June 2019 Central Connection

June 3, 2019

Hastings Campus president begins duties

By Scott Miller
Public Relations and Marketing Director

Dr. Jerry Wallace has begun his duties at Central Community College as Hastings Campus president/division vice president, replacing Bill Hitesman who retired June 3.

Wallace previously had served as the dean of workforce, technical and community education at New River Community and Technical College in Beckley, W.Va.

In this capacity, he oversaw all functions of the Advance Technology Center campus, including creating customized workforce training for area companies and employers.

In less than two years, Wallace has secured more than $1 million in grants for technical program development, paid internship experiences and workforce training.

“I am very excited about the potential in Hastings and joining the CCC environment,” said Wallace. “My plans are to build on the momentum Bill Hitesman has created and develop endless opportunities for the Hastings community. I look forward to collaborating with faculty and staff throughout Central Community College.”

Prior to New River, Wallace served as the associate dean of continuing education at Odessa College in Texas. While there, he developed and implemented the electrical lineman program. Wallace also served as resident director at West Virginia Tech University-WV Institute of Technology in Montgomery and as enrollment services representative at Michigan-based Muskegon Community College.

“I am looking forward to the positive impact Dr. Wallace will make in central Nebraska while continuing on our important mission of helping our students and communities succeed,” said CCC President Dr. Matt Gotschall. “His strong workforce and student engagement background will be critical as we move forward in meeting skilled workforce shortages in partnership with area high schools and colleges.”

Wallace earned a doctorate of education in leadership and management from St. Thomas University, a master’s degree in educational leadership from Western Michigan University and a bachelor’s degree in science from Grand Valley State University. He is pursuing a master of business administration from Maryville University.

As Hastings Campus president and a CCC vice president, Wallace is responsible for the overall administration of the campus as well as the skilled and technical sciences and business and entrepreneurship divisions.

Admissions director receives Campus Spirit Award

Admissions Director Erin Lesiak of Grand Island has received the 2018-19 Campus Spirit Award at Central Community College-Grand Island.

The Campus Spirit Award annually recognizes an employee who makes a significant contribution to Central Community College. The award focuses on service above and beyond what is considered a normal or expected part of their job description.

Nominators describe her as someone imbued with positive energy, calmness and patience, even in the face of challenging or difficult situations.

She has this “wonderful ability to listen without expressing judgment,” said a nominator. “She easily makes connections with people from all walks of life and assures that each individual who crosses their path feels heard and respected.”

Another nominator noted Lesiak’s habit of sending thank-you notes on a regular basis. “She is a forward thinker, great multitasker and creative leader who assures that detailed plans are made well in advance of deadlines and communicates frequently so that her team can successfully juggle many projects at once. She makes work fun and brings a welcome sense of humor to even the busiest of days.”

Lesiak also was noted for her love of learning, which leads her to consult with other people and use a wide range of resources and experiences when she tackles new projects. She often works across departments to get input and to build partnerships toward the college’s mission of serving students.

Her commitment to serving students extends beyond the college to community. She has long been involved as a mentor and leader with Big Brothers Big Sisters program.

One nominator summed up Lesiak this way: “Her commitment to education, students, staff, faculty and the community is an inspiration to all of us.”

Campus recognizes Baldwin, Bentz

Central Community College-Columbus recently honored two outstanding employees.

Jim Baldwin
Employee of the Year

The Employee of the Year Award is presented annually to a Columbus Campus employee who demonstrates dedication, enthusiasm and innovation as well as a rapport with students and other staff members and a willingness to go the extra mile.

Jim Baldwin of Columbus joined the Columbus Campus staff on Jan. 29, 1990, as a member of the security team. He was promoted to his current position as custodial supervisor in December 1990.

“He does everything for everybody,” said a nominator.

Indeed, Baldwin can often be heard saying, “May I help you?” “Can I carry that for you?” “Let me get the door.”

The many ways he has made life easier for Columbus employees and students include assisting with inclement weather emergencies in the evenings, spending multiple days snowed in on campus while helping out during blizzards, responding to a variety of requests as a contact person in the evenings; and changing so many flat tires and jumpstarting so many cars that it’s impossible to count the number over the years.

Baldwin’s previous work experience includes employment at Liquor Mart, as a gang foreman for the Union Pacific Railroad and as a bartender at The Quarthouse and Little Bo’s in Columbus. He also served in the U.S. Army for three years and was stationed in Germany. He currently is a bartender at the Pawnee Bar in Columbus.

