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Interview with Margaret Latimer, VPP MC Germantown Campus

Our Germantown campus got a new Vice-President and Provost for the Spring 2014 semester and so we at The Globe thought of exploring this new leadership and ask few questions to the Acting Vice-President and Provost Ms. Margaret Latimer.

Background : Margaret Latimer was appointed Acting Vice-President and Provost of the Germantown Campus after serving as associate dean for Instructional Programs at the Germantown Campus of Montgomery College since December 2010. She holds a B. S. in Physics from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and a M. S. in Biomedical Engineering from Carnegie-Mellon University.  Prior to her administrative appointment, she was a full-time professor of mathematics for 10 years, serving as department chair from 2003 – 2009.

She joined the full-time faculty in 1999 following 10 years as an adjunct faculty.  She is a two-time recipient of the Faculty Outstanding Service Award in 2005 and 2009, and is a recipient of an Award of Excellence from the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD).  She was elected to Faculty Council and served as chair, led the Germantown Chairs Plus group, was the Germantown representative on the Periodic Review Report and was a Middle States Self-Study Team co-chair, and has been a member of the Chair/Coordinator ESH Task Group, the Distance Learning Task Group, the Academic Assembly, the General Education Committee, Developmental Math Committee and Task Force, CAPDI, the New Chair and Coordinator Planning Group.

Some of her research and industry experiences prior to joining Montgomery College includes working at Brookhaven National Laboratory Accelerator Center, as well as Swales and Associates performing flight loads analysis for NASA’s Space Shuttle (STS), including ERBE (Earth Radiation Budget Experiment), COBE (Cosmic Background Explorer), ROSAT (Roentgen Satellite), TDRSS (Tracking and Data Relay Satellite), and the Hubble Space Telescope.

Introduction

Being one of the hard working students, Latimer was always interested in high energy or particle physics. And considers the sciences, engineering and math as close cousins. Here are some of the questions from our team that Ms. Latimer replied in a very thoughtful and impressive manner

Q : What are some of the out-of-class activities that a student should indulge in to enhance the college experience ?

Extra- and co-curricular activities are very important and can expose students to ideas, fields, and careers options that were unknown to them.  Attending a lecture or seminar – and there are many to choose from at Germantown and collegewide – afford wonderful opportunities.  Go to a performance or a gallery opening.  Join a club and get actively involved.  It might be co-curricular and complement what you are studying or it might introduce you to other students who are committed to a common purpose or share a common interest.  Use student clubs and other activities and events to explore the unknown.  If you don’t know what Anime is, go to an Anime Society meeting.  If you’ve never lifted weights, join the weight lifting club.  College should be a time of exploration and discovery.  If you leave Montgomery College  having never been uncomfortable, intellectually, in and out of the classroom and having never stretched yourself by leaving your comfort zone, you have missed an enormous part of the college experience.  In addition to the personal growth and joy that these experiences can bring, they expand your repertoire. Employers look for employees who can do the job and who bring innovative thinking and good soft skills – which are often honed outside of the classroom.

Q. Why and when did you decide to enter the education field ?

I had three children and was not working as an engineer but had assumed that I would return to that field at some point.  I started teaching part time when a friend suggested it.  It provided me with a nice balance, I enjoyed it, and based on feedback that I received from students, I felt I was making a difference.  Having gone through school with students who enjoyed math and did well, I was shocked when I started teaching, to realize how many students struggled with math before and during high school and viewed math as an enormous obstacle.  In fact, it is an enormous key that unlocks many opportunities.  Helping students to understand math and not be afraid of it was very rewarding.  As I became more involved in the department and my awareness of math and science education issues grew, I wanted to contribute.  My next career was born.

Q. How do you see your past experiences as a student and a researcher coming into play today?

Working hard as a student instilled in me a sense of satisfaction in accomplishing something that took hard work that I might have thought I couldn’t do.  It taught me perseverance.  It taught me to ask questions.   Research reinforces all of that.  It teaches you to ask questions, solve new problems, and that attention to detail is critical to success.   When the beam is on at an accelerator, you better have your experiment up and running.

