November 2023 Central Connection

November 1, 2023

NCCA to recognize distinguished alumni

Ross and Karen Pesek are receiving the Distinguished Alumni Award for Central Community College Nov. 5 at the Nebraska Community College Association state conference in North Platte.

They both graduated from CCC-Columbus. Ross came from Omaha to CCC on a basketball scholarship and earned All-America honors as a freshman. Karen’s family had moved to Columbus from Chihuahua, Mexico.

The couple met in English composition, went on their first date to Dairy Queen, and have been together ever since. They each earned a Phi Theta Kappa scholarship to Wayne State College where Ross graduated with a political science degree and Karen with a degree in public accounting, both in 2007.

Following graduation, Ross enrolled in law school at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln while Karen worked as a consultant for Deloitte LLP in Omaha. A year later, Ross was working for a corporate law firm in Omaha when Deloitte gave Karen an opportunity to work in Mexico City. They got engaged and went to Mexico together. They married in 2008.

In 2012, the couple opened Pesek Law LLC in Omaha where they specialize in personal injury cases.

That same year, the Peseks founded the True Potential Scholarship which helps 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. Knowing the tremendous impact of education, the Peseks committed $5,000 to the endeavor.

CCC was the scholarship’s first community college partner. Since then, 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.

The Peseks are grateful to CCC for starting them on the path to success.

“I’m most grateful for the opportunity to get an education without incurring a bunch of debt,” Ross said. “Without the heavy burden of debt, it allowed me to choose a career path to pursue my own business and serve clients in my community on my terms and the way I want to.”

“Even though I was an immigrant and even though I didn’t speak [English], I had a lot of people that guided me through my journey at Central and I am very grateful that those people,” said Karen, who also noted the affordable education. “Because we didn’t have the chains of debt, it allowed us to live a life of freedom.”

‘Dig’ that float!

This small excavator carried the load of representing Central Community College’s heavy equipment, truck driving and diesel programs in the Harvest of Harmony Parade Oct. 7 in Grand Island. Parade participants were instructors Matt McCann, Raece Paulsen and Ryan Pfeil and administrative assistant Laci Reiners.

He to receive faculty member award

Chemistry instructor Dr. Yunteng He will receive the Faculty Member Award for Central Community College Nov. 5 at the Nebraska Community College Association state conference in North Platte.

He came to CCC-Kearney seven years ago from Oregon State University, where he earned his doctorate. While at OSU, he was a graduate teaching assistant for undergraduate chemistry classes with a typical class size of a few hundred. His class size at the Kearney Center, is around 10-20 students.

“After the semester at Oregon State, I barely knew their names, but at CCC, after a couple of weeks, I could name all my students and have a great chat,” He said. “I really love the one-on-one interaction with students.”

In 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 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 but need additional explanations or practice. Red means that they got confused or lost.

“If more than 50 percent marked the yellow light, I will spend a few minutes at the beginning of the next lecture to review together,” he said.

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 advice to postsecondary educators on developing effective activities, addressing common classrooms problems and increasing student engagement. He also has presented workshops and oral presentations at national and international conferences.

He is married to Dr. Haiwei Lu, biology instructor at CCC-Hastings.

Desel begins retirement after 47 years at college

Sherry Desel of Wood River has retired as Enterprise Systems services director at Central Community College.

Her career with CCC’s information technology services (ITS) department began in 1976 when she joined the staff as a keypunch operator.

She went on to serve as a database administrator and systems administrator before stepping into her current position where she manages several vital college systems through Enterprise Systems, a customized application software package.

Desel is a graduate of Wood River High School She earned an associate of applied science degree in information technology from CCC and a bachelor’s degree in management information systems. She also has numerous technology certificates in specific ITS areas and leadership skills.

In 2021-22, she was one of CCC’s recipients of the League Excellence Award from The League for Innovation in the Community College.

The Excellence Award honors outstanding faculty, staff and other leaders in the community college field who have made a significant difference in the lives of students and in the communities their colleges serve.

