Fall 2018 Community Connection

November 27, 2018

Meet the People Who Can Give You a Clear Picture ...

It may be the Columbus Campus admissions staff featured on the cover of the Spring 2018 Community Connection, but Central Community College has admissions support at its six other locations, too.

You can read all about them in this issue, but first take a moment to meet the people who keep the Columbus admissions office running. They are (from left to right in the above photos) Taylor Murray and Joanna Canchan in the front row; Jolie White, Kristin Hoesing, Cassie Seckel and Carrielynn Peace in the middle row; and Bev Mackie, Elizabeth Wess and Tony Blaser in the back row.

Murray, Canchan, White and Seckel are Student Ambassadors. The remaining individuals are staff members, including brand-new Admissions and Recruiting Coordinator Tony Blaser who had this to say about CCC: “My first impression of the CCC admissions office was very positive. Everyone greeted me with a smile and were really excited to have me work with them. The people were (and still are) awesome, friendly and so very helpful.” 

Jacob Sleicher and Jake Stieb became friends in kindergarten when they had to decide who was going to be called Jake and who was going to be called Jacob to make life easier for everyone else.

These days, the two Sumner-Eddyville-Miller High School seniors are both interested in the diesel technology program at the Hastings Campus. They took a tour of the lab on a sunny September day with Admissions Director Regina Somer and diesel technology instructor Dean Amundson.

Columbus photo by Doug Hann; Hastings photo by Joni Ransom


With SodbustinBuster at a Hastings Sodbusters home game
at Duncan Field during CCC Alumni Night

Welcome … from Cheri Beda, CCC’s Alumni Director

Dear CCC Alumni,

Staying connected with you is important to us since each of you has experience in the workforce and in your community and life. You are our connection to the communities we serve and beyond. You are our voice in the workforce, a face to our college and each of you expand our reputation as a college that provides the knowledge of today and gives hope to the community of tomorrow. 

If you are one of our many proud alumni, please share your story with us. Your voice could help encourage future students to take the step of starting their education and becoming the future of our communities. Once you experience community college, you become one of the many people who know how it transforms lives.

Our students may come from diverse backgrounds but they all have one thing in common: they want to learn. Experiencing success can be a transformative process that allows people to become who they want to be and start meaningful careers.

Many alumni think of giving back to Central Community College in monetary terms. That helps but there are other ways, too: finding time to speak to a class about your career, volunteering at a CCC event or sharing your life journey in one of our publications. Think about how education has changed your world and share that experience with someone.

Stay connected and share your story at www.cccneb.edu/alumni.

Innovative Vice President

Taking a break during a summer softball game in Lincoln
with husband, Ryan, and daughters, Lizzy and Lexy

Dr. Candace Walton was promoted to vice president of innovation and instruction of Central Community College in May.

She succeeded Executive Vice President Dr. Deborah Brennan, who has retired.

Walton previously had served as CCC’s associate vice president of the virtual campus and business division since June 2016. In this capacity, she served as dean of business and oversaw distance education for the entire college.

In addition to developing a strategic vision for the virtual campus and business division, Walton provided leadership in development and implementation of instructional design and technology in instruction, business faculty evaluation and workload, and building relationships with business leaders within CCC’s 25-county service area.

“I’m honored to serve as Central Community College’s chief academic officer,” said Walton. “Central Community College is known for excellence in the classroom. Drawing upon my extensive experience teaching and learning, I look forward to leading the academic growth of CCC and working together with President Gotschall, our faculty and administrative colleagues to create the finest educational experience for our students and our community members in central Nebraska.”

Prior to her arrival at CCC, Walton worked closely with adult and veteran students as the assistant dean in the College of Arts and Sciences at Bellevue University in Bellevue. This followed work as the chief academic officer at the University of Phoenix’s Nebraska campus, where she oversaw diversity efforts as well as ethics and compliance. 

“Dr. Walton will bring many innovative experiences along with personal integrity, work ethic and leadership skills to help lead the efforts of CCC including instruction, institutional research, grants and faculty resources,” said CCC President Dr. Matt Gotschall. “I am very pleased she is willing and able to assume this important position and join the executive leadership team.”

A broadcaster by trade, Walton was an assistant professor in the department of contemporary media and journalism at the University of South Dakota teaching media law, writing and audio production. She also served as adviser of the university’s student radio station, KAOR-FM, from 2006 to 2011.

Before that, Walton was an assistant professor at Kansas State University’s A.Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communications teaching broadcast media. She was the station manager at KSDB-FM, the student radio station at KSU from 1998 to 2005.

She is a past member of College Broadcasters Incorporated, the Broadcasting Education Association and National Association of Broadcasters.

Walton earned a master’s degree in mass communications and a doctorate in counseling and student development from Kansas State University. She earned a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism and criminal justice from the University of Nebraska-Kearney. Walton has authored more than 20 academic presentations and papers.

A native of Hastings, Walton resides in Grand Island and is actively involved in the community. She is a recent graduate of Leadership Tomorrow and is involved with the Human Trafficking Awareness and Prevention Project. Walton also volunteers her time with the BPOE Elks State Scholarship Committee and at Engleman Elementary School.

Story by Scott Miller; photo courtesy of Candace Walton

Innovative Blended Program

Left to right: Scott Latter, Home Federal Bank; Jerrel Gerdes, Franklin Area
Development Corporation Inc.; Diana Watson, CCC; Brian Deakin, BD, Jawna Kuck,
formerly of Holdrege Chamber of Commerce; Ron Tillery, Phelps County
Development Corporation; and Brad Keasling, CCC.

Central Community College-Holdrege has been selected for a pilot program designed to afford educational opportunities for working professionals, which ultimately aims to keep them in the area instead of moving to larger communities.

Through the blended business program, students will take two three-credit courses per semester, including the summer months. There are two components of the program, one is web-based and the other is in-classroom instruction. Students will meet one Saturday per month in two four-hour class sessions. If they keep on schedule, they could earn their associate’s degree in three or three-and-a-half years.

Bradley Keasling, associate dean of business and skilled and technical sciences, began formulating the blended business program one year ago in response to Holdrege area businesses asking for CCC’s help with employee retention.

“Becton Dickinson (BD), Allmand Brothers, Phelps Memorial Hospital and other area businesses were seeing their people leave to take other jobs because they didn’t have options for education to increase their skills or to earn a degree,” said Keasling. “BD, for example, is seeing a flux of people that might be leaving or staying stagnant in one area because they can’t become a team leader because they don’t have the credentials from a higher educational institution.”

Another unique aspect of the business blended program is that the curriculum is designed for students to learn real-life concepts in a cohort or cadre group setting.

“It’s not that they’re going to sit there and just lecture, lecture, lecture for eight hours in a day,” said Keasling. “The students should ask themselves: ‘What are those real-life scenarios that we can help each other with?’ The hope is that they stick together and hold each other accountable.”

