More than Elite: How the E-Learning, Innovation, and Teaching Excellence Department’s Latest Initiative Supports the MC Student Body

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More than Elite: How the E-Learning, Innovation, and Teaching Excellence Department’s Latest Initiative Supports the MC Student Body

Okole Bashonga, Staff Writer

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Montgomery College provides a wide variety of means to further student success. The Office of E-Learning, Innovation and Teaching Excellence (ELITE) has been prompt to help MC students navigate through the difficulties of the college experience. Since the Fall of 2018, ELITE-in conjunction with Student Affairs- began an initiative called the MC First Mentoring Program. It was created in response to specifically aid first-generation students, who comprise approximately twenty percent of students who attend Montgomery College. Dr. Caroline Toscano, professional development director in ELITE, discussed at length ELITE’s mission at MC, and how their latest initiative, MC First, supports the student body.

“We do professional development for staff and faculty, for student success. That’s our purpose,” Dr. Toscano said, clarifying the role that ELITE plays at Montgomery College.

ELITE’s mission to further student success at MC is highlighted in the College’s Professional Development Master Plan, a three-year strategic plan to incorporate student success into employee professional development.

“We wanted to think about ways that staff and faculty could work more directly with students,” she says. “This way, we can help them more directly to be successful in their studies and their careers.

“Under the direction of Dr. Michael Mills, vice president of ELITE, the MC First Mentoring Program was developed. The idea of this mentoring initiative was to pair first-generation students with staff and faculty, many of whom are first generation themselves.

“First-generation staff and faculty have a great wealth of advice, knowledge and wisdom that they can impart with students who are trying to understand what it takes to be academically successful,” Dr. Toscano said.

“My supervisor, Dr. Michael Mills, wanted to start a program in which we (ELITE) could target first generation college students,” she acknowledged. “And pair them with a faculty or staff mentor -many of whom themselves are first generation- (…) on what advice, knowledge, and wisdom they can impart with their mentees.”

Dr. Benita Rashaw, Student Affairs initiative program manager in Rockville, has also contributed to the success of the MC First Program by organizing mentoring food pop-ups on the various campuses and distributing information about the program to students.

From the food pop-ups, the MC First Program currently has 11 mentor-mentee pairs, said Dr. Toscano.Though the MC First initiative targets first-generation students, staff, and faculty, it seeks to be inclusive of all people interested in this program, which is college wide.

Dr. Toscano mentioned that there are many challenges that first-generation students may encounter at MC.

“They might not know or understand the intricacies of what’s involved in getting a college degree,” she pointed out. “Like scholarships, financial aid, or how to transfer.”

This initiative was established to help students become resilient and overcome setbacks during their tenure at Montgomery College.”This mentoring program is designed to help people who are well connected with knowledge about the college to help guide [MC students] in the right direction.” Dr. Toscano stated.

Dr. Toscano said that she is impressed that so many students and MC employees have shown interest in the program. However, she stated that it is imperative that the word gets out for students to know that the MC First Program exists.

“We have staff and faculty on all campuses who are willing to be mentors,” she said. “If students know how valuable this kind of a program can be, I think they might at least be interested in knowing more information about it.”

The MC First initiative aims to ease the college experience at MC for first-generation students by having point people to help them along the way.

“Having somebody take a personal interest in your well being, in your performance at college, and in your success, is something that’s almost priceless,” Dr. Toscano emphasized. “That’s the beauty of a mentoring program.”

To learn more about MC First, go here:
https://www.montgomerycollege.edu/offices/elite/mc-first.htmlIf you are interested in joining the MC First program but have additional questions, please contact Dr. Caroline Toscano at [email protected] or 240-567-2002.

If you are a student who is interested in finding a mentor to help you with your college experience, please fill out an application form, found here:https://www.montgomerycollege.edu/offices/elite/mc-first-program-student-information-form.html .
Or contact 
Dr. Toscano.

The Office of E-Learning, Innovation, and Teaching Excellence address is located here:
900 Hungerford Drive, Suite 342
Rockville, MD 20850
Phone: 240-567-6002, Fax: 240-567-6004