January 20, 2022

Making connections

TC3 creates job to improve connections to communities

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Deborah Mohlenhoff, the new director of community outreach for Tompkins Cortland Community College, is shown Tuesday in her office in TC3’s Cortland Extension Center. Mohlenhoff will work to improve contacts with both Cortland and Tompkins counties.

The 1890 House Museum could start using Tompkins Cortland Community College students to print off its promotional brochures.

And TC3 students could interact with Tompkins County youngsters of color, offering positive examples of what a higher education experience looks like to kids who might otherwise not picture it for themselves.

Lime bikes are now being used at TC3’s Dryden campus and in the village of Dryden to help people get around.

All of the above are examples of what a new position created at Tompkins Cortland Community College, aims to do — or in the case of the Lime bikes, has already done.

Deborah Mohlenhoff is the college’s new Director of Community Outreach and Engagement. Since midsummer Mohlenhoff has been overseeing some projects (like the implementation of Lime bikes on campus) at TC3, though she’s officially only held the new title for about a week.

Previously Mohlenhoff oversaw student activities at TC3 — a role she held for eight years, after a 17-year career at Ithaca College.

But as TC3 President Orinthia Montague’s goal has been to make the college more community focused, she created the community outreach position to oversee projects that can do just that.

Mohlenhoff, also deputy mayor for the city of Ithaca, was chosen for the post because of her experience in higher education and her community connections and ability to network.

Speaking on Tuesday at TC3’s Cortland extension center on south Main Street, Mohlenhoff said the goal of the job is to increase the partnerships the college has in both Tompkins and Cortland counties.

The end result is to help students feel connected to the communities, to spread goodwill, to serve those communities and to perhaps entice area students to attend TC3, Mohlenhoff said.

Although the college has already done these things to a certain extent, previously there was no specific person to oversee it all — it was just another task for the president to handle, Mohlenhoff said.

But with Mohlenhoff in the role, there is now a specific pipeline to connect the college with the community.

“We’re asking the community, ‘What do you need and if we can fill the need, we’ll do it,’“ said Mohlenhoff.

Montague said she created the position to serve as a conduit for the community to connect with TC3 on possible collaborations and partnerships.

Mohlenhoff and Montague already met with the 1890 House Museum in Cortland to discuss possible partnerships. One idea was for graphic design students, who are learning about brochure printing, to print real brochures for the 1890 House through their course.

This experience would be twofold: It would fulfill SUNY’s educational goal that students have a hands-on learning experience, and it would provide a needed service for the community partner, Mohlenhoff said.

That partnership hasn’t been formalized yet, but it was discussed.

So was another idea — connecting TC3 students of color with My Brother’s Keeper youths. My Brother’s Keeper was launched by President Barack Obama in 2014 as a way to create opportunities for boys and young men of color.

The partnership idea is that local youths who are involved with My Brother’s Keeper would come to the Ithaca extension center to do their homework and interact with TC3 students of color. These interactions could possibly make some kids who otherwise might not have considered college see a future in higher education, Mohlenhoff said.

The Lime bikes came about because both the village of Dryden and TC3 students saw a need for another form of transportation around town and campus, she said. The college and village worked out a memorandum of understanding and now both community members and students can get around on Lime bikes, stationed throughout the community and campus.

“For us it was a win-win — students need transportation, sometimes even if it’s coming from the residence hall down the hill to class,” she said.

Students, or anyone with a .edu email address, are offered a 50 percent discount on the ride. It’s partnerships like these that Mohlenhoff wants to see more of.