Black Perspectives; Dr. Brunetta Wolfman
Good evening welcome to black perspectives the half hour feature focusing on information issues and lifestyles in the communities in Boston and the self Sure. I'm Charles Desmond and I'm your host this evening will be talking with Dr. Bernardo Wolfman who's the president of Roxbury Community College who has been a frequent guest on the show and from time to time comes back to talk with us and to update us on where Roxbury Community College is at the present time in how things are progressing with its new building and new facilities in a new direction. It's been moving under your leadership. So let me say first of all thanks and thank you again for coming back and for sharing some time with us. Thank you for inviting me. Those of us who have had the good fortune to ride along the corridor have seen this beautiful facility taking shape in a lot of activity in the facility how is it coming along and when are you expected to get in at this time. Well the new campus is on schedule and the visual and performing arts building which is the one closest to new Dudley Street is scheduled to be completed
in November. Right so we will be phasing in our are moving over the fall semester and we operated in January. We planned to have celebrations start in January and conclude in May with commencement and me on the sculpture by John Wilson outstanding. I think it's really an interesting twist of history and fate that I that all of these things will be happening in 1988 which also marks the 300 50th anniversary of the black Pleasants the black presence in the city of Boston. So it's a beautiful sort of anchor around which you can focus attention on the achievements of blacks in the city and clearly this is one of the most important ones that's taken place over the years you know providing a unique type of leadership for RACC and in the sense that. You've been able to in a very quiet way but clearly in a strong way get the type of support and involvement of a
lot of different people whether it's the corporate money givers or the. General politicians and community activists in the city as well as strong student involvement at the school and commitment to seeing these things happen that you sort of outlined in the vision how do you sort of feel about all that. Well I feel good about what we have done. I always feel a sense of remorse because there is so much that we'd like to do. Not enough hours in the day or days in the week to do it. And it's there's there's such a sense of creativity and vitality in the in a college in the people who are there that it's very easy to get them to do things. And there are a lot of people in the Boston area who want to help us and want to work with us so that that's wonderful and the colleges assemble to so many
people when I go to churches or community organizations and little ladies come up to me and they they tell me how wonderful it is that there is the college is being completed and how much it means to them. And some of them say I never thought I would I would live to see it. And that always makes me sort of sit back and say. College is really a very important symbol to the Roxbury Community and I think that in making that prior statement that I made I sort of create the illusion maybe and I don't want to convey that to the audience that this is a tough business being a president and that you're not a tough lady because I happen to know that you are. But that I think that you have been able to sort of convey a vision and a dream and a hope about the institution that has really brought a lot of people on board and sort of consolidated people around the fact that this is going to happen and that optimism has a way of spreading and infecting other people and I think you've
done an outstanding job in doing that. The students at RCC are perhaps the most diverse population of students attending any institution in America today. Maybe you might just spend a few minutes with us telling us a little bit about this amalgamation of people. Over there it's not a melting pot it's a it's an interesting stew. They range in age from 18 to 82 with the average age in the upper 20s. Our average student is female head of a household with one at least one child. Many of them have dropped out of school early on because they were going to parent so that have about half of them come with a GED. They have not had a good lot of educational success for the most part. There is just a tremendous amount of innate
intelligence and talent. We have students who are probably about 40 different countries because I know that we have over 40 different native languages spoken by faculty and staff. Last year we did a tally and returning students were coming from 38 different countries. And the students who come from and not as immigrants but as far as students don't come with government support. They come with family support. They come from villages. Their cousins have told them about it. People come to RCC because someone's told them. And it is a part of their their sort of network the underground. I mean there's no way to know the underground university other ways where it's reasoned. The Probably the entire third world. And it is it is just it's amazing because people whose countries are
at war are not at war when they come to RCC. We have whites and blacks who managed to work together some strains. The top leadership of the college says are all people of color and that in itself is unusual in Boston. And we we have we just have a knack for learning to work together. In fact we are concerned about knowing how we do it and not losing that when we move into a new campus. So where we started the process of the self study which is being headed by Joyce King who chairs our board and she's also a multicultural specialist. To begin to find the strategies that we have used to be able to work and create together. Let me let me ask you I know that in addition to being an educational leader you are also a theoretician and you write about these things and talk extensively around the country
and in the northeast. More so how do you see RACC fitting into the city what do you think its special contribution is in Boston and how has its leader do you see yourself sort of mapping out the territory that that space for RCC and an ongoing when she move into a new facility in the ongoing educational structure here. Well I think the location itself is a symbol. We are probably right in the exact center of Boston will be what I call the heart of the hub. And as such we serve both early corporate and business community and the neighborhood. We can provide a link for educational programs or training programs for cultural activities. We look forward to the new
campus as being a place where there will be an enormous outpouring of cultural activities from the neighborhood from people outside the neighborhood who will come to see the kind of talent that exists in central Boston. A black Hispanic and we see ourselves as providing a link between black and white between rich and poor between what people aspire to be and where they are. We call ourselves a learning community in that everybody in the college whether they are administrators or faculty or students are learning every day merely from one another and they are developing ideas and developing your own creativity. We are unique in that we can offer that opportunity for. For the city.
