Much to Celebrate: MCC & its University Center reflect on possibilities for students 20 years after start

By Madison Schick

What happens when homespun aspirations become well-earned, successful realities for Central Texas community members? The result is largely simple with impactful consequences — sustainable, higher-paying employment, heightened self-esteem, and a general upsurge in prosperity for all presented the opportunity of higher education. 

McLennan Community College has been partnering with other universities for the benefit of students for 20 years.

At McLennan Community College; the University Center; and partner institutions Texas Tech University, TTU Health Sciences Center, Tarleton State University, Midwestern State University, and the University of Texas Medical Branch are celebrating 20 years of affordable and accessible undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees in addition to the tangible markers of university education provided to the citizens and students of Waco. 

The University Center at McLennan Community College released an online brochure to commemorate the significant 20-year celebration, with the front cover tagline, “Celebrating 20 years of affordable bachelor’s and graduate degree options in Waco.” Two decades of University Center operations encompass numerous historical events, the celebration of hundreds of graduates, thousands of instruction hours, and exactly 20 years to learn from, grow with, and welcome established Texas universities and equally exceptional programs of study to MCC’s campus. 

Perhaps the word options rings the loudest to the aspiring people of Central Texas. To have options means to have the opportunity to choose. The University Center, MCC, and its partner institutions are committed to providing affordable education and bringing the opportunity of choice to those who once doubted they had any. The schools are also thankful for those who chose the University Center as a step towards their future. 

As higher education proves to be essential to today’s economy and workforce, affordability claims strewn across billboards and magazines have allowed marketers and audiences to lose sight of the subjectivity of affordability. What constitutes affordable education parallels families, children, and individuals of Texas in the same pursuit of opportunity that range from varying degrees of financial need. 

MCC and its university partners function to provide multiple opportunities for scholarships, financial aid, and tuition assistance to students in addition to the chance for caregivers, working parents, hopeful high school seniors, and those dreaming of a second chance for a better future to start anew in the city that’s called home. 

Although not the first of its kind, MCC and the University Center operate systemically. Students first enroll in basic, or prerequisite, courses at MCC with the intent to transfer these courses into a bachelor’s degree plan with a UC partner. Upon transferring, the student will be considered a student of their selected institution. Students may begin attending a UC partner institution earlier than expected, as they may begin earning college credit through MCC while participating in dual credit courses. 

While registered at MCC, students are invited to apply for hundreds of scholarships through the MCC Foundation during an application period that spans October to mid-January. The Highlander Restart program offers tuition-forgiveness to qualifying MCC students in an effort to ease the worry of indebtedness and fear of enrollment. 

Once students are eligible for transfer, Texas Tech University’s Red Raider Guarantee monetarily covers tuition and mandatory fees for those students who qualify. In recent news, Tarleton State University officially announced its Transfer Guaranteed Award Program (T-GAP) that provides renewable scholarships between $500 and $2,000 to transfer students of Distinguished College Partners. 

When homespun aspirations become well-earned, successful realities, many doors open. Events set into motion, printed diplomas, the relief of hard work well done, and the choice of education make up the first door for thousands of Texans. MCC and UC will continue to empower individuals with and through options – the option to fulfil their goals, to set an example, and to be proud of themselves through affordable education and a quality, merited degree. 

For more information about how to become a student of the University Center, please visit https://www.mclennan.edu/uc/index.html. To explore other transfer opportunities, check out https://www.mclennan.edu/advising/transfer.html to view transfer and advising guides. 

Madison Schick is a social media and communications specialist at McLennan Community College. A literature enthusiast and graduate of the University of Texas at San Antonio, Madison studied environmental science, English, and history, and still loves all things related to reading and writing. Her other interests include connecting with old friends, trying new restaurants, and spoiling her two rescue cats, Remus and Chewy, with lots of love and treats.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at ferrell@prosperwaco.org.

Vaccine distribution provides life-changing clinical experience for MCC students

By Madison Schick 

McLennan Community College’s Health Professions students have experienced personal fulfillment through their volunteer efforts at Waco’s COVID-19 vaccination clinics, and they have helped redefine the influences of hands-on education and what it means to learn through experience. 

Students of the Associate Degree Nursing, Medical Lab Technician, Medical Assistant, and Veterinary Technology programs participated with MCC faculty and other local medical professionals to educate, care for, and vaccinate members of the community in the fight against COVID-19. 

Students’ participation in the vaccination clinics has been eye-opening in community building and in the ability of aspiring health profession students to witness a glimpse of the impactful differences they will continue to make in the future as professionals. 

