The Tommie M. Allen Recreation Center served as the host for the December Corporate meeting for the MSC Class Six. This meeting featured multiple speakers all tackling higher education challenges in their own way. We heard from Tennell Atkins, District 8 council member, Marnese Elder, President of the Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce, Brittney Farr the regional and local relations manager for Dallas Area Rapid Transit, Dr. Joseph Seabrooks, President of Cedar Valley College, and Marty Cox a Senior Human Resources Business Partner with Amazon. All panelists provided unique perspectives as well as various points of interest to consider when discussing challenges associated with higher education.

Council member Atkins opened the discussion with background about District 8 saying “we are a blank canvas”. He made a point to mention both opportunities as well as accomplishments that District 8 has seen over the last few years. Challenges around transportation, housing, and workforce have lingered however, having the Bryon Nelson Golf Tournament will bring development to the area. In addition, both Paul Quinn College and UNT Dallas have grown and increased their student populations improving the awareness and traffic around both colleges.

The topic of traditional vs. non-traditional education was brought up to give the landscape in which the ways education has shifted. Dr. Seabrooks believes that college is for everyone, they just have to understand what their interests are and find the appropriate college program. Dr. Seabrooks mentioned the pursuit of non-credit programs as well as career/technical education in addition to the traditional credit model. Marty Cox from Amazon mentioned that they have a Career Choice program for their employees in which Amazon will pay for their tuition no matter what their educational goals.

The discussion then took a broader turn as Council Member Atkins asked about things Dallas can do to be a great city and bridge the gaps. The topics that were brought up were directly related to economic development, strategic planning, and culture change around developing a community. For the first time, the corporate meeting became less about what was happening to what can/needs to be done. It seemed to be more empowering to have this discussion about our ideas and suggestions versus just hearing about problems. This discussion allowed for various takeaways, one such takeaway for Class Six member Andrea Durham was:

“Current and future generations may have to get creative when it comes to securing post-secondary education and career development. A 4-year college may not be the most logical, or even the best, next step after high school. Individuals may want to consider entering the workforce immediately after high school in order to: 1) determine what career path is best suited for them and 2) take advantage of benefits offered by an employer such as tuition reimbursement. It is also important to understand that many students will not have the privilege to go away to school, but need to stay near family.” 

Needless to say District 8 has plenty of opportunities but the question shouldn’t be where do we begin but rather what’s next.