Monday, November 7, 2011

Top Money Manager Eddie Brown Exhorts Students to Overcome Obstacles - Just Like He Did

Eddie C. Brown, one of the nation’s leading money managers who founded one of its oldest African American-owned investment management firms—Baltimore-based Brown Capital Management, Inc.—spoke about what it was like to overcome the steepest of life’s odds Wednesday, Nov. 2 as he distilled 41 years of his unlikely experience into a 40 (oh, let’s just say it was 41)-minute talk to a packed house at the Fine Arts Theatre of Baltimore City Community College.

His new autobiography, "Beating the Odds: Eddie Brown’s Investing and Life Strategies” chronicles his life as a financial guru – first as a portfolio manager and vice president with T. Rowe Price where he became the first African American money manager to work for a major Wall Street investment firm; as a panelist for 25 years on the PBS television program, “Wall Street Week with Louis Rukeyser,” which made him a household name and honored him as its sole Hall of Fame inductee for 1996; – and founder of a successful mutual fund company and philanthropist.

BCCC Associate Director of Libraries Virgie
Williams (left) with Eddie Brown

Born into poverty to a 13-year-old unwed mother in Apopka, Fla. in the deeply segregated South, all Eddie could remember was thinking up ways to earn extra money. His beloved grandmother, who took over the task of rearing him, made it a point to take him into town on a regular basis to show him the people who wore white shirts and ties and worked behind desks. They no longer had to work in the fields, she told him. A short time later, she passed away. By this point Eddie was spending way too much time with his uncle, Jake, whose pursuits included moonshine and fast cars. Eddie himself was running illicit liquor on more than a few occasions until, unbeknownst to him, Lillie Mae Moore, a second cousin who lived next door to Jake and who had monitored Eddie's activities for his grandmother, had had it up to here (or was it, "there"?). She called Eddie's mother, who was living in Allentown, Pa. Shortly afterward, Eddie's mother came down to Apopka to get him. His moonshining days were over.

Throughout his talk, Mr. Brown makes success look like the predictable outcome of a principled life, though he is quick to point out his path was a function of luck, educational preparation and principle. "I figured out a long time ago none of us is in a position to control the circumstances under which we come into this world," he said. "But we can do a lot about where we end up."

Mr. Brown's abiding concern is the ability of all people to obtain an education. In fact, that has been his own driving force. At one time his undergraduate education at Howard University in Washington, D.C., where he earned an engineering degree, seemed out of reach until an anonymous white woman communicated her desire to pay the four-year tuition, room and board for one African American student in his 753-person class. With a little serendipidy and because of his successful track record of making good grades in high school, he was chosen to receive the gift. The circumstances sparked his interest in philanthropy, which became a motivator for him to create personal wealth.

He has risen from poverty to his own business with day-to-day assets under management of over $4 billion. Shortly after starting his firm he had to make a presentation to the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS). Granted only 10 minutes for his presentation, he figured every minute was worth $4 million. “You haven’t lived until you’ve had 10 minutes to persuade six total strangers to give you $40 million,” he writes in his book. But that’s apparently all in a day’s work. After the experience he jokingly told his wife he was worth $240 MILLION AN HOUR and she'd better treat him accordingly! "Welcome to my world,” he recollects, “the high-pressure, no-excuses business of managing other people’s money.”

Although his profession has taken a bit of a public beating since the collapse of Lehman Brothers and subsequent economic downturn, Mr. Brown knows how to exhort his audience. "You've got to find something you love," he said. "I liked doing what I did so much, I decided to start my own firm." Though he was embarking on a path similar to the one he had just left at T. Rowe Price, he said, "You don't have to do the same thing all your life. In fact, you'll probably find yourself doing a number of different things."

He is one of the most approachable "titans of business" you'll ever meet. In a culture heavy-laden with the accoutrements of wealth, Mr. Brown lives in the same modest home he purchased with his wife, Sylvia, in 1977.

"I never forgot where I came from," he says. And he wants to give something back.


Friday, October 14, 2011

Community College Day at NIH Extends STEM Students Keys to the Future

The National Institutes of Health held its third annual Community College Day Tuesday, Oct. 11 for students entering or interested in high-growth STEM careers where, according to Sharon Milgram, Ph.D., director of the NIH Office of Intramural Training and Education, “the options are much bigger than we imagined.”

As part of the event, Baltimore City Community College fielded 25 students enrolled in its national cutting-edge Life Sciences Institute at the University of Maryland BioPark, where students become full-fledged members of the university community and gain opportunities to intern and work part time in some of the world’s leading biotechnology firms.