The advisory committee for the program includes individuals from economic development, the chamber of commerce and human resources.

“What we have in that group are some great people who really believe in the Holdrege area as a community and are anxious to continue that momentum,” said Keasling.

In particular, Keasling credits Diana Watson, who leads the Holdrege Center, and Elena Olson King, learning center manager, for getting all of the people on the advisory committee together.

“Both of those ladies over there love the Holdrege community, know the community and have really been reaching out,” said Keasling. “They understand that the economic environment in the Holdrege area is awesome, except for people leaving and we don’t want that.”

The program will be evaluated after one year. If it is successful, then it could be implemented at another CCC center in the fall 2020 semester.

“I would love to throw it out into the Lexington area,” said Keasling. “I’ve already kind of been talking with the Lexington Center and they’re always willing to look at other opportunities of what we can do to grow.”

Story by Scott Miller; Photo by Elena Olson King

Painting Nebraska in 93 Beautiful Ways
Painting at Chimney Rock in Morrill County

Todd Williams grew up in Central City, a small farming community in mid-Nebraska, and at an early age, he was identified as gifted artist. He remembered his high school art teacher, David Jorgensen, encouraging him to pursue art and his parents being surprised because art is not typically thought of as a profitable career.

When the time came for college, he and his family looked throughout Nebraska and decided that Central Community College in Columbus was the perfect fit. It wasn’t too far away from Williams’ hometown and the fine arts program taught by Dick Abraham made him comfortable enough to take his first step on the path to a career as an artist.

Abraham was instrumental in teaching his students to explore different types of art. They traveled to museums and other locations to observe art in different mediums and then brought that inspiration to the classroom where they could experiment and get a feel for the different mediums and connect with their inner spirit as an artist. Williams said that Salvador Dali was an inspiration to him and early on he worked on creating pieces that resembled Dali’s style.

After completing his associate’s degree in fine arts, he transferred to the Kansas City Art Institute where he continued to explore his talents as an artist.

Williams then made his way into the world and found himself studying and painting in Europe during 2012. He was working on a series of paintings in Vienna, Prague and later Italy. He also started thinking about Nebraska. He felt in his heart he had gotten to a point in his career where he wanted to return home and do a series of paintings similar to what he had been doing in Europe. That was how it all started.

The Loup River Bridge in Platte County

“I was back home and had done several paintings locally in Merrick County and surrounding areas and wanted to do paintings in all 93 counties of Nebraska,” he said. He also wanted to do some period pieces focusing on what Nebraska had looked like in the past. Williams gave himself five years to complete this project.

He had some support and sponsors to get started and went to speak with Michael Smith, executive director of the State Historical Society in Lincoln. Williams told him about the Nebraska project and his ideas for each county. When Williams told Smith about his five-year timeframe, it all came together.

“You know what that is?” Smith asked. “It’s Nebraska’s sesquicentennial.”

Williams’ project was the perfect fit for Nebraska’s 150th anniversary celebration. He met with the sesquicentennial board of directors who gave the project the green light. Over the next few years, they raised funds through the sales of 2015, 2016 and 2017 calendars. Williams also produced a commemorative collector’s art book which sold out shortly after its release. All in all, his Nebraska project produced 123 works of art with at least one representation of each county in Nebraska.

Sandhill Cranes in Buffalo County

During Williams’ journey throughout Nebraska, NET followed him and created a 60-minute program, “Painting Nebraska’s Legacy,” which tells the history of the state and its culture and its people through the art of Todd Williams. This is his legacy to Nebraska and a work from the heart.

At the closure of the sesquicentennial celebration, the paintings that had been sponsored or purchased went to their collectors.

The 42 unsponsored paintings went on exhibit at the Fontenelle Forest in Omaha. This past summer, they were moved to HUB 46 on the second floor of the old Merrick Manor Building in Central City where they will be on display through the end of the year. This is the first time Williams has had an exhibition of his work in his hometown, and he is excited to be showing his work locally.

Williams said that during his life a lot of people took the time to speak to him and encourage him. He gives back by hosting painting workshops at small area venues.

“The best advice I ever got that I tell my students is perseverance is the key,” he said. “I admit that I am still a student (and I tell them) go with where your heart lies, where your passion lies. Many young people struggle early on because they are not sure what they want to do. All the great artists are insecure; there is always self-doubt that the art won’t be accepted. No matter what level you are at, we all need encouragement when we are creating. You keep improving and keep learning.”

Williams said that looking back, he can see how much his talent has grown because he didn’t give up early.

Find out more about Williams at www.toddwilliamsfineart.com and at netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/painting-nebraskas-legacy.

Story by Cheri Beda; Images courtesy of Todd Williams

TRiO Paves a Path to Education

Peg Slusarski, a speech and English instructor at Central Community College-Columbus, is a true believer in the TRiO/Student Success Services program. She sees the results every semester.

“Their confidence builds,” she said of TRiO students. “They come in and have so many doubts, so many worries. The TRiO staff shows students the talents they have.”

TRiO is a federal program that is celebrating 50 years of providing academic and personal support to individuals who are first-generation college students, come from low-income families and/or have disabilities. Much of that support comes in the form of individualized attention from TRiO personnel. At CCC, that would be program director Rosie Heinisch and coordinators Shelley Frear, Columbus Campus; AJ Hodtwalker, Grand Island Campus; and Tara Hofstetter, Hastings Campus.

The program fulfills an important function. Just consider that only 38 percent of low-income students go straight to college as compared to 81 percent of their high-income peers. Once enrolled in college, only 21 percent of low-income students earn a bachelor’s degree compared to 45 percent of their high-income peers.

On the Columbus Campus: Shelley Frear, TRiO coordinator; Peg Slusarski,
speech and English instructor; and Rosie Heinisch, TRiO project director

“At CCC, we are graduating 48 percent of TRiO participants with a degree, diploma or certificate, said Heinisch, a social worker who helped create the Center for Survivors in Columbus. She worked at the agency for 22 years and was ready for a change in 2007 when the position of TRiO coordinator opened at the Columbus Campus. She became program director in 2009.

“They believe in their mission,” Slusarski said. “If they see a student struggling, they’ll help in whatever way they can. They do it in a friendly and caring way, but they also hold students accountable.”

Accountability is essential, but Frear hates to see students make mistakes that will hurt them. That’s still as hard to watch as it was in 2016 when she left a job as a developmental reading and writing instructor and site coordinator at Sitting Bull College in South Dakota to return to Nebraska. “I was a first-generation college student so I was drawn to it,” she said of the coordinator’s position at the Columbus Campus. “I would have benefited from TRiO also.”

For Hofstetter, one of the mistakes students make is when they face an obstacle and give up too easily. “I see more potential in them than they do, but they don’t try,” she said. “Others come to college to prove they can. Every year brings in a different group of students.”

She has been the CCC-Hastings coordinator for eight years, but her relationship with the campus began earlier when she completed an internship there as part of her master’s degree in student affairs from the University of Nebraska-Kearney.

