Black Perspectives; Dr. Brunetta Wolfman
Good evening welcome to black perspectives. A 25 minute weekly feature focusing on issues information and lifestyles of the black community in Boston in the south sure. Tonight our guest is Dr. Burnett a wolfman president of Roxbury Community College. As most of you know Roxbury Community colleges in the city of Boston while in Roxbury it is primarily the major community college addressing the needs of the minority communities in the greater Boston area. For another Wolfman has been with Roxbury. How long has it been now. I believe it's 17 and a half 17 and a half months and in that short period of time has dramatically changed the ex-general public's perception of the school and has been charting some new directions in which ICC has been moving. Since you took over as the president I thought that listening audience would be very interested in hearing a little bit more about you as an educational leader in what some of the plans that you are that you see on your horizon for RACC. So let me start off by saying thank you very much for coming back again on black
perspectives and I hope that we'll get a better opportunity to learn a little bit more about RCC tonight. Well thank you for having me. It seems like just the other day that I was here I'm trying to remember exactly how long it's been but I can and I'm sure someone will check it out for us before we leave here. You have been able to do something and I see that a lot of people thought no one was be able to do that is to transform an image of an institution in a way that has generated a type of public support and interest in that community college in the last year and a half that most people would not have predicted as being possible and I don't know if it's a combination of just charisma. Great intellectual insight or lack of a combination of all three. But I mean I think it it's important to recognize that there is a different perception that people have about RCC now as a growing dynamic institution new programs coming online all the time.
Increase student enrollments better budgetary response by the legislature seems to be more enthusiastic support by the faculty. You seem to be getting a one involving the community people in community agencies in ICC linkages with other colleges in the area. I mean how have you what's the secret for doing all this stuff and maybe you could talk a little bit about that. Well I think I don't think there's any secret really. All I did was open the door. College had been pretty much isolated from the outside community feeling embattled for nine years and there was a lot of pent up energy and creativity and all I did was to encourage people inside to begin to talk about what they could do to expand their activities and then to invite. The outside community to see
what we were doing and to go out and I I spent a lot of time I feel like a circuit rider going out and talking about the college about education about the aspirations of the students who are there. I go to Boy Scout groups to women's clubs to churches. And it's beginning to make a difference we're getting scholarships from churches and organizations. They're not large but then there's not a lot of money and black churches or black social clubs. That's the kind of support that we are. We want to get in addition to corporate and legislative support. And people are busy having a chance to look and I think for the first time a lot of the faculty have really. Felt good about what they're doing that they recognize that the population reserving is unlike the population in any other college in Massachusetts that
we really are the doorway to education and we are forming performing a traditional urban college mission. And it's very exciting. When I when I listen to the students talk about. Going to school and working there's a young man I met. Last week when I pulled out of the prudential garage he came running over to me and he said that you want to write friction in the college don't you and I said yes I do. He said I'm a student there but I work here for from four to 12 months a week and he said I'm studying you saying I ran into him yesterday and he said well if I make it through this week I will be OK. Because in addition to the job the Prudential I have gotten a job in an engineering company in West walk Roxbury. Well I figured it out has he talked his 40 hours parking
cars. He's another 20 hours with this engineering firm and then carrying a full load 12 courses. I can understand if he makes it through this week he will have really done something and he's really not unusual. We have a lot of students who are going to school full time working full time taking care of families. The newspaper recently interviewed some of the students who talked about how hard it is to be a student because they can't study until after 9:00 or 10:00 o'clock at night when their kids are going to bed. I think many of us have forgotten what it's like to really struggle and to value education and so that's what I hope we're getting the people of Boston to appreciate and I know the faculty is beginning to have a different sense of the value of their own work with the students who are serving.
Well I think also at least I mean as recently as yesterday there was an article on the front page of the Metro section of the globe talking about RCC in UMass Boston being the streetcar colleges of of of of 1980's that many of the traditional schools in the area have really gone on to other things being national universities or international research centers. And that very few very few people and definitely even fewer institutions are addressing themselves to the grassroots needs that people have for educational opportunities for advancement in careers in professions whatever. I say see I think your leadership has done an outstanding job in just articulating a role that in this particular role and I think that on. The question that I was going to ask you that ties into that is that there is an awful lot of discussion about what is the urban institution what is an urban college. What is the urban university. We have a lot of institutions that are located in urban centers.
