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 Community Colleges Selected for MentorLinks 

Initiative brings together community colleges, mentors to advance STEM programs

July 27, 2017

Media Contact: Martha Parham, Ed.D.
Sr. Vice President, Public Relations
Phone: 202-728-0200 x209

Washington, DC—The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) announced a new cohort for the MentorLinks: Advancing Technological Education program with funding from the National Science Foundation. The MentorLinks initiative pairs experienced community college mentors with extensive experience in planning and implementing advanced technology programs with colleges seeking support to build, strengthen, and sustain new or existing science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) technician education programs. Grants to the colleges total $20,000 in seed monies for the two-year grant period plus additional travel support to attend national meetings and events. The program’s primary emphasis is on valuable networking and rich opportunities for technical assistance and professional development that link the cohort with the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education (ATE) national conference and grant community.

A team of 11 community colleges and 11 individual mentors were selected through a competitive peer review process and represent innovative projects in advanced manufacturing, engineering technology, environmental technology, information technologies, agricultural technology and cybersecurity. Mentors will work closely with their college teams on activities such as curriculum development or redesign, industry engagement, faculty development, student recruitment and retention, and internships/experiential learning experiences development for both faculty and students.

AACC has managed the small, yet transformational, MentorLinks project since 2002. Since then, assistance to 44 colleges has resulted in the creation of more than 140 new courses, 21 new associate degrees, and 30 new certificates; development of several industry partnerships and internship sites; reported STEM program enrollment increases ranging from 14 percent to 350 percent; and the leveraging of over $4.5 million in additional grant funding.

The program is also aimed at offering opportunities for smaller and rural colleges that often do not have the resources to apply for grant funding and to build or strengthen their STEM programs. Forty-six percent of colleges receiving a MentorLinks award are from rural areas.

The 11 selected mentee colleges for the 2017–2019 MentorLinks initiative are: Cascadia College, Bothell (WA); Daytona State College (FL); Johnson County Community College (KS); McHenry County College (IL); Ozarks Technical Community College (MO); Piedmont Virginia Community College (VA); Riverland Community College (MN); Rockingham Community College (NC); Seminole State College (OK); Southeastern Community College (NC); and St. Petersburg College (FL).

The 11 individual mentors selected to serve the MentorLinks Mentor Team are: Kathleen Alfano, faculty emeritus, co-principal investigator, NSF ATE CREATE Center, College of the Canyons (CA); Cathryn Balas, consultant, trustee emeritus, Clark State Community College (OH); Kevin Cooper, assistant dean, Advanced Technology Division, Indian River State College (FL); Vince DiNoto, principal investigator, National GeoTech Center and dean of college and systemic initiatives, Jefferson Community College (KY); Roger Ebbage, coordinator and faculty, The Northwest Water & Energy Education Institute, Lane Community College (OR); Jenni Fridgen, agriculture program director, Parkland College (IL); Elizabeth Hawthorne, senior professor, computer science and cybersecurity, Union County College (NJ); Danis Heighton, professor, computer networking and cybersecurity, Clark State Community College (OH); James Hyder, professional consultant (NM); Richard Polanin, professor, manufacturing engineering technology, Illinois Central College (IL); Ken Walz, chemistry and engineering instructor, Madison Area Technical College (WI).


About the American Association of Community Colleges
As the voice of the nation’s community colleges, the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), delivers educational and economic opportunity for 12 million diverse students in search of the American Dream. Uniquely dedicated to access and success for all students, AACC’s nearly 1,200 member colleges provide an on-ramp to degree attainment, skilled careers and family-supporting wages. Located in Washington, D.C., AACC advocates for these not-for-profit, public-serving institutions to ensure they have the resources and support they need to deliver on the mission of increasing economic mobility for all.

About the National Science Foundation’s ATE Program
With an emphasis on two-year colleges, the Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program focuses on the education of technicians for the high-technology fields that drive our nation's economy. The program involves partnerships between academic institutions and industry to promote improvement in the education of science and engineering technicians at the undergraduate and secondary school levels. The ATE program supports curriculum development; professional development of college faculty and secondary school teachers; career pathways to two-year colleges from secondary schools and from two-year colleges to four-year institutions; and other activities.

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