Fall 2017 Community Connection

November 15, 2017

From Concept to Construction to Completion

The new Kearney Center: artist's rendition, construction during the winter of 2016-17, and open for business in fall 2017.


Welcome ... from Cheri Beda, CCC’s Alumni Director

Dear CCC Alumni,

Each of you is an important part of our 51-year educational partnership with the 25 counties we serve. We want to strengthen the Central Community College mission of “Maximizing Student and Community Success” by celebrating your accomplishments, both large or small.

1. Share your story at www.cccneb.edu/ShareYourStory. You never know who you may inspire by sharing your experience in higher education.

2. Nominate an outstanding alum at www.cccneb.edu/OutstandingAlumniAward. This is the most prestigious award we bestow upon our selected alumni each year. Nominations are accepted June 1 through March 1. The next awards will be presented at commencement 2018.

3. Update us on your life events at www.cccneb.edu/AlumniNews. Did you get a new job? Add to your family? Reach a milestone? Share your updates and let us celebrate with you.

4. We are seeking volunteers to fill many roles. Would you like to share your experience on video or speak to current or potential students? Are you willing to mentor a student on the phone or online? If so, contact me for more details. We need your expertise!

Cover photo by Tiffany Seybold

Here are the perks we offer you, our valued alumni:

  • Travel discounts at www.alumnibenefits.org/cccneb
  • Access to any campus library
  • Career and Employment Services
  • Discounts to Raider home games
  • Paper or digital copy of the Community Connection

If you have any questions or comments or want to know more about the college’s alumni relations programs, please contact me at 308-398-7437 or cheribeda@cccneb.edu.

New Center, New Opportunities

It’s amazing to see something come full circle. Such is the case with the new Kearney Center. On April 21, 2016, Central Community College President Dr. Greg Smith and other dignitaries broke ground on the 63,000-square-foot facility and less than 18 months later, it opened just in time for fall classes.

CCC facilities and construction manager Craig Boroff, who spent a great deal of time driving back and forth between Grand Island and Kearney overseeing the project, said the original completion date was July 17. However, temporary occupancy was granted exactly two weeks later, which worked out well.

Boroff also is excited about the other side of the completion equation. “We came in under budget, which I think is fantastic,” he said.

Budgets and deadlines aside, Boroff and countless others that have seen the finished product share the same sentiment.

Dr. Kelly Christensen, dean of training and Kearney administrator, speaks with Lisa
Reese Parish, executive director of the Kearney Public Schools Foundation, at the
Aug. 17 grand opening of the new Kearney Center.

“It’s just a real beautiful facility,” said Boroff. “It’s something that the college and people that are working there can really be proud of. The town of Kearney can also be proud of it.”

One of the aspects of the new Kearney Center that makes it truly amazing is it is one of the most efficient buildings in the region. For example, there are four inches of rigid insulation in the pre-cast walls for a total thickness of 12 inches. Select windows along the east side of the building are sensor controlled and will automatically darken and lighten as the sun moves. Natural light plays a prominent role throughout the building as most rooms have overhead windows that provide adequate lighting and even then, the output of the electrical lights is minimal.

The facility’s efficiency also gets a boost because of behind-the-scenes monitoring systems.

“We can monitor our HVAC energy usage,” said Boroff. “We can monitor our plug loads. We can monitor our ERVs. We can see how much our pumps are on and off. We can get in and see which lights are being left on and shut them off via sensors.”

Outside, there are 95 trees on the property and the garden areas in the front and back will eventually have an assortment of native grasses and wildflowers. It’s part of a two- to three-year process.

The expansion of the Kearney Center also provides more educational opportunities, which is huge for students and employers of Kearney, Buffalo County and beyond.

“A big addition to the Kearney center will be our skilled and technical science programming – advanced manufacturing, mechatronics and information technology,” said Dr. Kelly Christensen, Kearney Center administrator, on NTV.

Automotive technology and welding technology are the two other new skilled and technical programs. Additional academic programs are forthcoming.

By all accounts, the project is complete. However, the completion of the new Kearney Center is just the beginning of a new chapter in a story that began some six decades ago and stands to get even better.

Story and photo by Scott Miller

New CCC President
Helping daughter Monica move into her residence hall at CCC-Columbus

Dr. Matt Gotschall will become the fifth president of Central Community College in January 2018 after current president, Dr. Greg Smith, retires.

“The CCC Board of Governors considered a number of exceptional candidates and we feel we have made the right choice in selecting Dr. Gotschall to be the next president of Central Community College,” said Linda Aerni, CCC board chair. “So much is expected of a college president, not only internally but externally, and given Dr. Gotschall’s academic credentials, leadership skills and community involvement, he will hit the ground running, making for a smooth transition. The CCC Board of Governors also thanks Dr. Smith for his leadership of CCC during a most important time in the school’s history and we wish him and his wife, Marilee, all the best as they move on to the next chapter of their lives.”

Gotschall has served as president of CCC-Columbus since 2005. He also is vice president of CCC’s academic education, extended learning services and workforce training and development divisions. During his tenure, CCC has taken significant strides in expanding offerings for credit and non-credit students, revising procedures for early college and increasing the Hispanic/Latino enrollment. The campus has also seen growth with the construction of an additional residence hall, a nearly 10,000-square-foot addition for the welding and mechatronics programs, and an expansion of the Raider Fieldhouse and athletic programs.

“I am very excited to be asked to lead and serve Central Community College and continue the great mission set forth by the CCC Board of Governors of maximizing student and community success,” said Gotschall. “Dr. Smith has been a positive mentor to me and others at CCC and I look forward to working with him on a smooth transition during the fall semester.”

Prior to serving as campus president, Gotschall was dean of educational services from 2003 to 2005, overseeing the creation and updating of transfer articulation agreements with numerous institutions, including the University of Nebraska system. He also assisted with the expansion of online delivery of CCC coursework. From 2001 to 2003, he served as associate dean of trades and industry, supervising advanced manufacturing and technical programs.