NIH seeks students interested in math and science who through the community college setting are taking practical approaches to their education — “global citizens,” according to Milgram, who are “adaptable, flexible and resilient.” Chief among NIH’s current offerings to community college students is its Community College Summer Enrichment Program (CCSEP), a prestigious 10-week opportunity to perform research or work with a Principal Investigator (PI) on a multiplicity of projects at any (or at least, many) of NIH’s 27 medical institutes and centers.

Despite the recession, opportunities to play a working role in the biotechnology revolution are seemingly limitless. Jobs are sprouting up in research and development, clinical trial management, and for those skilled in technology transfer, intellectual property law, regulatory affairs and policy, and the traditional fields of communication and marketing.

Much has been said about America needing to get back to “making things.” From drug development and the discovery of ways to slow such diseases as chronic myelogenous leukemia, to unraveling why certain young people lack enough free radicals to stop a fatal liver abnormality, biotechnology may be the way of the 21st century. Today, according to Milgram, “we need global citizens who can work on teams; those who are broadly trained and think they might have the communications skills to take on creative challenges. And we value diversity.”

If this sounds like you, visit or email Ms. Milgram to inquire about informational interviews for upcoming internship and career programs at


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Innovating to Help People Respond to Challenging Times

Few doubt that during one of the most crucial periods in economic history, community colleges are on the front lines of both traditional education—helping students to learn; that is, develop and apply knowledge—and workforce training – connecting them to something to do, as quickly and legitimately as possible.

That’s why we may be witnessing a revolution in American education: For few institutions are as closely aligned with the realities of America’s middle class (the most likely constituents of a community college) or the need to innovate ways to help them through the economic minefield in which they find themselves. Community colleges offer affordable tuition. Their campuses accommodate commuters and meet the needs of online students working from home. They attract a good number of international students. And they’re as diverse as ever.

Completers of the BCCC MI-BEST program for Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) and Geriatric Nursing Assistants (GNAs) proudly hold their certificates as new opportunity awaits them in the world of allied health. Additional programs in fiber optics, construction-weatherization, pharmacy technician, and more (including new CNA-GNA sessions) are coming soon.

Recently I had the chance to witness one of these innovations in action, as student completers of the Baltimore City Community College (BCCC) MI-BEST (Maryland Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training) program received their credentials as Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) and Geriatric Nursing Assistants (GNAs), after only 9-11 weeks of training. For some—Adult Basic Education and English-as-a-Second-Language students, particularly—the training was their first exposure to higher education. At least one completed his high school GED while undertaking the training.

In the world of MI-BEST, it doesn’t matter how well you’ve done in school or if you’ve ever attended. It DOES matter where you are going. In as little as two months, most students in the program gain employment in the high-demand field of allied health.

Back in February, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley announced BCCC was the recipient, along with four other Maryland community colleges, of $20,000 in MI-BEST program funds from the Maryland Workforce Corporation to develop an accelerated approach to the instruction of skills training and workplace preparation. The BCCC grant is being underwritten by the Annie E. Casey Foundation of Baltimore.

MI-BEST is based on the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges’ I-BEST model of education which challenges the conventional notion that basic skills instruction must be completed by students prior to starting college-level courses.

Maryland is among a handful of states adopting the model, whose goal is to speed up the rate at which Adult Basic Education and English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) students: (1) advance to college-level occupational programs; (2) complete credentials of value in the labor market; and (3) move into high-demand jobs offering good wages and opportunities for career advancement.

More MI-BEST training programs are coming to BCCC, in fiber optics, construction-weatherization, pharmacy technician and other fields. Things are getting exciting.


Monday, May 9, 2011

Community colleges: Equipping people for a tough job market by aligning them with needs

Just as it’s trying to do in education, Baltimore City Community College (BCCC) is making “putting people back to work” a community priority.

That’s why April 28 was such an important day at the college’s Maryland Center for Construction Technologies as students completed pre-apprenticeship training in the building and construction trades–and qualified themselves for immediate work in basic carpentry, electrical and plumbing occupations. The Baltimore Mayor’s Office of Employment Development and Goodwill Industries collaborated with BCCC to create a workforce instructional program at the Center designed to speed people’s prospects for re-employment. As part of their studies, the students received supporting instruction in basic math, job readiness and construction safety. In early March, evening classes were added for those unable to attend during the day. The entire effort was supported by a grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Students who completed their pre-apprenticeship training in construction and building trades show off their certificates Thursday, April 28 at Baltimore City Community College’s Maryland Center for Construction Technologies.

Ready-made ways to equip people for a tough job market or train them in hot jobs without much hassle or overhead are the stock and trade of community colleges. The Maryland Governor’s Workforce Investment Board lists construction as one of five focus areas in its efforts to develop a skilled workforce in the state. The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics notes basic construction industry jobs will grow by one-fifth from 2008-2018. This represents over 255,000 new positions created nationwide and a little over 5,000 in Maryland, when the number of new jobs is added to those requiring replacement workers for the ones who die, retire or move to other occupations. In the case of the BCCC Center, construction trades are moving students who lack significant training, or those trained in other occupations, out the door to a paycheck.