She and Hodtwalker agree that the best part is when students succeed when they thought they couldn’t or didn’t know how. “It’s rewarding watching students grow academically, socially and professionally and seeing what they’ve accomplished,” she said.

“They all hit roadblocks,” said Hodtwalker, who came to CCC in the fall of 2016 with nine years of human services experience at Boys Town. When she saw the employment ad, she found the coordinator’s position intriguing and that led her to research what TRiO was. When she saw the population it served, she got excited.

“It comes down to relationship building and getting them involved,” she said. “TRiO is the entry gateway to what CCC can offer. I love watching them grow that first year, and the second year, they’re a whole different person.”

A good portion of the students’ success depends on faculty members and TRiO personnel working together.

“The faculty are fantastic,” Frear said. “They stay in good communication with us and let us know what’s up with the student.”

Slusarski said the coordinators send a list of TRiO students to their instructors. “That way if we need help, we can contact them,” she said. “I’m just so thankful for the program. It helps me as an instructor to have someone to lean on. They’re another point of contact to ensure the success of our students.”

Slusarski most enjoys the moment when TRiO students stop being overwhelmed by college and start becoming engaged with it instead.

Hofstetter said TRIO is an excellent program that encourages students to push themselves to their full potential. “We’re their connection on campus,” she said. “They have someone to come to when they don’t know who to turn to or when they think their questions are too silly to ask of anyone else.”

“TRiO/SSS is a project with a mission,” Heinisch said. “The heart of the program is connecting with the students. We provide the outline of the path to be taken for success and we walk this path with them.”

She and her three coordinators agree that the program’s success depends on forming relationships and establishing good communication. Other factors are the college’s support and the ability to stretch grant dollars. “We can’t do as much as we want,” Hodtwalker said, “but we make the most out of everything we get.”

They also give everything they can, Slusarski added. “They’re very caring. I think they show it with each student.”

And, of course, the crowning success is when TRiO students meet their educational goals. “The most exciting day is the first day of class,” Frear said, “and the happiest day is graduation. It’s good to see them succeed.”

Story and photo by Joni Ransom

TRiO: Overcoming Poverty

Melissa Pedroza comes from two different worlds. There’s the world she grew up in, the oldest of seven children being raised by a single mother. And there’s the far different world she now inhabits as an adult.

Born into a long line of generational poverty, Pedroza only knew about moving around a lot and trying to make ends meet. “Education wasn’t important to my mother because it was unattainable in her eyes,” she said. “It’s hard to see the future when you’re trying to get through a day.”

For Pedroza, however, there came a time when she not only saw the future, but also understood she wanted something different. After dropping out of school during her freshman year, she worked, got married and started a family. The production jobs she held paid well and provided good benefits, but “there was no flexibility. I couldn’t get off to take kids to the doctor. I wanted something better for them.”

On the Hastings Campus: TRiO coordinator Tara Hofstetter
and CCC graduate Melissa Pedroza

That decision led her to become the first person in her family to earn a high school diploma. Since she took the GED classes through Central Community College, she also got an introduction to the Hastings Campus where she soon enrolled as a student.

College was a whole different ballgame. “It was like a foreign country, brand new,” she said.

And like traveling in a foreign country, there were all sorts of things she didn’t know, but she bypassed New Student Orientation where she might have learned the answers.

Mostly Pedroza tried to handle college herself, but eventually someone noticed she wasn’t doing a very good job of it. The fall semester was well underway when medical assisting instructor Michel McKinney pulled her aside and pointed out that she hadn’t yet taken any of the 16 tests that were part of the coursework. She then referred Pedroza to Dawn Deuel-Rutt, the Hastings Campus TRiO coordinator at the time.

“I was 22 when I started here, and Dawn Deuel was like my momma on campus,” Pedroza said. “She checked on me all the time, and she would listen when I said ‘I can’t do it.’ Then she would find ways to motivate me. Whenever I thanked her, she’d say, ‘The one doing all the work is you.’”

Deuel-Rutt also explained things such as why an instructor might not like receiving an email in all caps. Pedroza had never used a computer and didn’t realize that typing in all caps was the equivalent of shouting at someone.

She said it’s hard to underestimate the impact of TRiO on her life. In addition to Deuel-Rutt’s support, the program provided her with an electronic device to use as well as scholarships that were particularly helpful since her husband, Felipe, was the sole breadwinner for their four children: Philip, Alex, Naomi and Sara.

Although there were times when she was ready to quit, she never did. In 2006, her efforts paid off when she earned her associate’s degree, but CCC wasn’t her last stop. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in human service administration from Bellevue University and a master’s degree in counseling from Doane College.

Her education led to employment as an integrated care coordinator for Region 3 of the Department of Health and Human Services, as a home visitor for Head Start and back to CCC as a case manager for Project HELP, which helps low-income people prepare for jobs in the health care field.

Her job these days is as a school community liaison for Hastings Public Schools. She assists students and families in need by connecting them with community resources for such things as food, clothing, housing or transportation.

“I try to open doors for them,” she said. “I’ve lived those trials and I genuinely want to help them. The most important thing is be empathetic, not judgmental. “

Indeed she has been recognized for her work in the community. She has received the Head Start Volunteer Parent Award, Kids Helping Kids Award from the Migrant Education for Community Service and the CCC-Hastings Outstanding Alumni Award.

Her proudest accomplishment, though, is when all four of her kids say “when, not if” they go to college. “They say I want to go to college to do XYZ. I can’t describe how that makes me feel,” she said.

Although it’s not easy to move up the economic ladder, Pedroza said the hard work is worth it, not only for the educational benefits but also for the personal ones.

“CCC and TRiO helped me build my self-esteem. I learned about myself and discovered that I matter,” she said. “I’m not ashamed of where I came from. If I hadn’t gone through what I had, I wouldn’t be who I am, doing what I’m doing.”

Story and photo by Joni Ransom

TRiO: Learning You’re Not Too Old or Damaged

Angela Hoge traveled miles to arrive on Central Community College-Grand Island’s doorstep in the summer of 2016.

For her, it was a homecoming. She had grown up in Nebraska and had even attended CCC’s Hastings Campus briefly in 1982, but she quit college to get married.

She and her husband moved to Idaho where he built a successful business while she stayed home to raise their two sons. To all appearances, it was a perfect life.

But it wasn’t. When Hoge left Idaho, she was fleeing domestic violence and escaping a four-and-a-half year protracted divorce. “It had become too expensive and unsafe for me to remain,” she said.

Adding to her troubles was a severe ATV accident that crushed half of her face and left her with permanent vision problems and hearing loss.

On the Grand Island Campus: student Angela Hoge
and TRiO coordinator AJ Hodtwalker

She returned to Nebraska, to parents, siblings and “relatives in every cornfield and every county,” but she was torn between reaching for her dreams of becoming an occupational therapy assistant (OTA) and believing she was too old and too damaged to go back to school. As she paused on that threshold between her old life and a new one, unsure, Camelia Walker took her by the hand and led her through the door.

