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News Releases
Mt. Hood Community College staff, faculty, and students are working to provide students with an entirely new experience during their first term of college.
Mt. Hood Community College staff, faculty, and students are working to provide students with an entirely new experience during their first term of college.
MHCC Focuses on Improving Student Retention and Service with New Central Hub (Photo) - 06/18/18

Mt. Hood Community College staff, faculty, and students are working to provide students with an entirely new experience during their first term of college. This initiative – called the New Student Experience (NSE) – will establish a central space where students will have access to support staff, complete all their steps to get started, and get connected to college services in one stop. The goal of the New Student Experience is to re-design new student onboarding at Mt. Hood Community College to increase student retention and completion.

The NSE project kicked off last summer. The initiative is being spearheaded by the college’s Title III Mt. Hood Institutional Retention Initiative (MHIRI) team. The MHIRI was formed out of a five-year, $2.1 million U.S. Department of Education grant. Dispersed in $430,000 annual payments, the grant began in October 2016.

“That’s a big part of why we’re beginning this work now,” said Matt Farina, MHCC’s Director of Retention. “We have these funds that we need to use to increase student retention and degree completion. And an essential key to retaining new students is to support them during that critical first year.”

In 2014, when the Title III grant was written, MHCC’s fall term-to-fall term retention rate was 52 percent and the college’s graduation rates hovered around 18 percent. MHIRI maintains goals of increasing retention to 59 percent, and graduation rates to 26 percent, by 2021.

To help increase retention, MHCC will establish a centralized Student Services Hub located in the current Student Services office and adjacent areas. The “Hub” will be built over the summer and open for fall term 2018. It will encompass all the services, along with support personnel, that current or prospective students may need, including Financial Aid, Advising, Registration, and Orientation. Most importantly, the Hub will serve as a wayfinding place for all students who may have questions, need help finding resources, or require assistance in getting started.

“We’re using a collaborative approach to build the Hub and NSE components,” said Nancy Gomez-Sewell, Title III Project Coordinator at MHCC. “We have five teams comprised of MHCC staff and faculty from across the college.”

“The Title III team has conducted over 65 one-on-one interviews with faculty and staff, and hosted more than 12 departmental staff input sessions,” added Gomez-Sewell. “Additionally, the Title III team has compiled data from 450-plus student surveys and held focus groups for 250-plus students, to determine their central needs.”

Other components of the NSE include designing a “Getting Started Guide,” a print and digital communication tool designed to guide students through key steps to get started. Additionally, the NSE initiative will consolidate the college’s orientation events and offer three orientation options, starting this summer. These events will include:

  • Student Orientation Online, Get Started: A fast and simple introduction to the MHCC procedure and services.
  • Students Orientation Bridge, Get Connected: An intensive multi-day orientation to give college students the inside scoop on how to get the most out of MHCC.
  • Student Orientation Day, Get Ready: A one-day orientation and celebration that brings the whole MHCC campus together for food, fun, and a solid foundation for getting started.

Interested in learning more about MHCC’s new student retention initiatives? Visit for information on the NSE projects and other initiatives.

2018 MHCC Student Graduate Speakers
2018 MHCC Student Graduate Speakers
MHCC Student Graduation Speakers Come From Different Paths, But Seek Similar Goals (Photo) - 06/13/18

In less than a week, hundreds of new graduates of Mt. Hood Community College will walk across a stage in the college’s stadium to receive the diploma, degree or certificate they’ve been working toward, in some cases for years. Three of these graduates will receive the rare and meaningful opportunity to share their experiences and goals with thousands of graduates and their family and friends in attendance.

Kalani Montgomery, Mariah Haley, and PonyBoy Peterman all walked different paths to arrive at MHCC. On Friday and Saturday, these three students will traverse the same stage and stand at the same podium. They will wear the same colored robes and caps and will beam with the same enthusiasm, persistence and humility that made this journey possible.