“The CCC Board of Governors has selected wisely,” said Smith. “Dr. Gotschall’s education, experience and personal integrity will serve the college well. For good reason, Matt is well-liked and respected by the CCC board, his peers, our employees, our students and the community at large. Dr. Gotschall is a tireless advocate for students. I am confident that Dr. Gotschall will be a positive role model and will lead CCC to even greater successes.”

From 1991 to 2000, Gotschall served in a number of capacities at Barton County Community College in Great Bend, Kan., including executive director of EduKan, director of BARTONline, and market development specialist. In his first three years, he taught agriculture and management courses as a full-time tenured member of the Barton faculty, receiving a National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD) award.

Gotschall’s leadership is utilized by numerous professional and community organizations, including the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), where he was recently appointed to its commission on research, technology and emerging trends. Since 2006, he has been a peer reviewer for the Higher Learning Commission and is a current member of the Nebraska Economic Development Association. Gotschall is a past chairman of the Columbus Chamber of Commerce and a past chairman and current board member of the Columbus Area Community Foundation Fund.

Gotschall earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He and his wife, Michele, have five daughters, four of whom are CCC alums. The fifth is a senior at Lakeview Community Schools and a CCC early college student. 

Story by Scott Miller; photo courtesy of Matt Gotschall

Stunning Environment, World-Class Learning
At Tunnel Beach in New Zealand

For a couple of years, Angie Balcom of Riverdale dreamed of moving to New Zealand and getting a horse.

“It was a crazy, far-fetched idea,” she said.

Maybe because her dream coincided with her time as an occupational therapy assistant (OTA) student at Central Community College-Grand Island, it was a way to escape the demands of class assignments and homework.

When Balcom graduated with her associate of applied science degree in OTA from CCC this past May, it seemed like the time had arrived to put dreams aside and face the real world. Then an email from Diana Watson, CCC’s international studies coordinator, popped into her inbox.

“It caught my attention because it said, ‘Study for a month and meet the natives,’” Balcom said, “and it was a study program in New Zealand.”

But the two courses – Sustainability and Environmental Science and Te Ao Maori: The Maori World View – made the OTA graduate wonder if she even qualified to participate in the program.

“I called Diana and she said it was open not only to students in those courses but also to individuals who wanted to go for the experience,” Balcom said. “It all happened pretty quickly. On Tuesday, I read the email; on Wednesday, I called Diana; on Thursday and Friday, I applied for a loan; and on Saturday, I applied for an expedited passport.”

And so it was that Balcom became the sole American among 12 Canadians descending on Dunedin, New Zealand, to attend the first summer series program being offered June 5-30 by Otago Polytechnic.

They experienced their first taste of biculturalism immediately on their arrival, with Otago Polytechnic staff giving them a traditional mihi whakatau (welcome).

“We were told that for the welcome one person had to stand up and speak for their group, but I was the only American,” Balcom said. “The sponsor said I could be part of the Canadian group so one of them spoke for all of us and then we sang ‘Lean on Me.’”

The students’ time was split between the classroom and outdoor learning experiences focused on sustainability and the first people of southern New Zealand, a tribe of Maori known as Kai Tahu.

“The first night we got to the Karitane Peninsula as the sun was going down,” Balcom said. “It is a sacred place to the Maori. There are 150 hills named after their ancestors in the region.”

On horseback at Rees River

They learned about the tribe’s relationship with the British Crown through the Treaty of Waitangi, the founding document of New Zealand.

“The Maori had no concept of land ownership when the Crown came over,” Balcom said. “They believe the land owns us and it is our duty is to preserve and maintain the land. They didn’t understand what they were signing.”

The students explored sustainability issues in some of the country’s most beautiful and untouched natural terrain and learned the skills needed to make a real difference in the future of the planet.

Some of their activities included kayaking in Otago Harbor, staying at a Marae (a traditional meeting house) and planting 140 plants and trees in the wetlands to offset the environmental impact of their air travel to New Zealand.

The Maori are working hard to revive many aspects of their community lives: their language and their cultural customs as well as their native animal and plant species.

 “It’s all interrelated, culturalism and sustainability,” Balcom said. “They taught us about systems theory and how every decision we make impacts someone or something else, including the environment.  They believe every individual has to do their part.”

Back home, Balcom is trying to do her part by promoting recycling in the small towns around Kearney. When she discovered that the city couldn’t drop off big bins in Riverdale because it was outside the city limits, she went to Plan B. She’s made flyers to hand out in surrounding towns that list the recycling drop-off places in Kearney.

“People go to Kearney for a lot of reasons,” she said. “They could bring their recycling with them.”

Her experience in New Zealand was also a game changer for her future plans. She thinks she may now want to return to Polytechnic to get her bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy. Whatever she ends up doing after finishing her national boards, she’s trusting the universe to steer her in the right direction.

Story by Joni Ransom; photos courtesy of Angie Balcom

A Love of Teaching and Guiding Students
In the CCC-Columbus greenhouse

Wade Hilker, an agriculture instructor at Central Community College-Columbus, remembers when he set aside his childhood ambition to become a veterinarian.

He had never doubted that’s what he would do for a living. It was something he had decided when he was little and one from which he had never wavered.

“Animals are my first love,” said Hilker, who worked at a vet clinic from age 12 through high school.

His resolve remained until he started veterinarian school and had to do a field experience. His assignment was to teach animal production to kindergartners and first graders.

“It was like a switch being turned on,” he said. “I loved teaching them and I decided that’s what I wanted to do.”

Part of what makes his job at CCC fun is the ever-changing field of agriculture and the chance to teach students about new technology and processes.

“I also love the advising side,” he said. “I get to help people excited about the future plan their futures. One of my favorite times of the whole year is graduation when they move on in their education or they begin their careers. It’s rewarding to see them succeed on their own terms.”

