The Parkland College Blog

PRECS Funded For Three More Years

PRECS has been funded for another three-year cycle

A summer science experience for US community college students at Parkland College has received National Science Foundation funding for a new three-year cycle.

The 10-week PRECS program, or Phenotypic Plasticity Research Experience for Community College Students, will host 10 students for each summer during 2020-2022. During this new cycle, the student stipend has been increased to $6,000 for the 10-week program.

The program involves a boot camp at Parkland College in Champaign that prepares students for the research immersion at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. PRECS focuses on phenotypic plasticity, the phenomenon of a single genotype producing multiple phenotypes depending on environment, and includes research areas as diverse as the interaction between genotype and ozone pollution on maize, the effect of environmental stress on neuroanatomy, and the interactions of genes and environment on fish behavior. 

Originally funded by a three-year grant (#1559908/1559929) from the National Science Foundation, PRECS ran during the summers of 2017-2019. During this time, PRECS hosted a total of 32 students from across the country (IL, NJ, MA, MD, MO, CO, NC, PA, CA), including six Parkland students. PRECS participants have gone on to continue their academic career at their home community colleges and to transfer to four-year institutions. Two PRECS participants are currently pursuing graduate programs, according to Dr. Britt Carlson, program director and chemistry associate professor at Parkland.

"Many PRECS participants secured research positions after completing PRECS, and in three cases, these research positions were in their PRECS host labs," Carlson said. "Participants have attended national conferences and presented their research." Scientific posters created during PRECS for the IL Summer Research Symposium and videos of past participants can be found at https://spark.parkland.edu/precs_research/

Parkland alum and PRECS 2017 student Elliot Ping said of the program, "The great thing about being there full-time is that you really have the opportunity to immerse yourself...You're really involved in everything and you're...getting the hands-on experience too."

PRECS is now accepting applications for Summer 2020; the deadline to participate is March 1. Eligible students: 

  • must be currently enrolled at a community college

  • must be US citizens or permanent residents

  • have completed General Biology I and General Chemistry I (preferred)

Underrepresented groups are encouraged to apply. Preferred students will earn a $6,000 stipend. Housing/food allowances, as well as travel allowances (if needed) are also available. Application materials and more information are available at https://lnkd.in/eg4q_Wi.

As advice to students considering whether or not to apply, Kat Cortez of PRECS 2019 says, "Don't hesitate because you learn so much about yourself and your ability. You're capable of so much more than you think you are. And I think that's what this experience taught me."

Parkland College Land Surveying students and faculty will be official surveyors at this weekend's "World Championship Punkin Chunkin" event in Rantoul.
 
Using high accuracy GPS equipment, Kory Allred, Land Surveying faculty member, will lead a group of students to set team areas and measure pumpkin flight distances from more than 30 “machines” signed up to participate in this annual event, which takes place at the former Chanute Airforce Base Nov. 2 and 3.
 
“It will be a great experience for the students that allows them to utilize the skills learned in classes in new ways!” Allred said.
 
Additionally, Todd Horton, Construction Management program director, will be entering the competition with his own punkin’-chunkin’ machine.
 
The two-day contest will allow three shots by each machine to determine the 2019 World Champion: two shots fired on Saturday and a final competition shot on Sunday. Usually held in Delaware, the competition has moved to Illinois for the first time outside of its home state.
 
The World Championship Punkin Chunkin Association (WCPCA) will carry on a tradition started more than 35 years ago with this year’s event, according to Frank Payton III, WCPCA president. The WCPCA is a trademark, all-volunteer nonprofit that raises money for scholarships and organizations that benefit the local community. It hosts a signature pumpkin-launching event each year, fueling innovative engineering and science-based ideas that draw spectators from all over.
 
A weekend pass to the Championship is $20, and daily passes may be purchased online for $10 per day. Admission at the competition will be $15 per day (cash only). Children under 10 will be able to enter the event for free.
 
For more information visit the World Championship Punkin Chunkin website at punkinchunkin.com

Parkland College, in collaboration with the Illinois Community College Board and State Rep. Carol Ammons, has launched a new program that will provide free, short-term training to underserved populations in the college's district.
 
Backed by a $1.5 million Illinois Workforce Equity Initiative grant, Parkland's new Support for Workforce Training (SWFT) Program aims to help more than 150 district residents move into high-demand careers with family-sustaining wages within a year or less. The WEI grant aims to address historic underrepresentation of African Americans in high-demand, high-wage careers, thus requiring African Americans to comprise 60 percent of the population served by the SWFT program. 

Parkland President Tom Ramage described the program's potential impact.

"This is an unprecedented opportunity for Parkland College to remove barriers for those wishing to upgrade their skills with short-term programs and move into high-demand careers," he said. "These students will have the opportunity to change, not only the trajectory of their lives, but that of their families. We commend our legislators for supporting this innovative approach to expanding the skilled workforce, growing businesses, and ensuring the continued growth of the local economy."  

The initiative was spearheaded by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus with strong support from State Rep. Carol Ammons. 