Walker was coordinator of the Grand Island Campus TRiO program that summer, but she would soon resign to move out of state. Her replacement, AJ Hodtwalker, began work in September.

“AJ is so good about meeting with each student and helping them plan their course of academics,” Hoge said. “She teaches us how to be college students and helps us figure out what direction to go. She is a beacon of light in a sea of confusion.”

For Hoge, that direction is clear. She plans to finish the OTA program and cross the stage in 2020 to claim her associate of applied science degree. From there, the broad profession of OTA will give her many options for a career.

She already has an idea of what she wants to do, though. “My passion is gerontology,” said Hoge, who did a fieldwork practicum at Primrose Retirement Community in Grand Island. “I walked in and fell in love with that population. It was a natural fit.”

No matter where she ends up working or what she ends up doing, Hoge believes her own health-related struggles will help her help others. “They’ve made me very empathetic,” she said of her hearing loss and the damaged vision that sometimes brings on migraine headaches. “I could have two decades in this career and the chance to make a difference. It’s being a part of something bigger that gives life meaning.”

She’s thankful for the TRiO program that has brought her this far on her journey. “I think this program is one of the most valuable resources the college has. It gives us a home base and a sense of belonging and connection. I don’t think I’d be sitting here without it.”

Story and photo by Joni Ransom

A Typical Day in Admissions? (Hint: There's No Such Thing)

There is no such thing as a typical day in the Central Community College admissions offices.

There are special days: New Student Orientation, Central Days, college fairs and registration days.

But every other day is defined by the unique people who walk in the door.

“You never know who’s going to come in,” said Erin Lesiak, admissions director at the Grand Island Campus. “There are a million reasons people decide to go to college. It’s the right time of life or they want to own their own business or they’ve been working for a while and want to make a complete change.”

Hastings Campus admissions staff: Ashley McCarter, seated, with
(left to right) Linda Wiltrout, Susan Kuta and Teresa Salaz.

Diana Watson, regional coordinator of the Holdrege Center, agreed. “Visiting with a high school junior or senior is vastly different from visiting with someone in midlife who is making a career change whether by choice or because of a lost job or a death in the family,” she said. “There are some standard things like explaining programs and doing paperwork, but after that each visit is individualized depending on the student’s needs and personality.”

On paper – and on the website – the standard admissions process is detailed in a straightforward checklist: create a CCC account, schedule a campus tour, apply for admission, submit transcripts, schedule an assessment test, apply for financial aid, apply for housing and sign up for New Student Orientation.

Because the Holdrege Center doesn’t have an admissions office, Watson handles many of these duties herself. The same is true of the Lexington Center and Ord Learning Center.

The Kearney Center is in a slightly different situation these days. Along with moving into a brand new building, the center also gained the new position of student and enrollment services director, which has been filled by Ashley Weets. Katie Holmes provides administrative support.

“That’s one of the biggest improvements,” said Dr. Kelly Christensen, Kearney Center administrator. “We’ve had an incredible change in culture with more full-time students who spend more of their day at the center. Ashley works on keeping them involved and engaged as well as conducting tours and coordinating open houses.”

The new building also means the Kearney Center has joined the campuses in holding Central Days, which are held throughout the school year to allow prospective students and other interested individuals to visit CCC and see what it has to offer.

The centers may be responsible for much of the admissions process, but they also have a constant source of support from the campuses, especially Grand Island. In addition to the admissions office, other departments such as financial aid, registration and student accounts provide support as needed.

Popular resources include Grand Island Campus staff members Emily Gildersleeve, assessment coordinator; Meghan May, academic transfer specialist; Donna Murphy, pre-nursing adviser; and Kim Ottman, disability coordinator. Barb Larson and Kayla Sheffield in the college registrar’s office also provide support, and Recruiting Coordinator Maria Lopez and Financial Aid Technician Angel Gabriel from the Grand Island Campus make visits to the centers.

Faculty members also are willing to offer their expertise. “If someone is interested in a particular program and has questions I can’t answer, I talk to the instructor,” said Crystal Ramm, regional director of the Ord Learning Center. “A good example is when I receive questions about truck driving and Clyde (Childers) on the Hastings Campus is always willing to answer them.”

Grand Island Campus staff (from left to right): Diane Bombeck, Liz Jacobs
and Maria Lopez in the front and Donna Murphy, Erin Lesiak and
Karma Thompson in the back.

Sometimes college services are the biggest help. “Having the helpdesk available to assist students is great,” said Carol Boyle, learning center manager at the Lexington Center. “Student Planner has made the advising and registration process so much easier. I am a huge fan of that program. Also, the ordering of books is getting better and more streamlined.”

One area that may be streamlined but isn’t so simple is admissions for international students.

“One of the joys is the global experience international students bring with them,” said Kristin Hoesing, admissions director at the Columbus Campus and CCC’s primary designated school official for international students. “They allow our students to learn about a place they may never have heard of and may never travel to. The international students can share their culture and learn about ours.”

Before they can enroll at CCC, they have to demonstrate English proficiency; complete a financial affidavit attesting they can pay for their education; and provide a variety of other documentation, including official transcripts from all previous educational institutions they attended and copies of their social security card, visa and passport. They will be issued a Certificate of the Eligibility, Form I-20 once all admission requirements have been completed through the Student Exchange Visitor Information System.

International students have to register for at least 12 credits each semester and follow a lot of rules. “They are expected to immerse themselves in the host country’s culture, get a degree and go home,” Hoesing said. “We get them started, but it takes the whole institution to help them be successful academically and have a good experience.”

In a sense that’s true of every student who enrolls at CCC. The admissions staff sets them on their educational path and then continues to work with the rest of the college to make sure they reach their desired destination.

“CCC is an amazing place,” Lesiak said, “and there’s nothing better than when a student gets excited about coming here. I love being a part of that.”

Story and Grand Island photo by Joni Ransom; Hastings photo by Kelsey Keep

The Admissions Journey


Your Guides

Maria Flores, Grand Island, enrollment specialist

“Admissions is where everything gets started. We guide and support students and give them a great start for their futures!”

Diane Bombeck, Grand Island, admissions technician

“Admissions is the “first impression” for CCC. We offer a wealth of information, greet everyone, answer questions and direct them to others.”

Katie Holmes, Kearney, administrative assistant

“The work people in admissions do can influence how a student feels about CCC. That first experience may determine whether they enroll.”

Ashley McCarter, Hastings, recruiting coordinator

“I love to travel to high schools to meet students. I love going to career fairs with our faculty and seeing how great they are interacting with prospective students.”

Ulises Valencia, Grand Island, admissions and recruiting coordinator

“I like all the different people I get to work with, meet and talk to. It makes the days interesting and fun.”

Karma Thompson, Grand Island, admissions technician

“Our admissions team works well together. We are a great working family and support each other in our job duties.”