Hilker not only teaches his students all they need to know about animal science, soil, plants, economics, farm accounting and all the other ins and outs of ag business, but he also introduces them to the larger world through field trips.

The trips may be to a stock show in Denver or to see the peppermint and carrot fields in Oregon. One of Hilker’s favorites, though, is the North American Livestock Expo in Louisville, Ky., because of its diversity in livestock and activities. The trip also includes a stop at a thoroughbred farm in Lexington, Ky.

“It’s amazing what we can see,” Hilker said, “and nothing can replace the lessons along the way, or the opportunity for quality one-on-one time. We always have fun.”

Getting out of the backyard is exactly what Hilker does himself. He spends a good amount of his free time doing livestock judging. This summer, he’s judged cattle, sheep, swine and/or goats at shows and fairs in Kansas, Illinois, Indiana, Colorado, South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska and Wyoming. The fall season will take him to Texas and Oklahoma.

“I evaluate between 20 and 30 shows a year,” said Hilker, who grew up in a livestock family and now raises show cattle and hogs on his own farm. “My family’s idea of a vacation was going to a livestock show so I started judging when I was young. It was something I enjoyed and did well and it paid for my coffee.”

In fact, after he graduated from McCook High School, he went to Colby Community College in Colby, Kan., on a livestock judging scholarship. His education after Colby was “a little roundabout.” He went to Kansas State University and Oklahoma State University and finished his bachelor’s degree at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Landing a job at CCC has turned out to be a good fit for him. “The community college environment suits me. College is often the first time students get to interact with other people who have the same interests. It makes my day when they succeed.”

Daily interactions are important to Hilker, who takes advantage of lunchtimes to talk and interact with students who are his and students who aren’t. “Sharing a meal together allows them to get to know me in a different way, and it lets me get to know them in a different way. It’s been an important and rewarding part of my career to be able to be part of my students’ lives.”

His students also think highly of him. He’s been in seven of his students’ weddings, and in 2015, he received the Columbus Campus’ Faculty Member of the Year Award.

“It’s one of my favorite memories,” said Hilker, who was having a conversation and wasn’t listening to the nomination until the other instructor told him to pay attention. “I thought what they’re reading, well, that sounds like some of the stuff I do, and it turned out it was. To get accolades like that is very humbling. I was at a rare loss for words.”

He’s rarely at a loss when planning for the future either and wants to establish a judging team at the Columbus Campus. But no matter how the agriculture education field changes, one piece of advice for his students never changes. “I always tell students to do what they love or you’ll never be successful,” Hilker said. “It’s true. I love my job, and I don’t ever have a day I don’t want to go to work.”

Story and photos by Joni Ransom


Supporting Entrepreneurs of All Ages, of All Types
Don Hulme, director of the Small Business Institute at his office
in the Platte Building at CCC-Hastings.

Doris Lux, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship in Columbus
poses with one of her High School Entrepreneurship in Action classes.

This incubator space at CCC-Hastings fills with people
when Biddin’ Time holds an auction.

Central Community College offers a variety of services to both potential and current small business owners in its 25-county service area.

The services are provided by the Center for Entrepreneurship in Columbus and the Small Business Institute (SBI) in Hastings where Entrepreneurship Director Doris Lux and SBI Director Don Hulme counsel people about starting or expanding a small business.

For those individuals who are thinking about starting a business, the conversation usually involves discussing the importance of a good business plan and answering legal, financial and marketing questions.

Questions in those same areas may come from current small business owners, but they also might be interested in expanding. One way to do this is through CCC’s incubators.

“The incubator is a place for somebody who started a business in their garage or basement, but now the business is growing too big for their space,” Hulme said.

They’ll also get a taste of what it will be like running their business outside their home. They sign a lease agreement and pay both rent and utilities.

“It’s a good test of whether they’re going to make it or not,” Hulme said. “We help them with planning and we’re standing by to assist them if they need it.”

Since 1995, 16 businesses have taken advantage of the incubator space at CCC-Hastings with more than 75 percent successfully graduating.

Although the situation is similar in Columbus with three incubator spots available at the Center for Entrepreneurship, it differs in this way: Lux also works with people at their own businesses in their own towns. She’s currently working with 27 business owners in Central City, Genoa, Osceola, Schuyler and Stromsburg.

In addition, she offers Community Connection, a two-evening, four-hour session during which she meets with communities as they decide what businesses they need and how to get them. “Businesses are discovering that they work better if they work together,” she said.

Lux believes in bringing people together and educating them on all they need to know to start or expand a business. She does this through workshops, lunch-and-learns, and an eight-week “Become an Entrepreneur” class. She reaches younger people through a High School Entrepreneurship in Action Program during the school year, middle school camps in the summer and an after-school program.

The Center for Entrepreneurship
is located in the NPPD
building in Columbus. 

“Partnerships are mandatory anymore. We can’t sit up on the hill and expect people to come to us. We need to reach out to them,” said Lux who does just that with a monthly radio spot.

Another important partnership for both Lux and Hulme is SCORE, a nonprofit association that helps small businesses get off the ground. They also work with chambers of commerce, attorneys, financial experts and other members of the local business community.

One last important service CCC offers is the opportunity for current and potential small business owners to apply for low-interest loans that can help with start-up or expansion costs.

 “We’ve made more than 60 loans over the years, mostly in small amounts,” Hulme said, “although we can now loan up to $20,000. Over 93 percent of our loan program participants successfully complete their plans.”

The SBI office is located in the Platte Building at CCC-Hastings. Don Hulme can be reached at (402) 461-2461 or hhulme@cccneb.edu.

The Center for Entrepreneurship is located on the north side of NPPD, 1415 17th St. Doris Lux can be reached at (402) 562-1242 or dlux@cccneb.edu.

CCC-Columbus photos courtesy of Doris Lux; story and CCC-Hastings photos by Joni Ransom

Saving Pawnee Corn

The corn grows in a secluded corner at Central Community College-Hastings, its existence a miracle born of persistence and collaboration.

