Blacklaw for president? ‘NOT INTERESTED’
As the April 18 deadline approaches for applications to become the next president at Washtenaw Community College, one name can be crossed off the list as a potential candidate.
Vice President of Instruction Stuart Blacklaw will not be throwing his name in that hat for the WCC Board of Trustees to consider.
“I’m flattered that you would see me as qualified,” said Blacklaw, who sat in the president’s chair at last month’s board meeting while Larry Whitworth enjoyed his annual sabbatical. “I am very much enjoying my position as vice president and have no plans to apply for the presidency.”
Once the deadline passes, the Presidential Search Advisory Committee will begin narrowing the pool down for a second time in hopes of finding the best candidates. As before, when three previous candidates were vetted and rejected, these new finalists will be interviewed by the campus community and the board before a new president is named.
Trustees ax five programs; others to be reorganized
BENJAMIN MICHAEL SOLIS
EAST LANSING – The Washtenaw Community College Board of Trustees agreed to vote to eliminate five major course programs and to rearrange the categorical titles of nearly five other courses.
Those getting the ax include advanced manufacturing, data research and analysis (DRA), automation technology and music certificate programs, according to Vice President of Instruction Stuart Blacklaw.
Proposed last week at the trustees’ annual retreat, associate degrees and certification programs for these courses will no longer exist as of the 2011 Fall semester.
Both the music performance programs and DRA were cancelled due to insufficient enrollment and low completion rates, while the degrees in advanced manufacturing and automation technology are being combined into what Blacklaw referred to as a “mechatronics” program.
“In the case of advanced manufacturing and automation technology, areas of the course instruction will be integrated together as mechatronics,” he said. “The industry is moving toward more integrated manufacturing models and our students will need skills in both areas to pursue this type of degree.”
If that sounds like a name of a famous Transformers character, don’t be embarrassed. You’re not alone.
“I saw that movie,” joked Trustee Stephen Gill, commenting on the program’s odd name.
But Blacklaw reassured board members that this was the correct course of action.
“It’s cross training,” he said. “And if that’s what the industry wants, we’re going to pursue it.”
The changes apply primarily to incoming students. Those who are still left in all four programs will have “a few years” to the finish their career path, said Blacklaw, who emphasized that most of the coursework will be retained.
John E. Lawrence, director of the college’s music program, said the blow the music performance certificate was not that brutal.
“Basically we’re reorganizing the program so that there is a possibility for people to be specialized in specific areas of music,” said Lawrence. “If people want to do rock guitar or jazz guitar, we want them to be able to.”
But in no way did Lawrence believe that these changes had anything to do with the quality of instruction or the application of the course work.
“They came to me and said, ‘John, why is that your production engineering course has this many number of graduates and the individual certificate programs are doing so poorly?’” explained Lawrence.
The answer was simple.
Students just weren’t advancing to the next level classes, according to Lawrence. “They were getting what they wanted out of it and left.”
Homecoming sweet music to new VP
ROBERT CONRADIWASHTENAW VOICE
With a background in the media and a lifelong interest in pop culture, it’s difficult to even imagine what could end up on Stuart T. Blacklaw’s iPod. In fact, it even surprises his wife of six years, Cindy, sometimes.
“If you hit shuffle on my iPod it (could play) Three Doors Down, Brahms, Nine Inch Nails, Neil Young,” Blacklaw laughed at the approximately 6,000 songs he has. “You’re not going to find a radio station that plays what I do.”
After spending the last 12 years in Rochester, New York as Monroe Community College’s dean of curriculum and program development, the Chelsea native has returned home.
He’s a few weeks into his new position as vice president of instruction at Washtenaw Community College. And Blacklaw is more than ready to take on everything this job can throw at him.
“There are a million things here in the community that I want to get involved in,” he said. “My calendar is filled with opportunities to see what this area has to offer… (I’d like to) resolve problems in the community, create opportunities in the community. This is a community I’ve cared about my whole life.”
Blacklaw received his diploma from Chelsea High School in 1978 and graduated from Olivet College with a bachelor’s degree in communication.
“I painted my dorm room maize and blue,” Blacklaw admitted of his love for University of Michigan football.
Later, he achieved a master’s in telecommunications at UM, and a Ph.D. in higher education leadership at Capella University.
He began his professional career in the world of journalism, as planned, reporting for the Jackson Citizen Patriot, working on-air for WAVJ in Adrian and taking on the role of program director for WFEN radio in Fenton.
But when Blacklaw’s college mentor, Bill Seldon, called him about a journalism and media studies teaching position at Olivet, he just couldn’t refuse.
It was a short time later, when Blacklaw took his post at Monroe CC, that he began his time in administration and found that he enjoyed it – despite the distance from home and the college football he so loved.
For a true UM fan, the idea of spending a season away from Ann Arbor was a dreadful one. “I had to suffer through the Syracuse fans in Rochester,” he said. “You can’t count Syracuse, come on.”
Luckily for Blacklaw, most of the UM games were televised in New York. In a true Michigan spirit, the determined fan even began following The Patriots and Tom Brady, a former UM player.
“I grew up in Southeast Michigan, and we don’t have a pro football team,” he said, poking fun at the Detroit Lions. He admitted that between UM and New England, he wasn’t the most popular guy around the office in Rochester when football was the topic of conversation.
Now he’s happy to be back home in Ann Arbor, adjusting to changes little and big, like the renovations of the UM stadium.
“It feels very comfortable,” he said. “It’s fun to see what’s changed since I’d been in Ann Arbor. It’s good to see the things that are familiar. It’s also exciting to see what’s different.”
The new VP of instruction won’t be the only member of the Blacklaw family to be taking on a new role at WCC this semester. His stepdaughter Ashley, 19, will be attending classes, and, according to Blacklaw, is delighted to see what WCC has to offer. His stepson Jason, 27, stayed in New York.
So far, Blacklaw’s experience at the college has proven itself to be nothing less than delightful.
“They’re just really supportive people,” he said of the staff and faculty he has met. “I’m learning bits and pieces of the institution everywhere I go.”
Although WCC President Larry Whitworth admitted he hadn’t found much of an opportunity to get to know the newest member of the administrative team, he is certainly looking forward to it.
“He’s well prepared. He has a solid background. He was our top candidate and we were fortunate that he was interested,” Whitworth said of Blacklaw. “We’re very pleased to have him… I think he’s going to be incredible.”
As Blacklaw begins his time at WCC, he’s working to improve the system by meeting one-on-one with deans of the college to discuss any issues.
“One of the things I enjoy is having people come to me, address an issue, feel like they’ve been heard and moving forward in a positive way,” he said.
And it doesn’t hurt that he plans to have Beatles music flooding from the office.