Liz Painter, RN and simulation specialist within MCC’s Vocational Nursing, administered vaccines to survivors of COVID-19, joyfully tearful immunocompromised adults, and at-risk geriatric patients hopeful to see their families in the near future. With pride in MCC and her students, Liz is also grateful to have met “such a range of people, but all so happy to be receiving the vaccine.” 

Among the thousands to receive the vaccine, MCC’s Senior Graphic Designer Clif-Ann Paris could not have been more impressed with the efficiency, efficacy, and success of the vaccination clinic. “My appointment was for 12:10 p.m., and I was given my first dose only two minutes later. I was given all the information I needed, and my wellbeing was prioritized.” 

What’s next for McLennan Community College? Dean of Health Professions Glynnis Gaines reflects, “We always talk about community service, and it is a part of who we are, but this has really opened new doors” for students and faculty. Nursing students from Baylor University, Texas State University, and Texas Christian University make up only a few of participating institutions across the state that join MCC in education and service through active volunteerism at COVID-19 vaccination clinics across the state. 

Madison Schick is social media and communications specialist at McLennan Community College. A literature enthusiast and graduate of the University of Texas at San Antonio, Madison studied environmental science, English, and history, and still loves all things related to reading and writing. Her other interests include connecting with old friends, trying new restaurants, and spoiling her two rescue cats, Remus and Chewy, with lots of love and treats.  

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at ferrell@prosperwaco.org. 

MCC Hearts in the Arts Gala features mystery & fashion

By Kim Patterson

When I was a kid, my favorite board game was Clue. Something about being transported inside an imaginary mansion to solve a murder mystery awakened my inner detective, and I loved assuming a serious poker face as I deduced “whodunit.” 

If you, too, enjoy the fun of solving a mystery, join us for “Clue: The Musical” Hearts in the Arts Gala sponsored by McLennan Community College.  This year, due to recent weather disruptions, the event has been rescheduled for 7:30 p.m., Thursday, March 4, at the MCC Ball Performing Arts Center. 

Now in its 19th year, the Hearts in the Arts Gala has become a community favorite with its blend of dining and a musical performed by McLennan Theatre students.  This year’s production provides loads of inspiration for patrons who enjoy dressing to the theme of the show, and Professor Plum and Miss Scarlet are already on the guest list. 

Kermit Oliver
(photo courtesy of Waco Tribune-Herald)

Adding to the fun, and also extended one week, are ticket sales for a chance to win one of two Hermès scarves designed and autographed by internationally renowned Waco artist Kermit Oliver. Oliver is the only American artist ever commissioned for the exclusive Hermès Paris fashion house. Generous supporters of McLennan Arts donated the scarves and acquired the autographs on Oliver’s highly sought-after Kachinas and Pawnee designs. An Hermès scarf bearing Oliver’s unique artwork and signature is exceptionally rare and virtually priceless.

Hermès Kachinas Scarf

Tickets for the Scarf in the Arts raffle are $20 each or six for $100 and are available online until 11:59 p.m., March 3 at www.mclennan.edu/foundation/scarfinthearts. Tickets may be purchased in person at the March 4 Gala until intermission when the winning tickets will be drawn. Winner need not be present to win.

“Clue: The Musical” opened off Broadway in 1997 to mixed reviews, but the clever show has experienced a renaissance in community theatre in years since. The musical offers an interactive feature in which audience members help determine which of the show’s colorful characters killed Mr. Boddy, what weapon they used and in which room of Boddy Mansion the murder took place. Based on the cards drawn, there are 216 possible endings to the show — a feature that will challenge the acting chops of the cast. The McLennan production will be directed by theatre faculty choreographer Joe Taylor.

In-person tickets for the Gala are sold out, but virtual guests may view a live stream of the production at a secure link. Tickets are $100 each and include a generous voucher for dining at Di Campli’s Italian Ristorante in lieu of the usual cocktail dinner.

Hearts in the Arts is an affinity group of the MCC Foundation that supports the arts at McLennan, and event and raffle proceeds benefit scholarships for area students. Gala reservations are due by Thursday, Feb. 25. To make reservations, or to inquire about the Scarf in the Arts raffle, contact the McLennan Community College Foundation at 254-299-8604 or reservations@mclennan.edu.

Kim Patterson is executive director of McLennan Community College Foundation and the Office of Institutional Advancement. Patterson is a graduate of Baylor University with degrees in journalism and marketing. In 2017, she earned a master’s degree in management and leadership from Tarleton State University. She and her husband Frank have two grown children and enjoy camping, fishing, and hiking. 

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at ferrell@prosperwaco.org.