Linda Wiltrout, Hastings, administrative assistant

“We are here to do whatever we can to help prospective students in making decisions and to help current students in any way we can.”

Bev Mackie, Columbus, administrative assistant

“I spend most of my time entering Lead Card information, ACT scores and transcripts. I’m a detail-oriented person who likes filling in all the little boxes!”

Jeff Lewis, Grand Island, enrollment specialist

“The biggest challenge is knowing enough about each program: how to find it based on a brief description, which campus offers it and how to get started.”

Susan Kuta, Hastings, recruiting systems coordinator

“The challenges are finding new and innovative ways to reach prospective students in a continually changing environment and working and communicating effectively with diverse stakeholders.”

Teresa Salaz, Hastings, administrative assistant

“I love working with students and their families. I also love being able to serve our Hispanic community when I get to interpret for non-English-speaking families.”

Maria Lopez, Grand Island, recruiting coordinator

“I love talking with prospective students and their parents and seeing their happy faces when they understand the requirements to attend college.”

Donna Murphy, Grand Island, pre-nursing adviser

“I enjoy encouraging students to look at versatility and rewards of a nursing career. It is satisfying to see them accomplish their goals along the way to this profession.”

Carrielynn Peace, Columbus, admissions generalist

“I most like encouraging students’ success, whether over the phone or during a college visit or directing them to services that will help them overcome a barrier.”

Liz Jacobs, Grand Island, administrative assistant

“We appreciate the good feedback, attendance and support of CCC staff, faculty, alumni and the public in our efforts to recruit and retain students. It is truly a team effort.”

Elizabeth Wess, Columbus, administrative assistant

“It’s pretty cool to enter a prospective student’s information into the system, schedule a campus visit, see them at orientation, watch them grow as a student, and cheer them on at graduation.”


What They Do (in a Nutshell)

  • Visit high schools
  • Attend college and career fairs
  • Organize and hold Central Days, New Student Orientation and on-campus tours
  • Plan and implement recruiting activities for members of diverse and underserved populations
  • Answer general questions about getting started at the college on the phone, by email and in person
  • Schedule advising appointments
  • Meet with students and their families on an individual basis
  • Enter Lead Card information, ACT scores, high school transcripts and Early Entry registrations into the database
  • Guide students through the admissions process and requirements for the nursing program
  • Call students who have dropped out of college to find out why they left and to see if they plan to return
  • Work with college-wide admissions and enrollment personnel to develop plans to manage prospective students, applications, events and other aspects of admissions and enrollment
  • Create, develop, enhance and maintain communication flows, campaigns, and workflow of prospects via our communication management software

Gameboard by Emily Klimek and Joni Ransom

Admissions: Glenn Retires; Somer Steps In

An era came to an end on Aug. 3 when Bob Glenn retired from Central Community College-Hastings.

How else to describe the years from 1985 to 2018 when he became the college’s first admissions director and, setting aside the droll comments he’s known for making, filled it with passion, enthusiasm and integrity?

“I was doing it all, both road work and on-campus recruiting, until 2001 when they hired a recruiting coordinator,” he said. After that, he still covered a lot of ground but it was in the Bobmobile, the title fondly given to the six-seater electric “golf cart” used to show prospective students the campus.

Regina Somer and Bob Glenn

And there have been a lot of prospects over the years, but Glenn said there’s no such thing as a typical CCC student. Some find their way to the Hastings Campus through educational planning programs, career fairs or high school visits; or through referrals by agencies, businesses or industries; or through special on-campus events such as Diesel Day. Some hear about CCC from a high school counselor and some just walk in on their own. There are Early College students, home-schooled students and transfer students.

It’s no wonder that once Glenn knew their name, he wanted to know their story. “I like working with students,” he said. “Every student deserves the support they may need for a whole range of issues, from the personal to the academic.”

He also enjoyed myth-busting with students and their parents about the advantages of a community college education: the ability to save thousands of dollars on tuition and the in-demand, well-paying careers open to a person with a two-year degree.

“No institution is perfect, but we work very hard to represent ourselves accurately,” he said. “Still it takes time for students to understand who we are, to understand our structure, curriculum and language. Once they get comfortable with us, they get comfortable with themselves.”

When students make that adjustment to CCC, Glenn sees it as the culmination of a recruiting process he describes as a strong partnership rooted in trust and nurtured with strong support services.

“I’m grateful for the 43 years I spent here,” he said. “It was meaningful employment at a place where important things happen. Central Community College offers access and opportunity and fills a role that no other institution can.”

Educating people about what CCC-Hastings can offer them now falls to Regina Somer, the new admissions director. She brings all sorts of experience to the position: as the mom of a CCC graduate and as someone who worked with employment and position admissions in the human resources department at St. Francis Medical Center. In her most recent position at Doane University’s College of Professional Studies where she did everything. “By coming to CCC, I’ve pared down to just admissions,” she said.

Somer has been learning where the buildings and programs are on the sprawling Hastings Campus. She’s been used to working with nontraditional students, but now she’ll also be working with traditional students.

“I’m very excited by the many possibilities of working here,” she said. “Students who come here are making a great decision. They’ll have a quick turnaround in preparing for a career, typically two years, and then they’ll be out there making good money. It will be really cool to watch them realize their dreams.”

But what about filling Bob Glenn’s shoes?

“Well, someone had to step into the role,” she said with a laugh.

Story and photo by Joni Ransom

Admissions: CCC's Student Ambassadors

Student Ambassadors give tours, help with events such as New Student Orientation and Central Days and work in the admissions office. Meet three students who are currently serving in this capacity:


Columbus Campus
Cassie Seckel of Columbus

Major: Elementary education, graduating in May 2019.

Best part of being a Student Ambassador: Being involved, giving tours and being able to talk about all of CCC’s programs.

Hardest part: Talking in front of people.

Other activities: Resident assistant, Judicial Board, president of Phi Theta Kappa and the National Society for Leadership and Success, Raiders Dance Team, volleyball manager.

Reason for coming to CCC: “I’m very family-oriented and wanted to go somewhere close. It felt like home when I came on campus.”

Dream job: Third-grade teacher.


Grand Island Campus
Jeraldin Zurita of Grand Island

Major: International studies, graduating in May 2019.

Best part of being a Student Ambassador: Helping with New Student Orientation.

Hardest part: Speaking in front of people, especially when the room is quiet. “I’m super shy, but being a Student Ambassador has helped me in my public speaking class.”

Other activities: Environmental Sustainability Club, FOCUS multicultural club.

Reason for coming to CCC: “I knew people who came here and who teach here.” CCC was local, inexpensive and a good fit.

Dream job: Interpreter and translator who travels a lot.


Hastings Campus
Laranda Lammers of Oxford

Major: Taking the prerequisites for nursing.

Best part of being a Student Ambassador: Learning about the campus, getting to know the buildings and finding out where everyone works.

