Getting to Know Michael Poindexter

November 5, 2019

Though he’s been at the College for nearly two months, many still haven’t had the opportunity meet Michael Poindexter, TCC’s new interim vice president for student affairs.

Mr. Poindexter comes to us from Sacramento, California and brings a wealth of knowledge along with him. With more than 40 years in higher education, Michael has held numerous roles in colleges across the nation in which he has worked to increase enrollment, improve student satisfaction, grow retention rates, and implement guided pathways structures. Most recently, Poindexter served as the Interim President at Sacramento City College after holding the role of Consultant to the Chancellor and Vice Chancellor of the City College of San Francisco.

The Week sat down with Poindexter last week to talk about who he is, and what he has in mind for TCC.

What’s your background in Student Affairs?

I’ve held just about every position in the student affairs arena. From being a counselor, to being a director, a dean, a vice president, a vice chancellor, president, faculty. So I’m pretty aware of just about every area within the institution. I’ve even worked in the cafeteria as a student. I’ve been exposed to every position that’s out there. It gives me a lot of insight into what an institution can be doing and how everyone can help students be successful.

How is the College doing?

Once I decided to take this on, I was sent a lot of information. I was surprised at what I saw. And when I got here, I was even more surprised at the work being done, which is comparable to any community college that’s been in the Journals of Higher Education. The work at TCC is innovative and creative and can measure up against any of those institutions.

When you look at the work that’s being done in professional development. When you look at the work being done in diversity and equity. When you look at even how we build and renovate, it’s just amazing to see that caliber of work being done in Tulsa.

What have you learned about TCC’s students?

You have to know your students, where they come from, who they are, for them to be able to learn effectively. From our data, we know our students are thinking very differently than we are.

They want to work harder in a classroom. They want to work in teams. They want to spend more time in helping a professor in how they learn. They want to be accountable to someone. That’s not reflected in the survey that goes to faculty and staff, but it is reflected in the student survey. Not just for TCC, but all over the country.

In other words, they want more from us.

How do you bridge that gap?

It’s all about connection. I use that word a lot when I’m talking about our students. They want someone to care about them, and many of our students come from a place where no one cares, where they are invisible. Connection and engagement are the difference.

You frequently speak about Equity and its importance to the College. How vital to student success is the College’s equity work?

In my meetings with the College, I’ve been very specific about how equity needs to be the foundation of the work that’s happening at the institution. We need to build equity into everything we do at TCC because of our student population.

We lose hundreds of students each semester, mainly because the level of engagement and connectivity that was needed to keep them here was missing. If we’re going to change the number of students who are leaving the College, we’re going to have to be more engaged and connected. We have to know who they are.

Students talk about how they want their professors and staff to know who they are. They are heavily interested in the faculty and staff being connected with them, so they can be accountable to someone.

Many of our students who attend don’t know anyone like faculty and staff. This is the first time they’ve had the opportunity to work with people of this caliber. But it appears students may not feel like they belong, especially first generation students and students of color. They are waiting for someone to reach out, for someone to see them. They see themselves as invisible. They see themselves as bothering us if they need help.

They want to know us. They want to be like us. But not all of us are providing that avenue for them to enter. Not all of us are inviting them in to find out who we are and how we got there.

Equity is going to have to be something major. We have so much data on our students, but are we really looking at it? Do we care? We have to do a better job of rolling out that data and having those discussions.

What are you excited about?

I’m excited about the students, the faculty, the administration and their willingness to take risks to become a better institution. I’m excited by how humble the college is about its success, and how they think about the level of work that is needed to be done to be a better institution.

I want to get everyone singing from the same hymnal. I want people to know the strategic plan and the values and vision of the institution, and be able to center everything they do around those important documents. We could almost see an overnight change if everyone was on the same page. If everyone was being accountable to the strategic plan, the values, and being familiar with the data of who our students are.