June 2023 Central Connection

June 2, 2023

CCC-Columbus honors Gillespie, Noonan

Two outstanding employees have been honored by Central Community College-Columbus.

Lauren Gillespie

Lauren Gillespie of Columbus has been named Faculty Member of the Year.

The 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.

Gillespie, a biological science instructor, was cited for her enthusiasm for her subject and the rapport she builds with students. Whether it is finding new opportunities for students to experience hands-on learning or helping them gain the confidence they need, she’s known for going the extra mile.

“She takes the time and puts in as much effort as possible,” said one student nominator. “We need more teachers who show with their actions that they really care for us, and not just say it.”

Another student agreed. “She makes biology very interesting and absorbable. She cares about her students in a profound way and is always ready to help anyone.”

Gillespie graduated from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst with a bachelor’s degree in animal behavior and neuroendocrine mechanisms.

She worked as an avian field research assistant for Texas Tech University and the Cary Institute of Ecosystem studies and pursued her doctorate in biology at the University of Southern Mississippi.

Before coming to CCC, Gillespie was awarded a National Science Foundation fellowship in Taipei, Taiwan, studying the impacts of herbicides on the hormones and behavior of hermaphroditic fish, and then taught biology as an adjunct professor at Central Maine Community College in Auburn.

Kim Noonan

Kim Noonan of Leigh has been selected as the Employee of the Year.

The 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.

Noonan, the administrative assistant for the arts, sciences and business division, was described as a team player who personifies accessibility, dedication, cooperation, innovation and loyalty.

“She’s willing to lend a hand, seek information, follow up and make sure the job gets done,” a nominator said. “She’s dependable, showing up every day ready to work and does so with a warm and welcoming spirit, often offering key assistance for projects to meet deadlines or smooth out a bump in the road.”

Noonan also was noted for her diligence in scheduling classrooms, knowledge of Colleague, attention to detail, and ability to support everything from copying to proctoring, from purchasing to budgeting.

“She genuinely cares about students, staff and faculty,” a nominator said. “She works behind the scenes to set us all up for success.”

Noonan graduated from the University of Nebraska-Kearney with a bachelor’s degree in education. She taught special education for nine years and then operated her own Curves business.

She and her husband, Greg, have six children.

Brooke Draskovic of Lexington was one of 12 Nebraska students to receive a scholarship from EducationQuest.

Reaching for her potential

Brooke Draskovic’s eyes light up when she talks about working with kids and getting her hands dirty, whether it’s painting with them inside or playing in the dirt outside.

The Lexington native, who is working toward an associate of applied science degree in early childhood education at Central Community College-Hastings, is one of only 12 students in Nebraska to receive a Reaching Your Potential Scholarship from the EducationQuest Foundation. She’s the only one attending a community college and the only one who’s not enrolled in a college or the university in Lincoln or Omaha.

All 12 students who received a portion of the more than $72,000 in EducationQuest scholarship money have overcome obstacles to make college possible. 

For Draskovic, her childhood was defined by her mom, Martha, working two jobs to make ends meet. Draskovic helped by taking care of her younger brother, Jesse Jr.

Helping is something she loves to do, and children have long been her focus. Before graduating from Lexington High School in 2022, she served as a physical education, math and classroom aide at an elementary school and taught a food and nutrition class at the middle school.

As a CCC student living on campus and serving as a Student Ambassador has given her new opportunities. “The campus is very inclusive and I’ve gotten to know a lot of different types of people,” she said.

She also has enjoyed her classes, especially one taught by early childhood education instructor Jackie Zeckser that explored how children see things. A class assignment had her writing her own book, something she didn’t think she could do when she first started. The finished book features illustrations of a bear family with two parents and one baby and explores separation anxiety.

Draskovic plans to graduate from CCC in the spring of 2024 and then transfer to the University of Nebraska-Kearney to earn a bachelor’s degree. She wants to be a social studies teacher so she “can use my experiences to be a positive resource for my students.”

CCC gets Gold STARS

Central Community College’s sustainability achievements have earned it a STARS Gold rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).

STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System) measures and encourages sustainability in all aspects of higher education.

CCC earned a bronze rating in 2017 and a silver rating in 2020. The gold rating puts it in the top 5 associate colleges for sustainability achievements in the U.S.

“The Central Community College administration, faculty, staff and students have all been key to helping our sustainability efforts grow and improve by tracking collective efforts by our team through the STARS program,” said Ben Newton, environmental sustainability director.

