P __________________ foundation for what I would become was my co-curricular experience.” hilip Sisson, MCC’s new Provost and Vice President of Academic & Student Affairs, has spent more than 20 years in various roles in New England community colleges. Now, with his first year at Middlesex under his belt, Sisson is more committed than ever to meeting the needs of community college students and making a difference in their lives. Once I started working at community colleges and saw the rightness of the work that is done here, and the diversity of the populations that we serve, I was hooked. Philip Sisson Provost and Vice President of Academic & Student Affairs At Middlesex, Sisson plans to influence the college’s agenda for success by making sure everybody is focused on the same goals. “Basically, we are coming up with a set of Institutional Student Learning Outcomes to which the entire college is committed. This college is engaged in the education of students holistically,” he said. “So, in addition to asking our students to take a series of specific courses, we also want them to be good critical thinkers and good communicators,” said Sisson. “We want them to realize the value of collaboration, organization and selfassessment. These skills wrap around the typical academic learning outcomes; they cut across the curriculum and across the college.” Sisson also believes it’s especially important for students to be self-reflective about their educational journey. “Education is not something we do to students,” he said. “Education is something in which students need to be partners.” As a first-generation college student himself, Sisson understands the importance of that partnership. “Neither one of my parents finished high school. I didn’t know what college was all about, but it was easy enough for me to see what I needed to learn,” he said. “I knew I needed to learn to speak well and to write well. I understood that to figure out real-world problems, I needed to be competent in a particular academic content area.” Today’s college students also have the ability to understand that, he said. The task is to help them create an educational pathway that will serve them well as they transfer to another college or move into the workforce. “That’s a big challenge,” said Sisson. “I’m not sure I’d like to be a 22-year-old trying to find a job in this economy. However, unless we figure out how to help them figure it out, we’re not doing our job.” (continued on next page) “Once I started working at community colleges and saw the rightness of the work that is done here, and the diversity of the populations that we serve, I was hooked,” he said. “We take students – wherever they are on the educational spectrum – and turn them into lifelong learners. That’s exciting.” Before coming to Middlesex, Sisson served as Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs at Cape Cod Community College. Previously, he was Dean of CCCC’s Division of Language & Literature, Mathematics, Natural Sciences & Life Fitness. He also served as Dean of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences at Community College of Rhode Island, as well as Dean of Lifelong Learning & Workforce Education. Prior to that, he was Director of Continuing Education & Community Services at Bristol Community College. Despite the depth of his previous experience, Sisson has discovered that being the chief academic officer at MCC has its challenges. “Administratively, Middlesex is organized differently than most other community colleges,” said Sisson. “It’s a unique system that requires collaboration. You can’t work in a silo here. It’s critical to reach across the aisle and around the corner to make things happen.” Sisson’s new job description is also unique: At Middlesex, the provost is in charge of both academic and student affairs. Ultimately, he’s responsible for what happens inside the classroom, as well as the activities that go on outside of class – which is fine by him. __________________ “I really believe in a blend of the curricular and the co-curricular,” said Sisson. “Some administrators feel that dilutes the job of the provost, but not me. I think the experience students have inside and outside the classroom is critical, and if we can properly integrate the two, it makes for a more enriched educational experience.” Sisson earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Rhode Island College, and has completed coursework for a doctorate in higher education administration at UMass Boston. However, it was at Rhode Island College where he developed his love of education, as well as his appreciation for the synthesis of academics and student activities. “I was heavily involved in extracurricular activities as an undergraduate,” he said. “I was a resident assistant in the dorms, president of student government, a member of the debate team, and served as student representative on the Board of Trustees,” said Sisson. “Although I got an excellent education – I always planned to be a teacher – what really laid the 4 Phil Sisson at work – Presenting the 2010 NISOD Award to Professor John Femia; at a Strategic Planning presentation with Lois Alves, Vice President of Enrollment Services, Research & Planning; after the Fitness Trail 5K Challenge. Profiles |5|