December 2022-January 2023 Central Connection

December 2, 2022

Barwick, Gillespie receive NCCA awards

By Scott Miller
Senior Director of College Communications

Central Community College alumnus Scott Barwick and biology instructor Dr. Lauren Gillespie received awards at the Nebraska Community College Association (NCCA) annual conference on Nov. 6 and 7 in Grand Island.

Barwick received the Distinguished Alumni Award for Central Community College while Gillespie received the Faculty Member Award, CCC’s first recipient since 2011.

Barwick is a 1990 graduate of what was then known as the machine tool technology program at CCC-Hastings. He then worked as a toolmaker for several companies in the tri-cities area, learning the trade and employing available technologies. Barwick gained experience creating metal stamping dies and plastic injection molds for parts that are used in everyday life.

In 2003, Barwick was working for a company north of Grand Island that closed shop. He found himself at a crossroads with 23 years of toolmaking experience and a strong desire to take charge of his career. Barwick was encouraged by many of his colleagues and friends to start his own tool shop.

In January 2004, Barwick and three of his former associates opened Drake Tool & Design Inc. in Hastings. With hard work and determination, Drake has grown into a reputable and successful job shop. Some of Barwick’s customers include Toyota, Hornady, Nebraska Aluminum Castings, BUNN coffee makers and many more.

“This is a huge honor,” Barwick said to the awards ceremony attendees. “With the support of family and my wife, I’ve got the best job in the world. It’s a privilege to be a part of that and be a part of the community college and with the community in Hastings.”

Barwick and his wife, Stephanie, are the parents of three children.

Based at CCC-Columbus, Gillespie is the co-project director of the National Science Foundation-funded scholarship program “Growing Pathways to STEM” (Project GPS), which uses a cohort model, undergraduate research experiences and industry relationships to further student success. She established a framework for the research program known as the Bluebird Project, where students helped establish nest-box trails both on campus and in the local community and collected data from the local bluebird population.

During a routine lab session, Gillespie discovered a population of barn swallows exhibiting partial albinism leading to several local and international research collaborations, elements of which she integrates into her classroom and laboratory activities so that students are experiencing real science in real time. She was recently published in a top journal, “Molecular Biology and Evolution,” as part of an international collaboration of researchers studying the mitochondrial genomes of all barn swallow subspecies.

Gillespie has created new collaborations with multiple four-year universities, including the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Nebraska-Kearney, Creighton University, Colorado State University Pueblo and an ongoing international collaboration with California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, and researchers in Italy.

She wrote and was awarded a Nebraska EPSCoR grant for $5,000 to pay students for their summer research work and helped a student write a public information and education grant through the Nebraska Academy of Sciences, resulting in a $3,000 award and publication in the Nebraska Environmental Trust monthly newsletter.

Earlier this year, Gillespie was awarded the American Association for Community Colleges’ Dale P. Parnell Distinguished Faculty Award for service in teaching and leadership at CCC and with Project GPS. In 2020, she received the League Excellence Award by the League of Community Colleges for her commitment to excellence in community college teaching and leadership.

Migration to SharePoint Online begins

By Joni Ransom
Chief of Staff

It’s true. In 2023, Microsoft will stop supporting the version of SharePoint that Central Community College has used since around 2008.

If you read your email, then you’ve already been informed of this by a Nov. 29 message from Keith Vincik, network and infrastructure services director, who is spearheading this migration along with fellow information technology services (IT) system administrators Jeremy Broxterman and Andrew Fausett.

“With our version of SharePoint coming to its end of life, we can’t afford to wait,” Vincik said. “It will now be housed on the cloud along with other CCC content like Ellucian and email.”

The new name for this vital part of the CCC environment will be SharePoint Online. Two other familiar terms will also change. Team Sites will become Microsoft Teams and Info Sites will become Communication Sites.

SharePoint forms the foundation of WebCentral, whose homepage will remain the same, but the new landing page for employees will feature flexibility in how it’s accessed and used.

“SharePoint is very departmentalized,” Vincik said. “You have to go to the department’s page to find what you need. We hope to flip the focus so employees see what they need and want when they go to SharePoint Online.”

He added that anyone familiar with OneDrive is already most of the way to understanding SharePoint Online. For them and everyone else, training on SharePoint migration will be delivered through WebEx beginning in January. In addition to covering the process, IT staff hopes the training will alleviate any employee concerns about data being left behind in the old version, being able to find data in the new version or being unable to understand and use the new features. Additional support will be provided by the Faculty Resource Center to the instructional side and by IT to everyone else.

In fact, training is already underway with a pilot group of early adopters. Their work using Microsoft Teams and SharePoint Online will give IT the opportunity to evaluate the training and identify any problems with the migration process.