To understand that miracle, one has to go back in time to the 1870s when the U.S. Army forced the Pawnee tribe from its home in Nebraska to Oklahoma. The Pawnee carried their corn seeds with them, but their new home was less hospitable than their old one for growing corn. Over the years, the tribe’s supply of seeds dwindled until those remaining were so precious they were stored away and no longer planted or used in ceremonies.

Move ahead to 2003 and meet Ronnie O’Brien, now a hospitality management and culinary arts instructor at CCC-Hastings but then the educational director of the Great Platte River Road Archway in Kearney.

“A lot of teachers would ask if we had Native American programs,” said O’Brien, who set out to create such a program. Because of the Pawnee tribe’s oral tradition, however, she couldn’t find anything written by a Pawnee about the tribe’s 700 years of history. So she called the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma and spoke to Deb Echo-Hawk, their conversation marking the start of a long partnership and friendship.

Echo-Hawk is now in charge of all food programs for the Pawnee Nation but back then she was the education and training director. Together, she and O’Brien created “The Heart of the Pawnee Nation,” an educational program geared toward fourth graders.

As a lifelong gardener who “grew up in cornfields,” O’Brien knew she wanted to include a garden as part of the program.

“The Pawnee were tremendous farmers who had their own varieties of seeds, which are completely different from today’s corn,” she said. “Because the seeds are sacred to the Pawnee, they never traded or gave them away. By 2003, the only seeds that remained were the ones the Pawnee had.”

Deb Echo-Hawk and Ronnie O’Brien with the sunflowers that protect the corn from rabbits, wind and disease.

Her interest in having a garden dovetailed with a seed project Echo-Hawk had been working on since the mid-1980s: The Pawnee Seed Preservation Project.

“When I moved to Oklahoma in 1997, I began asking families for the seeds of our ancestors,” Echo-Hawk said, but because the clay in Oklahoma was no more conducive to growing corn than it had been when the Pawnee were first exiled there, the seeds were slow to come in.

O’Brien’s interest in the seeds couldn’t have come at a better time. The Pawnee Nation had never trusted its seeds to a non-tribal member before, however, so it took some assurances from O’Brien for the Pawnee Cultural Committee to grant her both the permission and the seeds she needed to start the garden.

It was also a decision born of necessity. One of the tribe’s most prized varieties, Eagle Corn, was on the brink of extinction. Stored in a mason jar were the last 50 kernels, their whiteness marked only by the purple spot that would come to resemble an eagle’s spread wings as the corn grew.

O’Brien’s first attempt to grow Eagle Corn in 2004 was a failure, but both she and the Pawnee were undaunted and the last 25 seeds were planted the next year. This time, the corn took heartily to its native soil and climate and produced about 2,500 seeds for the tribe.

The project’s growing success made it possible in 2010 for the Pawnee to do something they hadn’t done in more than a century: serve soup made from the Eagle Corn grown in Nebraska at a ceremony in Oklahoma.

Now in its 14th growing season, the Pawnee Seed Preservation Project has 17 approved gardeners in Nebraska, located in an area stretching roughly from Omaha to Amherst and Mason City and from Genoa to Bloomington.

“Some of them have been with us for over 10 years,” Echo-Hawk said. “They’ve become family.”

Nebraska also has served as host to 22 Pawnee interns over the years. Some worked on archaeology projects and others helped build the earth lodge at the Archway. O’Brien had two interns who worked on the gardens in 2012 and 2013, but none since then until now. Thanks to funding from a philanthropist and a retired United Nations employee, three interns – Kahheetah Barnoskie, Mee-Kai Clark and Electa Redcorn – stayed at CCC-Hastings this summer to care for the garden on campus and document the other 16 gardens in Nebraska.

“I’m investing in something greater than myself,” said Redcorn, a social worker who is slated to become the Pawnee Nation’s next Keeper of the Seed when Echo-Hawk retires from the position. “My ancestral people grew corn here. Being a part of this is both a blessing and an obligation.”

Kahheetah Barnoskie and Mee-Kai Clark are two of the interns
who have worked at the Hastings Campus.

An avid gardener herself – “If I’m having difficulties, I go work in the garden and I grow calm and peaceful and my problems float away” – Redcorn takes joy in seeing more people in her hometown of Pawnee, Okla., making the commitment to growing indigenous corn in their gardens.

She said the seed preservation project has inspired the Pawnee to get excited about their history and heritage. “Young people are taking an interest in this project, but also in linguistics and in dancing and participating in ceremonies.”

In the meantime, she’s thankful for the partnerships that have increased the Pawnee Nation’s corn supply.

“It’s been wonderful to work with Ronnie, and it’s amazing to see how an infinitesimal amount of corn has grown to a healthy amount,” Redcorn said. “We’re introducing the Pawnee to a sustainable and healthier lifestyle and preserving our cultural and historical past. It’s all social work, but on a bigger, grander scale.”

The entire seed project is on a big, grand scale. The gardeners may do the work of growing the corn, but it’s the Pawnee who care for the seeds when they’re returned to Oklahoma. It’s an ongoing labor of love that involves removing the kernels from the cob, making sure they’re free of insects, sorting and storing them, and then checking them on a regular basis.

Most of them are stored in every room of Echo-Hawk’s home. “I’m constantly buying containers,” she said with a laugh. “We’ve been in the seed bank stage for 14 years, but we’re breaking out of that stage. We have so many seeds that we need to think of bigger gardens.”

Echo-Hawk credits the Pawnee elders for starting the seed project and the Pawnee Cultural Committee and the Nasharo Council of Chiefs for supporting it over the years. She’s excited that the Pawnee Business Council now wants to make the project part of its economic development efforts.

The quest to find new opportunities and accept new challenges in multiplying the Pawnee’s native corn will continue. In the end, Echo-Hawk said, it’s all about relationships.