Students Gregganyah Orr (left) and O'Kima Davis plan to use their training to increase their earnings and pursue further study.

Given the hands-on nature of the work, the opportunity for close collaboration and mentoring by instructors leads many students to success and higher earning potential. And some may take the all-important step on the road to four-year college and university life: the achievement of an associate degree.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Community Colleges Can Break the Cycle of Failure in Education

If I asked you to describe the two most common attributes of the 20-year Internet, technology and communications revolution we’re seeing playing out around us, you’d probably say it’s the ability of really large organizations to market products in very personal ways, and the power of individuals—acting together as never before—to get what they want without having to wait for the mass market.

From the Apple iPod, which replaced the more limited SONY Walkman as the digitized personal stereo of choice; to the Google Alert, which pushes even the most parsed and refined news reported anywhere in the world (by anyone) to the person specifically requesting it, the purveyors of 21st century products and services need to connect with the preferences of their most likely customers. It’s no longer enough simply to try to anticipate them.

I realize my observation is far from profound. But this new, more interconnected and challenging world in which we find ourselves is here to stay. And I don't have to tell you: It’s growing even more personal and particular.

In the world of education, things are no different. As winds of change buffet people and societies in the macro, it’s time to pay more attention to what’s happening inside the micro-in the classrooms of cities across this nation particularly, but also throughout the world. It’s time to challenge traditional notions of what it means to educate people, and whether they emerge, positioned to learn. Will community colleges’ historic role as open access institutions—places which equip people for changing times and provide voice to the ill-equipped—cause them to become new centers of innovation and energized learning opportunity? Or, will traditional focus on funding formulas and unimaginative developmental education policies—the "one size fits all" mentality—transfix educators on enrollment and retention while student success remains negligible?

Such questions strike at the heart of what we might do as professionals in higher education, and what community colleges might do situated right in the middle of an educational continuum burdened by failures in public education at one end, but also great promise in American colleges and universities at the other. Will our unique constituents, community college-by-community college, be able to rely on what we say about the transformative benefits we seek to bring them, or is our true attention directed elsewhere?

It is in this spirit I want to repurpose this space after a brief hiatus, to gather your comments and observations. I'd like to start new conversations—with all of you "in the know"—so we can begin to embrace more innovative, perhaps community and regional approaches to the success of those we serve–both in education and workforce development. We've heard it said that "it takes a village." "The Know" is your place to share wisdom and passion on how we might spark a new revolution of learning in America.

In the coming days I expect to cover some of the things we're trying to innovate at Baltimore City Community College and in Baltimore, but this is not about one institution or city. More importantly, it's an analysis of how all of us in the community college movement might work to make sure we capture the highest aspirations and participation of talented members of society who have been failed–sometimes by themselves, often by the system, but hopefully never through our collective oversight as educators.

The road ahead will be challenging. Those we serve are busy. But their needs are personal and pressing. Are we to devise innovative community approaches to developmental education and literacy? Or do we put this aside in favor of the usual efforts to enroll students deemed more likely to succeed? What are community colleges doing in the area of early childhood education? Academic advisement? Helping dropped-out high school students break through barriers? What's it like to be a student in developmental education? How can mentoring and team-cohort learning help urban African American males who have experienced difficulty with their studies? Does it seem like anyone out there is listening?

I eagerly anticipate your interest, comments and contributions!


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

New Synergies -- and Options -- Flow From Community Colleges

As community colleges fill a critical void during troubled economic times – as the places students and workers alike seek much-needed training without the hefty time commitment and price tags of the four-year institutions – some amazing things are happening.

Because of their close ties to constituents, and the changing way employers and employees think about education and work, community colleges are forging an increasing number of synergistic relationships which speed people’s development of critical skills while supplying emerging industries with a steady stream of workers.

Soon-to-be BCCC Biotechnology graduate Agnieszka Tarasiewicz (left) and her classmate, Fresia Aguilar Kelley.

In this context, Baltimore City Community College (BCCC) and the University of Maryland, Baltimore recently held their first student orientation under the new BCCC Life Sciences Institute workforce training initiative, secured last year through $1.4 million in federal funding by Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.). The effort is particularly noteworthy because of where it is occurring – on UM’s downtown BioPark campus, home to both the BCCC institute and some of the world’s leading genetics and biotechnology firms.

For the first time in West Baltimore (and practically, anywhere), a major research university, a community college, students, faculty, researchers, scientists and members of the surrounding community including the Vivien T. Thomas Medical Arts Academy, a local Baltimore high school, have clustered together to achieve breakthroughs. The breakthroughs are scientific – genetics and other bioscience miracles which save lives; social, which revitalize the prospects of people in surrounding neighborhoods and forge healthy relationships between a great university and the people who live around it; and economic, when a burgeoning force like bioscience both energizes and reaps benefits from a busy urban academic and research center it helps to create.

