100 Years, 100 Stories
This is one in a series of stories about the leadership of the Metropolitan Community College Foundation board. MCC Foundation directors serve as ambassadors for the college, advocate in the community on its behalf, and raise money to support student scholarships and special campus initiatives.
CICI ROJAS, secretary of the Foundation’s 25-member board of directors, joined the board in 2011.
Thirty-second bio: Rojas is CEO and president of the Central Exchange, which she describes as “the premier women’s business organization in the Midwest.” It focuses on development for women in all stages of their careers. Central Exchange’s two locations host 500 programs a year, all over a meal.
She was formerly vice president of community engagement for Truman Medical Centers and president/CEO of the Greater Kansas City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. She also led the Greater Dallas Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and served as senior vice president of strategic alliance for the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C. She is a former Kansas City parks and recreation commissioner and is active in a number of local, state and national civic organizations.
An employer’s perspective: When Rojas was approached about serving on the Foundation board, “I think they felt that to have someone on the board who had experience working with their graduates would be helpful to them.” Truman Medical Centers hired many MCC grads who were riding “the health care wave,” she says.
A second chance: The MCC grads Rojas met at Truman had typically been nontraditional students who needed to “retool” their lives or in some cases just needed an opportunity. “Myself, I was someone who had the good fortune to get a second chance. That’s what a lot of these folks need and what they’re provided at MCC.”
She adds, “We liked to hire people who had a little bit of (life) experience. Sometimes experience outside of health care can be good. I think that’s part of the value.”
Her own life experience: Rojas grew up in the Argentine neighborhood of Kansas City, Kan. Her higher education career started at Kansas City Kansas Community College, where she juggled classes with raising a baby. Later, she earned a liberal arts degree at UMKC.
Perception shift: Once on the Foundation board, Rojas found some of the numbers on MCC students “eye-opening.” For instance, the student body skewed a little older than she’d guessed. (In fall 2014, 35 percent of students across the five campuses were older than traditional college age. Average age of students: 25.) She was also surprised by how many students the system serves (about 27,000 credit students in 2014-15).
And speaking of numbers: “When you sit in the meetings you become acutely aware of the (budget) discussions in Jefferson City” and how they affect “how we’re going to be able to deliver quality programs, quality education.”
One thing gratifying about being on the board is “just the fact that we get to see where all the dollars we raise go.” Rojas co-chaired MCC’s Centennial Celebration last spring at the Kansas City Convention Center, which brought in a record amount for the College (more than $420,000).
The role of a community college: “It’s a realistic option for many people,” Rojas says. “A lot of folks don’t see four-year programs as a viable option.” But they can envision “an interim experience, something closer to them, something tangible.”