 “When we started this project, we gave it a theme of ‘Maintaining Homeland Ties,’” she said. “Those ties have taken us in many directions, but it’s all about friendships and people coming together to accomplish something good.”

Intern photo by Ronnie O’Brien; story and other photos by Joni Ransom

Presidential Perspectives

Central Community College has four individuals in different places in their presidencies. The time seemed right to ask them a few questions. They had a lot to say so their answers have been edited for space.


Greg Smith

Dr. Greg Smith is retiring at the end of this year after nine-and-a-half years as college president.

What do you see as your greatest accomplishment at CCC?

I do not view any accomplishment as “mine” since all we do at CCC involves team effort. We have maintained our traditional focus on student access and success while keeping tuition and fees low and our property tax levy at a reasonable level. CCC has done a good job of providing support services for students and we have gradually improved course success rates, retention rates, and graduation rates while increasing the diversity of our student body.

CCC provides a pleasant working environment, good benefits, and professional development opportunities for its employees. CCC has developed and maintained good working relationships with both private and public sector partners.

And CCC has been both a regional and statewide leader in sustainability education and practices. We are also proud of being named “Best for Vets” in the nation by Military Times four years running. We have had great success with grants including two large Department of Health and Human Services HELP grants which have helped thousands of students. Our facilities continue to improve year by year.

If you could do one thing over and do it differently, what would that be?

Careerwise, I would have pursued a college presidency much earlier than I did. I have learned much in 12 years at CCC and there are numerous situations I would have handled in a slightly different manner with 20/20 hindsight.

How do you hope to be remembered as a CCC president?

I hope folks will remember me as fair, honest, and ethical. Also, I would hope they would remember me as being focused on student success – often asking the “what’s best for the students?” question. I hope that employees feel that CCC is a better place now than when I arrived. And for those who worked most closely with me, I hope they feel that I made work fun and enjoyable and gave them the latitude and freedom to do their jobs without too much oversight.


Matt Gotschall

CCC-Columbus President Dr. Matt Gotschall will become college president in January 2018.

What are your expectations moving into the college presidency?

I am excited about the opportunity to continue the good work done by so many people across our institution. When you look back at how far we have come during the first 50 years of the college, we have to be excited about our future. While I have many positive experiences from working at CCC for over 15 years, I know I still have much to learn and expect to spend a lot of time and energy getting to know more about the communities we serve and their needs and expectations. Our commitment to the communities in our 25 counties of central Nebraska remains strong. I feel that even with challenging economic times predicted in the state, that we can be seen as part of the solution for Nebraska economic and human development.

What do you think you may miss about being a campus president?

Many years ago I moved from being a full-time faculty member to administration, and to this day I miss the daily interaction with students. With each level of administrative promotion, the duties seem to pull one further from the opportunity for direct, daily contact with students. I know I will miss that. I hope to keep spreading the success stories of our students as reported by others, and will keep as actively engaged as possible with the outstanding faculty, staff and administrators who make this happen.

How would you describe your management style?

Service minded and involved. I thrive on getting to know others, whether it be students, employees or community stakeholders. I like focusing on solutions to problems and do not have much patience when I hear something cannot be done. Since we have limited resources, I believe in the importance of collaborating with other groups to find solutions to challenging issues. I like to laugh and make others smile, but not take away from the serious work of helping students succeed or empathizing with their challenges. Most of all, my style is not to talk (or write) about it, but to do it and then let those who I manage talk about it!


Bill Hitesman

Bill Hitesman has been president of CCC-Hastings for 15 years.

What are the advantages of being in the top campus leadership position for 15 years?

Getting to know the Hastings and area communities and understanding their needs and expectations for education and skilled labor. Learning who the community leaders are to help meet the demands for future growth in our area. Getting to know the history of the area, campus needs, and individuals on campus and within the college. Stability and the development of trust and consistency.

What is still surprisingly difficult to get done even after so many years?

Getting a new academic education/science facility on the Hastings Campus; however, it is now on the five- to six-year plan! Keeping up with changes in programs and developing new programs to meet the needs of business and industry. Balancing the needs of our community and campus with those of the other campuses and CCC as a whole.

What are you most proud of at the Hastings Campus?

Excellent faculty and staff who make students and guests feel welcome and who are truly interested in the success of our students. Their input and support of college initiatives have led to a number of great accomplishments!

Working and developing partnerships with the Hastings Area Education Consortium, Hastings Area Chamber of Commerce, Hastings Economic Development Corporation, Hastings Area Manufacturers Association and area high schools.

Having a community who knows who we are and who recognizes the accomplishments and the importance of CCC and the Hastings Campus.

Working with Hastings Campus retiree Walt Miller, Hastings Area Chamber of Commerce, and Adams County Historical Society to preserve the history of the Naval Ammunition Depot and the Hastings Campus. 

Working with college presidents Dr. LaVern Franzen and Dr. Greg Smith and the Board of Governors, whose support have resulted in improved roads and facilities and a collegiate atmosphere.


Marcie Kemnitz

Dr. Marcie Kemnitz was dean of health sciences until becoming CCC-Grand Island president in August 2016.

What has surprised you most about being a campus president?

I think one of the things that surprised me most is just how much more I learned about the college and our communities.  That old adage of “you don’t know what you don’t know” holds true! I knew there would be a learning curve, but it turned out to be bigger than I’d anticipated. Having been with CCC for seven years, I’d had a wide variety of experiences and worked with numerous people, so I felt I had a fairly comprehensive understanding; however, I’ve learned there are many more functions and activities that go on.

How do you feel about your first year as campus president?

My first year as a campus president has been amazing and I call it “the year of learning.” I’ve become more aware of the campus’ and college’s opportunities and challenges from a new and different perspective. I thought I’d asked a lot of questions as a dean, but it feels like I’ve asked more questions in one year than my years as a dean! I am grateful my colleagues have been very patient and given me the opportunity to learn from them. CCC has fantastic and dedicated employees who know their jobs well, which has made my transition much smoother. I look forward to an even better year as we move forward and I have more experience.