"I am proud to support a program that creates ample opportunities in a realistic way," Ammons said. "Participants may receive a number of scholarships, waivers, and stipends, for the necessary classes and training to further their careers. These resources also include childcare, transportation, and other non-monetary tools that will ensure that 'life' doesn't get in the way of making life better.

"I would also like to thank my colleagues in the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus for their work to find workforce training programming that will help to increase wages for people in our community. This program will help people become certified for careers where there are skill gaps and workforce shortages in our region. I am honored to have fought for this money on behalf of those looking for work, and I look forward to working with Parkland College to maximize this grant money and its impact on our community."

Along with providing tuition and fee waivers for training and stipends to help tackle higher education-access barriers, the initiative will address local workforce gaps and employment barriers in an effort to prepare skilled workers to move into employment upon program completion. Participants who are eligible for the program also will receive wraparound support services, such as academic counseling and mentoring.

Students may select from 22 Parkland College degree or certificate programs in four technical career categories: construction and manufacturing, healthcare, transportation and distribution, and business and IT services. Career options vary widely and include industrial maintenance and welding; office assistant, Microsoft Web, and Google IT professionals; phlebotomy and pharmacy technicians; practical nursing and CNA; and truck driver CDL and highway construction, among others. Most programs can be completed in a year or less.

Those eligible for the incentives may include incumbent workers, unemployed persons, members of underrepresented minority groups, those receiving SNAP benefits and other need-based aid, recently incarcerated persons and ex-offenders, those receiving housing assistance, and others demonstrating financial need. 

Parkland College was one of 15 community colleges selected to take part in the $18.5 million WEI, which aims to train 1,500 adults statewide for jobs in areas with a high demand for workers. The grant period begins October 2019 and extends through September 2020. State officials notified Parkland College of its award in mid-September.

For more information, please visit parkland.edu/swft or contact the SWFT Program office at 217/353-2149.

Parkland College has received high marks for financial soundness from external auditors and is enhancing career and technical programs at the college through a recent increase in federal grant funds. 

The Parkland College Board of Trustees officially accepted the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) from Martin Hood, LLC, at its meeting Wednesday. The report presented the college with an unqualified "clean" opinion of its FY 2019 financial statements, the best type to receive from independent review. The audit highlights the college's exemplary fiscal management and includes reports on Parkland's schedule of expenditures of federal awards and its internal control over financial reporting and compliance.

Also at their meeting, trustees received an update on how a $643,000 Carl D. Perkins grant Parkland received for AY 2020 is being used to strengthen career and technical programs and support students in underrepresented groups. Through the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V), the US Dept. of Education is providing more than $1.2 billion in federal aid this year to bolster CTE programs across the country. 

Pamela Lau, Executive Vice President, reported that the Perkins funds are being used in several major ways. First, they will help develop an apprenticeship office at Parkland College; this effort will accelerate the development of apprenticeships with the College, which has obtained status as a US Department of Labor intermediary, one that proactively addresses workforce needs for both employees and employers. The funds will also allow the college to provide career-exploration software, soft-skills training, summer camps, and other work-based learning tools for students. Under the leadership of Bobbi Scholze, Parkland's dean of career and technical education, the College will continue expanding pathways to obtain CTE credentials in collaboration with Parkland's Adult Education and Community Education units. Finally, Parkland will make capital equipment purchases and lab and software upgrades that help boost CTE program technology.

In other business, the board approved the following:

  • purchase of body-worn cameras and associated hardware and software from WatchGuard, Inc., Allen, Texas, $22,355;

  • purchase of a 15-passenger commercial bus from Midwest Transit Equipment of Kankakee, $50,628;

  • retaining Henneman Engineering, Inc. of Champaign for the development and design of the campus electronic door lock upgrade, $509,850;

  • purchase of the pre-exposure rabies vaccine administration from McKinley Health Center in Urbana for veterinary tech students, $21,420;

  • receipt of funds from the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) Workforce Equity Initiative. College officials publicly announce the grant award on Thursday, Oct. 24, at 10 a.m. in the Student Union atrium.

  • personnel appointments:

    • Gerald Lighty, Faculty, Ag/Engineering Science Technologies

    • Carrie Harris, Program Manager, Community Education

    • Josh Houston, Maintenance Tech/Electrician, Physical Plant

    • Jenna Hooker, Police Officer, Public Safety

CTE Career Exploration Night, Sept. 4

Meet vo-tech industry employers, get advice on career paths, more

Parkland College will host a night for students to explore hands-on technical careers Sept. 4.

Career Exploration Night, sponsored by the school's Career and Technical Education division, will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Tony Noel Agricultural Applications Center and the Parkhill Applied Technology Center on the main campus.

Current and prospective Parkland students are invited to meet employers, get expert advice on a career path, learn how to make a great first impression, and tour high-tech learning labs. Career opportunities in horticulture, automotive, collision repair, diesel power, construction management, industrial technology, land surveying and electronics will be discussed. Participants can chat with employers about internship opportunities and career tracks in their industries.

To RSVP for this event, visit parkland.edu/ctecareernight.

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