huron reached out to Krolczyk’s classes for help designing an “Explore Port Huron” map of retailers, restaurants, coffee shops and other hot spots around the city. Then when Cedar Sub and Salad — a Middle Eastern restaurant in downtown Port Huron — was getting ready to open, they came to Krolczyk for help. This presented a perfect opportunity for students to think bigger.

“The owner was in the process of gutting an old Subway restaurant and told me ‘I have a name, but I don’t have a logo, brand or anything.’ So we started executing that, with each student creating their own design and ultimately settling on one,” Krolczyk said. “Not only did the class get to develop the business’ brand identity, but we were asked to help design the interior of the restaurant, too. It was a great experience.”

Graphic Design Class Presents to Client02Last year, his classes worked with Water Tower Sports Pub in Lexington to create a new logo, social media ads and two menus. This year, they started working with Chef Shell’s, a well-known restaurant and catering company that has been serving Port Huron for the last 20 years.

“Everyone we’ve worked with has been very supportive and excited about partnering with the college,” Krolczyk said. “They realize it’s a benefit to their business and our students.”

With Chef Shell’s, the classes are working on different projects throughout the year, designing a new house menu, catering menu and labels for the company’s spices and sauces. The first step was all about establishing the art direction. Once that is set, everything else can fall into place.

Graphic Design Presentation 02“These projects are all about practical application, working with real-world clients, going through the procedures and attacking every aspect from concept through production,” Krolczyk said. “It gives our students, whether they are moving on to a four-year institution or elsewhere, the ability to enter the workplace with real-world experience and real work to put in their portfolios, which is more important than anything else when you’re trying to build your career.”

The classes were given the current menu, logo and color scheme, and each student was asked to develop their unique interpretation. In late October, students presented their concepts to the business owners, who narrowed it to two designs. The classes brought those concepts together to finalize the art direction and design full layouts for the six- to eight-page menu.

Photography Chef Shells01While the focus was on graphic design work, the project also allowed for collaboration with other classes. Students in Adjunct Instructor Mark Rummel’s Digital Imaging and Photography class spent an evening snapping shots of carefully crafted meals to be featured in the menu. And students from Professor Gary Schmitz’s English course were brought in later to proofread and copy edit the nearly finished product.

“It gives our students the chance to experience the whole creative process, working with photographers and editors, and really understanding what it’s like to work collaboratively and be part of a team,” Krolczyk said. “It also helps them realize the constant revision involved in the process and how to take constructive criticism.”

With menu designs from each student in hand, Chef Shell’s faced a tough decision. They ultimately decided on work from two students: a full menu and a layout for a breakfast and beverage insert.

“It’s really been an exciting experience. The students were so engaged and they all presented wonderful ideas,” said co-owner Michelle “Chef Shell” Wrubel. “It was a huge blessing for us. We had been talking about menu design, so the timing was perfect, and the product that we’ve seen has been above and beyond our expectations.”

As the fall semester comes to a close, students are making final adjustments and preparing the menus for print in an important stage that complements the Graphic Design program’s Production Processes course. Next semester, students will work with Chef Shell’s on labels for seasonings and sauces, along with a variety of smaller projects.

Business owners across the community are recognizing the benefits of working with the aspiring graphic designers at SC4. In a small program at a small college, the advantages for students are immeasurable.

“Client-driven opportunities, internships, national competitions and award scholarships are all integral parts of the Associate of Arts in Graphic Design program at SC4,” said Professor of Fine Arts Sarah Flatter. “Collaboration with the community, along with college and classroom collaboration, give students confidence and exposure. The contributions made by instructors Chris Krolczyk, Mark Rummel and Professor Gary Schmitz exemplify what makes our classrooms — and our college — such a fantastic place for students.”

As Krolczyk explains, many of his former students have received full-time job offers right out of the program, while others have gone on to four-year institutions with a leg up on their peers because of the real-world experience these projects provide.

IMG_7935“Being a full-time designer, when I’m working on a project I’m constantly thinking ‘My students should be learning this,’” Krolczyk said. “I want to bring things into the classroom that you’re going to encounter in the workplace, from tasks to critiques to hard deadlines. Fictitious projects can be fun, but when you can base a class on real work with real clients — especially when you’re doing it in your own community — I think it benefits everyone involved.”

Learn more about graphic design at SC4 and find out how to apply in time for the winter 2019 semester. If you are a local business or government agency in need of design work, please contact Professor Sarah Flatter at seflatter@sc4.edu or 810-989-5617.