How does being a dean differ from being a campus president?

While there are some similarities, there are more differences. One is that the campus president’s scope is broader. In the dean’s role, there is more focus on the daily operations of the division and coordinating with other divisions. As a campus president, the focus widens to include overall responsibility for multiple divisions and campus-specific planning and projects. Campus presidents have the opportunity to serve as ambassadors within the community and showcase their campus and divisional areas. While I did some similar activities as a dean, these activities play a much larger part in my role as president. It has been very rewarding to share with the community the great things we do at Central Community College.

A Great Education in a Great Community
Near the Holdrege water tower

When Allison Fritsche decided to go to back to school, she found the perfect avenue to her goal right in Holdrege.

See, Fritsche faced the same challenges many nontraditional students have – family commitments and a full-time job. For her, the key to overcoming those challenges was Central Community College-Holdrege.

“In the summer of 2010, I walked through the door that would change my life. It was the scariest door opening, but it was also the best door opening,” she said. “I was greeted by two remarkable people, Diana Watson (CCC-Holdrege coordinator) and Shelly Stump (administrative assistant). I sat down with Diana and we discussed what I wanted to do and how to do it.”

Watson and Stump then helped Fritsche through setting up an action plan, applying for financial aid and ordering books. “The next thing I knew, I was enrolled in classes and there were books delivered to my doorstep,” Fritsche said.

With a $600 loan from her parents, she bought her first laptop and was soon cruising through the online courses.

It may seem unbelievable that Fritsche didn’t have a laptop before 2010 considering that she is a sales engineer for Glenwood Telecommunications. The member-owned corporation is based in Blue Hill and provides phone and data services in south central Nebraska. Fritsche went to work as a customer service representative at its Holdrege location in 2013.

Her job these days involves selling phone and Internet services and systems to businesses. This includes high-speed fiber optic services, standard and hosted phone systems, information technology consulting, remote managed services, computer sales, servers and cloud-based options.

Where Fritsche has landed is a place she never imagined.

She was born in Ord and grew up in the Lexington area. After she graduated from Sumner-Eddyville-Miller High School, she moved to Denver, Colo., where she had every intention of pursuing higher education, but life had a different plan.

“I did not go to school,” Fritsche said. “Instead I got a job working at a grocery store to pay the bills, married my first husband and had my daughter, Alexis. All my good intentions went to the wayside.”

Six years later, she and her husband went their separate ways, and Fritsche moved back to Nebraska. She settled in Holdrege where she found work at what is now the Plum Creek Market Place and spent the rest of her time raising her daughter.

“I was making ends meet, but I was constantly looking for what felt like a missing piece in my life,” she said.

She thought about starting her own bakery business, but decided to get a degree in business administration instead.


At CCC, she took nine credits during the fall and spring semesters and was able to do almost everything online. She took off the summers to spend time with her husband, Ryan, and their blended family of Madylin, 16; Morgan, 14; and Alexis, 12. “This was my way of not losing focus on the really important things in my life,” she said.

After five years, she graduated in May 2015 with an associate of applied science degree in business administration.

 “It was tough, but how could anyone who wants to further their education say ‘no’ when you can affordably attend college and continue working all right here in our community?” Fritsche asked. “Getting a college degree also teaches you how to manage your time, collaborate with others and finish tasks out to completion. I learned a lot of good tools I use every day.”

Another lesson for Fritsche was learning how to face new challenges without fear. “I want my time on earth to be impactful and meaningful so I now teach community education courses at CCC in an area that used to be very intimidating to me – technology. I get to use my experiences to benefit others and that is beyond awesome.”

Glenwood Telecommunications also led to something else she hadn’t foreseen. “My superiors suggested that I get more involved in the community of Holdrege. At the time I didn’t even know what that looked like,” she said.

She does now. She’s president-elect of the Holdrege Rotary Club and president of the Holdrege Area Chamber of Commerce.

“I got involved in the chamber when I moved into sales at Glenwood and started going to my first board meetings ever,” she said. “I took the advice to watch, listen and learn initially before sharing my opinion.”

Being president isn’t so much different from being a member. “There’s a little more work, and you get to have more input, but the people on that board really do care, and so do I. I love Holdrege and I’m in for the long haul here.”

Her many roles in Holdrege include an unofficial one of promoting CCC-Holdrege. “I never would have gone to school if CCC hadn’t been here. The minute I walked in that door, I mattered and my future was important to them,” she said. “I would recommend Central Community College to anyone who wants to further their education at any age.”

Story and Photos by Joni Ransom

FedEx Driver’s Safety Skills Win National Competitions

Toby Kort looks for defects on the truck during the pre-trip inspection portion of the
2016 National Truck Driving Championships. After also completing a written exam
and a precision driving test, Kort was named the 5-Axle Class Champion, making
him a two-time national champion. He first won the championship in 2004.

“Don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy,” sang the Eagles in their 1972 debut single, “Take It Easy,” but we’re 45 years down the road and FedEx Freight driver Toby Kort loves his job.

“I did over-the-road driving, and it’s a great way to see the country, except you’re driving at night,” he said with a laugh.

That was when he was driving for Dahlsten in Clay Center, his first job after receiving his truck driving certificate from Central Community College-Hastings in 1995. In 1997, he went to work for American Freightways, which FedEx bought in 2002.

These days he travels the same stretch of I-80 from Grand Island to Kimball, Monday through Friday, and because he drives during the day, there’s always something to see. It may be farmers planting corn, turkeys puffing themselves up near the road or deer bounding through the fields.

“If traffic goes your way and the weather is good, the trip takes four hours and 50 minutes,” Kort said.

In Kimball, he meets his counterpart from Rock Springs, Wyo. They switch trailers and then head back to their respective home bases. That means Kort can be home in Aurora in the evenings and on weekends and spend time with his wife, Dana, and their 11-year-old daughter, Kylee, and four-year-old son, Kolton.