Most of the colleges in the greater Boston area there are some 50 of them are in urban areas but they don't have that special mission about urban ness that makes them attractive appealing and responsive to the needs of the types of population that seem to be thriving and surviving in RCC. And I would be very interested in hearing and I think the public will be very interested in hearing just a little bit about how you perceive this urban college that you're running what makes it different than Fisher King Jr. college or any one of the 25 other two year institutions in the greater Boston area. Well probably one of the first things is it's open admissions and low cost. It is the best buy for the dollars that one can find because it is the state's commitment to the people living in the city. I think it really is part of a long tradition of providing access to education for immigrants poor people
blacks Hispanics any of the new people who move into the city. And. For a long time I suppose American education sort of forgot that there was this purpose in educating people who lived in the central city. I think that one of the things that's happened is that the the new state administration has tried to link economic development to education. And there's also a new awareness of the people who who are illiterate. UMass Boston and RCC have a very unique partnership and sponsoring an adult literacy program. This I find very exciting now I I don't know how the university thinks of it but. We have a growing consciousness of the need to provide adult literacy programs to link up those
people who cannot read. And with literacy programs in their own neighborhoods then get them to functional literacy. All of them have to go through equivalency program so they get their high school equivalent certification and then come in to the community college and work through to get an associate's degree. I think that the work that you've been doing with this adult literacy program is absolutely critical and essential in Boston I don't think that most people realize I think that the the information that I read recently is that there are over a hundred thousand people in Boston alone one out of every five adults. Imagine that who are who are not able to come pick to be able to read. Job descriptions that are posted for even entry level positions are to fill out the forms necessary to get the jobs even if they have been told about them. So I think that again that's
another indication of how the community college has picked up on an issue of broad public attention to it and then provided some real leadership in addressing that particular concern from a good one though I'd like to talk a listening audience that you're listening to WNBA FM at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. This is black perspectives and our guest tonight is Dr. Burnett a wolfman and president of Roxbury Community College. Let me ask you another question that relates to another issue that's been with RCC for the last nine and a half years. That seems to be getting resolved under your end will be resolved during your tenure as president and that is the the new building the new location and maybe you can give us an update on where we are with that right now and how things are developing. Well they're moving along very nicely. Architects are doing the final design. We've had about a month for comments inside the faculty inside with the faculty. We've had community
groups from the neighborhood who have come to look at the final design and and have their say about where dumpsters go when what about the traffic. And the contract has just been awarded for someone to do the final land acquisition. So we anticipate that bids will be out in early and 85 will have a groundbreaking in September 85 and move in in September of 87. Outstanding. Well I'm I'm certain that they're out very eager and very excited about what that's going to mean for the programs that you're developing. And I definitely know that the new facility with the new line that they're either moving in the corridor should really provide a tremendous boom to our CC and to the people in programs there. Let me
ask you to talk with us a little bit about something else that I know that you've had your You've been involved in and that is does this heritage park activities that have been going on in in that Highland Park section of rock spray know that you have been involved in getting the administration Governor Dukakis his people to to designate this area in the heritage package. Classification in that I know that this is against me just seems to be the type of involvement by a university president in the affairs of the community that I just can't do anything more but to make people very happy and proud to see someone you know at that level involved in such an issue. Maybe you might want to tell us a little bit about it. Well it really started accidentally when I wandered around the Highland Park neighborhood. I couldn't believe that such a gorgeous area with beautiful old buildings
could just be allowed to disintegrate. And I had breakfast about a year ago with Secretary James Hall and Commissioner Jim gruesome and I said they explained to me about the Heritage Park concept and what it was doing in various cities and that they were interested in doing something that would tie in to the black heritage in Boston and I said I know just just the area and described it and talked about what what a wonderful historical. Goldmine it was and how important it would be to time and to know the college when it's there. But the occupational Resource Center Madison Park High School a temple to the historical neighborhood association so we met up with the First Church and they had a chance to look around the neighborhood and then I started talking to a representative for a
Russian who course is a historian and he walked them through the neighborhood showing them the houses tying it in to the Dudley Station area and then on the other side so that it's one of the most exciting possibilities I think unique in at least in New England to focus on blacks who have been here since the 17th century and very much a part of the city's history. It will be exciting for the college because we can tie in some of our history classes and internships and hopefully there will be some employment opportunities for the students and you know it's just a wonderful way to revitalize a neighborhood. By recognizing its past and not tearing down everything that's all. But again I think that you know this is a type of effective
educational leadership that really is crucial to any community and I think that for the community college to be doing something again I like to always point to the fact that we have a lot of colleges and universities in Boston a lot of educational leaders but very few who actually actually go out and get involved in community based issues and advocate for community based groups and others in the community on matters such so important as something like the Heritage track activity now heres four and a half million dollars that will be made available to community people to make decisions about how to restore and preserve and protect historic landmarks in their own communities. So again I want to applaud you for doing that and to say that I think that was an excellent job. I want to pick up on another thing that I observed in traveling out of the area that you have been involved with as well and that involves this landscape architecture program that you have as the CSR a group of students I saw these young people in a field with hose digging turning over rocks and everything and so I said What do you want to do. But what's going on is