” High energy physics and the later work on satellites taught me lessons about being a team member, record keeping and data collection, being vigilant and observant, challenging assumptions, writing (!) and that sleep is optional.”

I’m kidding about sleep; it’s important and we know that, today.   All of these are important and come into play in the classroom as a faculty member, and as an administrator.

Q. Having served on various positions, from an adjunct professor to the Provost, which one did you like the most and why ?

Each position has held a different attraction.  As a faculty member, the day-to-day engagement with students was phenomenally gratifying.  The teacher turned astronaut who was killed in the Challenger explosion said, “I teach.  I touch the future.”  As an administrator, I have the opportunity to impact many more students, and to support and enable faculty to be innovative and have the kinds of resources that permit them to provide the outstanding experiences in the classroom, online, and out of the classroom that make this College unique.  I have been very fortunate in that each new position has given me new challenges and new rewards and the opportunity to see the College from a new perspective.  I have been the provost for about 100 days.  I’ll have to get back to you on whether or not it is my favorite position.

Q. Was there any specific reason / goalset in your mind that made you accept the position of VPP ?

I was very surprised to be asked to serve as the acting vice president/provost.  As you may know, a new academic structure is being proposed; Dr. Rai–currently interim senior vice president of academic affairs–was leading a workgroup tasked with defining the structure for the STEM disciplines.  I have a STEM background; I love and know the campus and faculty and staff at Germantown, well.  In considering the offer, I realized that I could provide some continuity and stability at this time.  We have a wonderful team at Germantown.   I have great trust in my campus colleagues and I am honored to have their trust.

Q. What are some of your goals / vision for the MC GT campus ?

Ensuring that the move into and opening of the Bioscience Education Center goes smoothly is a high priority.  Along with the opening of Holy Cross Germantown Hospital, we will see major changes in the campus this fall.

Germantown houses two programs that are very important to the economy of the County:  biotechnology and cybersecurity.  These are exciting, dynamic fields.  Supporting the faculty and other administrators who are directly involved with those programs to take advantage of some very exciting opportunities is also a priority.

Helping the campus and the College to successfully implement the new academic structure is a major goal.  Intertwined in that is the focus on our one-college initiative.  All students should have the same opportunities to succeed.  To that end, this spring I am meeting with different groups of students to gather ideas regarding steps we can take to improve student success.  I think there will be tremendous support because we all want to achieve these goals.

Q. Can you please tell us something about your ‘The Block Party’ Project ?

The idea behind “The Block Party” was to use block scheduling to create a community of learners.  That is, a cohort or group of students took the same four classes together and worked with a counselor to provide a supportive environment.  Unfortunately, the outcome fell short of our expectations.  We are trying to determine the causes since other schools have had some success with this model.  We will try it again; perhaps targeting a different group of students 

Q. Apart from the Montgomery College, what are some of the other activities that you like to indulge in ?

I love classical music and theater.  JS Bach and Beethoven are my therapists.  This area has an overwhelming amount to offer and I try to take advantage of that.  I enjoy kayaking and hiking.  I love to travel and explore new places – and new foods.

Q. What advise/ message would you like to give to the students and the campus community ?

It sounds clichéd, but work hard and do your best in everything – even things you don’t enjoy but must do. Read. Never stop learning.  Sharpen your writing skills. The happiest people I know are very good at something and they continue to work at it.

Use technology wisely.  It gives us astonishing capabilities and opportunities. In helps us to engage but also lets us disengage.  We need to be mindful of its benefits and liabilities.

The world needs good citizens willing to tackle problems large and small, together.  That requires knowledge, skills, an open mind, a willingness to engage, a commitment to excellence, integrity and compassion.  Be that person.

Apart from her professional life, Latimer enjoys having Thai and India cuisine and describes some of the movies like Kenneth Branagh’s Henry VTo Kill a MockingbirdApollo 13My Fair Lady, and Hopscotch as some of her favorites.

About darpanthemirror (5 Articles)
Computer Engineering student

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