Applications available for Texas Reskilling grant at MCC

By Candace Kelm

College students affected by COVID-19 can now apply for Texas Reskilling grant funds through McLennan Community College to help get back on track to earning a certificate or degree. MCC was awarded $112,500 in funding by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to help 75 students who stopped attending classes due to the pandemic and wanted to continue their education. 

The program is also available to displaced workers affected by COVID-19 needing to gain new skills to re-enter the workforce. More than 70 of MCC’s degree and certificate programs are approved for the grant funds, and eligible students will receive $500-$2,500 per semester to be enrolled either full or part time.

To be eligible, students must:

*       Be a Texas resident eligible for in-state tuition;

*       Have filed a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA);

*       Have financial need and be eligible for federal Title IV aid (students enrolled in short-term non-eligible Title IV workforce credential programs, but who are otherwise Title IV eligible, may be included);

*       Have affirmed they were affected by COVID-19;

*       Be enrolled in an eligible undergraduate or short-term workforce credential program either full or part time;

*       Have not been enrolled in an accredited postsecondary institution during the Fall 2020 semester or previous six months; and

*       Must be within 12 months of completing their credential program.

Interested students should complete the online application. Registration is still open for those wishing to continue their education this spring. Spring Second 8-Week classes begin March 15. For more information or to enroll for spring classes, contact Highlander Central at 254-299-8622 or highlandercentral@mclennan.edu.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at ferrell@prosperwaco.org.

MCC awarded $112,500 Texas Reskilling Grant

By Candice Kelm

McLennan Community College has been awarded $112,500 as part of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s Texas Reskilling Support Fund Grant program.

The new program aims to help Texans affected by COVID-19, including displaced workers needing to gain new skills to re-enter the workforce and also to support students who left their pursuit of higher education before receiving a credential. MCC’s award is part of $18.1 million awarded by THECB to 49 Texas institutions. 

MCC has designated the funds to serve up to 75 students who previously stopped and would like to return to MCC to complete a certificate or associate’s degree. More than 70 of the college’s programs are approved for the program. Eligible students will receive $500-$2,500 per semester and can be enrolled either full or part-time.

To be eligible, the student must:

·       Be a Texas residents eligible for in-state tuition;

·       Have filed a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA);

·       Have financial need and be eligible for federal Title IV aid (including students enrolled in short-term non-eligible Title IV workforce credential programs, but who are otherwise Title IV eligible);

·       Have affirmed they were affected by COVID-19;

·       Be enrolled in an eligible undergraduate or short-term workforce credential program either full or part-time;

·       Have not been enrolled in an accredited postsecondary institution in the previous academic semester or previous six months; and

·       Must be within 12 months of completing their credential program.

Students wishing to enroll for the spring semester and interested in the program should complete the Reskilling Fund Application during the advising process.

For more information about the program or to enroll for spring classes, contact Highlander Central at 254-299-8622 or highlandercentral@mclennan.edu

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at ferrell@prosperwaco.org.

MCC continues with modified class formats for spring semester

By Candice Kelm

McLennan Community College’s has remained diligent in monitoring the restrictions set by federal, state, and local governments as the COVID-19 pandemic continues across the globe.

MCC faculty and staff returned to campus Monday following the winter break and are preparing for the beginning of the spring semester Jan. 11. Guidelines established before the start of the Fall 2020 semester to ensure a safe environment for students, faculty, staff, and all campus visitors will remain in place for the foreseeable future. These guidelines include smaller class sizes, face covering and social distancing requirements and increased cleaning procedures. 

Additionally, the college will continue to offer classes in blended/hybrid and online formats along with some traditional face-to-face skills-based classes. Students in blended/hybrid classes experience instruction both in a traditional classroom setting and online formats, including through videoconferencing. These classes will be accessible to all students through MCC’s online platforms.

Campus computer labs will continue to support students with technology needs, and most services will continue to be offered through online and in-person formats.

For more information about the College’s COIVD-19 response, visit www.mclennan.edu/covid.

Individuals interested in becoming a MCC student this spring should visit https://www.mclennan.edu/admissions/become-a-student/index.html . Registration continues through Jan. 9 with most classes beginning Jan. 11. Second 8-Week Class registration will continue through March 14 with classes beginning March 15. For more information, contact Highlander Central at 299-8622 or highlandercentral@mclennan.edu.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at ferrell@prosperwaco.org.

New MCC project aimed at increasing success of Hispanic and underserved students

By Olivia Evans

McLennan Community College has a long-standing focus on providing quality education to under-served populations in Central Texas. The College will continue those efforts with the help of a $3 million Title V grant from the Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) Program of the U.S. Department of Education. The grant will fund a project entitled First Year Focus: Developing Academic and Co-Curricular Student Support Structures to Improve First Year Outcomes. The College will receive about $600,000 annually over a five-year period.