Kalani Montgomery, GED Graduate

When he was 18 years old, Montgomery was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma. To undergo radiation therapy, he dropped out of high school. During his treatment, doctors told Montgomery he’d never be able to have children, but only a few months later his girlfriend at the time told him she was pregnant.

With a child on the way, Montgomery had a new reason to fight cancer and to continue living. He survived, was given a clean bill of health, and saw the birth of his first daughter. Five years later, he was again diagnosed with cancer, again had a new daughter on the way, and again beat cancer against all odds.

“I wanted to see my kids grow up, to keep on going and to show them that you can overcome the odds,” said Montgomery. “They were a huge part of my inspiration, and without them I might not be here today.”

Nearly two decades ago, Montgomery made a promise to himself and his family: when his children were old enough and moved out, he’d return to school to finish what he had started. In September 2016, he began fulfilling that promise in the GED program at MHCC. Last December, he earned his diploma and now he plans to pursue a degree in Cybersecurity and Networking at the college. At Friday’s GED/Adult High School Diploma (AHSD) Graduation, his two daughters – his biggest inspiration – will be standing by his side.

Mariah Haley, AHSD Graduate

Haley’s children – two boys, ages 10 and 12 – inspired her to return to school and complete her diploma too, along with a supportive husband.

“I wanted to show my sons that no matter how hard life gets, you never give up,” she said. “They’ve been by my side throughout my education, helping me with homework while I helped them. And they know it hasn’t been easy, but I’ve shown them that you don’t give up, no matter what.”

In high school, Haley recalls that she was a hard-working student at first, got good grades, and went to all her classes. But then, she says, “A switch went off in my head.” Partying and hanging out with friends became her priority and she eventually dropped out.

It wasn’t until she met her husband that she decided to give up the partying lifestyle for something more – a family. After a few failed starts, she began working toward her adult high school diploma in 2015. A short time later, she started working for MHCC Head Start.

Now Haley has a new goal – earn her associate degree in Child Development and Early Education from MHCC and pursue a career in childcare. This fall, she’ll begin down that path, with her sons and husband by her side, with classes at MHCC.

PonyBoy Peterman, Associate of Science in Biology Graduate, 2017-18 Associated Student Government President

Peterman’s journey to MHCC started some four years ago at Gresham High School. Eager to begin his college studies, he started taking college-level classes in biology and Spanish through MHCC’s College Now program. On Saturday, he’ll receive his associate degree in biology and, soon after, start down a path towards earning a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering in hopes of working in medicine developing prosthetics, health information systems, and similar technologies.

Over the last year, Peterman has not only studied diligently toward a science degree, he’s focused on advancing student success initiatives as president of the Associated Student Government at MHCC. It’s been a path that’s taken him far outside the scope of what he’d initially expected to achieve at MHCC, and an experience that he expects will influence his future goals.

“When I came to Mt. Hood, I knew I wanted to participate in student government,” said Peterman. “But it wasn’t until a year in that I decided to take that next leap – and I’m glad I did.”

Peterman’s focus in student government has always been cultivating a college culture that encourages learning and success. He’s achieved this through several initiatives, among them expanding Barney’s Pantry and the college’s Textbook Affordability program. And he’s found and leveraged opportunities, including a partnership with the Oregon Food Bank and an initiative to streamline student government at MHCC.

Peterman himself is the first to recognize that the students at MHCC come from all different paths and backgrounds. But they come with similar inspirations and goals, he says, and he’s made it a priority to help them in achieving those goals through student success initiatives and projects.

“It may be a little selfish, but I like how it feels when I can help other people to succeed,” added Peterman. “And that’s something I hope to carry on with in my education and my professional pursuits.”

Next fall, Peterman will begin working toward a degree in biomedical engineering.

The 2018 GED/AHSD Graduation at MHCC will take place Friday, June 15, at 7 p.m. at the Earl Klapstein Track and Field Stadium. The GED/AHSD Graduation speaker is Dr. Debra Derr, president of MHCC. The 2018 Commencement will take place Saturday, June 16, at 10 a.m. at the stadium. The 2018 Commencement speakers are Barbara Roberts, 34th Governor of Oregon, and Dr. Derr.

