Incoming KCC president touts lifetime learning

March 17, 2019

Michael Boyd has a powerful connection to teaching. He majored in English and taught at Morton High School.

His eyes, he said, were opened to great literature through a mentor, Craig Rigg, who ran the library and taught English to Boyd in high school. Boyd enjoyed and still enjoys Homer’s “Iliad” and “Odyssey,” Virgil’s “Aeneid” and Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”

But as Boyd moved into the administrative realm of education, he began to see how he could make an impact on more lives. He saw how decisions, the ones made about the ways we evaluate students, change people’s lives.

“We would be giving students tests to determine their readiness for college. Yet, they might not have taken a test in 10 to 15 years,” he said. As a result, Boyd, then the teaching chair for developmental studies at Illinois Central College, developed a two-track system. Adult students would get into the courses they needed. At the same time, they would be enrolled in the classes that boosted their basic skills in English and math, so they could master the college work.

Boyd will be the new president of Kankakee Community College after the summer retirement of current president John Avendano.

In that position, he will bring both a love of teaching and a “passion to create bridges between students and business.”

Boyd was teaching at Morton High School when he was asked to teach a Saturday composition class (all day from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.) at Illinois Central. It was a lesson of the power of learning, he says, as he watched adult students “work so hard.”

He moved up through the administrative ranks at Illinois Central, asked among other things, to join a Six Sigma group partnering with Caterpillar. It was a “once in a career opportunity” to study project management. It inspired him to go back to Illinois Central and improve processes there.

Think spoke with Boyd about his new leadership role at Kankakee Community College. The questions were presented by Phil Angelo, with Boyd providing the answers. Both are edited for length and continuity.

What are the plans for the Advanced Technology Education Center? (The center has a grand opening April 17.)

We have classes in there now, and there will be a full schedule in the fall. We already have gained a good deal of notoriety for teaching solar, wind and photovoltaic energy and the center will help us go to the next level.

It will become a hub of activity and help bring in teachers and activities from throughout the Midwest.

KCC has been very successful in recent years in drawing more students. How does that trend continue?

We must continually develop new programs, and we must be flexible. More and more people are working, but they still need education. We have to move toward a system of lifelong learners.

When you have students who are working 40 hours, that means we have to teach at different hours and in different ways. It means using the internet and apprenticeships, so you learn while you are on the job. Work and school need not be separate.

Do you envision any new student activities at KCC?

We’re always open to suggestions, and we have to listen to our students.

One thing I’ve heard is video gaming sports. Today, people have online lives. We might compete against other colleges.

What do you see for the future for the North Campus site (on Illinois Route 50 in Bradley)?

With its proximity to CSL Behring, it will continue to be a location for robust workforce development. It is a place to be used by business and industry and a place to dream about the future.

It opens up access to education and is just a few minutes drive from Momence and Manteno. Ultimately, any class can be offered there.

There also is the KCC Center in Watseka.

We are really excited about the South Extension Center. Approval has been given to offer a degree there. It will be a Fast Path location. Students will be on a two-year guided pathway to get an associate of arts degree there.

That means starting and finishing with the same cohort of classmates.

We also will have CNA and adult education classes there and the high school equivalency degree. We are excited to be there, and we will keep listening well to the community in Watseka.

Are there any other centers that we need to make the public more aware of?

The Manufacturing and Industrial Technology Center (on Route 50) is one of the reasons why places such as Nucor and CSL Behring are investing in this community.

Students need to know that there are opportunities to get high paying jobs in industry right now in Kankakee County.

The city of Kankakee is seeking grant money and making a push to develop the Kankakee Riverfront. How can the college aid that process?

KCC certainly wants to be part of that conversation. The riverfront will give the opportunity to enhance the quality of life for the community.

In the fall of 2019, we will be teaching classes in hospitality operations management. Emphasis will be placed on entrepreneurism. It is the process of taking an idea and nurturing an idea.

This is not just for restaurants, but for all types of tourist sites. We hope students learn, go out and innovate.

Illinois is getting new leadership in the form of the administration of Gov. J. B. Pritzker. Do you think the college will see more financial aid from the state?

KCC has strong financial leadership now. We have benefitted because we have been resilient in changing when we needed to change as the state’s financial picture changed.

We need to continue that. We need to be ready for anything. That is the new reality. Every state budget is different.

What is the best part of working at KCC?

The most fun here comes from working with people. We have a neat culture, and the faculty surprises me every day.

This is going to keep me here a long, long time. The students come here on their own eager to learn. It’s fun for them. Watching them — that bright-eyed eagerness — is fun for me.