With this project, McLennan will work to increase course completion, graduation, and transfer rates of Hispanic, low-income, and first-time-in-college students. The primary goal is “to build innovative support structures to create enriching academic opportunities that foster student success.”

“When students drop out or stop out, most of the time it’s not because they can’t do the work. It’s because life gets in the way. Providing more support will help them overcome the barriers that derail their progress,” says Paula Unger, McLennan sociology professor and grant project director.

To serve McLennan’s Hispanic and other underserved students, the program will implement a three-pronged approach to supporting first-year students: student engagement, supplemental instruction, and revamping the freshman orientation course, Learning Framework. This restructuring will focus on academic support services, peer leadership, career planning, financial literacy, and cultural competency.

“Our Title V efforts are about equity and meeting students where they are,” says Unger.

The First-Year Focus Team is confident that these newly-implemented programs and resources will be beneficial not only to Hispanic students in achieving academic success, but to all first year and returning McLennan students as well.

“As a College, we can’t progress if those who need a little extra help are ignored or left behind. Our community needs everyone’s gifts,” says Unger.


Olivia Evans is an intern in McLennan Community College’s Marketing and Communications office. She is a senior at Baylor University studying Public Relations and Corporate Communications. Olivia is a Houston, Texas native and plans to work in sports and entertainment digital marketing.

MCC Adult Education and Literacy: Free classes to help adults develop job skills

By Olivia Evans

More and more jobs are requiring a technical certificate or a college degree. To meet the demands for a more skilled workforce, McLennan Community College offers a variety of classes and programs to help adults in the Waco community develop skills to match the jobs available in the area. These free classes served over 900 adult students in the 2019-20 academic year. MCC’s Adult Education and Literacy (AEL) program offers various pathways and classes including:

  • High School Equivalency (HSE) Preparation Classes (formerly GED) improve basic skills in preparation for the High School Equivalency Test.
  • English as a Second Language (ESL) Classes equip English language learners with the skills needed to advance in their careers and participate fully in their communities.
  • Transition Classes help students improve their workplace and/or college preparedness skills.
  • Career Pathway Classes provide college and workplace readiness in an in-demand career field.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the AEL program has continued its commitment to help the Waco community achieve their educational and career goals by making swift changes to adjust to the new circumstances. “Within three weeks, our small staff completely switched to remote classes using the Zoom platform,” said AEL Instructor Margie De Laurell.

Currently, all 30 classes offered are held virtually. Despite these unprecedented times, the AEL staff is dedicated to ensuring that individuals in Waco, who are looking to advance themselves in their careers and education, are able to do so. Student success includes adjustments and additional learning not just from students but from instructors as well. “English-language learners and many of our instructors learned how to use their devices like never before! Digital literacy has always been part of the curriculum, but thanks to the pandemic, we all got a crash course,” said De Laurell.

AEL classes are free and open to anyone over the age of 18. There is no cost to community members other than time and dedication. All of the AEL students are extremely hardworking and exemplify the work ethic and positive mental outlook that is required to succeed under very challenging circumstances, including a global pandemic.

“As instructors, we are constantly inspired and motivated by our learners’ perseverance, courage, and resourcefulness,” said De Laurell.

For more information about registration AEL programs, call (254) 299-8777 or visit www.mclennan.edu/adult-education-programs/.


Olivia Evans is an intern in McLennan Community College’s Marketing and Communications office. She is a senior at Baylor University studying Public Relations and Corporate Communications. Olivia is a Houston, Texas native and plans to work in sports and entertainment digital marketing.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.orgfor more information.

Planning and Precautions enable MCC sports to resume practice in preparation for competition

By Garret Sulak

Campus was dotted with color as students, faculty, and staff returned to McLennan Community College for the first day of fall classes on Monday, Aug. 24. In accordance with rules set to protect everyone on campus, various colors of masks were on display and social distancing guidelines provided some extra breathing room while sitting in class or walking on campus.

MCC’s campus showed signs of life for the first time since March when classes and services moved online. The return to MCC’s campus has provided at least a slight sense of normalcy during this pandemic. Classes are being held on campus with precautions and athletes are allowed to practice while also taking special precautions.

Head men’s golf coach and history professor Vince Clark is adjusting to the new guidelines as he holds in-person classes and prepares his golf team to go on the road and compete this fall. Clark explained the masks are a “necessary nuisance” during lecture, but they have not prevented him from projecting his voice to the class. However, he said masks do prevent him from reading his students’ body language.

