Dr. Joe May on PlayMakers Radio (Nov. 6, 2015)


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Announcer: CEOs, civic leaders, entertainers, and entrepreneurs, they all have something in common.

The drive, vision, and heart to achieve success.

Steve Klein is a renowned business consultant, author, and host of Play Makers talk show.

Each week he introduces you to fascinating personalities who will inspire, educate, and motivate you to preserve and find your own, success.

And now, here's Steve Klein.

Steve Klein: Benjamin Disraeli said the secret of success is constancy to purpose.

Welcome to Play Makers Talk Show.

I've Steve Klein.

In the studio today are two play makers who are successful by focusing on purpose.

Our first play maker has over 100,000 students and 7,000 employees.

Well, our next play maker took over his grandfather's bank in 1983.

With us today is the chancellor of one of the largest community colleges in Texas.

Our next CEO grew his bank from one location in East Texas to six locations in Texas and assets of over $400 million.

This segment we're going to talk to Dr. Joe May, selected as the seventh chancellor of the Dallas County Community College District.

Dr. Joe May assumed his duties at DCCCD in late February 2014.

DCCCD is one of the largest community college systems in the state of Texas.

With seven colleges that have served more than 3 million people since the system was founded 50 years ago in 1965.

Throughout his career, Dr. May has expanded opportunities for students who want to pursue a bachelor's degree by starting at a community college.

And at the same time, he brings a strong commitment to improve the Dallas economy by helping to grow middle class jobs.

We're going to talk about that.

Joe, welcome to Play Makers Talk Show.

Dr. Joe May: Steve, great to be here.

Thank you for having me on the show.

SK: Well I'm glad you are here. In doing a little bit of background, you were the first member of your family to go to college.

JM: I was.

SK: And you began your higher education career teaching psychology at Cedar Valley College.

How did all that, know there was a lot of between, but how did all that prepare you to become chancellor of the Dallas county community college district.

JM: You know I was very fortunate. I had a mother that was determined that I was going to get a college degree and be the first in my family to do so and you didn't argue with mom very, very often.

I was one of those individuals that had the chance to go straight through college.

I earned a Bachelor's degree and Master's degree and a Doctorate, and I really knew nothing about community colleges.

This was just a brand new phenomenon that was occurring and different from, from higher education.

I had a call one day when I was in East Texas State University, working there.

They said their opening up a new college in south Dallas County, Cedar Valley College, and they needed someone with my background which was counseling and had some background in psychology and human development.

And when I come and worked in a counsel center in a few months, and also teach some classes.

And I have to tell you, it absolutely changed my outlook in career.

And I was in my early, early 20s barely a kid and I walked into a classroom.

In the evening that was full of adults, in fact I was probably the youngest in the room by ten years.

And on one hand scared to death but on the other hand as I got to know these individuals, their lives, their aspirations, their jobs, how they viewed the future and what they wanted out of life, they won me over.

And I said, this is how you can really make a difference in life.

And I was determined to make a difference and from that point on, was certainly went for a little bit into four year colleges and universities, but got back to community colleges as quickly as I could.

SK: So that really was the impetus. But we were talking prior to the show starting about the difference in, a matter of fact, I'm going to go back, on your website, which is dcccd.edu, and get those three Cs in between the two Ds.

You have your 50th anniversary speech, which is, as I was listening, kind of the state of the union for the college district.

So it's been 50 years, and it's changed a lot.

JM: Oh, it really has.

SK: Community colleges are a lot different than they were 50 years ago.

Talk about that and what you now offer to the public.

JM: When the Dallas County Community College District was created, it was a group of local leaders who got together and said, we don't have a university, a public university, in Dallas County.

It's difficult to have access to higher education, so they wanted to create something that was really unique.

Not only provided an opportunity for people to start at a two-year college and then transfer to a four-year institution.

But also to be able to prepare in technical areas, such as automotive or for construction or manufacturing and health care, nursing and other fields and included continuing education.

And so the idea at that time was to be inclusive in whom we invited into our doors.

That there weren't emission requirements generally speaking for the institution.

We wanted to be the widest door in the community at a time when higher education was generally limited to people.

I often think back on my freshman orientation where I'm sitting in a room and a man walks up to the front of the stage and says, look to your right, look to your left.

Two out of three of you will not be back next year, and that was said with a sense of pride.

In the meantime, this buzz is happening in Dallas about a college that says, everyone's welcome, come to the doors.

Everyone has opportunity to succeed, and we're going to provide programs and opportunity so that no matter what your interests, you have the chance to be successful in life.

SK: You have a lot of different types of students. You have some going for two years, getting their associate's degree.

You have some, as you mentioned, like your daughter, that will get a degree, come back to your colleges.

Some were transitioned, as I mentioned my son saved his college arrear, by going to a virtual college.

Talk about the different types of students you have and what type of programs you offer them.

JM: The ultimate goal is the same for everyone.

We want people to be equipped to, one, certainly be able to have a great career.

In life, support their family, be a part of the community, be successful in helping improve the quality of life for all so for that reason we work very closely with high schools as students transition out.

That's always been a role.

But today we operate seven high schools within the district and we'll be adding more on an ongoing basis.

We have one charter school, three early college high schools.

We partner with other so that transition we have people coming out of the military.

