A Catalyst for Change
Published in Inside - Volume XI, No.1
TC Board member discusses his new role as a trustee and the importance of community colleges
Inside talks with the newest Trustee to join the Teachers College Board of Directors, Eduardo J. Mart, President of Queensborough Community College.
INSIDE: Why did you become a Teachers College Trustee?
MART: As an educator with 39 years of experience in community colleges, I am honored to be part of a group of individuals who can help Teachers College. As a trustee, I'll contribute to the College by offering my expertise to the collective thinking of the Board about actions recommended by the College's administration. As trustees, we have academic and fiduciary responsibilities. Because we serve as the representatives of the many constituencies touched by the College, we also must understand the needs of the faculty and students and assist the administration in fulfilling them.
INSIDE: What educational issues are important to you?
MART: A working democracy is dependent on the ability of its citizens to think critically, to base their decisions on solid historical context and to resist demagoguery. This requires a well-educated population. Education must contribute to the collective well being of our society. If one accepts this premise, then TC trains the teachers who are the keepers of our democracy. We must address issues pertaining to teacher and administrative preparation so that we can have a solid and long-lasting democracy in this ever-shrinking world.
INSIDE: How can trustees help shape the College?
MART: Each trustee brings to the table his or her own expertise. In concert with the administration, the trustees can chart the direction of the College. In this manner, they can influence the society in which they live. Trustees also have an important role in fundraising as our vantage point enables us to articulate the needs of the College very well.
INSIDE: How did you get involved in community colleges?
MART: After leaving Cuba at the age of 18, I came to New York University. I thought that I might want to become a doctor. One of my advisors suggested going to graduate school to help me decide what I wanted to do in my career. I fell in love with research and eventually earned a Ph.D. in Biology. During that time, I taught during the day at Borough of Manhattan Community College. I took a close look at what I was doing at there. I realized that the college provided students, including those who may have had economic or social issues, with an opportunity to shine. I knew I wanted to continue helping them to be the best they could be. That was around 1966 when community colleges were just starting to blossom. It's so gratifying to look back and see how they have grown to be a well-respected sector of higher education.
INSIDE: Why are community colleges important?
MART: Community colleges have changed and matured as a sector. They have worked hard to enhance the quality and sophistication of staff members. As a result, the public's perception of community colleges has improved to the point that they no longer see these colleges as a second choice. In many cases, they are a first choice due to smaller classes with more personal attention and transferable credits. They are now acting as a portal to universities.
INSIDE: What do you see for the future of community colleges?
MART: The next step is to attract individuals who are interested in doing research on pedagogy in community colleges. TC's Community College Research Center (CCRC) is already a leader in this area.
INSIDE: Do you remember any specific teachers or educational experiences in your life that had a big influence on you?
MART: I remember my fourth grade teacher. She always told me, "Math first, then everything else."