Visit for more information.

On Saturday, June 23, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the college will host the 2018 Strawberry Short Course Festival.
On Saturday, June 23, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the college will host the 2018 Strawberry Short Course Festival.
Expect New Events and Fun Classics at the 2018 Strawberry Short Course Festival (Photo) - 06/11/18

One of the longest-running community events at Mt. Hood Community College will return this June to the Gresham campus. On Saturday, June 23, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the college will host the 2018 Strawberry Short Course Festival, which will offer plenty of family friendly activities, great food and music, and fun learning opportunities.

At this year’s Strawberry Short Course, expect lots of fan favorites, including free Planetarium Sky Theater shows (featuring “The Southern Sky and Chile”), delicious strawberry cupcakes (this year baked by Tollgate Inn Bakery in Sandy), and free cosmetology services (first come, first served haircuts and mini-manicures).

The Kids’ Zone returns too this year and will feature a bounce house, rock climbing wall, face painting, bungee run course, and inflatable hamster balls. Kids’ entertainment also includes Penny’s Puppet Shows, the MHCC Dino Dig site, and the 4H Corbett Critter Club Petting Zoo. Meanwhile, kids of all ages should expect a blast at the MHCC Open Science Labs (where they can make slime!) and a Bingo tourney (complete with prizes!) sponsored by Powell Valley Assisted Living and Memory Care Community.

New this year, MHCC’s student jazz ensemble, “Studio Hood,” will play throughout the day. Additionally, two of MHCC’s newest campus food vendors, Riverview Restaurant and Black Rock Coffee Bar, will be offering up great food and drinks throughout the event. You can grab a barbecue lunch from Riverview, including burger/hotdog, chips and a beverage, for only $7.

The 2018 Strawberry Short Courses will include a variety of classes covering everything from science and physical education to business and self-improvement. Learn about growing your business using social media, buying your first home, and managing student debt. Discover Reiki healing, kombucha brewing, salmon and fly fishing, and metal shaping. Or try your hand at archery, welding, meditation, or yoga. Looking for a family class? Check out “Simple Self-Defense for the Whole Family.” Want to see a real set of human lungs? Stop by “Smoking Cessation for Quitters.”

“We think we’ve done a great job bringing a variety of classes to the campus this year,” said Kimberly Murray, chair of the Strawberry Short Course Festival planning committee and coordinator of MHCC’s Community Education program. “I’d recommend bringing the entire family and seeing it all: who knows what new interests and passions you’ll discover!”

The Strawberry Short Course Festival began at MHCC in the 1980s and continued until the 1990s. In 2013, it was relaunched and has been a yearly staple at the college ever since.

For an event schedule and list of vendors and classes offered this year, visit

Mt. Hood Community College’s Natural Resources Technology (NRT) program now has a sawmill to teach students on.
Mt. Hood Community College’s Natural Resources Technology (NRT) program now has a sawmill to teach students on.
MHCC Natural Resources Program Purchases Sawmill (Photo) - 06/07/18

Mt. Hood Community College’s Natural Resources Technology (NRT) program now has a new tool to teach students with – a sawmill. Second-year NRT students have been using the portable mill to transform logs into boards, posts, and other building materials to create sheds and tables.

The band-saw mill, a Wood-Mizer brand, mills logs as large as 32 inches in diameter and 21 feet long. Most importantly, it also encourages NRT students to build skills in communication and teamwork while teaching them to operate a hydraulic mill.

"Using a sawmill offers a great learning opportunity," said Jason Pinkerton, a Forest Resources instructor with the NRT program. "Students are forced to make decisions and to work and talk with each other."

"Plus, there's an opportunity to create some wood products for campus and to support existing curriculum, like Fisheries Technology's building and maintenance class," he added.