Hardest part: Learning how to drive the GEM (electrical vehicle).

Other activities: Looking for a second job.

Reason for coming to CCC: A memorable College Fair where she got to write her name in chocolate at the CCC table. “CCC is a very good college,” she said. “I’m enjoying it.”

Dream job: Nurse or doctor.

Interviews and photos by Joni Ransom

Paths + Readiness = Math Success

When it comes to solving math problems, sometimes there is more than one way to get to the right answer.

For Central Community College, the problem is ensuring students are successful in their math courses. Math Paths and the Nebraska Math Readiness Project are the two solutions.

At CCC, students whose placement scores show they need additional preparation before going into college-level classes are directed into the foundations class, Math Essentials, no matter what their educational or career goals actually require.

That’s about to change. Beginning with the 2019 spring semester, a redesigned math sequence called Math Paths will be piloted. The one option of Math Essentials has been transformed into two options: practical math and pre-algebra.

Practical math is for students who need to meet prerequisites for associate of applied science degrees in business, occupational and technical programs. Pre-algebra is for students planning to transfer to a four-year institution.

“By putting everyone in the same foundations math classes, we were overserving one group of students and underserving the other,” said Rachel Brown, interim associate dean of academic education and a math instructor.

Also, because Math Essentials was a five-credit class, it was difficult for students to work it into their schedules. This is something that should be easier since the two new classes are each worth three credits.

“The whole idea is to shorten the path for students. The longer they spend in foundations math, the less likely they are to finish math,” Brown said.

This pilot program was made possible by the CCC Board of Governors and college administration giving the math faculty the green light – and the latitude and support – to make improvements.

“It’s been an exciting, faculty-driven project,” Brown said. “The administration tasked us with coming up with significant change and allowed us to think outside of the box.”

The math faculty took the task seriously, meeting throughout the summer to write the curriculum and choose the textbooks for both classes. To ensure the practical math course was relevant, they also met with skilled and technical science faculty.

“It was good to hear from these instructors,” Brown said. “As math instructors, we know math is useful to them, but we didn’t know the specifics. They showed us how math fits into their programs.”

Now the math faculty are working on the third course that is part of the Math Path options: pre-statistics, which won’t be offered until the 2019 fall semester. Whether a student goes into this class or into pre-algebra will be determined by their major and the transferring institution.

“And there’s one other piece we’re still exploring and that’s a co-requisite,” said Brown. She explained this option would allow students to get through some business, occupational and technical courses without having to take the full-blown practical math class. “It’s an option for down the road.”

For Corey Hatt, “down the road” means something more concrete than a reference to future planning. It means getting on actual highways and driving to schools that are part of the Nebraska Math Readiness Project.

As CCC’s project director, Hatt is overseeing the project’s implementation, informing schools about it and setting up training for high school teachers, counselors and principals.

“The project is designated for students scoring between 13 and 18 on the math portion of the ACT,” he said. “Right now, if they fit into that category, when they enroll at a community college, they need to take three levels of foundations math before taking a college-level class. If they fail, they have to take it again at full tuition, and those are non-credit-bearing classes.”

The Nebraska Math Readiness Project will instead allow students to take foundations math as a high school class taught by a high school teacher. Those who pass will meet the prerequisite for college-level math classes, saving them time and money.

“By taking this class and completing it, they’ll start out in college on the right footing and be more destined for success,” Hatt said. “It also will increase the college’s enrollment and degree completion rate.”

CCC is involved in the project with four other Nebraska community colleges: Mid-Plains, Northeast, Southeast and Western Nebraska. It’s primarily funded by a three-year grant from the Peter Kiewit Foundation.

Seventeen schools and 170 students are involved in the pilot. The schools in CCC’s area are Columbus Lakeview, Grand Island Senior High, Lawrence-Nelson and Sandy Creek. The other schools are Alliance, Battle Creek, Beatrice, Gering, Lincoln High, Lincoln Southeast, McCook, Norfolk, North Platte, Palmyra, Randolph, Scottsbluff and Southwest.

“We have a good mixture of small, middle-sized and large schools,” Hatt said, but the plan is to “grow the project in the next two years and increase the number of schools and students.”

Those schools are also provided with support from the participating college’s math faculty. For CCC, those instructors are Phil Broberg from the Columbus Campus and Amy Wahlmeier from the Hastings Campus. “They go to the schools and see where the successes and pitfalls are,” Hatt said. “They may help the students, but their big role is to provide support for the teacher. They’re our first line of defense.”

The Nebraska Math Readiness Project was the brainchild of Dr. Deb Brennan, CCC’s now retired executive vice president, and other community college chief academic officers. Patterned after the successful Tennessee Sails Project, it is designed to make sure high school students are math-ready before enrolling in college.

“The whole project was well received by our faculty,” Brennan said. “I’m so proud of how proactive they were, and I’m excited to see it being implemented.”

Story by Joni Ransom

Employees Set Pace for Giving Campaign

You always know it is the start of the fall semester at Central Community College. Faculty and students return from summer break, classes are back in session and the CCC Foundation conducts its annual Employee Giving Campaign.

The campaign provides an opportunity for CCC employees to designate a donation or gift toward scholarships or program support to any area within CCC. Participants also have the option to allow the CCC Foundation to decide where the donations are needed most. Development director Billy Dunbar points out that most employees direct their donations, but they also have the option to change from year to year.

“The majority of employees have something that is near and dear to their hearts,” said Dunbar, who also manages the Employee Giving Campaign. “It may be their own area of study, the program they work for or perhaps a friend or former colleague has a scholarship that they like to support.”

Some of the most popular areas of employee donation designation are the general scholarship funds of each of the three campuses, CCC athletics and retired CCC employees who have established a scholarship in their name.

The 2017 Employee Giving Campaign generated more than $80,000 with 70 percent of CCC employees participating. The foundation reports that it consistently has had 65 percent employee participation for the last several years. An important element of the annual appeal is the pacesetter portion, which is the kick-starter for the overall campaign. Pacesetters are members of the CCC Board of Governors and Foundation Board of Directors; CCC presidents, vice presidents, deans and associate deans; any employee who has given for five consecutive years; and one of the top 50 donors to the foundation.

“We added 30 to 40 pacesetters this year and now we have over 200 pacesetters,” said Dunbar, who adds that all CCC Board of Governors and CCC Foundation board members have 100 percent participation. “Our goal is that in a few years, almost all CCC employees will be pacesetters.

Dunbar is quick to point out that no donation is too small, considering employee giving perpetuates giving from other sources. For instance, in the world of fundraising, it is common practice for a corporation or foundation to donate based upon an organization’s employee participation.

“The CCC Foundation is very grateful for what CCC employees do for our students,” said Dunbar. “It really makes a difference.”

Story by Scott Miller

Spatulas Stir up Interest Year After Year at State Fair

Nebraska State Fair attendee Wendi Orona stops at the CCC booth each year
for a new spatula ... or two. She said they’re perfect for spreading the masa
when she makes tamales.