“It’s a good job, the best kind of trucking,” said Kort, who added that it gives him time to indulge in his favorite pastimes of fishing, camping and boating.

Another pastime of sorts is his participation in the Nebraska and National trucking associations’ truck driving championships. These are serious competitions focused on safety, and drivers must be accident free in the preceding year to even participate.

Toby Kort shows off his 2016 national
championship trophy.

The competition includes a “pre-trip inspection in which drivers attempt to find defects on the truck,” said Ron Mears, FedEx Freight senior communications specialist. “The defects are placed by the American Trucking Association’s officials and could include simulated fluid leaks, items such as a gas cap or mirror which are not secure, or a nail in a tire.”

The other two parts of the championship are a written exam based on the ATA’s “Facts for Drivers” and a precision driving test on a closed course.

Kort has been successful in these competitions over the years. Competing in the five-axle class, he earned the state championship in 2001, 2006 and 2008; state grand championship in 2002, 2006 and 2008; and national championship in 2004 and 2016.

His participation in these competitions dovetails with FedEx’s emphasis on safety. “FedEx does everything the safe way,” Kort said.

That means the safety precautions such as the automatic cruise control and the lane departure warning system occasionally make “all sorts of noise” in his cab. That can sometimes make it difficult to hear the sounds of his own wheels, but Kort may catch the Eagles song on the Sirius XM satellite radio also installed in his cab.

No matter what he listens to on the radio, he loves the road he’s been on: from earning his truck driving certificate to driving for FedEx. “CCC was a good learning experience,” he said, “and it got me the job I wanted.”

Story by Joni Ransom; photos courtesy of FedEx Freight

Vet Aims to Help Others

In the Veterans and Military Resource Center

Jason Walters loves to help people, and it shows in how he spends his time inside and outside of school.

Walters is a current Central Community College-Grand Island student, working toward an associate of applied science degree. Once he’s earned his degree, he plans to transfer to the University of Nebraska at Kearney to complete bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work.

His ultimate goal is to work as a licensed clinician, preferably at the Veterans Administration (VA) where he could focus on suicide awareness and prevention and provide in-home counseling.

“The Marines taught me how to treat people, and that you have to give respect to get respect,” Walters said. “I learned that I need to be able to read people to understand them, and not be so quick to judge.”

Walters went straight into the Marine Corps after graduating from high school and attained the rank of sergeant. As a Marine, he was stationed in Hawaii, California, North Carolina “and a bunch of other places” and was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, completing one tour in each country.

He worked primarily in personnel administration, first completing paperwork and entering data into the computer. He eventually advanced into operations where he handled deployments and arranged training exercises.

What was difficult about being a Marine? “A long list,” he said. “Learning to bite your tongue. Being more reserved. Keeping your opinion to yourself, but I loved it.”

He may have loved it, but medical issues led to an honorable discharge from the Marine Corps in 2015.

It didn’t take Walters long to walk through the doors of the Veterans and Military Resource Center office (VMRC) at CCC-Grand Island where he received help enrolling in the college, the same kind of help he now provides for the VMRC.

“Usually a veteran will call first and we’ll invite them to come in,” Walters said. “If they decide to enroll, I assist them. I help them fill out the GI Bill paperwork and walk them through all the processes up to the point where they sign up for classes. We take the guesswork out of enrolling and that allows them to focus on school.”

The VMRC staff also helps veteran students apply for VA benefits and connect with resources that address financial, family and other needs.

Walters doesn’t limit his work with veterans to the VMRC office though. He is a member of the Viet Nam Vets/Legacy Vets Motorcycle Club; the State of Nebraska representative for Operation Zero, an organization formed by the motorcycle club that is focused on veteran suicide awareness and prevention; and president of the CCC-Grand Island chapter of the Student Veterans Association (SVA).

“The SVA supports everything the VMRC does and often works with outside organizations,” he said. One example is working with the Viet Nam Vets/Legacy Vets Motorcycle Club on its scholarship fund for veterans.

““I liked the military, but it’s like you’re on autopilot,” Walters said. “It’s tough but it’s easy. If something happens, you know exactly what to do because you’ve been trained. Now I have 30 balls in the air, and I have to think of what I’m doing instead of going through the motions. It’s been a good challenge.”

Story and Photo by Joni Ransom

Not so Long Ago in a Lab Not so Far, Far Away ...
Mike Boeding works on R2-D2 as Leon Finecy and Logan Plock look on.

R2-D2 may have been limited to chirps and beeps, but the iconic Star Wars character always seemed to make his point.

Communication also will be an important role for an R2-D2 unit taking shape in the advanced manufacturing and design technology (AMDT) lab at Central Community College-Columbus.

“We want to use R2-D2 as a recruiting tool to promote our program,” said AMDT instructor Leon Finecy. “This model is not just a 3D structure. It’s also interactive. That will make it a good item to take to a children’s hospital or other places as a community project.”

The unit has provided a wide-ranging education for student Mike Boeding of Columbus, who was inspired to build R2-D2 by the release of a new Star Wars movie.

“I started looking for build files on sharing sites and finally found what I wanted at Thingaverse,” he said.

And that was the beginning of a prolonged – though not galactic – journey for Boeding.

The unit is predominately made of ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) plastic, the same durable plastic used for LEGO toys. Other materials used in the construction included wood for the struts and cut-up plastic soda bottles for places where light needs to show through.

Building an R2-D2 unit requires a “whole bunch of tiny pieces,” Boeding said. “Some of the parts I made custom, and some were used, some not.”

Mike Boeding and R2-D2

The biggest challenge? The build files didn’t include a parts PDF. “I had the parts but didn’t know how they were supposed to go together. I looked at photos of R2-D2 and would say, ‘Well, this is that.’ It made putting the whole thing together more challenging.”

The dome, on the other hand, was perhaps the easiest thing to assemble. “A lot more stuff lined up,” Boeding said.