We have as you mentioned, individuals who may have earned a Bachelor's degree but really don't have the skill sometime to get that great paying job that's available here in Dallas county or anywhere in the state of Texas.

So we see them coming through our door.

That today the job and the market is changing so rapidly, that by the time most people are 38 years old, they're going to have between ten and 14 different jobs.

Every single one of the requiring some education or skill, whether it be in banking, we talk about earlier, or real estate or others.

Most require licensure today, education beyond high school, and we work with over 350 types of programs to meet those needs.

SK: Let's continue with that, because I think you are focused on building partnerships. With business and he mentioned education is how you tying it with business.

JM: The traditional role of higher education of course is create great programs and then students go out and go to work.

For what we discovered over time is that industries and businesses and employers are changing so rapidly.

They were not just more than partnership, but really perfectly aligned with the needs of their industry, and we're keeping up with that industry.

That we get behind, and then guess what?

Students can't get those great jobs, and employers are unhappy with the quality that we find.

So we've put together teams and approaches now that bring together companies, whether it be hospitals, as employers, groups.

We just worked with the auto collision companies here in the community and to make certain that what we're offering or providing exactly meets the needs of a changing industry.

SK: Yeah, it's amazing how you're tying all that together. You're also President of something called Rebuilding America's Middle Class.

What is that?

JM: We realized that Federal Policy matters a great deal to community members that we serve and to employers.

We had just gone through a period of time where we watched the federal government take away a very important program to students.

That was what we call summer Pell or year-round Pell grants, which provides dollars so that students who are eligible receive money to pay for their education.

It historically has been only available in the fall and spring semesters, but for a period of time, the federal government made that available in the summer and guess what?

It allowed more people to go to school, finish faster.

It saved them money because if they attended in the summer, they were having to come up with their money from different sources or borrow money to do it.

And it was really working particularly in technical areas like nursing and health care where we have real shortage of people.

Well they eliminated that provision and a group of us of community college leaders across the country said, you know we have to do something about it because that's key to building the middle class in America.

If we can't get people into programs like nursing and health care and construction, all the great jobs that are available in our community today paying middle class wages $40,000 and above.

We're not going to have a strong middle class, so we came together, formed rebuilding American's middle class, and now work with Congress, work with the White House and others to make certain that policies align with the needs of individuals trying to build the middle class in America.

SK: Well, does that tie in with something else you're involved with, if I'm pronouncing correctly, COMBASE?

JM: COMBASE That's right, I happen to be president this year of COMBASE, which stands for community-based education, is the premise.

Realizing that community colleges are unique, that we really focus on solving local community problems.

We believe that community success equals college success.

So, as we look at our programs and services, we're not just offering random services or programs, they really are designed to solve the problems of individuals, employers, and the community that we serve in our local area.

And here, of course, that's Dallas County.

SK: Well, I don't know if, your title is Chancellor, but it sounds like your title might be top salesperson for the DCCCD. Because that's what you go out and promote continually.

JM: Well, I believe in what we do.

I believe that, today, that the fastest pathway to the middle class is coming through the doors of higher education.

What we want to see is everyone have that opportunity.

When I graduated from high school about 75% of middle class jobs could be achieved with no more than a high school diploma.

Today, that's dropped to 38% and it's growing smaller and smaller literally every day.

Which means, that higher education is not just for some people today, it has to be for everyone.

It doesn't matter whether you're looking to go into a construction trade perhaps, or in the automotive industry, banking, everyone requires some education beyond high school.

And we want that message out, so that people will look to us to come and have those needs met.

SK: Well, you've also, recently, been working with Goldman Sacks, and JP Morgan Chase.

That specific Project On-ramp, how is that tied in with the colleges?

JM: Project On-ramp is a great story in how higher education is transitioning.

We have a program where we train people to be certified nursing assistants, essentially It's not high wage job, but it is an entry into the health care industry.

And by taking just a few more courses, they can raise those skills get a 20% increase in salary, within a very short period of times.

They take a few more courses.

They can get a 40% increase in their salary and be on track to have a career in the health care business.

Today our nurses are making about $50,000 a year starting out of our programs throughout the region.

And we want more people, even if they made mistakes early in life.

Even if they failed to graduate from high school, we want them to know that there's an opportunity whether it be through our credit programs or not through credit programs to meet those needs.

SK: A lot going on at DCCCD, so tell everybody how they can find out more about your colleges.

JM: The best way to get information on your areas of interest is go to our website, stop by one of our colleges.

We have seven colleges located throughout Dallas County.

SK: Convenient for everybody.

JM: Convenient, 12 campuses. And most of them have a lightrail and DART stops located at our locations so that we're convenient to everyone.

SK: dcccd.edu.

Joe, thank you very much for being a part of Play Makers Talk Show.

JM: Oh Steve thanks for having me.

SK: Dr. Joe May is the chancellor of the Dallas County Community College District.

Thank you very much for joining, and to Mike Barnett, CEO of Benchmark Bank.

And, again, Dr. Joe May, the chancellor of the Dallas County Community College District.

This has been a great show and you can get all of our replays and past episode of PlayMakersTalkShow.com, that's PlayMakersTalkShow.com.

We're going to be back next week with more play makers.

See you then.

Announcer: You've been listening to Play Makers Talk Show with Steve Klein.

Join him again next Friday at 3 p.m. for another sit down with DFW's most interest play makers.