Dean of Student Services offers glimpse of his own academic journey

At MCCC, student success starts with Gerald McCarty II.

As Dean of Student Services, McCarty deals in all areas of student success on campus. He works directly with students and with various resource departments, including Heck’s Market Food Pantry.

“Number one, I can assist my people,” he said. “I’m also able to do some outreach in the community to let the community know what things we have available for our students.”

The 59-year-old is originally from Goodrich, a village near Flint. He worked at Flint’s Baker College for 30 years, starting in financial aid and later becoming vice president of student affairs.

Gerald McCarty, dean of student services, has been at MCCC nearly three years. (Photo by Reese Bowling.)

He now lives in Belleville and this November will mark three years he has worked at MCCC.

As part of student success, McCarty said one of the goals of the college is to increase student retention rates. This includes ensuring students receive balanced class schedules, working with students who need accommodations through Disability Services and utilizing the testing center in Founders Hall.

“A large part of what we do involves our tutoring. Our faculty tutor and our peer tutors reach out to students that are not doing as well in the classroom and say, ‘Hey, would you like to come down and take advantage of free tutoring we have here?’” he said.

Additionally, McCarty and his staff work closely with faculty using the Early Alert System, which he said is having a direct impact on retention. Through the system, faculty can help identify at-risk students and connect them to on-campus resources.

“Having what I call those ‘wrap-around services,’ not only just the tutoring and managing your schedule but the food pantry and mental health services, lets students know we care about them and that helps with retention as well,” McCarty said.

While it is too early in the Early Alert System’s program to determine the exact impact, McCarty said positive data for retention is coming in and he feels staff are making all the difference.

“The first and only reason this is a success is our faculty and staff. The faculty are able to get us the students that need our assistance and are helping students in their classrooms,” he said. “Faculty and staff are working hand-in-hand for the betterment of students, and the students feel that.”

McCarty acknowledges the impact personal stories have on students. During new student orientation, he often shares a glimpse of his own academic journey.

“I think, many times, you look at other people and you think it was easy, what they did. I share my personal story with students because mine was not easy,” McCarty said. “I was not an all-A student. I got mostly B’s and C’s. I was sitting where you are sitting as a student, and I faced the same challenges.”

He attended Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant and earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration, majoring in accounting. He later returned to Central for a master’s degree in administration.

Though struggling in undergraduate school, McCarty was inspired by his father to get his master’s degree.

“The honest to God truth was my dad said go back and get your master’s degree before you have kids and get married,” he said. “I didn’t know if I was ready, so I told my dad I’d go for one semester. I took two classes and got two A’s, so I kept going.”

McCarty feels one of the reasons he was successful in graduate school is that he identified his learning style.

“In undergrad, it was multiple choice, true and false. Those type of exams. That wasn’t my learning style,” he said. “I only got one A in undergrad in political science, and I wasn’t used to that. I was like, ‘You’ve made a mistake. You’ve got the wrong guy. I don’t normally get A’s.’ But I identified my learning style in grad school.”

As a father of five daughters, McCarty felt it was important to draw on his own experiences when preparing them for college.

“The main thing I tried to impart is to not be afraid to talk to your professor. Most of the time, they’re all very friendly and they will help you. That’s the number one thing,” he said.

Other wisdom included attending every class and going to tutoring sessions.

Reflecting on what he would say to a younger version of himself, McCarty thought for a moment before offering direction.

“Don’t get so caught up in the grades,” he said.” I really wanted to achieve higher grades and I stressed myself out sometimes, trying to study so much. Second, get some help. Take advantage of tutoring. I would say be gentler to myself and do the best I can.”