Well I think that going back to the question I asked you a moment ago when you when you think about the diversity that you have and when I go to the campus and I was amazed to see people you know it's not like even our own university here at UMass where people come in they take their classes and they're gone that I you see people outside of France standing at the bus stations in the hallways and various cafeterias and what have you all sort of engaged in a type of exchange that you wonder where you know what's really going on I don't know if you know a lot of people say what's really going on over at RCC. Do you see the process working. Do the graduates that are coming out of the RCC are they able to sort of get into the mainstream in the city. Are they coming back to you Are they giving you feedback on the things that they think that you're doing that are really working for them and are they giving you that they're they forming that alumni corps that I know that you're I've heard you make reference to.
We don't necessarily capture them in the alumni association but they do come back. And one of the things. That I think we have is a sense of family. That's the way the students describe RCC. And so they keep coming back. Our students who transferred to UMass Boston or Suffolk or northeastern or are being you. Whenever they hit a snag rather than going to someone at their new institution they come back to RACC and find a counsellor or faculty member or someone whom they have worked with. And we often have to intercede with the other institution or help them figure out how to get over that snag or if they're working they come back and they talk with us about what should I do next. And as I move around the city going into some of the retail stores offices office buildings I am very busy more and more
encounter RCC graduates who say to me don't you know me. I get you gave me my diploma. And I say well gee I'm sorry I've got a cap and gown on you look a little different but I know that our graduates are out there and it's it's terrific to know that they're really a part of the city in a vital way. Well I think that's a very positive note upon which we can take a just a brief break let me say that this is WMD ninety one point nine FM You're listening to black perspectives and then we turn shortly without discussion with Dr. But I will finish this is Dr. Bowen. Secretary of Health and Human Services. A big lie about cocaine is it doesn't kill cocaine can kill. The deaths of athletes Len Bias and Dawn Rogers were but two of the hundreds of cocaine deaths each year. Cocaine can cause heart attacks respiratory failure brain hemorrhage and brain seizures. If you need help with cocaine call 1
800 6 to age LP. We're back from our beat into mission. I'm Charles Desmond your host for black perspectives deceiving my guest is Dr. Burnett a woman who is the president Iraq's pray community college. Welcome back. Thank you and at the break we were saying how. You see is part of the richness of the city and it's playing a vital role and. Preparing people to to participate fully in the city economically and as family members community members. Which is excellent and which is what a great community college is all about. After you move into your new facilities it's clear that two things are going to happen. One. The attractiveness of the RCC is going to skyrocket everyone is going to know where you are and they want to see this beautiful facility. Secondly your reputation as the president and the and others in the school itself is also going to rise. This will draw new
students. It will make me provide you with opportunities to do a lot of things that you have been probably unable to do in the past. Where do you see the academic programs as you see moving in the next several years. Let me back up and say we already have a national reputation. Excuse me. And our developmental staff are recognized as leaders and in fact all of the the staff involved in our programs are academic support have been invited to a national conference in April to get papers on the work that we are doing because we have a lot of students who are involved in developmental or police work. We are one of the six community colleges in the country that has gotten the Metropolitan Life grant this year to do something that is innovative. We are going to do a project with four five community agencies to get the students from their basic education
GED programs to Roxbury Community College and a Spanish speaking agency. Black Chinese so that we can show that that's another way of reaching out so we do have a national reputation. We have gotten for grants and so I'm not going to back him. I was the same guy. I did not mean that in the way I said it was that I misspoke. Are you supposing that we have outgrown the campus the new campus and so we will shoehorn people in because their campus is built for fifteen hundred students. We have twenty five hundred on go on Huntington Avenue now. Day and evening. So we will have we will be looking for space in the city which we already use with community agencies but we will have new equipment. We will have theatre.
