Committed to community college
Milwaukee Area Technical College
On Campus: What do you teach?
Robin Mosleth: I am a registered nurse, and I have taught nursing courses since 1980. I have worked at MATC in the School of Health Sciences for 11 years. Previously, I worked in both clinical and management positions, and I have taught elsewhere at both two- and four-year institutions. I specialize in mental health, community nursing, and management and leadership.
I mainly teach courses in those areas now, but I’ve also taught students at the very beginning of their program. Currently, I teach students who are typically in their fourth and final semester in clinical and theory courses in which they transition into practicing as entry-level nurses. This 16-week semester prepares them to take their licensing exam. I find it exciting and very rewarding to see how far students come in 16 weeks.
OC: Who are your students?
RM: A majority are the first in their families to graduate from college. Others are parents and grandparents starting a second or third career. Many have never worked in healthcare. A significant percentage already hold bachelor’s or even master’s degrees, but they can’t find jobs in their fields. So they enroll in MATC for other training.
Sometimes students enter through the programs in emergency medical training, business or other fields. Some are immigrants to the United States, such as physicians seeking asylum, who are struggling to re-enter a field they know but in a country where schooling and licensing are very different. They enroll in our program for an associate degree in nursing, and after four semesters they can sit for their licensing exam and get a job. It’s a privilege and an honor to teach all these students.
OC: Are they able to find jobs upon grad- uation?
RM: I actually haven’t heard of anyone who doesn’t get a job in nursing within the first year of graduation. There is a huge need for nurses in our community, especially for nurses who can speak another language. For many in our diverse community, English may not be their first language, so our graduates—many of whom speak another language—can fill that void. My students typically land jobs in local hospital settings where they start out earning between $23 and $25 per hour.
OC: Tell us about your college’s nursing program.
RM: MATC offers about 30 different health-occupation career programs that range from three-month certifications to two-year associate degrees. Across our two campuses, we have about 250 to 300 total nursing students; enrollment has held steady.
Our big initiative is retention—helping students with personal obstacles (for example, homelessness, finances, juggling multiple responsibilities such as being the primary caregiver for grandchildren). Faculty members are advisers, and we look early on—by midterm at least—to see if students aren’t progressing. When they aren’t, we put out a campuswide “retention alert.” Those students are then contacted by student services advisers, in addition to their faculty adviser, to help them succeed.
OC: Does your program partner with local employers in the healthcare field?
RM: Yes, we have formal partnerships with businesses across Milwaukee, and we also work closely with hiring agencies in the area. A group from MATC meets with other nursing schools and employing agencies across the city, and we review what employers are looking for in new graduates as well as what employment opportunities are available.
OC: What challenges do you face in your work?
RM: State funding was cut by the governor and his administration a few years ago for all Wisconsin technical colleges. It was a 30 percent hit, which was huge, and amounted to $30 million over two years.
Also, there’s a big push across the country to re-examine what preparation nurses need to enter the profession. Some are saying that almost all nurses should hold at least a bachelor’s degree, but right now about two-thirds of the nursing workforce have only associate degrees. I think we need to look at what’s really reasonable as the healthcare industry becomes more complex. Our MATC program boasts one of the highest pass rates in the country for the licensing exam—the same exam students with bachelor’s degrees take—at nearly 100 percent. To tell our students, who have earned their associate degrees and passed the exam, that they now need to earn bachelor’s degrees in nursing is a lofty goal. Nursing is very stressful. Adding a bachelor’s requirement only increases the pressure, especially for students age 40 and older who have come so far. It sends the message that an associate degree is not good enough. We are partnering with universities to streamline matriculation to four-year institutions so that our students don’t need to repeat course work they’ve already completed. Given the increasingly complex and ever expanding healthcare environment, we encourage them to continue to grow in the profession.
San Jose City College
On Campus: How did you end up at San Jose City College?
Kieron Connolly: I’m originally from Ireland. When I was in college there, I studied electronics and electro-technology. I also worked part time for an air conditioning and refrigeration company. When I graduated in the early 1980s, there was a slump in the high-tech areas in which I had studied. I fell into the air conditioning and refrigeration business, in sales, service and installation. At the same time, I enrolled as an apprentice and gained a journeyman’s card in the trade of refrigeration. I worked for a small company and eventually ended up the owner.
I started teaching electro-technology part time in an adult education school in West Cork, and in 1989, I decided to get out of business and teach. I was interested in the U.S. education system and flew out to California to understand it better. Within a few days of the visit, I had landed myself a job in the Institute for Business and Technology in Santa Clara.
In 1991, I took an adjunct position at San Jose City College, while also working as a self-employed training consultant in the facilities maintenance arena for high-tech companies in Silicon Valley. After moving back to Ireland for a couple years, I returned to work full time at SJCC. I’m now a CTE faculty member in two program areas: air conditioning technology and facilities maintenance (which I set up in 2002). Air Conditioning Principles, Refrigeration Principles and Refrigeration Service are a few of the courses I currently teach. I’m also an acting coordinator for the college’s CTE division.
OC: Can you tell us about your students?
KC: SJCC has very large air conditioning and facilities maintenance programs with a combined enrollment of more than 350 students, mostly male. We run both morning and evening programs. In general, most morning students have just graduated from high school or have been out of high school for two or three years, and now realize they need a career path. The evening program, which tends to enroll a larger number of students, mainly attracts folks from industry who are updating their skills, learning new skills or working toward formal qualifications such as their associate degree. Some are looking for a career change; others want to move up in their career. Our graduates earn at least $16 per hour in entry-level positions.
OC: What kind of remediation do your students need when they enroll in your program?
KC: The technicians we are training must have strong analytical skills. When they come to us, many of our students lack basic math and writing skills. We take a holistic approach to our programs, and instead of just teaching skills, we teach how to troubleshoot and analyze situations. There are basic mathematical formulas in algebra and trigonometry our students must know if they want to succeed in this field. Also, on the writing side, our students need to be able to write reports and service requests. The older students, those 35 and older, seem to show stronger problem-solving skills.
OC: What are the specific needs of Silicon Valley that you train students to meet?
KC: Silicon Valley is the epicenter of electronics and high tech. To meet the industry’s needs, we must specialize in commercial refrigeration, which is the facilities management area that entails climate control in large buildings, energy management and system controls. In Silicon Valley, the buildings that house research and development are run by highly trained facilities technicians who must know how to operate the control systems of air conditioned environments where there’s a very low tolerance for error, such as “clean” (i.e., sterile) rooms used for research, and server rooms used to house computer servers. Our students must understand the movement of heat, be familiar with electric power, and also have a strong background in control theory and practice.
OC: What’s most rewarding about your work?
KC: We can start people on a career that propels them into the middle class. And that’s part of the mission of community college. The community college system here in California is reasonable in price, accessible to anyone, and driven by faculty who have a vision and genuine interest in the future of their students.