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Montgomery College Student Success Stories

A Developing Career
Insights, Fall ’02

Stephen Agricola ’86Alum Stephen Agricola ’86 was working a dead-end bartending job when fate sent him a messenger in the person of Montgomery College’s Tom Logan. Agricola’s “pipe dream” of being a freelance photojournalist had just been burst by The National Geographic’s rejection of a pictorial essay of the Hawaiian Ox, which he and friend had produced, while living on the island state. Logan, who was then directing Montgomery College’s Visual Communications Technologies Program and is now an instructional dean, had heard about this ambitious young photographer through a mutual friend. Logan urged Agricola to “come take my photography class.” Agricola, who had previously taken classes at Montgomery College, decided to return.

Now, nearly 12 years later, Agricola credits that offer with giving his career in photography a start, and more importantly, with helping him to discover a passion for teaching. “I still get excited about taking a good picture,” the thin and wiry-built 46-year-old, professional photographer says, as he paces his classroom in Rockville’s VCT department an hour before his students would arrive. “But there is nothing like teaching. This is one job I always look forward to.”

Since 1998, Agricola has been a part-time faculty member at Montgomery College, teaching alongside some of the same professors who taught him the basics of his craft. In pursuit of his profession and a curiosity about the inner workings of people, Agricola has earned a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in applied behavioral analysis from Hood College in Frederick. He is currently working towards a Ph.D. in psychology at George Washington University. He jokes it is not such a stretch that a former bartender would find an interest in “why people act and react the way they do.”

While he makes his living in the difficult and fickle world of freelance photography—he sells his photographs to 30 different stock photo agencies around the world—Agricola finds the “passing of knowledge” a much greater challenge. “I feel like a failure when one of my students wants to drop,” he says, the fervor of his feelings evident in his clutching and unclutching of a pen he holds in his hand. “I just want one more class, one more week to convince them they can do it.”

His belief in the potential of his students, he says, is a reflection of the belief placed in him by his former professors at the College and the self confidence they kindled in him. “They would not let you fail,” Agricola notes, adding, “I always wanted to succeed, but had no direction; my experience at Montgomery College gave me that purpose and direction.”