Pinkerton said that the mill can use fallen trees from the Gresham campus, and the program’s students and staff can work with local property owners and businesses to transport logs to the mill on campus. In the process, NRT students will learn about timber harvesting and urban tree salvage – a growing industry focused on using trees and tree remnants sourced primarily from urban/suburban areas and from logging operations.

The purchase of the sawmill was made possible by a $10,000 donation from the MHCC Foundation. The donation came from a local anonymous donor who specifically wanted to contribute to the college's NRT program.

You can learn more about the NRT program at

Outside the Jaksich Family Automotive Technology Center at Mt. Hood Community College.
Outside the Jaksich Family Automotive Technology Center at Mt. Hood Community College.
Ribbon Cut on The Jaksich Family Automotive Technology Center (Photo) - 06/05/18

On Wednesday, May 30, the Jaksich Family Automotive Technology Center at Mt. Hood Community College was christened during a regular monthly meeting of the MHCC Foundation Board. Attendees included Nancy and Jerry Jaksich; their daughter Erinn Sowle; members of the Foundation Board; and instructors, staff and students from the college’s Applied Technology division.

“On behalf of our family, we are thrilled with the newly named Jaksich Family Automotive Technology Center at MHCC, and we feel fortunate to have such a tremendous facility in our backyard,” said Sowle. “In fact, several of our staff are graduates of this great program. We have thoroughly enjoyed our long partnership with the college, and we look forward to many more years to come.”

The Jaksichs are longtime supporters of MHCC and have donated nearly $200,000 to the college over the years. Nancy has served on the Foundation Board for more than 11 years. In 2017, she was recognized for this service with an MHCC Patron Saint Award and the Hero for Education Scholarship named in her honor.

The Jaksich Family Automotive Technology Center is a 26-bay auto center that serves as the training hub for MHCC’s four Associate of Applied Science automotive degree programs – the Ford Automotive Student Service Education Training (ASSET) program, the Chrysler MOPAR College Automotive Program (M-CAP), the Individual Mechanical Program of Repair Technicians (IMPORT), and the recently established Subaru U program. Additionally, the college offers the nine-month Maintenance and Light Repair (MLR) Automotive Technology certificate program.

MHCC’s weekly student-run newspaper, The Advocate, recently won 20 category awards at the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association (ONPA) Collegiate Day.
MHCC’s weekly student-run newspaper, The Advocate, recently won 20 category awards at the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association (ONPA) Collegiate Day.
MHCC Student Newspaper The Advocate Wins 20 Awards at Annual ONPA College Day Event (Photo) - 06/04/18

Mt. Hood Community College’s weekly student-run newspaper, The Advocate, recently won 20 category awards at the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association (ONPA) Collegiate Day. Earning a combination of first, second, and third places, The Advocate staff won more awards than any other two-year college newspaper staff represented at the event.

The Advocate’s editorial board, staff members, and their faculty advisers – MHCC Journalism instructors Daniel Ernst and Howard Buck – joined teams from 15 other two- and four-year colleges and universities at Linn-Benton Community College for the event, held May 18. ONPA’s annual Collegiate Day recognizes work published during the 2017 calendar year. At the event, students participated in breakout sessions with professional journalists before attending the awards ceremony.

“This year’s Advocate staff produced some amazing content,” said Matana McIntire, editor-in-chief of the newspaper. “And seeing the growth of each staff member has been more valuable than any award we won. I wish the best of luck to next year’s staff – I know they’ll do amazing!”

In all, the student staff of The Advocate won eight first-place awards in the Group 3 category (two-year college newspapers). First prizes were won for Best Cartooning (Amy Welch), Best Photography (Fletcher Wold), Best Feature Photo (Wold), Best Sports Story (Jamie George), Best Editorial (Donovan Sargent), Best Series (Greg Leonov et al.), Best Special Section (Gloria Saepharn) and Best Section (McIntire). The Advocate also won third place for overall General Excellence.

Interested in reading The Advocate? Visit for the latest scoop.

