Governor’s State of the State maintains focus on Wisconsin’s technical colleges

By: Conor Smyth, Wisconsin Technical College System

MADISON – In his State of the State address Tuesday night, Governor Scott Walker highlighted the role of the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) in providing economic opportunity for individuals and a talent pipeline for Wisconsin’s employers.

Governor Walker introduced Amber Mies, who recently enrolled in the welding program at Waukesha County Technical College, and her five year-old daughter, Cheyenne. The Governor highlighted the fact that graduates of this and other technical college programs in key sectors can look forward to high-paying, family-supporting careers.

“We appreciate the Governor’s investments in the technical colleges, and support his goal of sustained economic competitiveness and growth,” said WTCS President Morna Foy. “As I travel the state, employers in every sector and geographic region tell me that they recognize the importance of their local technical college in achieving that goal.”

“The Governor once again made it clear that he recognizes the critical nature of the talent pipeline delivered by our colleges,” said Drew Petersen, chair of the WTCS Board.

Governor Walker is scheduled to deliver his 2015-17 biennial budget proposal, which includes state funding for WTCS, on February 3.

The Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) offers more than 300 programs awarding two-year associate degrees, one- and two-year technical diplomas and short-term technical diplomas and certificates. In addition, the System is the major provider of customized business solutions and technical assistance to Wisconsin employers. Nearly 330,000 individuals access the technical colleges for education and training each year.

Posted in General

The Graduations I’ve Seen

The following article first appeared in the December 24, 2014, Fennimore Times as part of its “Buzz About Town” series. It is reprinted here with permission from Fennimore Times Editor Rob Callahan.

I love graduation ceremonies! For graduating students and their families, they are a celebration of achievement and a beginning of what comes next. For faculty and staff members, they mark the end of another semester and the beginning of a well-earned, though brief respite. Graduations drip with pride of accomplishment, camaraderie, and joy!

I have participated in more graduations than I care to count. The most recent was Southwest Wisconsin Technical College’s Winter 2014 Graduation Ceremony. Mr. Jim Kohlenberg, Vice Chairperson of the Board of Directors, conferred sixty-eight degrees and diplomas.

Ms. Megan Hamilton, 2008 barber/cosmetology alumna and owner of Tres Chic Salon in Lancaster, offered the invited speech. Another entrepreneur, Ms. Katy Cleary presented the graduating student speech. Ms. Cleary is a licensed auctioneer and owner of Katy’s Corral, a horse and tack business in Volga, Iowa. She received an associate’s degree in business management. Both women spoke of the importance of their instructors and Southwest Tech in their lives and toward their business success.

Graduations everywhere have similarities and differences. All are formal ceremonies and joyous celebrations. All recognize the achievements of students and confer the credentials those students have earned. All include speeches and music. Most involve the wearing of academic regalia, including gowns, funny hats, and—depending on the unique achievements of the individual—stoles, cords, or hoods. The differences among graduations are always interesting and based in the unique culture, practices, and traditions of different institutions.

My baccalaureate graduation at the University of Illinois was a mass, impersonal affair. Individual graduates were not recognized; the student body simply stood as a whole to hear the president confer all the degrees at once. When I learned I would have worse Assembly Hall seats for graduation than I had for the preceding basketball season, I decided to skip the ceremony. A few years later at Iowa State University, Dr. Richard Shibles, my faculty advisor and mentor, walked onto the stage with me and placed the doctoral hood I had earned over my head.

My son Simon’s graduation from kindergarten was a hoot. He and his fellow graduates wore white capes and mortar boards. The ceremony involved more than a few teachers seeking to keep some semblance of order. His graduation from Hickman High School, Columbia, Missouri included a quirky surprise. Hickman’s giant, nearly naked Kewpie mascot made an appearance to high-five the graduates as they marched out.

At several places I have been, including Southwest Tech, graduation includes stories about the lives and journeys of individual students and alums. Often inspirational and moving, these stories personalize and add meaning to any ceremony.

At Southeast Missouri State University, President Dale F. Nitzchke always told a few such stories. I remember him telling about a mother and daughter, each of whom had to overcome significant life barriers to graduate on the same day, and of a student who survived a car wreck and received his degree from Dr. Nitzchke with his family gathered around his hospital bed. At the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, graduation day includes a luncheon where leading alumni and graduating students are recognized. As dean, I had the honor of telling the stories of some of those people. At Southwest Tech, invited and student speeches usually include personal stories.

Over the years, I have participated in graduation ceremonies that not everyone gets to enjoy. I have been the invited speaker at Stanley Correctional Institution and at Prairie du Chien Correctional Institution. Wisconsin prison graduations are much like any graduation. Families gather; everyone is happy. Inmate musicians—including individual performers, rock bands, gospel groups, and Native American drummers—provide the best music.

On the other end of the criminal justice spectrum, I routinely participate in Southwest Tech’s police and jail academy graduations. These include delightful traditions, such as the graduates reciting the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Code of Ethics and Mr. George Dulzo, Criminal Justice Instructor, delivering his advice for young police officers.