Back when Jesse Reicks and Scott Smyth were students at Central Community College-Hastings, they never dreamed that a class project would become a perennial favorite at the Nebraska State Fair.

Neither did their instructor, Bruce Bartos.

In early 2008, Bartos was brand new to CCC-Hastings. Reicks and Smyth had beat him to the campus by only a few months, enrolling as new students for the 2007 fall semester.

The Nebraska State Fair was still located in Lincoln although two years later, in 2010, it would open at its new home in Grand Island.

Their common bond would come in the form of a durable plastic spatula.

Reicks, an Elm Creek High School graduate, and Smyth, a Gibbon High school graduate, came to CCC to enroll in “Strengthening Transitions into Engineering Programs (STEP),” a collaborative project between the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the state’s community colleges. Through STEP, students could complete selected courses at the community colleges and then transfer seamlessly into the UNL College of Engineering to complete their bachelor’s degree.

Although Reicks and Smyth discovered STEP wasn’t for them, they found other CCC programs attractive. One of those programs was machine tool technology, which brought them into Bartos’ orbit.

“I had just starting teaching,” Bartos said. “I was very lucky having Jesse and Scott as students. They were so much fun, and we all just clicked.”

Both Reicks and Smyth mentioned they were impressed with Bartos’ decision to leave a successful career in industry for one in teaching. They also enjoyed witnessing and participating in his efforts to upgrade the program to meet the needs of a quickly changing field.

“Scott and I were committed to what CCC was doing, to what Bruce was doing,” Reicks said. “He wanted to teach students and help them be successful. My experience with CCC was one of best things that happened to me.”

“I liked how he taught, and his classes were so much fun,” Smyth said. “I’d definitely do it all over again if I could.”

Eventually Bartos brought up the idea of a final project to the two students. He even had an idea for them.

“There was a single-cavity spatula design that Evart Barton (Bartos’ retired predecessor) had his students make and that had been used for a long time,” Bartos said. “Although the original design was very good, I thought it could be reworked, and that Jesse and Scott were the perfect two candidates to do it. They were sharp, good on the equipment and understood the molding process very well.”

The improvement they chose was elongating the much-shorter original spatula. “In a real-life situation, you’d have a hard time getting to the bottom of a peanut butter jar,” Reicks said of the old spatula design.

After Reicks and Smyth had finished their design, Bartos took a step back and said. “Something’s missing. What if I want to take it out to the shop and hang it somewhere?”

The spatulas feel at home at the Nebraska State Fair

A hole was added, finalizing the spatula that has been given out at the Nebraska State Fair since its first year in Grand Island. They have become so popular – in the kitchen and the shop – that people return year after year to get a new one to replace their old one. Every single spatula includes the words: Designed & Produced by J. Reicks & S. Smyth.

Although all three people involved in the project expected the spatulas to be popular, they admit that the sustained response is surprising. Requests for them come throughout the year.

“Everyone in Kansas loves them,” said Riecks who lives in Wichita with his wife, Miranda, and their four-year-old son, Khyler, and makes aircraft parts at a small, family-owned shop called Shackelford Machine. “I’ve had the moms of friends who text me because they found my name on the spatula.”

Smyth gives them to family members and thinks it’s cool that the spatulas are handed out at the fair. He was a die maker at Dramco Tool Company in Grand Island for five or six years but has returned to Gibbon to work the family farm. He also is a newlywed; his wife, Anna, is employed by Kearney Family Practice.

If either of the two CCC graduates ever run low on spatulas, all they have to do is stop by and visit Bartos who will give them a handful … or a boxful. In fact, they still play an important role at CCC. When current students start learning the injection molding press, Bartos always puts the spatula mold in the machine. “It’s perfect,” he said. “There are no flaws so students can concentrate on the process.”

Sometimes Bartos wonders if someone could come up with another project, but what could top something that can be used for everything? “They’re all over the place. I’ve had calls for them from Boston to Washington State,” he said. “Their popularity has amazed me.”

Story by Joni Ransom; Photo of Wendi Orona by Tiffany Seybold; Photo of spatulas by Emily Klimek

Love of Cooking, Creating Leads to the Leftover Guru

In her kitchen at home

What are the ingredients of a full life? Catherine Bergin’s recipe includes blending family and work, adding a heap of reading, and combining education and lifetime experience into creating original recipes.

After a lifetime of living in different places and pursuing different occupations, she has made a home in Hastings but brings her smile to Grand Island where she works as an administrative assistant in the student services office at Central Community College.

The California-born Bergin learned how to make the best of every day when she was growing up and her dad, a civil engineer for the Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation, would move his family to a new state to work on a new dam project. She’s lived in Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Louisiana and Nebraska.

 “We always made friends,” she said of herself and her younger siblings. “There’s a tremendous advantage to moving around and meeting different people.”

Meeting – and working – with different people also has been a hallmark of Bergin’s working life. She has been employed in a wide variety of jobs, including serving as a liturgist and music director at several Catholic parishes; working the IRS phones during tax season; handling purchasing for a heating and air conditioning business; helping kids, teachers and parents as a principal’s secretary in an elementary school; and teaching writing, reading and life skills at an alternative high school.

“I said I was an alternative person so I’d fit right in with an alternative high school,” she said, laughing, but she’s serious when she describes the jobs she has held. “They’ve been interesting and wonderful, great experiences.”

One job in particular may have provided the foundation for her latest passion. That job was as a reporter for a weekly newspaper in Canon City, Colo., even though she didn’t have a journalism degree or background.

“I sent the editor a letter about its spotty coverage of religion and education. The editor thought that was great and said: ‘Do you want to do it?’ And that’s how I got a job at a paper,” said Bergin, who also covered cooking. “As a reporter, I had a reason to ask very nosy questions. It was fabulous, but then the paper closed. It just couldn’t compete with the daily newspaper, and there wasn’t enough population to support both.”

A few years ago, Bergin decided to combine her love of food, cooking and writing in a blog, “The Leftover Guru,” the aforementioned latest passion.

“I have a longstanding acquaintance with cooking,” she said. “I read cookbooks like other people read novels.”

When it came to starting her blog, Bergin applied her ability to plan ahead. A lot of thought has to go into a successful blog, whether or not it deals with cooking.

Before she ever posted, Bergin spent a year researching and preparing to do the blog. The first step was to pick a name and decide how much information to include: Do you want to use your full name? Do you want to share details about your personal life? Do you want the whole world to have your address?

Bergin picked her title, “The Leftover Guru,” and bought the domain name. She decided not to write under her full name or to include information about her personal life. Those decisions made, she set a publication schedule and created a precise and detailed style sheet for her blog.

The next step was to pay for a webhost. Bergin went with WordPress on the advice of her sister-in-law, who also designed her logo. She said learning how to create a blog required learning a whole new vocabulary and making a bunch of decisions.