“After classes moved online and I started performing to an empty lecture hall in the spring and summer, I realized how much I enjoy my students’ company,” Clark said. “I really missed them, so I am glad to have them back with me in the room. I also learned that before the pandemic I relied upon reading faces.  Now all I can see are eyes above masks. I reckon I need to learn to read eyes.”

As a coach, Clark is also tasked with keeping his athletes safe while practice continues in preparation for events this fall. He explained that his team wears masks when entering the Cottonwood Creek or Bear Ridge golf courses for practice. Then they maintain social distance out on the course or on the range. The team is also able to isolate as seven of the nine players live in a duplex. Clark and his golf squad are ready to compete this fall and he is confident they can do so safely.

“We are grateful to our campus leadership for trusting us to go on the road to compete,” Clark said. “We have all already promised each other that we will take every appropriate precaution while traveling. This fall any of us can come down with the virus anytime and anywhere, but we are convinced that we can increase our chances for staying healthy by being smart and following the various guidelines. We are like a family under the same roof, which also makes the logistics of dealing with COVID easier.”

Allowing athletes and coaches back on campus to practice and eventually compete required extensive planning by MCC athletic director Shawn Trochim. She explained she spent about 8-12 hours per day from May until the first day of classes formulating a plan that included input from other athletic staff, athletic trainers, other athletic directors in the conference and the emergency operations team.

As part of the plan to hold practices, athletes are screened each day prior to practice to ensure they do not have a fever and are showing no symptoms of the virus. The plan also includes measures to take if an athlete tests positive. In this case, athletes and teams can quarantine in their duplex. In addition, to the use of masks and social distancing, bottles were purchased for each athlete to eliminate the use of shared-use water coolers.

When all sports resume competition in the spring, Trochim believes one of the main drawbacks will be that athletes might not be able to go support the other teams on campus. However, she believes the pandemic has taught everyone how to better adjust to changing situations.

“The pandemic teaches us to be fluid and accommodating all of the time,” Trochim explained. “The leadership team is committed to athletics here at McLennan and as with everything this could change. I, as the leader of the athletic department, have to be prepared to make tough decisions.”

Just like the opening of campus, the return of sports signals a return to some sort of normalcy. With precautions in place, MCC is committed to returning to the court or field so athletes have the chance to compete.

“Competition is a big part of the games we play,” Clark said. “Competition is what our athletes, who are gifted with great talent, train to do. Life will feel more normal for athletes, coaches, families, and fans when we get back to competing in sports.” 


Garret Sulak is an athletics marketing graduate assistant at McLennan Community College. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Louisiana State University, where he interned for two years with LSU athletic communications. He enjoys playing golf, fishing, hunting, and attending sport events. He is an avid fan of the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers. He is currently a graduate student at Baylor pursuing a master’s degree in sport management.​

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

Why MCC should be an option for education this fall

By Phillip Ericksen

The future looks uncertain for many amid the pandemic – especially the high school graduates of 2020. Questions remain about course formats, housing situations, and the campus life that makes all colleges educational and social hubs. 

Fortunately, community colleges are uniquely suited for these times. In a recent column for the website Community College Daily, the president of Rockland Community College, in Suffern, N.Y., said community colleges are “the best strategic choice for fall enrollment.”

“Community colleges not only offer a quality, affordable education close to home, they will actually be the best strategic option in the fall for many families — and not just those with limited resources as a result of the current economic conditions,” Dr. Michael A. Baston writes. 

Many of these reasons are applicable to McLennan Community College, right here in Waco. 

  1. A quality education is guaranteed at MCC this fall. Faculty and staff plan on safely accommodating students on campus and online while maintaining educational standards: faculty members who are experts in their fields, courses that prepare students for the workforce or to transfer to four-year colleges, and organizations where students can learn and meet with their peers. 
  2. MCC is proud of affordable tuition rates that will keep student debt to a minimum. The many benefits students enjoy at MCC include free access to the campus counseling center, fitness center, tutoring services, and much more. 
  3. Staying close to home is a benefit for those looking to be near their jobs and families. Advisors direct students to the best course options, which include online courses, 8-week courses, and more. 

Find out how MCC can be a great fit for you or someone in your family. Fill out a Request for Information form, or if you’d like to have a virtual Zoom meeting with a recruiter, email the Highlander Central office at highlandercentral@mclennan.edu.


Phillip Ericksen is marketing and communications specialist at McLennan Community College. For about four years, he was a journalist at the Waco Tribune-Herald covering higher education and local government. He enjoys following the news, reading books and drinking coffee. As a San Antonio native, he is an avid fan of Mexican food and the Spurs basketball team. He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Baylor University.  He can be reached at pericksen@mclennan.edu.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.