We will have media facilities. We will have a new library. We will have new lab equipment. We'll have all the things that we never had and that will be very exciting. We continually are changing and we have new programs particularly it with lab sciences and technical because the colleges never had facilities before. We are establishing very close relationships with some of the hospitals and health agencies so that our students can use some of their equipment and they will help us in developing programs we will have a nursing program. For the first time and we already have a relationship with UMass Boston for our nursing students to transfer but nursing is one of the areas that are very popular with people who live in Moscow or Dorchester a sense of wanting to do something for their own community.
And we will have a we will be able to really have a nursing program for the first time. Carols and we look forward to having a physical education facilities sometime soon. Well I think that they probably you know you always want I think this mischievous things because they know that once you do have that you have you know become a horse to be reckoned with in the athletic community in the city of us not that you won already won but thank you. I'll bet it will. They become even more difficult to contend with as RCC athletes in the future and your own personal life. Let me ask a question here because it's clear and then I'm sure that most everyone in the audience knows that you're constantly being watched and people are constantly wondering what you're going to do next and do you see yourself staying with RCC. Is it still a challenge to you. Well it's still a challenge but I don't think that it's so much of a challenge I don't think I
would like to retire her from that position and I think that institutions need leadership in different stages and so that when we get to new campuses build them assurance that there will be a physical education facility and the future facilities needs of the college are going to be met and then I think I will look for something that will be a little bit different and a little more relaxing. But you know I know it's what I have to say that you know and I generally don't give I give compliments but I do that I do think that you have really done this with such and you land in grays that it just makes it look easy and I know that it hasn't been there and that you've been working very hard to get a lot of people really on task to make that school movement I think. You know you really deserve all the accolades that have been coming to you because you don't get them without hard work. Thank you. I'm fulfilling a legacy in a way. How's that. Well my grandfather was always the kind of guiding light in my childhood.
He wasn't an educator who worked his way through all corn and him by chopping wood. Starting the apprentices early in the morning he was an older student. I was told in his 30s when he went back to school his father was a slave. And so education was always held up as the important thing. And probably one of the best things that's happened to me I mean he's always been in my mind that I was trying to fulfill what he sort of set out. And last year Ebony did a feature on the 14 black women presence and had a picture of me and I heard him cousins I had heard from in years. And they all said your grandfather would have been so proud and so I feel I've accomplished something personally. Well isn't that great. That's that's a great service and a great American vignette is necessity a great American and yet. One of the things.
That I don't know if everyone is aware of it but I've always I'm very interested in it that that's happening at RCC. Is this particular attention that you've focused in on an adult literacy and everyone is saying how big a problem this is and everyone has you know sort of wringing their hands wondering what they can do and how institutions can play a role in grappling with this very problematic issue. And I know that you have been pushing your institution and your faculty members to give time and energy and work with people directly in the fields around this issue and I thought maybe you might share some insight with us because I think that there may be people in our listening audience who need to know more about what's available as you see in this particular area. Well I'm a born again believer in literacy programs and I wasn't sure that the college should be involved with a literacy program when I first went to RCC. But when I listened to some of the adults who had been laid
off from factory positions and who were handicapped because I didn't know how to read and had learned and how the world had opened up to them it just seemed to me that that was a part of our mission that we had to get involved with it. When one considers that 25 to 30 percent of the Boston population over the age of 25 is illiterate then. It is critical that something be done and statewide it's probably about 20 to 24 percent in Massachusetts and nationally. So it is it's the kind of thing that we've been talking about. We have the adult literacy Resource Institute and the staff provide technical assistance to 18 literacy programs in Boston and then assistance to the greater Boston area now that we have state funding. I feel we have accomplished a great deal to get the state to recognize the need. In fact Kitty
Dukakis is a volunteer through our adult literacy Resource Institute. She started taking training at the institute we're looking for volunteers Polish students who volunteer retired people working people anyone who would like to spend a few hours a week working with someone who does not know how to read. So we welcome volunteers. One of the things that I hope that the state will do is to put up money for work study assistance for students to provide to tutoring poor people who are seeking literacy skills and Charlie you're always up at the State House and I think I think I hope that that will be one of the campaigns that you pick up because as federal work study money is cut back then the state has to be in to pick up. And that's a service for the students and it's a service for the community. Well and it's also one of the types of things that I that I would
