Pasta and Discussion with Tri-C President at Westshore
By Jonathan Beard & Edona Vajushi
On September 15, Dr. Michael Baston, Cuyahoga Community College’s (Tri-C) newest president, was at Westshore Campus for “Pasta with the President.” The pasta-themed lunch took place from 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm with President Baston and his wife, Tasha Baston who served and greeted eventgoers at SLT Veranda. This luncheon is one of Dr. Baston’s listening events that were open to students, faculty, and staff at the campus.
As the new president of Tri-C, Dr. Baston decided to start his journey by listening. “I am not here to make changes just because I have to but to listen first to what the issues are then address them,” said Dr. Baston.
Several college officials were present at the event, including Jenny Febbo, Vice President of Integrated Communications. “Dr. Baston wanted to have these listening events so that he could hear from faculty, staff and students about their concerns and anything they wanted him to know about the college,” Febbo explained.
David Kuntz, Vice President of Administration and Finance was also present and expressed support for the listening sessions. “I’m a firm believer that the best form of communication is not doing all the talking all of the time but actively listening,” Kuntz said. “It takes an effective leader to listen to our faculty, staff and students then help them shape what the future of the college will look like. The listening sessions will help Dr. Baston share his vision while also receiving feedback.”
Some school officials expressed hope of high participation during the listening sessions. Ronna McNair, Chief of Staff, noted that the listening sessions would play a role in the president’s policy. “This event will give Dr. Baston an opportunity to really hear the voice of the faculty, staff, and students then use that information to put together his plan for the future of the institution.”
Dr. Scott Latiolais, president of Westshore campus started the students’ meeting by warmly welcoming everyone and introducing the guests. Dr. Baston was joined by Febbo in starting the luncheon with a fun and entertaining Kahoot game, get to know Dr. Baston. As students played, they learned interesting facts about Dr. Baston like his first job was as a paper boy and that he really likes music movies.
In a survey previously conducted by Dr. Baston and his team, students were asked to provide three words they would use to describe Tri-C. Most students responded that it is affordable, helpful, and accessible. Dr. Baston then invited the participating students to comment on these results and most of them agreed that they would also associate Tri-C with those words.
Next, the discussion focused on talking about Tri-C’s issues. The survey results showed that students’ concerns are mainly related to financial aid, course offering after Covid, and the availability of student support services. One of the participating students further emphasized how the limited classes for certain degrees can sometimes force students to leave Tri-C before finishing their two-year program.
Isabela Zoga, Bureau Chief for The Voice at Eastern Campus talked about issues that affect international students such as the law which requires such student to take nine credit hours in courses outside of their major. “Degrees like Graphic Design have gone mostly online and there are not many options for in-person,” Zoga explained. “This requires me to take classes that have nothing to do with my degree.”
Dr. Baston added other struggles that international students deal with like not having the option of financial aid or being able to work on campus.
Other issues raised included not having the classes you want at every campus; inconsistency between the services offered at the different campuses; and lack of daycare on campus which makes it challenging for student-parents to attend all of their classes.
After listening to the student, Dr. Baston emphasized that one of most important things is awareness. “It seems that students are not aware of Tri-C resources and find it hard to navigate the website and find information themselves,” says Dr. Baston. “One of the most common statements we hear from students is I didn’t know. In addition, sometimes faculty are not aware of students wants and needs which causes a breakdown in communication between the two parties. Therefore, alternative ways of communication need to be found.”
Dr. Baston proposed creating a “Peer Academy” considering some students need more help and prefer high touch more than the others. Also, “training students who are doing good so they can help their peers would solve problems like capacity and student employment on campus,” says Dr. Baston. “By doing this we can create a cycle of support that allows everyone to get the best out of their journey at Tri-C. Just because it is a big institution, it doesn’t have to be complex,” concluded Dr. Baston.
Finishing this way, made the discussion productive and gave hope and willingness of finding ways to bring ideas for a better Tri-C into reality.