CCC Alums and Instructor Receive NCCA Awards

November 7, 2023

Central Community College alums Ross and Karen Pesek and chemistry instructor Dr. Yunteng He received awards at the Nebraska Community College Association (NCCA) annual conference on Nov. 5 and 6.

The Peseks received the Distinguished Alumni Award for CCC while He received the Faculty Member Award. Karen and Dr. He were unable to attend the ceremony.

Ross Pesek (left) and Dr. Matt Gotschall (right)Ross and Karen Pesek both graduated from Central Community College-Columbus in 2005 with associate of arts degrees. Ross was from Omaha and he came to CCC on a basketball scholarship and earned All-America honors as a freshman. Karen’s family had moved to Columbus from Chihuahua, Mexico. They each earned a Phi Theta Kappa scholarship to attend Wayne State College where Ross graduated with a political science degree and Karen earned a degree in public accounting, both in 2007.

Following graduation, Ross (pictured, left, with CCC President Dr. Matt Gotschall) enrolled in law school at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln while Karen went to work as a consultant for Deloitte LLP in Omaha. While the couple was working in Mexico, they returned to Omaha in December 2008 to get married and returned to Mexico City, where Ross learned Spanish.

In 2012, the couple opened Pesek Law LLC which specializes in personal injury cases, in particular, immigrant families. That same year, the Peseks founded the True Potential Scholarship which began to help young immigrants who were Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or who held Temporary Protective Immigration Status (TPS) attend college. DACA and TPS individuals are excluded from federal financial aid and many scholarships. Since that first year, True Potential has expanded to include all immigrants, all Nebraska community colleges and Iowa Western Community College, and the Nebraska State College System. In all, about 230 students have received scholarships.

At the awards ceremony, Ross expressed gratitude to all community college administrators, faculty and staff for the work they do. “I want to say thank you to all of you for maintaining the fire for the community college system throughout our state and keeping those doors open for everybody in our communities,” said Ross.

The Peseks are the parents of three children.

He is in his seventh year as a chemistry instructor at CCC-Kearney. He came to CCC from Oregon State University, where he earned his Ph.D.

Dr. Yunteng HeIn addition to a full-time teaching load, He is committed to developing innovative teaching strategies to enhance the student experience and improve learning. One of his favorites, published in the journal “College Teaching,” is his traffic light card that gauges his students’ understanding of what he teaches. At the end of each class session, the students rank the given topics on a notecard with a green, yellow or red light. Green means they have a good understanding. Yellow means they have a partial understanding and they need additional explanations or practice. Red means that they got confused or lost. He said if more than 50 percent mark the yellow, he will spend the a few minutes at the beginning of the next class session reviewing the material.

Another project is one he calls the “Constructive Error Climate,” in which he uses common student misconceptions as learning opportunities for them to learn and grow.

He has published three articles on the Teaching Professor website and one article each for Faculty Focus and College Teaching. These publications offer postsecondary educators advice on developing effective activities, techniques for addressing common problems in college classrooms, and increasing student engagement. He has also presented multiple workshops and oral presentations at national and international conferences.

“I’m very glad for the feeling like it’s a big family at CCC and I enjoy teaching and learning with everyone,” said He, who was unable to attend the ceremony. “Being selected for this award is very exciting.”

He is married to Dr. Haiwei Lu, biology instructor at CCC-Hastings, and they make their home in Kearney.

The NCCA annual conference was hosted by Mid-Plains Community College and held in North Platte. Northeast Community College will host the NCCA annual conference in 2024.