The largest and most elaborate graduation I ever participated in was at South Central University for Nationalities, Wuhan, China. It involved tens of thousands of students and guests and several different ceremonies, including a magnificent outdoor dance and musical performance that was literally a miniature version of the opening ceremonies for the Olympic Games.

One of the best graduations I ever experienced was here in Fennimore. A couple of years ago, District Administrator Jamie Nutter and Principal Dan Bredeson gave me the honor of being their invited speaker. It was the first and only graduation, outside of a Wisconsin prison, to which I have been invited to speak.

Graduations have always been special to me. I love the pride, joy, ceremonies, traditions, speeches, music, and occasional quirks. May 2015, I will participate in the last such ceremony in my career. I suspect it will be a bittersweet, yet wholly enjoyable experience.

Posted in General

Southwest Wisconsin Leads the State in Percentage of 2013 High School Graduates Attending a Wisconsin Technical College

Students who graduated from the 30 public high schools within Southwest Wisconsin Technical College’s District in 2013 enrolled the following fall in a Wisconsin technical college at a higher frequency than high school graduates from the high schools within any other technical college district in Wisconsin. The percentage of “direct enrollment” by Southwest Wisconsin high school graduates was 28.6 percent. This meant 380 new technical college students among Southwest Wisconsin’s 1,330 high school graduates. Of those 380 new students, 298 enrolled at Southwest Tech with most of the remainder enrolling at Madison College or Western Technical College.

The statewide average in 2013 was 17.2 percent; 10,125 new technical college students out of 58,816 high school graduates. To put Southwest Wisconsin’s percentage into context, if its direct enrollment percentage was achieved statewide, Wisconsin technical colleges would have enrolled 6,679 more students, an increase of 66 percent over the actual direct enrollment.

Thank you to Southwest Wisconsin high school students, parents, teachers, counselors, school administrators, employers, and everyone at Southwest Tech for ensuring that Southwest Wisconsin students know, understand, value, and take advantage of the fantastic, affordable education and career opportunities available through Wisconsin’s technical colleges.

Posted in General

Your Career Awaits. COME GET IT!

Southwest Wisconsin Technical College’s Open House is Wednesday, October 15, 2014 from 3:00-7:00 p.m. Everyone is invited, but particularly those interested in attending a class or entering a program of study. More information available on the College’s website, Facebook pages, or Twitter site.

You are encouraged to use the day to:

  • Explore campus classrooms, shops, and labs.
  • Connect with staff and students.
  • Discover programs through hands-on activities.
  • Apply to start in January or August 2015 and save the $30 application fee!

If you happen to be busy on Wednesday, then please consider coming to campus for College Preview Day, Friday, November 14, 2014.

Posted in General

Subtle Diversity and Acceptance

This article first appeared in the October 2, 2014 Fennimore Times as part of its “Buzz About Town” series. It is reprinted here with permission from Fennimore Times Editor Rob Callahan.

Once upon a time a Duke said to his horse buyer, “You have served well. But the years have taken a toll. Is there a member of your family who can take your place when you can no longer do the job?”

The horse buyer replied, “My children’s talents lie elsewhere. They can tell a good, but not a superlative horse. There is a farmer in the village who knows horses.”

The Duke talked to the farmer and soon gave him a trial, sending him to a neighboring state to buy a horse. On his return the Duke asked “What did you buy?” The farmer hesitated, but replied, “A gray mare.”

Word came later that a black stallion, as purchased by the farmer, would be delivered in a few days. The Duke was befuddled and complained to the horse buyer that his friend was an idiot. How could anyone who knew horses confuse an animal’s color and sex?

In response, the horse buyer mused, “Is he really that good? If so, he is better than me. You see, it’s possible he only looked at what was important—the horse’s spirit, ability, and performance—ignoring the unimportant. Let’s wait and see.”

The horse turned out to be superlative; as good if not better than any the horse buyer had ever purchased for the Duke . . . .

This is an ancient Taoist story. I first read it years ago and have paraphrased J.D. Salinger’s version from “Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour an Introduction” (Little, Brown and Co., 1955).

The story reminds me, in dealings with people, to ferret out and focus on what matters and to be accepting of what does not matter.

I once supervised a professor whose office was notoriously untidy. While visiting one day I pulled a twenty-plus year old memo from the bottom of a pile of papers. Colleagues complained about his messiness. But, I ignored their complaints and accepted his behavior because he was a productive and respected instructor and because his office was deeply buried on campus and offered no threat to any visitor’s first impression.

At least I ignored it until the Fire Marshall reported that the pile of papers had gotten so high it represented a fire hazard. Then, and only then, did his messiness become important. I made him tidy up.

That professor’s engagement in the work of the university, his performance as a teacher and advisor, and the respect his students and colleagues had for him was important. His untidiness, until it threatened the safety of others, was unimportant.

In our businesses, organizations, associations, communities, and, yes, colleges, people too often get caught up in the unimportant. I have observed passionate, engaged, capable, hard-working, and productive co-workers being shunned, made the object of ridicule, harangued, recommended for layoff or reassignment, and otherwise ill-treated based on the unimportant. They dared to display, even once, a personality trait, a habit of communication, ways of doing things, physical attributes, or other qualities which certain thought-leaders deemed objectionable.

