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May 18, 2010—Introduction of Dr. Pollard to the Community: Speech by Dr. Pollard

Thank you, Dr. Lin, and thank you to the entire Board and search committee for giving me this opportunity to serve as the next president of Montgomery College.

I stand before you, my new colleagues, with great humility and respect.  Montgomery College is nationally known as an exceptional community college.  I know that your success as educators, trainers of industry, and builders of leaders has taken hard work and dedication from all of you: faculty, staff, administrators, and students, with strong support from our alumni, friends, business leaders, and elected officials.

I also know that Montgomery College has achieved its best when the College community has recognized and built upon the successes of the past. For me, this means following the example set by Dr. Hercules Pinkney. He should be commended for his leadership during times of great challenge for the College. Since meeting him, I have been impressed by his calm and caring demeanor, by his collaborative leadership, and by his obvious love of Montgomery College. I look forward to working with Dr. Pinkney during the transition and learning from him.  Thank you, Dr. Pinkney. 

I will also look to each of you during my transition and my presidency because I know that my learning has only just begun. Your experience and knowledge will be valuable in helping me plan for the future. Just as Dr. Pinkney has done, I am committed to being an open and communicative president. And I expect that you will agree to the same – sharing what is working and what is not in your classrooms and on your campuses and keeping me informed about issues that impact the College community.

While so much will be new to me, one thing will not—your Montgomery College mission. It is one of many factors that inspired me to apply for the presidency. Your emphasis on “changing lives” echoes what I already believe, and I think the ability to change lives sets Montgomery College apart from other institutions of higher education. 

“Changing lives” is not just a convenient, two-word phrase; it is embodied in the work you do every day. It happens when you take extra time to counsel a student about financial aid, when you encourage students to develop clubs that fit their interests, when you call four-year universities to encourage them to accept talented Montgomery College students,  when you inspire a student to pick up a book and learn more, when you stay after class to advise a student on what to take next year, when you acquire a gift donation that will help more students afford college, and when you develop innovative teaching techniques to energize your students.

I am so very proud to be joining an institution that believes in and practices “changing lives.” Already, Montgomery College has changed mine. Let me tell you about my story—what you cannot learn from a memo, a press release, or even my biography.

I was drawn to Montgomery College because of its exceptional reputation and the diversity of its faculty, staff, and students; its drive for excellence; and its uncompromising belief in what community colleges do for our students and community. I share this with you, and as such, you will likely find no greater champion of community colleges. We are potentially the most transformative institutions in contemporary America. We serve the immigrant daughter and the native son, the working reservist and the returning veteran, the academically underserved and the honors student, the displaced homemaker and the senior citizen, the traditionally-aged transfer student, and the mid-life career changer.

What I know for sure is that community colleges—Montgomery College—can change the trajectory of an individual; transform the quality of life for a family; and enhance the intellectual, economic, and cultural essence of a community. I don’t know about you, but I consider what we do as noble work, and I am honored to join this institution to further this work in Montgomery County. As such, my vision for this college is simple: Montgomery College will be the most relevant community college in the country by meeting the needs of our students and proving essential to the success of our community.

My path to Montgomery College started in the classrooms of the College of Lake County in the suburbs of Chicago, my hometown, after completing my undergraduate and graduate work at Iowa State University and then Loyola University Chicago. In the classroom, I taught diverse students from varying backgrounds, educational goals, beliefs, and preparation levels; and I worked to create classroom cultures that fostered learning, embraced difference, and promoted critical reflection.

As I moved from the faculty to administration (as a dean, assistant vice president, vice president, and campus president), I incorporated these same values in my interactions and collaborations with my faculty and staff colleagues by encouraging collective responsibility for our learning community, introducing new approaches to problem-solving, supporting participation, listening to their voices in the decision-making process, and valuing diverse experiences and ways of seeing and knowing.

I believe it is the attitude I bring to my work, the posture I assume, and the way in which I treat others that has defined my ability to operate successfully within the organizations of which I have been apart. I believe it is the way in which I attend to my day-to-day responsibilities while focusing on broader, strategic directions that enable me to enjoy the confidence of my colleagues. I work hard, I laugh a lot, I admit my mistakes, I value the people with whom I work, I share those feelings with them, and I am committed to enhancing our intangible resources—our people, our culture, our brand, and our reputation.

Most importantly, I am uncompromising in my focus on the students and community we serve and the way in which we meet their needs and exceed their expectations.

The transformative power of education drives me, and it is what has brought me to Montgomery College. I want to be a part of a college who shares my mission of changing lives through the enrichment of our community in ways that we hold ourselves accountable while also tending to our internal spirit. I want my family to be active and vital citizens of a community. I want to plant deep roots in a college and community so that my son calls Montgomery County “the place where I grew up” and my partner calls Montgomery County home. I want my community—both internal and external—to be invested in the success of the college and my role as its president.

I look forward to meeting many of you in person at the short reception immediately following this event. From everything I’ve experienced already, I know that I will be at home here.

Finally today, I want to leave you with a promise, my promise. I promise that you will not find a college president anywhere in the country who is willing to work harder for you and for our students. 

Thank you. I look forward to the opportunity to serve Montgomery College.

Thank you.

Montgomery College

Montgomery County, MD


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