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New MATC president wants to put students on the right path

Monday, October 13, 2014   (0 Comments)
Business Journal

Hilary Dickinson

 

 

As the new president of Milwaukee Area Technical College, Vicki Martin does not want the institution to continue being known as one of Milwaukee's "best-kept secrets.”

"I want everyone talking about what a great institution it is and how it's a real, true choice for college,” Martin said. Martin, who has worked for MATC since 1988, most recently as executive vice president and provost, assumed her role as the college's 10th president in early July. She succeeded Michael Burke, who accepted a position as chancellor of the Riverside Community College District in Riverside, Calif.

"It's going really great,” Martin said. "It's been three months, and so much has happened in terms of reaching out to the community and setting a vision internally for what we want to accomplish.”

Among her many priorities is ensuring MATC students are receiving the right skill sets for in-demand jobs. She is working to provide that through the career pathways initiative that she implemented at MATC for the 2013-'14 academic year.

MATC prepares students for three levels: a certificate after one semester of education, a technical diploma after one academic year and an associate's degree after two years of full-time study. Career pathways, which draws its history from several state and national initiatives, depicts that sequence of education as it applies to particular areas of study and indicates the potential jobs and wage ranges for each level.

"We lay it out for students, so there's no question of, 'If I take these courses, what will this get me?'” Martin said.

Career pathways is also beneficial for students who may have to put their education on hold after earning a technical diploma, for instance, because it shows them that they can step back onto the pathway where they left off and continue on to obtain an associate's degree using their already-earned credits.

Martin calls MATC a leader in the state technical college system when it comes to the implementation of the career pathways initiative because it has the most developed system. Two-thirds of the college's academic programs currently have pathways, and the goal is to develop pathways for all of them.

The pathways that have already been implemented at MATC are for the clusters of: arts, AV technology and communications, business management and administration, education and training, finance, health science, and hospitality and tourism.

Martin said MATC works closely with industries to make sure they are training students for the most relevant jobs of the future, and one recent example of that is the health information technology pathway in the health science cluster that was created due to the rise of electronic medical record usage.

Strengthening partnerships with area businesses and industry leaders is another top priority of Martin's.

Most recently, MATC has begun to collaborate with FaB Wisconsin, a network affiliated with the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce that supports food and beverage industry growth and awareness.

MATC and FaB Wisconsin are in the early discussion phase of developing a Food Maker School and Food Maker Center of Excellence at the MATC Education Center at Walker's Square, located at 816 W. National Ave. in Milwaukee. The food and beverage sector has seen an increased need in workers over the last year to 18 months, she said.

While Martin has numerous goals for MATC's future, she also has an array of challenges that include reducing student debt.

"Students are trying to better their lives, but when they get done with school they have to repay that debt and can't buy a home or a car,” she said. According to Martin, the average unmet need for students is $6,000 and their average annual loan debt is $14,000.

Some ongoing ways MATC is working to address student debt include: encouraging students to take college credits while in high school; urging students to take advantage of MATC's free tutoring and academic centers so they successfully complete courses the first time; and asking business partners to provide more paid internships.

Another big strategy is advising students to activate their accounts with SALT, an MATC financial literacy partner that provides resources on money management and student loan debt, among others. Earlier this month, MATC held a sign-up drive with the goal of getting approximately 1,500 current students to register.

After nearly three decades at MATC, Martin believes she is the best person to meet the college's challenges and achieve its goals.

"I have a clear vision of where I want this institution to go, and I have a true love and appreciation of its mission,” she said. "I'm really privileged to serve this institution and to make our community better.”

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