These days every enlightened soul knows it is wrong to treat people differently based on sex, age, race, skin color, creed, religion, national origin, disability, ancestry, political affiliation, marital status, pregnancy, or sexual orientation.

But keep an untidy office, be over or under weight, talk too much or too little, be too assertive or too meek, say the wrong thing, provide constructive criticism, display a tendency toward anger or whininess, or really say or do anything that some group of people perceive as objectionable and even the enlightened will be on you like ugly on an ape.

A focus on the important and acceptance of the unimportant would go a long way toward creating healthier, happier, more welcoming, and more productive organizations, associations, and communities.

But don’t get me wrong. There are gradations that shift the calculus. My colleague’s untidy office was unimportant and acceptable; until it became a fire hazard. Assertiveness may be unimportant or even an asset; bullying, abusive, or harassing behavior is unacceptable. Occasional faultfinding matters not; honest feedback is a positive; excessively judgmental behavior that diminishes individual or team performance matters.

As a leader, I work hard to differentiate the important from the unimportant. What matters is how employees treat and talk with others, the passion and engagement they bring to the job, and the contributions they make toward realization of the organization’s vision, mission, purposes, values, and strategic directions.

What should never matter is personality type, weaknesses or failings of character, quirks, eccentricities, habits, or any other qualities which do not interfere with an individual’s performance or the organization’s ability to achieve its ends.

Posted in Buzz Around Town Column, General

Wisconsin’s Technical Colleges Win Three-year, $20 Million Federal Grant

The following is a press release issued by the Wisconsin Technical College System.   Southwest Tech will receive $528,867 to aid in the development and delivery of a Lab Science Technician program that is embedded in the first year of our Medical Laboratory Technician program.  Also included in the grant are equipment for the program, academic skill support for students to transition into both Laboratory Science Technician and Medical Laboratory Technician, and expansion of credit for prior learning.

MADISON – Wisconsin’s health care employers and workers will benefit from a $20 million investment by the U.S. Department of Labor, which yesterday announced a grant to Wisconsin’s technical colleges to address emerging needs in the health care sector.

The successful grant application comes under the fourth installment of a multi-year, nearly $2.0 billion federal community college initiative designed to increase credential attainment in high-priority economic sectors. In previous rounds, Wisconsin’s technical colleges won grants to expand innovative programs that produce high-skilled workers in information technology ($23.1 million in 2013) and manufacturing ($18.3 million in 2012).

The most recent three-year grant, dubbed “ACT for Health Care” (Advancing Careers and Training for Healthcare), provides $15 million to a consortium of the state’s technical colleges to deliver training and support services for eligible workers, veterans, and other adults, preparing them for high-growth careers in the health care sector.

This round also includes a $5 million, three-year grant to the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) to oversee technical assistance, professional development, and shared learning that advances career pathways across sectors and regions in Wisconsin. Career pathways organize curriculum and services around flexible, “stackable” modules that progressively build over the course of a career.

“These one-time federal funds allow us to advance a more robust initiative in support of our health care sector than would be possible otherwise,” said WTCS President Morna Foy. “In the past three years, the Department of Labor has provided a strong complement to our core state and local funding.”

Wisconsin’s technical colleges received the largest single award and the collaborative is one of the few applicants to successfully receive grants in each of the past three years.  Work under the latest grant will officially begin October 1.

WTCS Logo

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Phi Theta Kappa Inducts Twelve Gifted and Accomplished Chargers

Southwest Wisconsin Technical College’s Beta Rho Beta Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) inducted twelve new members at a September 18 ceremony. PTK is the official academic honor society of two-year colleges. It serves to recognize and encourage academic achievement as well as to provide opportunities for individual growth and development through honors, leadership, and service.

(L to R) Mary Johannesen, Kelsey Welter, Annalynn Monteith, Cora Eron, Duane Ford

(L to R) Mary Johannesen, Kelsey Welter, Annalynn Monteith, Cora Eron, Duane Ford

Congratulations to Southwest Tech’s newest PTK members: Tsering Bhuti; Krystle Blabaum; Olivia Dudenbostel; Cora Eron; Jason Jasurda; Melissa Maring; Jeremy McCracken; Annalynn Monteith; Mishaela Petersheim; Janine Prochaska; Todd Scott (recognized posthumously); and Kelsey Welter.

 

(L to R) Mary Johannesen, Sarah Hayden, Angel Larson, Mandy Soldner, Marsha Parker

(L to R) Mary Johannesen, Sarah Hayden, Angel Larson, Mandy Soldner, Marsha Parker

This year’s officers include Mandy Soldner, President; Angel Larson, Vice President; Marsha Parker, Secretary/Treasurer; and Sarah Hayden, Public Relations Secretary. Mary Johannesen, Career Prep & Youth Options Specialist, serves as the Chapter’s Adviser.

Posted in Celebrations, General