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Partnerships key to Mt. Hood's success in the next 50 years

Mt. Hood Community College will continue to be central to the economic and workforce-development needs of our community -

EDITOR’S NOTE: In observance the 50th anniversary of Mt. Hood Community College, The Outlook invited College President Dr. Debra Derr to write her thoughts on where the college has been and where it is going in the next 50 years.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Debra DerrAs part of the college’s 50th anniversary celebration, we unearthed and opened the time capsule that had been buried in the campus quad, so many decades ago. Two things struck me immediately upon seeing the enclosed items: how much has changed, and how much has stayed the same.

Evident in the photos, letters, budgets and planning documents detailing the college’s dawning was the same passion and commitment to making MHCC the best community college in Oregon — a goal we still hold to this day. Partnerships with local businesses and non-profits were key back in the beginning, as well as offering relevant, high-quality affordable higher-education programs. Again, that is as true today as it was back then.

The changes, though, in the past fifty years are remarkable, beginning with the make-up of the student population we now serve. Nearly half of MHCC’s students identify as low-income, and more than a third are first-generation college students, meaning that they are the first in their family to attend college. These populations deserve our full support, and how we change and adapt to these populations will play a key role in the growth of this college and our continued impact on the community.

Our impact on the greater employment sector will also be challenged in the coming years. There are jobs today that will not exist through to the next decade, let alone another 50 years, yet we are training and educating and graduating students who may very well still be working in the year 2066. What does this mean for them and the college? Are we ready for the challenge? What are the jobs of the future that no academic program exists for today, but will be in large demand in 2020 and beyond?

Partnerships will be as vital 50 years from now as they were 50 years ago. We cannot do what we do without the support of K-12, business and industry and other community-based organizations. But how better can we connect with our communities to ensure that mutual support, awareness and understanding exists and evolves? How do we work to ensure that even those with no connection to the college understand the value that comes with an educated, trained workforce? The college must have that support to be successful, and to achieve the vision we have set for ourselves.

We are making that vision become a reality daily, a vision of the college that is reflective of where we need to be in 50 years. Already the college is nationally recognized as the first choice for life-long education, and is a leader in state-of-the-art learning environments and innovation. The college is celebrated by so many for its economic, social, cultural and recreational contributions to the area, not to mention a passionate alumni that number in the hundreds of thousands, and who are making important impacts in the world today.

Mt. Hood Community College will continue to be central to the economic and workforce-development needs of our community and this region, and as the president of this amazing institution, being connected to those needs and continuing to be agile, responsive and relevant must be at the forefront of our immediate future.

I am absolutely honored to be the president who is leading us into the next five decades, and at a moment in time that is so pivotal to determining the path of this college. Hopefully the steps we take and the plans we lay today will echo far into the future, setting the stage for future successes of future leaders at the college. Only time will tell.

This fall, we will be reburying a time capsule, and filling it with the mementos of who we are today. It makes me wonder: when the college administrators open this new time capsule so many decades from now, will they be struck by how much we have changed since 2016? Or by how much we have stayed the same?