He is a graduate of Columbus High School who went on to earn an associate of applied science degree in electronics from CCC. He serves on the Columbus American Legion Post 84 Honor Guard and is a past president of the Columbus Campus Support Staff Organization.

Baldwin and his wife, Jere; have two children. Their son and his wife, Josh and Abby Baldwin, live in Lincoln and their daughter and son-in-law, Jasper and Tyson Owens, live in Columbus. They also have six grandchildren.

Michelle Bentz
Faculty Member of the Year

The Faculty Member of the Year Award is given annually to a Columbus Campus faculty member who displays excellence and innovation in teaching; rapport with students; and institutional, professional and community involvement. 

Michelle Bentz of Columbus joined the Columbus Campus almost 20 years ago, serving as career services coordinator before becoming a sociology instructor in 2007.

She was cited as a leader, confidant, friend and fierce advocate for students.

“Michelle is an outstanding teacher with a stellar reputation. Current students and alumni speak highly of her courses,” one nominator said. “Her classes are often the first time students take on the challenge of learning other systems and cultures, questioning their own beliefs and ideas, and taking on a wider worldview. Michelle handles this task with passion and grace. All of her students are respected, heard and validated.”

“Over the last two semesters, Michelle has quickly become one of my favorite professors,” said a student nominator. “It is very clear that Michelle cares a lot about providing students with a variety of viewpoints on the people and world around them. I love how often she opens up conversations in the classroom and how much she respects other viewpoints.”

Nominators said that Bentz takes extra care with her online students, making sure she provides complete directions and responds to questions in a timely manner. Because she often has first-time Early College students in her classes, she asked the extended learning services (ELS) department to run a report identifying them. Because of her request, the ELS department developed a new report that now provides this information to all CCC instructors.

She reports any Early College students who fall behind to the Student Progress Notification System, but also reaches out to the students, their school counselors and ELS. Doing this “has made a tremendous difference in helping students be successful in their first college class,” a nominator said.

Bentz’s commitment to the campus extends outside the classroom, too. She is a member of the CARE teams and the virtual campus committee, an avid sports and fine arts supporter, and a participant in an e-textbook pilot project that will save CCC students money.     

Prior to joining the CCC staff, Bentz was a probation officer for the federal government and the state of Nebraska. She has a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Midland Lutheran College and a master’s degree in education from Wayne State College. 

She and her husband, Don, have three children: Josie, 14; Cali, 11; and Gunner, 9.

Campuses honor outstanding alumni

Three Central Community College graduates received the Outstanding Alumni Award at the 2019 commencement ceremonies.

Lindsay Higel
Hastings Campus

Lindsay Higel of Kenesaw holds an associate of applied science degree in hospitality management and culinary arts from the Hastings Campus and is now working toward a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management at Bellevue University.

She has been employed by CCC-Hastings since 2001. She served as kitchen manager in the hospitality management and culinary arts department until 2015 when she was promoted to program director. She serves as a sponsor for the Hospitality Management and Culinary Arts Club and works with the extended learning services department to offer community education classes for adults and children. She also developed and has conducted a Kids College for six years.

Prior to joining the CCC staff, Higel gained industry experience at Sehnert’s Dutch Oven Bakery where she learned the art of baking from scratch, candy making and cake decorating; Big Dally’s Deli in Hastings where she was responsible for opening the second location; and Allen’s Bakery where she taught cake decorating classes to staff.

She has served on the Big Brothers Big Sisters Board of Directors, KN for Kids Board and Kenesaw Booster Club Board.

She and her husband, Jeff, have four children: Kaylee, 16; Blake, 13; Bodie, 6; and Calvin, 5.

Tracy Jakubowski
Grand Island Campus

Following her 2007 graduation from the Grand Island Campus, Tracy Jakubowski of Wood River went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Nebraska at Kearney in 2009 and a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Doane College in 2012. She will complete her educational administration 7-12 endorsement through UNK this fall.

Jakubowski began her career with Grand Island Public Schools at Walnut Middle School and then was an integration specialist at West Lawn Elementary School before accepting her current position as a history teacher at Grand Island Senior High School.

During her time as a teacher, she has served in many additional capacities, from coaching volleyball and basketball to traveling with students to Washington, D.C. She serves as a team leader for the Academy of Freshman Exploration and a sponsor for GISH students attending the Capitol Forum on America’s Future with Humanities Nebraska in Lincoln. She is a member of the district’s Teacher Leader Coalition, the American History Task Force for Curriculum Design, and the Nebraska Department of Education’s Social Studies standards revision team.

