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Alumni Spotlight

Maben Brown

Maben Brown
Economics Senior, Eastern Illinois University
Degree: Associate in Science
Major: General Studies
Class Year: 2014

It no longer matters to Parkland College transfer student Maben Brown that it has taken nearly a decade to earn his college degree. It no longer matters how many times he failed basic math, or even that he has passed business calculus.

For Maben, winner of Parkland’s new Math Fund Award, what matters is that he understands life’s most important lesson.

“It’s not giving up—that’s what life is about,” said Maben, who returned to Parkland this spring to take a transfer class for his BS in Economics at Eastern Illinois University. “Success and failure are just a part of life.”

Maben’s fighting spirit recently earned him the Math department’s first-ever faculty-nominated award, given to a math student considered extraordinary (not just for academic reasons). In fact, students do not know they have been nominated for the Math Fund Award until the department tells them they have won. Award honorees receive $500.

“Maben is one of those students who remind us why we love teaching at a community college,” said Erin Wilding-Martin, one of his nominating instructors. “He truly is an extraordinary success story.”

Professor Kevin Hastings, who also nominated Maben, agrees that the student’s positive spirit despite his math challenges affected the math faculty’s final choice.

“He is well respected, and many in our department had positive stories to share about him,” Hastings said. “It is highly unusual when the approach, personality, and attitude of one student have such a favorable impact on so many members of our department.”

Growing up in a working class family of eleven in Champaign, Maben graduated from Champaign Central High School in 2006 but realized his weak academic record limited his collegiate options. He headed to Parkland for help.

“I knew I had not taken advantage of what was there,” he said of his K-12 education, “but I thought maybe if I work hard, I’ll go to the U of I or Harvard.”

He soon discovered his plan would not be easy to implement. In fact, after taking—and repeating—several developmental college math and English courses, Maben’s financial aid ran out.

“I was off and on at Parkland for another two years, because now I had to save up to pay for my education,” he said. “I started working at a distribution company. Every day I’m doing this job and hating it, saying to myself, ‘I’ve got to go back to school.’”

After saving the money to resume a regular class load at Parkland, Maben’s attitude about academics reached a turning point.

“Now, when I didn’t pass a class, I was heated,” he said. “I wasn’t playing around. I wasn’t going to fail. It was that simple. I would do math problems at work and email my instructors all the time for explanations. Each time I didn’t pass, I would ask myself ‘what can I do differently,’ and then I would ask others.”

Friends suggested that Maben change majors, to go easier on himself with all the math. He followed their advice for a semester but soon realized he was giving up on a dream, so he switched back.

“I decided to do what was hard instead of what was easy,” he said.

His persistence began paying off. Over the next few years, Maben worked his way through the developmental math sequence and went on to take classes from College Algebra to Business Calculus and Statistics, according to Geoff Griffiths, chair of the Math department. In 2013, Maben transferred to EIU, where he faced still more challenges in math. Nonetheless, he transferred an EIU science class back to Parkland to earn his AS in General Studies last December, and he has reached senior level at the university.

“He did not succeed on the first attempt in each class, but he never gave up, was always positive, took responsibility for his failures, and gave his instructors credit for his success, Griffiths said. “The number of students who start where Maben started in math and persist through the business math sequence is so small that the probability of a student doing it is effectively zero, but Maben has done it.”

“I’m growing and progressing every day because I refused to settle or give up,” Maben said.

Contact Information

Parkland College
2400 West Bradley Avenue
Champaign, IL 61821
Phone: 217.351.2200
Toll Free: 800.346.8089


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