Program: Automotive Technology
Mike Foss fully understands when his Automotive Technology students tell him that they are proud of their College of DuPage education.
"I started my education at College of DuPage and I am a graduate of the Automotive program," he explained. "It was the beginning of a long twisted educational path for me, but it was the best experience to date."
In fact, Foss' education began long before enrolling for his first class at COD "when I was young, my dad was always working on some old car or truck on the weekend, and I was there getting in the way! My story was I was trying to help."
After COD, Foss employed his education by working as a professional vehicle technician at independent automotive repair shops for 16 years.
"The independent shops work on anything that entered the door. This made my life interesting ... it was never the same problem twice. Every day was a learning experience -- in fact, I was never learning one thing a day but several. Most of my duties entailed, electrical diagnosis and repair, drivability problems (check engine lights, etc.), major engine repair, alignments, air conditioning and brakes."
The process of problem-solving gives Foss a great sense of satisfaction. But he discovered that one thing gave him more satisfaction than fixing a vehicle -- and that is teaching someone else how the process is done. Like many teachers, from kindergarten through graduate school, Foss loves seeing the "I get it" look on a students' faces. And once they "get it," he hopes they take away more than just what they learn from classroom or lab work.
"First and foremost, I want them to learn to learn. The world is changing at such an alarming rate that what is cutting edge today is passé tomorrow. The automotive industry owns the rights to this idea," he said. "Learning is life-long, not just to get a diploma from College of DuPage.
"The second is a sense of pride in whatever they do. To be able to step back and say 'I did my best today.' And, sometimes that might not be good enough, and you have to be able to say, 'I will do better tomorrow.' The third thing is self evaluation. The student must be able to learn from both the good and bad experiences."
"I try to reach out to my students and help them understand very complex systems on automobiles the way my past instructors helped me understand their fields of expertise. I also draw inspiration from the graduates from the automotive program. They are all special because they have 'made it' in the industry. They are shop owners, managers, line technicians, parts counter experts, industry representatives, teachers and industry trouble shooters."