Farewell President Carole Cowan!

When Carol Cowan started at Middlesex Community in 1976, the school occupied two buildings at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Bedford.  “Look at us now,” Cowan said in June as she prepared to leave her job as president of one of the largest and most inclusive community colleges in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

At a joint board meeting of the MCC Board of Trustees and the MCC Foundation Cowan said that accepting her first job at Middlesex as a professor was “a decision I’ve never regretted.” People in attendance were sad to hear that Cowan was announcing her resignation, which will take place the upcoming academic year.

Cowan has served as dean of business and dean of administration and finance. Cowan received a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Salem State College, a certificate of advanced graduate study from Boston State College, and a doctorate in higher education administration, from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

In addition to these achievements, Cowan received an honorary doctor of humane letters from the Suffolk University College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and School of Management, in acknowledgment of her eminent career in public higher education and most recently received another honorary doctor of humane letters from Salem State College. Cowan is a member of the council’s Nominating and Board Development Committee and has been a member of the Girls Scouts board of directors since 2008. In September 1990, Cowan was named president of MCC.

“I’ve been here 38 years,” tells Cowan, the third president of the institution. At the MCC Board of Trusties meeting, Cowan said she felt she helped lead MCC from “its infancy to adulthood,” and that she also helped establish the college as a “flagship in the community college system.”

“We have strong campuses in our suburban (Bedford) and urban (Lowell) settings. Middlesex Community College has become a nationally recognized leader in higher education,” said Cowan.

She listed her accomplishments and announced to the Board, “We are beginning (a) study with the DCAM (Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance) for a new academic science building on the Bedford campus, with a major investment in biotechnology through the $3 million grant from the Mass Life Sciences consortium. Additionally, we are looking at another $10 million state investment for another new academic building in Lowell.

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“I am proud to be president of this institution, proud to be your colleague, and proud of the milestones we have reached as a team here at Middlesex. I’m excited to see where the college goes next,” said Cowan.

In a statement regarding Cowan’s retirement, Congresswoman Niki Tsongas said:

“Twenty four years ago Carole broke barriers to become the first woman president of MCC, and only its third president. During my nine years at MCC, I was inspired by Carole’s visionary leadership and unwavering dedication to the students and community, as she overcame obstacles to propel the college forward to national recognition. Carole’s leadership helped to elevate the profile of MCC and community colleges in general, highlighting the important role they play in educating, training and preparing people of all ages and walks of life for success… Her years of service and her remarkable legacy of accomplishment will resonate across the region for many years to come.”

Likewise, via his Twitter account, Northern Essex Community College President Lane Glenn, who assisted Cowan’s Farewell ceremony on Nov. 10, said, “Congrats on your retirement after 24 years leading Middlesex CC, @CaroleCowan! @middlesex_cc.”

To find Cowan’s heir, the search committee started work throughout the summer and fall semesters. On Dec 11, MCC board of trustees selected James Mabry as the new president.

“I am confident I have helped set the stage for the next president to step in and grab the reins of very exciting projects that will usher our college’s growth into the next decade and beyond,” Cowan said.

Farewell President Cowan, you sure will be missed at MCC!

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Paul H Sullivan Leadership Institute: My Goals and Skills

I remember the first day I walked into class at Middlesex Community College. It was a mix of excitement and scariness, and at the same time I was feeling lost. The square room was becoming so big while I was feeling so small. I did not consider myself a shy person… Yet, I was afraid of expressing my feelings and concerns out loud due to my basic English knowledge. Nevertheless, through the caring English Language professor, I learned that at MCC it’s not about how little you speak or know about the English language, what really matters is our optimism and willingness to learn in order to reach our goals and teach others what we learn here at college. As the semesters went by, I gained more self-confidence; that’s when I decided to apply to the Paul Sullivan Leadership Institute at MCC.

Since the first training and the orientation day, I knew that I would fall in love with the Leadership Institution like I did with Middlesex. As a mother, this institution provides me with the skills that I’ve being practicing with my children and modeling as I continue learning from its events and meetings: Have respect for myself and others, be responsible, have fun and enjoy while learning. As a student, the PSLI has been opening doors to my future. And I am becoming more friendly, open-minded, and less afraid of speaking in public.

For example, when I was showing my support to the welcoming community of Bedford on Town Day, I felt that my social skills were improving… walking in the middle of the street, giving away candies to the lovely children, and feeling as happy as the community. Those are the little moments that have a great impact on life. I was not afraid to talk and greet the community. I was not feeling nervous at all.

I had the same experience at the Young Professionals of Greater Lowell conference. Chester Elton, the author of All In, awakened a new “skill” in me: Praise good work, and as he said, “Inspire others so they could fall in love with their job.”

Feeling the need to get out of  my chair and start working, at my first meeting as co-chair of the Women’s Leadership Network at MCC, I brought little boxes of chocolates and, in the name of the whole group, I gave them to all our members in order to welcome them to “Our Family.” Their “Awww” and “Thank you” made me feel as received as I think they did.

On the other hand, like any human being, I also have my weaknesses. I can feel mind-blocked when trying to translate from Spanish to English. There’s so much more that I want to say, and sometimes I don’t have the correct translation to express it. Although I know that this might not be considered as a weakness, when you combine it with insecurity, leads you right there. In addition, I can be very emotional; even when I laugh hard some tears of mine don’t hesitate; they slide down without mercy. On a bad day, it’s worse, especially if a person talks to me with a temper. Yet, I keep learning how to control these emotions.

I have as many short-term goals as long ones. One of my short ones is to be able to learn something new each day and then teach it to my children and/or friends, family, co-workers and so forth. My biggest goal is to build a shelter for single moms. As I spent 11 months living in one and still struggling with “The System,” I know the struggles of many of the women living there. It is not easy. Thus, as part of my daily goals, I am changing “I want” to “I will.” I will build a place where those single hard-working moms can learn how to be extraordinary women and leaders –just like the Paul Sullivan Institute is doing with me- and for them to become the person they have always dreamed of.

I truly know that the Paul H Sullivan Leadership Institute (along with our director Mary-Jo Griffin and the rest of the team) has been one of my best education experiences yet. With just those few events and meetings, I am feeling more awake and self-conscious, secure, inspired and dedicated. I cannot wait for the next steps of my path in this institution; it feels extremely good. I cannot thank God more for all of these changes in my life.

I can’t wait for our next big event, where I will have the pleasure to meet the Greater Lowell philanthropists, Linda and John Chemaly, a great inspirational hardworking couple.