Dr. Rex Fuller, President of Western Oregon University, and Dr. Debra Derr, MHCC president, at a signing of a dual-enrollment agreement last week.
Dr. Rex Fuller, President of Western Oregon University, and Dr. Debra Derr, MHCC president, at a signing of a dual-enrollment agreement last week.
MHCC and Western Oregon University Sign Dual-Enrollment Agreement (Photo) - 05/30/18

Mt. Hood Community College and Western Oregon University recently signed a dual-enrollment agreement, opening the doors for MHCC students to transfer directly into programs at WOU.

The new agreement allows students to enroll at both MHCC and WOU and to simultaneously complete lower-division transfer classes and upper-division credits. As a result, MHCC students planning to transfer to WOU can reduce their overall tuition costs.

"At WOU, our focus is on making a four-year degree accessible to all students," said WOU President Rex Fuller. "That's why it is so important to work with Oregon's community colleges. By putting agreements like the one with MHCC in place to bridge the transfer experience, we are giving students a boost towards completing their bachelor's degrees and beginning their careers."

Dual-enrollment plans allow students at two-year colleges to easily transition into four-year degree programs by ensuring that every credit earned and course completed counts toward an associate and bachelor’s degree. MHCC’s newest agreement adds to the college’s existing dual-enrollment programs with Eastern Oregon University, Oregon Institute of Technology, Oregon State University, Portland State University and Warner Pacific College.

“We’re excited about this new opportunity for our students,” said John Hamblin, Executive Dean for Student Development at MHCC. “We’re working closely with WOU to allow a more seamless transfer and believe this agreement will open doors for students who want to pursue advanced degrees from the university.”

You can learn more about MHCC’s degree-partnership programs by visiting

A new Associate of Applied Science program coming to Mt. Hood Community College this fall will be the first degree program in Oregon to focus solely on mobile applications.
A new Associate of Applied Science program coming to Mt. Hood Community College this fall will be the first degree program in Oregon to focus solely on mobile applications.
New Mobile App Degree Program Teaches Technical and Business Skills (Photo) - 05/29/18

A new Associate of Applied Science program coming to Mt. Hood Community College this fall will be the first degree program in Oregon to focus solely on mobile applications, and one of the first two-year degree programs of its kind in the nation.

Students in MHCC’s new Business Management: Mobile Application Development and Marketing program will learn to create and market mobile applications. The college developed this program with guidance from Apple Education. The mobile apps development program will initially focus on building apps for Apple’s iOS mobile operating system. In the future, students will also learn to create, launch and market applications for Android devices and other platforms. Apple will provide the app development curriculum for free, along with the textbook “App Development with Swift.”

“There’s an incredible need for app developers, both here in Portland and across the country,” said Rod Barker, dean of the college’s Business and Computer Information Systems programs. “Right here in the Portland/Vancouver area, there are roughly 400 open job postings for app developers at any given time.”

These job postings run the gamut from positions with small digital marketing outfits to jobs with some of Oregon’s largest employers, like Intel, Nike and eBay.

The Mobile Application Development and Marketing program is also targeted towards individuals interested in starting a small business or providing contract work to other organizations.

“It’s for the entrepreneur who’s looking to build a mobile app and use that app for his or her own business initiatives,” described Wayne Machuca, an instructor of Computer Information Systems at MHCC. “Or for the small business owner looking to grow an existing business through mobile marketing.”

In the first three terms of the program, students will focus on their requisites and study business management and marketing. In the third term, they’ll take their first Computer Information Systems class. In the fifth and sixth terms, students will complete the two new courses – ISTM235MA: Mobile Apps I and ISTM235MB: Mobile Apps II – that encompass the Apple iOS apps training.

“Right now, we’re preparing for the fall term and reaching out to local high schools that already teach coding,” added Stephen Konrad, instructor of Business at MHCC. “The mobile app program will really serve as a natural progression for those students who studied programming in high school, either through a curriculum or just on their own.”