Also working on the project was another student, Logan Plock of Stromsburg, who handled the gears and gear motors. “I put together parts I had printed for a CAD/CAM course and used them to design the gears,” he said.

Both students said it’s been both educational and fun to work on the project.

“I can say, ‘Hey, I built R2-D2 for a class project,’” Boeding said.

“It will really be exciting when it’s moving and making sounds,” Plock added.

R2-D2 has a way to go before being fully mobile and conversant, but that day is coming. This unit may not have to navigate the hot sands of Tatooine, but it may bring joy to patients at a children’s hospital or inspire high school students to choose a career in advanced manufacturing and design technology. Those are worthy adventures, too.

Story and Photos by Joni Ransom

Alumni Notes


Bryan Tworek (1997) of Genoa was recently recognized for five years of service to Loup Public Power District. Tworek attended CCC-Columbus where he earned an associate of applied science degree in ag business. Tworek and his wife, Shanna, are the parents of a son, Nicholas, and twin daughters, Alyse and Aurora.

Lacey Vanis (2014) is the new director of nursing at Alpine Village in Verdigre. Lacy is a native of Taylor and attended CCC-Columbus. She and her husband, Eric, live in Elgin and are the proud parents of Ellie, 3, and Mason, 10 months.


Dave Brandl (1989) of Columbus retired from Loup Power District after 36 years of service. Brandl received a degree in business administration and welding technology from CCC-Columbus. He and his wife, Darlene, are the parents of two children, Jason and Lisa.

Linda Waldron (1972) retired after 27 years with the Hastings Fire Department. For the last 14 years she worked with the public to educate them about fire safety and prevention. Waldron attended CCC-Hastings, earning a degree in business administration. She and her husband, Rick, have been married 44 years. They have three children and four grandchildren.

In Memoriam

David Bauer, 63
Spalding, July 15, 2017

Gregg Bostelman, 63
Grand Island, Aug. 7, 2017

Jill D. Catlin (Meyers), 80
Former CCC-Hastings instructor
Nebraska City, Aug. 3, 2017

Larry Dubbs, 68 (1970)
Kearney, Aug. 4, 2017

Cedric V. Fuerst, 61
Florence, Colo., July 21, 2017

Aaron Patrick Jones, 23 (2015)
Cambridge, July 9, 2017

Elaine M. Kulwicki (Platek), 80
St. Paul, July 23, 2017

Kenneth Kimminau, 55
Blue Hill, July 22, 2017

Cynthia S. Lammers 51 (1997)
Funk, July 11, 2017

Melinda Marie Lorence (Selvage)
Red Cloud, May 23, 2017

Kara Mabee (Elston), 59
Columbus, July 11, 2017

Cheryl A. Maslonka, 65
Omaha, May 11, 2017

Deborah “Deb” Novosad (Grey), 64
Grand Island, June 12, 2017

Cynthia “Cindy” Parsons, 61
Lincoln, June 29, 2017

Bonnie Peach (Bardsley), 72
Monroe, June 9, 2017

Arlen Peterson, 62 (1975)
Kearney, June 16, 2017

Randy Reeder, 58
Lincoln, June 11, 2017

Rae Ann Saunders (Morosic), 60
Grand Island, May 19, 2017

Bruce Swanson, 70
Holdrege, June 2, 2017

Aldon Thieszen, 86 (2000)
Holdrege, July 3, 2017


Alicia Getzfred  (2012) and Tanner Fritschle in Albion, May 6, 2017

Sophia Griess and Adam Carlson (2014) in Sutton, June 17, 2017

Karissa Kraenow (2017) and Dillon Eckel in Kearney, June 24, 2017

Sarah Jo Penke and Patrick Jacob Feik (2012) in Cedar Rapids, July 29, 2017

Stephanie Psota (1996) and Johnny Williams in Hastings, August 5, 2017

Meghan Rose Schrunk (2014) and David Scott Hester

Shelby Weber (2016) and Lane Johnson in Atkinson, July 15, 2017

Brook Zinnel and Kellen Fraser (2011) in Hastings, June 10, 2017


Jessica Bennett (2015) and Andrew Mitchell

Alissa Christensen (2012) and John Person

Kaylee Furman (2014) and Joe Troutman

Alexandra Lea Hayes and Glenn Richard Moon (2012)

Jaqueline Ann Himmelburg and Jacob John Kucera (2012)

Paige Sprunk and Clayton Rodehorst (2011)

Tia RaNae Tomlinson (2015) and Austin Michael Jerabek (2014)

Shayla Trotter (2016) and Chris Varney

Scholarships Unbounded

Central Community College and the Central Community College Foundation plan to take a bold step when it comes to awarding scholarships. Instead of only awarding scholarships in the spring, the foundation and the college will soon begin awarding scholarships on a year-round basis.

“I want every single student that comes to Central Community College to have an opportunity to be able to apply for a scholarship,” said Dean Moors, the executive director of the CCC Foundation and VP of institutional advancement. “I see too many students coming in the summer or any other time that we are not offering scholarships and they need that $250 or $500 scholarship to make a difference in their life. We know through testimonials that these scholarships are critical for a lot of students.”

The year-round scholarship program consists of four phases. In the first phase, known as the “admissions phase,” scholarships would be applied for and awarded for the following school year. There are four tiers of scholarships in this phase and depending on GPA and test scores, the award could be 25 percent tuition on up to a full tuition scholarship. Additional details and criteria will be announced in the future.

Phases two, three and four have been given the greenlight and the application process in each respective phase will go from Oct. 1 to March 1, March 15 to June 1 and June 15 to Sept. 30. The awards range from $250 up to $1,250 and will be funded by the CCC Foundation and the financial aid office.

“Having a year-round scholarship program is competitive with other institutions and it addresses enrollment and retention issues for the college,” said Moors. “Every student, regardless of when they enroll in school, will have an opportunity for a scholarship.”

Story by Scott Miller