So why isn’t IT simply migrating all the data from the old to the new SharePoint?

“With the sheer number of groups and teams, it can’t just be on IT to lift and shift it to a new place,” Vincik said. “We honestly don’t know the number of documents but there are almost 400 team and info sites.”

Some of these sites have been abandoned or never used and will be terminated. Other old documents, however, must be reviewed by their departments to determine if they can be deleted or if they need to be archived on the new site for legal or other reasons.

As users themselves migrate to SharePoint Online, they’ll discover a new, modern user interface; improved document storage, sharing and searching from on and off-campus; the ability to create ad-hoc teams for intra and extra-departmental needs; and integration with the Office365 suite.

“We don’t know what challenges we’re going to face,” Vincik said, “but we’re confident in our team’s ability to come up with creative solutions to create, share and work more collaboratively.”

The new crime house at Central Community College-Grand Island will give CCC criminal justice students an opportunity to experience a variety of crime scenes. It also will be available to area law enforcement agencies for training. The second photo for this story shows criminal justice instructor Michael David standing in what will be the kitchen. (Photos by Joni Ransom)

House to set the stage for crime scenes

By Joni Ransom
Chief of Staff

What will you see when you first step into the new crime house at Central Community College-Grand Island?

You’ll see living room furniture, beds, a dining room table – everything you’d see in anyone’s house, including clothes in the closet and dishes in the cabinets.

That’s because it IS a real house that can be staged for the crime scenes students will likely encounter when they step into their professional lives as law enforcement officers, investigators and forensics technicians.

“This didn’t happen overnight. It took over four years,” said criminal justice instructor Michael David, who credited the college administration and governing board for making the project a reality. “This will increase our student engagement, retention and recruitment efforts.”

For example, the 2,280-square-foot house will be a stop for high school students taking campus tours. They will see the living room, kitchen, dining room, three bedrooms, one and one-half baths and laundry room and perhaps imagine a career in criminal justice. In the attached garage that will serve as a classroom, they may start to think of themselves as CCC students.

David also sees learning opportunities for students in the Law and Public Safety Academy at Grand Island High School or in forensics classes in area high schools.

But students aren’t the only ones who will benefit. The Hall County Sheriff’s Department, Grand Island Police Department and Nebraska State Patrol have all expressed interest in holding training sessions at the house. David believes that group will expand to include area police departments, drug dogs and probation officers.

“We can have students involved in training with them (the professionals),” he said. “They hire our students, so this will be a good opportunity for everyone to work together.”

Whether it’s criminal justice students or criminal justice professionals, they’ll have the perfect setting to “train for a broad range of crimes, from the spectacular to the routine,” David said.

The house is expected to be open for training sometime during the 2023 spring semester.

Kids learn all the right (chess) moves

The Kids Chess Club and Tournament was born out of the wish of Jaycee Carroll, community education coordinator at Central Community College, to find something different for kids to do on weekends other than athletics.

“As a mother, I know it can be hard to find extracurriculars for kids who aren’t interested in sports,” she said. “I knew nothing about chess, not a thing.”

Someone who did know about chess was Steve Cooke, who taught the class for the first time this fall. Kids between 8 and 15 years old were invited to come and learn the game or improve their game. They spent one hour in class for four Saturdays and then competed in a tournament on the fifth Saturday.

Tournament winners were Nehemiah Thompson of Doniphan, first place; Trevor Peard of Phillips, second place; and Travis Svitak of Grand Island, third place.

Nehemiah came to the class knowing how the pieces moved and some basic strategy. He thought the best part of the class were the small rivalries between the players. About winning the tournament, he said that “it felt surprising, because most everyone had about the same knowledge of the game.”

Trevor had been playing chess with family and friends for about five years. He liked learning strategies and different ways to check opponents.  He also said it felt “really good” to get second place.

Travis had never played before this and still claimed third place.

Another player was Warren Green of Lincoln, who was taught chess by his dad. The best thing he learned was how to use an opponent’s pieces to help himself. He said the tournament was a little difficult but that’s what made it fun.

“It was a huge success,” Carroll said. “The kids loved it, the parents loved it and they all are looking forward to coming back again this April for the next session.”

The photo for this story shows Steve Cooke teaching kids chess in a class at Central Community College-Grand Island. (Photo by Jaycee Carroll)

CCC-Kearney gains new birdhouses

Three birdhouses now grace the east side of Central Community College-Kearney thanks to the efforts of members of the Alpha Tau Tau chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.