Analytics firm App Annie reported that global consumer spending on apps reached $86 billion in 2017, increasing 105 percent from 2015. The company predicts that by 2021, consumers will spend about $139 billion per year on apps, with $60 billion of that generated by the iOS App Store.

For more information on the Mobile Application Development and Marketing degree, please contact Stephen Konrad at 503-491-7515. For more information on the iOS Mobile App courses and the Computer Game and Mobile Applications Programmer certificate, please contact Dr. Wayne Machuca at 503-491-7631.

MHCC Receives Grant for High School-to-College Bridge Program - 05/24/18

Mt. Hood Community College recently received a $75,000 grant through the Gateway to College National Network to implement PDX Bridge – a Portland area program focused on connecting East County juvenile justice, foster, and homeless youth to post-secondary educational opportunities. The two-year grant was funded by the Meyer Memorial Trust.

PDX Bridge provides students from vulnerable populations with a “bridge” from high school through the completion of their first year of college. Through the program, high school students can access peer mentorship and college readiness/dual-enrollment classes. Once they finish high school, they will receive college success coaching at MHCC. Additionally, Worksystems’ SummerWorks initiative will offer summer internship opportunities to these students.

“With this grant, we will be able to serve some of the area’s most vulnerable and under-served youth populations,” said Kelley Keith, MHCC’s Dean of Adult Basic Skills and the grant manager. “This is a population very near and dear to my heart, ever since working with adjudicated and homeless youth in Oakland, California, more than a decade ago.”

The PDX Bridge program was piloted at Portland Community College in 2017. An initial cohort of 25 students will begin at MHCC by taking classes in Writing and Human Development.

“The students’ initial college start will be combined with intensive and comprehensive wraparound supports, led by a newly hired Student Success Coach,” said Keith. “And we’re already working with local case managers, high school counselors, and other partners to recruit youth for this opportunity.”

As part of the grant program, MHCC hired a student success coach who will guide, advise and connect the students to resources, and support and encourage them through their first year of college and beyond.

According to Children First of Oregon’s 2015 report, there are 3,066 children in foster care, 5,798 homeless children, and 3,366 adjudicated youth in the Portland area. Nationally, only 10 percent of foster youth enroll in post-secondary education and only 3 percent ob­tain a post-secondary credential, compared to 40 percent of their peers.

You can learn more about the PDX Bridge program at

Allison Landaker, a second-year art student, studies digital and gaming design at MHCC.
Allison Landaker, a second-year art student, studies digital and gaming design at MHCC.
MHCC Computer Game Developer Students To Show Work at Wacom Experience Center (Photo) - 05/23/18

Mt. Hood Community College’s Computer Game Developer students will showcase their work in everything from virtual reality (VR) games to digital art at the Wacom Experience Center on Sunday, June 10. This annual exhibit, held at Wacom’s Downtown Portland-based showroom from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on June 10, allows the college’s Computer Game Developer students to display their work from the last year and network with industry professionals.

“You’ll see a great diversity of projects at the event, including 3-D and 2-D animations, board games, and digital and printed artwork,” said MHCC computer game design instructor Erika Ruhl.

Attendees will have the opportunity to try on VR headsets and play student-created games and watch short animations. The showcase encompasses work from first- and second-year students from nearly every computer game development course at MHCC. Attendees can also try out some of Wacom’s newest products at the event and enjoy some food.

Allison Landaker, a second-year art student at MHCC, works at the Experience Center. The job allows her to pursue her passion in digital and game design.

“It’s a fun environment – I get to meet a lot of great artists, connect with gaming companies, and run comic-con booths,” said Landaker, who began working for Wacom last September. “Plus, the Experience Center space is really unique. People can try out cutting-edge tablets and design equipment while being surrounded by amazing artwork.”

Wacom, a 35-year-old tech company, is best known for their drawing tablets, pen displays and digital ink technology. The Wacom Experience Center is located on the ground floor of Wacom’s U.S. headquarters in Portland’s Pearl District.

When: Sunday, June 10, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Where: Wacom Experience Center, 1455 NW Irving Street, Portland