we're from RCC we're with them without that man scaled back a texture program and they sent us to get involved in the community and we're doing these things and they had cleared I think it was at least 200 square foot garden area and put topsoil in drainage and a whole lot of activity lot of community people were involved in it so I think that I don't know if you have any other missionary projects you have going on but I had. It does seem as though that you're pushing a whole program that's getting the you know the the the Community College outside the walls of the buildings that you're in and actually out there on the streets doing things and with the community. I think this is a guy a biote. I don't take very much credit for many of the things that have happened. I think I have helped create an environment where. People have thought about what they could do. Dean Booker Deval is an officer of the Boston urban garden gardeners and that's the group that has been working with around the campus and I
think they branched out so that. What we're doing is just offering all sorts of opportunities and making people think about new options that are available to them. Let me tell our listening audience again who we are talking with since I think that they would need to know that you're listening to TALK to banana Wolfman who is the president of Roxbury Community College and this is black perspectives at FM ninety one point nine and you're listening dial. Let me ask you to talk a little bit about some of the the new initiatives that you have going add RCC particularly this Cox trust grant that you've received and you might also give us some background on this transfer opportunities an issue of that's going on. Well one of the functions of community colleges to prepare students to transfer to baccalaureate institutions. We have thought that maybe half the students went on and half went to work
but really didn't know for sure. The location is a wonderful one for making contact with other institutions so that your go. We applied to the Ford Foundation for a grant Ford selected twenty four urban institutions and gave them $25000 each because the Ford Foundation is very concerned that nationally most of the black and Hispanic students are enrolled in community colleges but they don't transfer. So this program is focused on the liberal arts and to. What we're doing is it is really developing a proposal which we hope they will they will fund but we use the forward Grant to leverage another application for the Cox trust it's a new sum of money from a couple of women on the South Shore who are
very wealthy. We have we were given $100000 a year for three years and we have worked out articulation agreements with Wentworth Emmanuel Simmons and mass College of Pharmacy. We have targeted specific career majors at those institutions Plus the liberal arts so that our faculty are working with their faculty to look at the curriculum and to make sure that our students are taking the courses that will transfer easily. We also have money for staff development which we've never had before which will allow our faculty to have a chance to do some things and to sharpen up their own intellectual and academic skills. We. Will be able to beef up our counseling services. We also will be able to provide assistance to the other institutions so that they can do a better job
with black and Hispanic students. We will be able to buy some seats in some of the courses for our students because they will move back and forth between the two and the institutions getting an associate's degree from us and then transfer. We're everybody's very pleased because it opens up a new pool of students for the traditional institutions and for those career tracks which have been traditionally white. And it offers options for our students it allows us to do a much better job and we have found already that 54 percent of our students do go on to further education which is a lot higher than we had anticipated. So it's I mean there's a kind of excitement about this relationship. We have since I was here we've gotten two full scholarships
from Boston University. And this in itself provides incentives. St. Cyprian's church is giving us up to $500 words for the two outstanding students in the social sciences Zaher corporation is giving us five $100 scholarships each year. Suffolk is giving us two full scholarships. Those are the kinds of things that are really saying to our students that it's possible to go on and that there are a lot of. Really good opportunities in Boston. Well I think as is usually the case our time has gone by much quicker. I got more critically than I thought it would but we have. I think that we have addressed a number of the major issues that I wanted to just get out to the public again tonight about what's happening at Roxbury Community College and why those things are happening and I think it is clear to anyone who's listened to our show the last time and
positively to those who listened this time that you have been an effective leader who has been outspoken on the important issues of the community and in so doing has put the ICC in a role as a real resource for the community and I think that that's brought about a response on the behalf of students who are now flocking to get there and eager and excited about being there as well as shaking loose some of those important dollars that you need in order to make these programs actually run. So I want to again ask you to come back and talk with us again a baby of another. While few months in trucking a lot of things I forgot to mention today. So I'm let me say in conclusion that tonight you've been listening to black a Spectre's. Stay tuned next week we'll be interviewing another exciting guess for my community I want to again thank our guest tonight Dr. banana Wolfman president of Roxbury Community College and to think of engineer Gary Pierre Louis who is an undergraduate student at UMass Boston. And
- Black Perspectives
- Dr. Brunetta Wolfman
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- Dr. Brunetta Wolfman, the first female president of Roxbury Community College (RCC), discusses her efforts to improve the college's public perception, including courting support from the black community; the challenges facing students who work full time, the role of an urban college, RCC and UMASS/Boston's joint adult literacy program, and her work on the creation of Heritage Park. Wolfman also gives an update RCC's plans to relocate to a newly-built campus and discusses two new grant-funded initiatives, one of which is designed to prepare RCC students to transfer to area four-year colleges upon graduation.
- 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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- MLA: “Black Perspectives; Dr. Brunetta Wolfman.” 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-345-257d8008>.
- 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-345-257d8008