With more than 900 participants in 40 countries, AASHE’s STARS program is the most widely recognized framework in the world for publicly reporting comprehensive information related to a college or university’s sustainability performance. Participants report achievements in five overall areas: academics, engagement, operations, planning and administration, and innovation and leadership.

Buckallew, Slusarski begin retirement

Instructors Robin Buckallew and Peg Slusarski have retired from Central Community College.

Robin Buckallew

Robin Buckallew of Hastings has been a biological science instructor at the Hastings Campus since she joined the CCC staff 16 years ago.

She previously worked as a teaching and research assistant at the University of North Texas in Denton, with the Oklahoma Water Resources Board to restore Lake Wister in southern Oklahoma and doing disability work for the State of Oklahoma.

Buckallew was born in California but lived in Oklahoma from the age of 10, graduating from the Edmund Public School System. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in political science from Central State University, an associate of applied science degree in medical assisting from Oklahoma Junior College, a master’s degree in biology from the University of Central Oklahoma and a doctorate in environmental science from the University of North Texas. In 2014, she received a master of fine arts degree in playwriting from the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

She has written more than 40 novels and 50 plays, both short and full length and has had plays produced in Lincoln. Her short play, “Tragic Women,” will be produced there this summer. One of her playwriting highlights was having her short play, “Entropy,” produced in New York City, “way, way, way off Broadway.” The play, “Until they Forget,” has won first, second or third place in a number of playwriting contests. One of the first-place wins took her to Pittsburgh for a reading of it. Her play, “There is no Woman,” was selected as one of the top 1% at the Great Plains Theatre Conference in Omaha in 2012. She also has had short stories published in anthologies of local writers and plant photographs published in various field guides.

Buckallew is a member of Citizens for Renewable Energy in Hastings, Prairie Plains Resources Institute in Aurora, the Hastings Writers Forum and Angels Playwriting Collective in Lincoln.

Her husband, Fritz, is a retired librarian, and her son, Christopher Lowery, lives in California.

Peg Slusarski

Peg Slusarski of Columbus has been a full-time speech and English instructor at the Columbus Campus since 2010. Prior to getting the full-time position, she had taught public speaking part-time at the campus for 12 years.

Her teaching career started at Genoa High School where she stayed for one year. She went on to teach English and journalism at South Sioux City High School and then English and speech at Lakeview High School. She also subbed for two years in the Columbus area.

Slusarski is a graduate of Sacred Heart High School in Greeley. She earned an associate of arts degree from Norfolk Junior College and a bachelor’s degree in English and speech and a master’s degree in speech communication from Kearney State College.

She is a member of St. Isidore’s Catholic Church, Columbus Right to Life and the TeamMates Mentoring Program and participates in a Bible study group, book club and card club. She is working to earn State of Colorado credentials so she can provide respite foster care.

She and her husband, Jerry, have four children and 10 grandchildren.

Employee news

Administrative Office

Bradley Keasling has returned to CCC as grants director. He had worked at the college from 2011 through 2021 with his last position as associate dean of business at the Grand Island Campus. He has been working in banking for the last two years.

Matt Zulkoski has resigned as network administrator in the information technology services department.

Columbus Campus

Osmary Depablos has joined the staff as a chemistry instructor.

Augustine Sanchez has resigned as residence life and student engagement director.

Grand Island Campus

Wendy Baumeister has resigned as a criminal justice instructor.

Hastings Campus

Jason Davis, associate dean of community and workforce education, has been selected by the NE Chamber Foundation to participate in Leadership Nebraska XV.

The nine-month program was founded in 2006 and covers a broad range of key Nebraska issues. It is designed to help current and emerging leaders enhance their leadership skills and deepen their knowledge of the challenges and opportunities facing the state.

Participants bring varied backgrounds and talents to the program but share an interest in Nebraska and its future.

Resigning from their positions are Bethany Brunson, custodian; Darby Ellestad, human resources specialist; and Jenny Scott, accounting clerk.

Calling it both ways

Two staff members who are sports officials received assignments for the 2023 post-season.

Tod Heier, associate dean of arts, sciences and business at the Columbus Campus, worked several games in all three classes of the Nebraska School Activities Association state baseball tournament. He and his crew officiated the Class C championship game in which Malcolm held off Roncalli Catholic, 3-1, to win its first state title.

In March, Scott Miller, senior director of college communications, was on the women’s basketball officiating crew for the Northwest Plains District Championship between United Tribes Technical College and Southeast Community College. United Tribes defeated SCC, 83-77, to advance to the NJCAA national tournament.

Both Heier and Miller have been officiating their respective sports for 25 years.