*EDITOR’S NOTE: Candidates submitted their own biographies
Mark R. Stephens, Chairman of the Triton College Board of Trustees, has devoted over half of his life to public service in education. First elected to office in 1989 to the Board of Rosemont Elementary School District 78, where he proudly graduated as Class Valedictorian in 1973, Mr. Stephens focused his energies on reshaping the academic mission of Rosemont School, returning it to its rightful place among the top schools in the area. A graduate of East Leyden High School, Mark attended Triton College before graduating from DePaul University with a Bachelor of Science in Business. Mr. Stephens received his Juris Doctorate from DePaul Law School in 1988. In 1991, he successfully ran for election to the Triton College Board with the goal of reestablishing Triton College as a respected school that would put concern for student success ahead of all other objectives.
Upon taking office in November of 1991, Mr. Stephens was elected Vice Chairman by his fellow Board Members, and set out to change the culture of Triton College. With an aging campus and college finances in disarray, Stephens’ message of fiscal responsibility and upgrading College facilities resonated with his fellow Board Members; in 1992 the Board elected him Chairman, a post he has held uninterrupted to this day.
Throughout the early years of his tenure, Chairman Stephens worked with Triton’s administration, faculty, mid-managers, classified employees and staff to shore up the District’s finances by eliminating fiscal inefficiencies and directing resources into refurbishing the Triton Campus. In 2000, the first major rehabilitation project was completed as the Triton College Library was reopened for student use. Over the course of the next twenty-one years, the College has undergone extensive renovation. From campus wide roof replacements, replacement of aging heating and cooling systems, reconstruction of sidewalks and parking lots to installation of new classroom carpets and furnishings, modernization of science labs, installation of a campus wide fiber optics network and modernization of student computer labs, the rebuilding of Triton College continued. In 2015, the College proudly unveiled its newly renovated Health and Science Building, with state of the art equipment devoted to enhancing students’ educational experience in these burgeoning areas of study. Along with a newly renovated Student Center, a modernized Cernan Center, a new Athletic Complex and rehabilitated Fitness Center, a modernized Greenhouse facility for horticulture students, and new Bistro and Bakery facilities for hospitality students, these improvements have remade Triton’s campus into a modern, student focused facility. While accomplishing nearly $100 million in campus-wide upgrades and improvements, Triton College has maintained affordable tuition for its students and avoided burdening taxpayers, having raised property taxes only five times in the last 30 years.
While Chairman Stephens has devoted a great deal of his adult life to Triton College, his heart burns brightest for his family. He and his wife Lisa are the proud and loving parents of daughters Jacqueline and Michelle and son Mark, as well as the proud and loving grandparents of grandson Aiden and granddaughter Everly.
What is your understanding of the role of a board trustee?
The role of a Community College Trustee is to develop policies that guide the school to provide a variety of quality educational opportunities for its’ students. In developing these policies, it is important that a trustee consider the effects of the policies not only today, but years down the road. The college exists to serve the community, and so each decision that a trustee makes must be with the districts’ students and residents in the forefront of their mind. The college employees that carry out these polices must have a clear understanding of the Board’s collective vision, and must also understand that their primary function is to serve the community through the performance of their daily job tasks.
Do you believe that Triton College adequately serves the needs of its Black, Brown and otherwise disadvantaged students? Please explain.
The most significant disadvantage that adversely affects our student body, regardless of race, creed, color, or sexual orientation is not being adequately prepared for the successful completion of college course work. Over 70% of our students testing below grade level on Triton’s incoming student placement test are minority students. To address this problem, Triton College administrators, faculty and staff worked together to develop the state of the art iLaunch Math Lab that utilizes innovative teaching methodology along with state of the art educational software to make the remediation process more effective and efficient.
For our students that are economically disadvantaged, this is critical in that they have a limited amount of grant funding available to them. The more time and money the student spends remediating, the less likely it is that the student will be able to finish the college course work they set out to complete. The iLaunch Math Lab has reduced the overall remedial course work in math by approximately 20%. Buoyed by this success, Triton’s administration, faculty, and staff are actively working to develop a writing lab that will hopefully have similar success for those students with remedial needs in reading/writing.
Does the Triton College administration have a healthy relationship with its various bargaining units? Please explain.
I prefer to think of our Triton family members as employee groups rather than “bargaining units”. In my years of service at Triton College, I have been fortunate enough to experience highly talented people working together in a cordial environment to advance the educational aspirations of our students and to better serve all of the Triton communities.
Is a Triton College education affordable? Please explain.
Triton College is the best educational bargain in the State of Illinois. Triton’s tuition rate is comparable to all surrounding community colleges. Furthermore, the cost of completing the first two years of college course work at Triton is substantially less than the same course work at a four year institution. With our broad range of educational offerings in modern, updated classrooms with state of the art equipment, I feel that Triton College is not only affordable, it’s the best educational buy in the State of Illinois.
Is Triton College sufficiently engaged with its feeder communities? Please explain.
Triton College has worked hard to engage all district communities and to establish a feeling of community throughout the district. Whether it’s grade school students visiting the Cernan Center to learn about science and space exploration to our high school students affording themselves the opportunity to earn college credit while still in high school to high school athletic programs utilizing our newly renovated facilities to Triton College Foundation events that bring together residents of all the villages in the Triton District, Triton College does a great job in engaging our district’s communities.
Does the college have adequate COVID-19 mitigations and protocols in place? Please explain.
The COVID-19 mitigation protocols put in place at Triton College have been very effective in minimizing the instances of infection at the College. From mandated mask wearing to six foot distancing markers to multiple hand sanitation stations in every building to having our entire custodial staff trained and certified in COVID-19 cleaning to the upgrading of our air filtration systems to the highest efficiency filter available, Triton College has been thorough and diligent in making the campus safe. While the majority of classes shifted to remote learning in March, 2020, classes requiring lab work or other face to face learning have been held on campus in person with minimal occurrence of COVID-19 infections.