Desel received the award in recognition for her consistent updating, testing and troubleshooting of CCC’s database systems and for leading the collegewide team through a major upgrade from onsite to cloud-based services.

Desel is a member of the United Methodist Church in Wood River, where she has served as secretary for finance and media technology.

She and her husband, Brad, have two sons and one grandson. They’re waiting for the arrival of another grandchild in November.

Hooker completes 25 years of service

Susan Hooker of Grand Island has completed 25 years of service at Central Community College.

She joined the CCC staff on Oct. 12, 1998, as an admissions technician on the Grand Island Campus. She worked in that position for about a year before transferring to the educational services office in the Administrative Office as an assistant to Dr. Dennis Tyson. She also served as a grants technician, leadership trainer and computer coordinator, and training and development director before accepting her current position as associate dean of community and workforce education.

Prior to CCC, she worked as a bookkeeper and handled other office duties at Kruse Electric, in the purchasing office at Chief Industries, in claims at State Farm Insurance and has a media aide at Howard Elementary School.

Hooker is a graduate of Grand Island Senior High School. She attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln but returned home and completed an executive secretarial degree at the Grand Island School of Business. She later competed a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s degree in management at Bellevue University.

At CCC, she is a member of the Area and Grand Island safety committees, a Success Coach and Pearson Vue test administrator. She also has served as Wellness Committee co-chair and been involved with the AQIP/CQIT, All-College In-Service and Position Review committees.

In the community, she is a member of the Grand Island Area Chamber of Commerce Education Committee and the Employ GI Committee and serves as co-chair of the SkillsUSA Job Skills Committee.

She is a Leadership Tomorrow graduate who has served on the YWCA, Junior Achievement and Red Cross boards.

She and her husband, Scott, have three children and five grandchildren.

The play’s the thing

Jonathan Reiff of Columbus, Janey Parra of Schuyler and Emily Reed of Columbus were part of the talented cast for “Arsenic and Old Lace,” presented Oct. 26-29 at Central Community College-Columbus. The next events are a band concert at 3 p.m. on Nov. 5 in the Fine Arts Theater and a choral concert at 7 p.m. on Nov. 9 at the First United Methodist Church in Columbus.

Employee news

Columbus Campus

New employees include Carol Fuchser, nursing program director of curriculum, Cheryl Koester, registration technician, Matthew Maca, groundskeeping supervisor, and Whitney Hank, fine arts and XR lab coordinator.

Brenda Preister has shifted from career and employment services director to the areawide director of student development.

Cindy Sanchez has resigned as diversity recruiting coordinator.

Grand Island Campus

Jim Cox, electrical technology instructor, is transferring into the same position at the Hastings Campus.

Barry Horner, veterans and military services director, was recently presented with the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Patriot Award. An employee serving in the National Guard or Reserves or their spouse may nominate supervisors and bosses for supporting the service member and their family through flexible schedules, time off before and after deployment, and other measures.

Joining the staff are Cesar Duran, admissions director, and John Behrens, student accounts director.

Hastings Campus

Jeff Cox has resigned as an electrical technology instructor.

Two employees have shifted position: Lindsey Higel from hospitality management and culinary arts program director to areawide talent acquisition coordinator in the Administrative Office human resources department, and Brandon Stalvey, from TRIO Program coordinator to Academic Success Center director.

Marilyn Beth Gerritsen, 92, of Hastings died Oct. 8 at Mary Lanning Healthcare.

She was a human services instructor at CCC-Hastings from 1973 until her retirement in 1996. She previously worked for the Mary Lanning Hospital School of Nursing as an instructor and later as assistant director of nursing education.

She was born in Hastings to Ed and Ella (Markwardt) Albers. After graduating from Platte Valley Academy in Shelton, she earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Union College in Lincoln and a master’s degree in education from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She also graduated from the Reich College of Auctioneering in Mason City, Iowa.

She was married to Richard Gerritsen, who preceded her in death in 2004.

She requested no funeral. Memorials may be sent to Livingston Butler Volland Funeral Home and Cremation Center for a memorial at Heartwell Park. Condolences may be left at