Each year, the chapter chooses a college project that relates to CCC’s strategic mission. Apha Tau Tau advisor Ruth Kirkland said the project gives PTK members a chance to learn about college processes and project management, participate in working relationships and sharpen their communication and leadership skills.

 The Birds of CCC-Kearney was this year’s project and is unique because it began with a group of students who graduated in the spring. It was left to incoming students this fall to continue and finish the project, Kirkland said.

The project will give wrens, finches and cardinals a place to call home. In return, the birds will provide an enjoyable attraction and conversation piece for students, employees and visitors.

The birdhouses were installed by Ed Taylor, facilities management assistant director; Nevada Zimniak, building maintenance technician, and Alex VanNatta, president of the PTK Alpha Tau Tau chapter.

The photo for this story shows Alex VanNatta and Ed Taylor installing a new birdhouse at CCC-Kearney. (Photo by Ruth Kirkland)

Rancher Gabe Brown explains his transition from today’s conventional ag practices to yesterday’s holistic approach at the Central Nebraska Regenerative Ag Conference Nov. 18 in Holdrege. (Photo by Diana Watson)

People attend conference with regenerative ag focus

More than 250 students and ag producers from four states attended the Central Nebraska Regenerative Ag Conference Nov. 18 in Holdrege.

The event featured nationally renowned speaker Gabe Brown, owner and operator of Brown’s Ranch in rural Bismarck, N.D.

He shared the story of how he used conventional practices when he took over his in-laws’ farm. After losing crops because of years of freak storms, he rediscovered the holistic agriculture management practices of previous generations.

Brown explained how working with the natural ecology of his land allowed him to restore the soil’s fertility and eventually make the transition to no-tilling, cover and companion crops and controlled grazing. These practices have led to increased yields and profits while eliminating synthetic fertilizers, fungicides and pesticides.

The free morning session covered ag entrepreneurship primarily for high school and college students while the afternoon session focused on ag producers already in the field. Keith Berns of Green Cover presented “Carbonomics” and a panel of local ag producers shared their experiences.

“Gabe and Keith gave an excellent presentation on what needs done to rebuild our soil,” said Curtis Scheele from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. “Gabe Brown lives the topic. He is someone who is real and knows how to relate to other farmers.”

Wanted: success coaches

Success coaching is a Central Community College strategic initiative that focuses on promoting semi-structured, high-level and individualized coaching to students as a means of supporting and encouraging them in reaching their educational goals.

Success coaches connect students to campus and community resources, provide them with timely information, and promote persistence and retention.

More than 60 CCC employees from all departments and areas of the college started their success coach journey during the 2022 fall semester. They will continue working with their students on their way to award completion.

“As we work to expand this program to impact additional students, we need to grow our number of trained success coaches for the 2023 spring semester,” said Julie Mullen, director of the student success coach program.

She added that the impact an employee “can have on a student’s experience, just by being a source of encouragement and information, is immeasurable.”

Training and support materials are provided for all coaches. The 90-minute training session is offered via WebEx, so prospective coaches have the flexibility to complete it on a date and time that works best for them.

Before training, however, employees must first register. For more information on how to do so, contact Mullen at 402-461-2512 or

Hastings Campus instructor set to retire

Ronnie O’Brien of Shelton is retiring at the end of this semester as a hospitality management and culinary arts instructor at Central Community College-Hastings.

Her work experience encompasses 40 years in the hospitality management and tourism industry in central Nebraska. Prior to joining the CCC staff in 2014, she worked as a night auditor and then general manager in the hotel industry and as director of operations at the Archway in Kearney where she was also responsible for educational programs.

It was while she was at the Archway that she started working with the Pawnee Nation to create Native American programs. Once she learned about the rarity of Pawnee corn, she started growing it herself and finding other people across Nebraska to do so as well. This is the 19th year of the project, which now boasts 17 gardens and 14 gardeners. The corn sown and reaped is returned to the Pawnees for their use. In 2018, the Pawnee Nation honored O’Brien for her contributions by making her a member of the tribe. She is the only woman to have been so adopted by the Pawnees.

O’Brien is a graduate of St. Paul High School. She went on to earn a degree in accounting from the Grand Island School of Business, a bachelor’s degree in business management from the University of Nebraska-Kearney and a master’s degree from Loyola University in New Orleans.

While at CCC, she established new courses to expand the hospitality side of the program to include tourism and event planning courses. She also helped establish several gardens: a Native American corn garden, a pollinator garden and a culinary garden. The last garden provides vegetables and even blackberries for use by the culinary arts kitchen.

Her community activities include serving as president of the Nebraska Lincoln Highway Association and as an active member of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Shelton where she has provided religious education for 15 years. She also served on the Kool-Aid Days board for five years.

