News / Primary

Mary: Highlights in the week of a NWCCI advisor

The Northwest Community College Initiative (NWCCI) is happy to have Mary Mele rejoining our team! She will be Whatcom’s NWCCI Advisor while Iris Anthony is out of the office on maternity leave. Mary was a NWCCI advisor from 2009 to 2011 and has been a friendship family for three years. Here she writes about the highlight of her first week back, seeing how one assignment gave NWCCI students the opportunity to develop presentation skills, practice communication strategies and to learn more about American culture.


The highlight of my first week back was watching students do research and give presentations for their pre-academic class. The ESL program had given the students an assignment to complete a research project around a topic of American attitudes. The range was wide:  pets, cars, recycling and civic rules, evidence of student curiosity about attitudes they were encountering. Students were to ask 15 people in four different venues a series of questions and then to present their findings to the class.

Some students were shocked that they were expected to present publicly. They had never presented to a class or group before. This is not, apparently, a widespread practice.

The results were impressive. Their PowerPoints used graphs to illustrate the demographics of their study sample and included the answers which surprised them, as well as a sampling of questions. In addition to improving their presentation skills, students evaluated what they had learned from the exercise – confidence, conversational conventions, and to ask questions rather than make assumptions. These new skills will help them be successful participants on the NWCCI program and in their future careers.

For example, Muhammad Farid, a student from Pakistan, asked random strangers about their attitudes toward recycling.

Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 10.08.58 AM

Composting Worms NWCCI

Composting with worms

“I choose recycling as my topic because I saw how clean Bellingham is and I wondered why. There is no trash on the streets. When I tried to know more about this, I saw it was very cheap and easy to do this recycling. You love to do this! For many things you need computers and technology but for this recycling, it’s simple. You put it in a bin. Everyone knows what it is! Everyone does it!” he said.

Well, almost everyone. He was trying to get an official at a Bellingham recycling facility by phone and instead just got an impatient secretary who told him the whole idea was nonsense. Nonetheless he persisted and found people highly enthusiastic about different recycling efforts. “One man uses worms in his compost.” The audience engagement was exciting. The gentleman invited Farid to see his worms and Farid went. A photo op!

I came away with a sense of how very bright these students are. Their use of critical thinking skills both in their presentations and in their response to presentations clearly illustrated how they came to be selected in their home countries. These are smart, focused and critically thinking young adults.

The NWCCI program is part of the Community College Initiative, an exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The opinions expressed in this blog by writers and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Northwest Community College Initiative program, Edmonds Community College, Whatcom Community College, Pierce College, the United States Department of State or any employee thereof. NWCCI and Edmonds Community College are not responsible for the accuracy of the information supplied by the student bloggers.

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