Students enrolling in the BCCC Life Sciences Institute, though community college students studying for an associate degree, become a vital part of the University of Maryland community while remaining eligible for traditional scholarships and academic support which can assure success. And the results are positive: The college has seen a 33 percent increase in life science majors over the past year and a 73 percent retention rate. In fact, the number of degrees received has tripled in the program over the last five years. The BCCC Bioscience program also boasts a 58 percent successful persistence rate.

As part of the orientation event, dozens of biotech scientists and researchers engaged over 75 students majoring in biotechnology, environmental science and other science-related programs. Participating organizations included the Institute for Genome Sciences, SNBL Clinical Pharmacology Center and Paragon Bioservices, all of which reside at the BioPark.

Agnieszka Tarasiewicz, a fall 2010 associate degree graduate in biotechnology who came to the Life Sciences Institute from Poland, secured an internship study with Gliknik Inc., whose mission is to “discover, develop and bring to market truly novel therapies.” As part of her work, Agnieszka conducted research into antibodies and proteins using cell cultures. Gliknik is on the Life Sciences Institute advisory board.

Whether your goal is to succeed in better ways at work – or do well at a four-year university – community colleges can help show you the way. They’re economical, conveniently located and creatively nimble – in times requiring the capacity to summon all three.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

White House Summit on Community Colleges Holds Particular Meaning for Baltimore

BALTIMORE, Oct. 5, 2010 — President Obama’s national effort to spur college completion rates and the jobs which often accompany attendance at a community college met with a resounding welcome Tuesday in Baltimore, as students at Baltimore City Community College (BCCC) participated in a live webcast of the White House Summit on Community Colleges, hosted by Dr. Jill Biden.

The consensus among BCCC students: Community college has made all the difference in helping them tackle previously out-of-reach goals.

For Trina Peacher, BCCC accounting major, the biggest attribute of her education
has been the way it has helped her stay motivated and overcome obstacles.

“This place gives me focus, like a moving spirit,” she says. “I have found the education here to be so important to progressing toward my goals. Because BCCC also offers some of lowest tuition in Maryland, this has represented a huge value to me in terms of cost.”

BCCC accounting major Trina Peacher

Trina is on track to finish her Associate of Applied Science degree in accounting over the next year after taking some time at BCCC to figure out her career path.

Donte Johnson, 31, is a single father. He attended the White House webcast impressed at how much the subject matter applies to his own life.

Providing a one-word answer to a question at the very heart of Tuesday’s White House discussions – “how has community college equipped you to meet your most pressing concerns?” – Donte replied, “Biotechnology.”

BCCC biotechnology major Donte Johnson

He works as a pharmacy technician while pursuing biotechnology studies at BCCC’s state-of-the-art Life Sciences Institute (LSI) at the University of Maryland BioPark in West Baltimore (opened in fall 2009). LSI can connect students to “earn while you learn” laboratory assistant, internship and other work opportunities in some of the world’s leading genetics and bioscience firms, which share the same building as LSI and are only “an elevator ride away.”

Donte hopes to parlay his previous trade school education (where he learned how to be a pharmacy tech) into a four-year degree at the University of Maryland.

So what can a community college do to improve life in Baltimore? Donte says, “we need to focus on jobs that exist around here. We need a place which can connect us better to the community and the employers who make it up. President Obama is right to tap places like BCCC in this effort.”

For 2010 BCCC graduate and international student Ekaterina Muranova, community college was the most obvious pathway to exploring her passion in environmental science, and at BCCC she was active – as a member of the student Environmental Science Club, participant in campus-wide recycling projects and as an analyst in a water usage study at the college’s Inner Harbor campus.

BCCC environmental science graduate Ekaterina Muranova

Having emigrated from Russia a mere five years ago, Rina (as her friends like to call her) found a way to gain education in her field, meet people from all over the world (BCCC students hail from over 100 countries), and learn about other cultures.

“I’ve always liked science,” she says. “In Russia, making money was very important, but the way BCCC has promoted STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math – I have learned all the ways environmental science can be a viable career option. We’ve got to make the planet a better place!”

During the run-up to her BCCC associate’s degree in environmental science, Rina assisted a reclamation project at Baltimore’s Carroll Park, a water treatment facility which had become polluted and clogged by trash thrown into storm sewers across Baltimore City. The material eventually found its way to the park. As Rina would discover, part of the reclamation process came to involve public education on the importance of proper waste disposal.

President Obama hails community colleges as “the unsung heroes of the American educational system.” Meet the unsung heroes of Baltimore City.