In retirement, she plans to be more involved with her granddaughter, the Pawnee Seed Preservation Society and the national Saint Kateri Conservation Center as coordinator of indigenous programs.

O’Brien and her husband, Patrick, have three children and a granddaughter.

Playground project gets nearly $67,000 donation

The Greater Grand Island Community Foundation has presented a check for nearly $67,000 to the Central Community College Foundation. The funds will benefit the $1.5 million, 27,000-square-foot Pirnie Inclusive Playground to be built at Ryder Park in Grand Island. The playground was conceptualized by CCC-Grand Island occupational therapy assistant (OTA) students.

The donation is a discretionary grant comprised of proceeds from the Arthur E. Klinkacek Community Enrichment Fund combined with gifts from the Dubas-Werner Family Fund, Jim and Dee Price Donor Advised Fund, Russ and Kim Rerucha Donor Advised Fund and an anonymous fund.

“The Greater Grand Island Community Foundation houses many funds that invest in the betterment of the greater Grand Island area,” said the foundation’s CEO, Melissa DeLaet. “The opportunity to work with fund holders and our discretionary funds to better the quality of life for so many through the Pirnie Inclusive Playground is one we could not pass up.”

“We are grateful to partner with our friends at the Greater Grand Island Community Foundation,” said Traci Skalberg, CCC Foundation executive director. “All of this adds up to a remarkable investment in Grand Island, and we are very proud to support our OTA students’ desire to create this space for all abilities to learn, play and grow.”

Donations for the playground project may be sent to the Central Community College Foundation, 201 Foundation Place, Ste. 200, Hastings, Neb. 68901.

In tribute

Kay Hoffman

Sharon “Kay” Hoffman, 82, of Juniata died Nov. 11 at Mary Lanning Healthcare in Hastings.

Services were held Nov. 12 at St. Michael’s Catholic Church with burial in Parkview Cemetery in Hastings.

She was born Feb. 4, 1940, in Hastings to Emil “Jack” and Verna (Schmitz) Consbruck.

She married her high school sweetheart, Merle Hoffman, on Dec. 30, 1959, at St. Cecilia Catholic Church in Hastings.

After being a homemaker and raising eight children, she went to work at Central Community College-Hastings. She worked there for 19 years and was a registration clerk when she retired.

She was a member of St. Michael’s Catholic Church, Catholic Daughters and the Extension Club.

She also taught piano lessons from her home for more than 50 years and played the organ for weddings and funerals at numerous churches in Hastings.

Survivors include her husband, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her parents.

Livingston Butler Volland Funeral Home and Cremation Center was in charge of arrangements. Memorials may be given to Morrison Cancer Center, MDS Foundation or Be the Match.

Dana Wert

Dana Jon Wert, 71, of Aurora died Nov. 28 at Memorial Hospital in Aurora.

His wishes were to be cremated. A Celebration of Life was held Dec. 3 at Pleasant View Bible Church in Aurora.

He was born Nov. 26, 1951, in Grand Island to Dwayne “Rusty” and Joy (Larsen) Wert.

After graduating from North Loup-Scotia High School in 1970, he attended Dana College until he was drafted. He chose the Marines and served for 11 years in Memphis, Tenn., and El Toro, Calif.

He married Kathy Moody on Dec. 23, 1984, in North Loup.

He taught electronics and manufacturing technology at Central Community College for almost 34 years. He drove from North Loup when he first began teaching and then from Aurora after he and his family moved north of town in 1992.  He also served ss a consultant for the manufacturing industry throughout the years.

Survivors include his wife, long-time CCC employee Kathy Wert; two sons, a daughter, a brother, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents.

Higby-McQuiston Mortuary is in charge of the arrangements.  Memorials may be made in care of the family.

Employee news

Administrative Office

Austin Remm has joined the staff as marketing manager.

Columbus Campus

Deserah Janke has resigned as print shop coordinator and designer.

Changing positions are Kathy Margheim, from student services administrative assistant to recruiting admission technician, and Ben Versaw, from information technology and systems instructor to the same position at the Grand Island Campus.

Sonya Wemhoff is the new health programming director.

Grand Island Campus

Balaji Balasubramanian and Waheed Haider have resigned as information technology and systems instructors.

Deborah Houdek is the new administrative assistant for the enrollment management department.

Hastings Campus

Changing position are Kimberly Milovak from student activities and engagement director to hospitality management and culinary arts instructor, and Brandon Stalvey from enrollment specialist to TRIO project coordinator.

Brandon Norquist has resigned as an electrical technology instructor.

Alex Rodriguez has been promoted from part-time lab assistant to full-time truck driver and heavy equipment operation trainer.