refer to as these educational investments so sometimes the looked looked at as costs. But when you get people educated and productive who can then go out and work and pay taxes it's much easier to see a person like that as a contributing member of a society as opposed to a liability so it's a sound investment to do the right things I think does a such an upbeat conversation. I don't want to I can't think of anything that doesn't turn out to be a positive about what I say. There must be something that causes you to have problems about the institution of your let's let's hear about it from your own personal insider's perspective. And what do you what do you see to be the major issues to grapple with in a year a year or so ahead trying to catch up with a budget that is commensurate with the number of students who are serving and trying to get the staff. You see our Susi has never had support staff. So unless we get the kind of staffing we need
we will not be able to open that campus. And it's very difficult to get across our needs because we sometimes I was just seen as one of the 28 public institutions all of which are more established than we are. We have not had a janitor. We have not had anybody an electrician. We've not had a security director. There is no way that we can open and run that campuses across Red Cross and if the if the state does not give us a full complement of staff to run it. We have we have just begun to get a full complement of faculty. And we have one secretary so we don't have we have not had equipment you know really want to hear all right but I do like I do because I
think that the point here is that I don't want to play in the fact that it's just a rosy picture and I know that my point earlier is that I know that you're battling over these issues. It's not that you know that everything's just being handed to you it's a battle every inch of the way. We have we have ground much faster than the the budget or the staffing has recognized. We I think we do a terrific job with what we have. It's easy to be good when you have everything. And many of the many of our sister institutions have what I would consider everything we have done a good job with almost nothing. And it begins to show on people. Everybody practically everybody at the college is doing two or three different jobs and they get worn down. And it isn't fair so that we do need the kind of support more than verbal. I mean
we we need the staff and we need the budget to offer our first rate education to adults in Boston. Well it's obvious then that that you know in your meetings. And as I know that you're doing all the time. I know Chancellor who has expressed himself to be very much committed to the type of work that RACC is doing and has expressed a real. Appreciation for the type of work that an institution like ours you see is doing that maybe in the analysis of these budgets that will be looking at in the years ahead that there may be some greater consideration of how important work is and what the benefits of the work that you are doing can be to the city and to the state. Well I hope so and we are. We are attempting to help the legislature and the executive branch understand what we're doing and how really important to the development of Boston. We are because
it is impossible to have a healthy Commonwealth and have a sick city. That's absolutely correct. And I think that that's the type of analysis. How everyone has to participate in that. The special role that ICC has to play I think there is a void there is a vacuum that is that only an institution like RCC can fill and I think that there is a population of students it's clear who if given the choice to make the decision to come to RCC to have their needs met in that they continue to come back even after the graduated to get support and assistance and I am also concerned because the dropout rate in the city of Boston does not improve and we get the students who have dropped out several years later and we just something happened we're trying to work with the Boston schools to help them improve and
to help the teachers do a better job with the students. But we all need to work together in order to make sure that people color low income in the city of Boston are really going to have a place in the productive life of the city in the state. I think that that's a an excellent know it has to include this discussion on and I think that. From my own point of view every time I have the opportunity and occasion to type with you on the show I always feel that I understand better how you doing what you're doing because I think that you do have an inclusive orientation in a way of looking at people in the value of people that makes everyone feel like being a part of whatever it is doing I'm ready to leave in the open it myself. Do we need to know we know but I do want to again tell our listening audience that you've been listening to black perspective tonight our guest as man Dr. Byrne other Wolfman the
- Black Perspectives
- Dr. Brunetta Wolfman
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- Host Charles Desmond interviews Roxbury Community College (RCC) President Dr. Brunetta Wolfman as the college prepares to move to a newly-constructed campus at Roxbury Crossing. Topics addressed include a status update on the construction, a profile of the RCC student body, the importance of RCC in the black community and to the life of the city, the pervasive sense of family at RCC, the impact of RCC's location change on its academic programs, Wolfman's future at RCC beyond the move, RCC adult literacy programs, the importance of appropriate state funding for staff in order to accommodate the college's rapid growth, and the college's efforts to help city high schools to curb the drop-out rate.
- Black Perspectives is a public affairs talk show featuring in depth conversations about issues of interest to the African American community.
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Copyright Holder: WUMB-FM
Guest: Wolfman, Brunetta R., 1931-
Host: Desmond, Charles
Producer: Pierre Louis, Gary
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Identifier: BP62-1987 (WUMB)
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- Chicago: “Black Perspectives; Dr. Brunetta Wolfman,” 1987-02-25, WUMB, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed September 20, 2020, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-345-1615dwv3.
- MLA: “Black Perspectives; Dr. Brunetta Wolfman.” 1987-02-25. WUMB, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. September 20, 2020. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-345-1615dwv3>.
- APA: Black Perspectives; Dr. Brunetta Wolfman. Boston, MA: WUMB, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-345-1615dwv3