Jakubowski’s dedication to bettering history education led to her being selected to attend the 2018 Belfer National Conference at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. She has also attended conferences in Nashville and Anaheim to help with the transition of GISH into a career academy school as a teacher leader.

In 2018, she was named the Nebraska History Teacher of the Year by the Nebraska Department of Education and the Gilder Lehrman Institute. Next year, she will attend a National Gilder Lehrman Teacher Seminar in American History.

She and her husband, Ron, make their home in Wood River with their daughter, Julia.

Nick Steinsberger
Columbus Campus

Businessman Nick Steinsberger attended the Columbus Campus before transferring to the University of Texas in Austin where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering.

Steinsberger began his career with Mitchell Energy in 1988 as a production engineer in Fort Worth. He was promoted to completion manager and was responsible for the first slickwater stimulation in the Barnett Shale in 1997. He continued in this role after Mitchell Energy’s sale to Devon in 2002, completing the first 30 horizontal wells in any shale formation.

When Devon closed the Fort Worth office in 2003, Steinsberger took a job as vice president of engineering for Republic Energy in Dallas. Under his supervision, Republic drilled and completed about 50 horizontal wells in less than two years before selling their assets to Burlington Resources. After the sale, he began Steinsberger Gas Consulting.

He has been involved in more than 600 horizontal shale wells in the U.S. and Canada. His completed horizontal wells in the Barnett, Fayetteville and Marcellus shales were the best producing wells for any operator in those basins at the time.

Steinsberger is currently developing other resources in Oklahoma and Texas with ValPoint and advising INEOS on shale in the UK, Renaissance Oil on their work in Mexico’s shale play and Resource Energy on their work in the Bakken.

He received the ECC Engineer of the Year Award in 2013 for his work in the Shale Revolution while at Mitchell Energy.

He has written many technical papers on completion techniques in shales and has been featured in five books, with “The Frackers” being the most well-known. He has also been interviewed by such news organizations including the Wall Street Journal, NPR, CNN, BBC, The Guardian, Bloomberg, La Jornada, NBC Dallas Channel 5, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Star Telegram, Houston Chronicle and the Columbus Telegram.

Employee news

Administrative Office

Dani Schwinn, has joined the staff as a technology integration specialist.

Columbus Campus

New employees include Abby Pollart, head volleyball coach, and Caitlin Simon, head softball coach.

Resigning from their positions are Jerry Drymon, head men’s basketball coach and physical education instructor; Leon Finecy, advanced manufacturing design technology instructor; Sharon Gutru, accounting instructor; and Chadric Harms, visual arts instructor.


Billy Dunbar has resigned as development director.

Grand Island Campus

Hector Vasquez has joined the staff as a custodian.

Meredith Smith has resigned as a nursing instructor.

Hastings Campus

New employees are Deremia Clark, career and employment services director, and Jerry Wallace, campus president.

Resigning from their positions are Caleb Kuhfahl, construction instructor; Jessica Packard, residence life coordinator; Rachael Robinson-Keilig, psychology instructor; Dustin Schmidt, hospitality management and culinary arts instructor; and Jessica Sorge, preventative education director.

Sandra Jean Block, formerly of Hastings, died April 5 in Minneapolis. A memorial service and celebration of life were held May 4 in Minneapolis.

She was an instructor and associate dean at CCC from 1998 until her retirement from the Hastings Campus in 2006.

She was born May 5, 1943, in Gothenburg to Lawrence and Pat Block. She earned bachelor’s degrees in English literature and education from the University of Nebraska and went on to earn doctorates in English literature and education administration.

She married Bill Garton in 1964 and they had two children. Their marriage ended in 1972. She had another child with her second husband Lee Hanke, who she married in 1974. He died in 1999. Survivors include her children, Jon Hanke, Chandra Hanke and Anneke Haku of Minneapolis; two brothers, Larry Daniels-Block of Colorado Springs, Colo., and Ron Block of Pittman, N.J.; and four grandchildren.

Memorials can be given to the Wellstone Muscular Dystrophy Center or the Crane Trust.

Kearney Center

Courtney Brehm has been promoted from part-time to full-time student accounts clerk and learning center assistant.

Mark Eilers has resigned as an advanced manufacturing design technology instructor.

Lexington Center

Joshua Brant has joined the staff as an electrical/mechanical coordinator and trainer.