Before she posted, she had five full posts ready to go. “It was hard to not post them all at once but I had already decided to space out my posts by three weeks. I didn’t want to be that person who’s very excited and posts every day for five days and then never posts again.”

Every post includes two recipes. In her first post, the first recipe was for glazed carrots.

“You can make some extra and put them in a container to take for lunch the next day,” she said, “or you can use them in the second recipe for spiced carrot cookies.”

Bergin creates every recipe from scratch, a process that begins with a concept. She starts with the first recipe, sitting at the computer to make her best estimate on amounts.

Then the hard part comes in. Because Bergin rarely follows a recipe, it takes real discipline for her to cook the recipe as it is. “I make it exactly as I wrote it out,” she said. “Since I’m creating these recipes from scratch, I have to make sure they turn out the way they’re supposed to.”

She edits the recipe, makes it again, evaluates it again. She repeats the process until it’s right, usually seven or eight times. After it’s been perfected, she makes the recipe one more time and photographs the process.

Then she does the exact same thing for the second recipe. On this one, though, she often pushes herself so the recipe is surprising. One example was a watermelon and cucumber salad recipe that became a watermelon cooler in the second recipe. “All you have to do is puree it and add some ingredients,” Bergin said. “It’s sweet but a touch savory, too.”

In addition to her own critiques, she gets feedback from her family. Her adult children, Daisy and Patrick make the recipes. Her husband, David, an Adams County attorney, takes the food for lunch. If he shares with his coworkers, he brings their comments home.

Each recipe Bergin posts to her blog (www.leftoverguru.com)and associated Facebook page contains complete nutritional information, cost per serving and the time it takes to make it.

As rewarding as the blog has been, Bergin hasn’t posted for the past year. She was busy finishing her master’s degree in professional studies from Bellevue University with an emphasis in business and professional communications.

“What I loved about the program at Bellevue is that it accepted the 12 credits I had previously earned,” said Bergin, who also expressed appreciation for CCC. ”It’s very supportive and you don’t always find that. CCC gives room for people to grow, to learn something and try new things.” 

Story and photo by Joni Ransom; Logo designed by Janet Bergin

CCC’s Graduate Advocates

Central Community College loves to hear from its graduates, like the following people who related their CCC experiences at Share Your Story at www.cccneb.edu/alumni.


Salesia Graae Books

Salesia Graae Books of Madison was a practical nursing major at the Columbus Campus from 2016-18. She is now employed as an LPN by the Norfolk Medical Group. She said that CCC allowed her to further her nursing and medical background and gave credit to the nursing instructors who encouraged her.

“All the clinicals we experienced were great for preparing us for our future and letting us know what we could do with our new skills,” she said, adding that prospective students should know that CCC offers a “very supportive community. There is always someone ready to lend a hand. All you have to do is ask.”


Allen Chlopek

Allen Chlopek of Fullerton was enrolled in the Columbus Campus academic transfer program from 2011-13 before transferring to the University of Nebraska at Kearney. He is now director of economic development for the Nance County Development Agency.

“CCC gave me the tools to succeed at the next levels in life, whether that was at a traditional university or in the workforce,” he said. “Going to CCC was originally just a financial decision, but if I could have, I would have spent my entire academic career at CCC.”

He singled out philosophy instructor Steve Reiter as someone who encourages students to look at issues from different perspectives. This had a large impact on how Chlopek handles situations.

“CCC was great for learning team collaboration, working alongside people from all walks of life,” he said. “It’s a great place to grow, the opportunities presented there are hard to find just about anywhere else.”


Steven Dillman

Steven Dillman of Harvard graduated from the Hastings Campus in 2010 with an associate of applied science degree in architectural drafting and then transferred to Doane College.

Steven Dillman with his family

He retired from Remington Seeds LLC in December 2017 and is now employed by Cease-Fire Ministries as an independent minister for veteran outreach.

He came to CCC after serving in the U.S. Army from 1997-2006.

“I missed being a sergeant and a leader after getting out after two deployments to Iraq. I got that feeling back at CCC,” said Dillman who was 28 then, compared to other students who tended to be 18-21 years old. “The students would turn to me for help or life questions. CCC helped me to be a better leader with public speaking, presenting, and taking information to the next level.”

He encouraged current and prospective CCC students to avoid alcohol, parties and social drinking. “Rather than those things, find a CCC club that you like. Be part of it, express it, promote it, and enjoy the journey.”


Sarah Tolle Florea

Sarah Tolle Florea of Lincoln was enrolled in the media arts program at the Hastings Campus from 2002-06.

“It was a great transition into adulthood and the workplace for me,” she said. “I learned more than academics at CCC. I learned sometimes being good isn’t good enough, and that sometimes pushing yourself harder and not accepting standards will help you excel.”

She related an incident where media arts instructor John Brooks gave her a C on a paper she had written for her mass media class. She asked him why he gave her an average grade for a good paper. He told her that it may have been an A paper for someone else, but it wasn’t up to her usual level of work. He gave her permission to redo the paper.

Florea admitted she was mad and decided to shock him with a paper on sex in advertising. “It was a fun paper to write and I really did give my best this time,” she said. “In the end John gave me an A, but most of all he taught me to have pride in my work.”

Today, Florea has a career in management. She was a store manager for Walmart where she led more than 300 people and is now working as a general manager for Burger King. She said she uses the same intensity that John Brooks used to daily teach people to lead with integrity.

She said CCC a great way to prepare for life and career, adding that, “whether you are a transfer or a trade student, you will love your time at CCC.”


Debra Volkman Schnell

Debra Volkman Schnell of Palmer is a 2015 graduate of the Grand Island Campus with an associate of arts degree.

She said her CCC degree showed her she could be successful in college and provided her with the foundation she needed to complete her bachelor’s degree.

She now works as a business service consultant for ResCare Workforce Services.

One of the things she remembers from her time at CCC was an introduction to logic class. “The final chapter was extremely difficult, and I was on the verge of failing,” she said. “The instructor spent two hours with me online until I understood, and I passed.”

Schnell said that graduating from college wasn’t something she saw as possible. She is the only one in her family to graduate from college and would like to tell prospective students: “When you feel like you cannot, keep going. Possibilities are in abundance with enough work. Practice makes progress.”


John Steen

John Steen of Brookings, S.D., received his associate of applied science degree in commercial horticulture from the Hastings Campus in 1980.

“CCC was the beginning to a new life for me,” he said, counting among the many positives the friends he made and the knowledge he gained. “It helped me in my employment for 40 years and I’m still using it as a hobby.”

The person he most remembers is retired admissions director Bob Glenn, who he described as a wonderful man.

He said CCC teaches students how to work hard to achieve what they want.


Jana Thieman Vincik

Jana Thieman Vincik of Grand Island is a 2006 graduate of the Hastings Campus with a graphic arts degree. She is now employed by CCC in Grand Island as a service center technician.

She wanted to share what it was like to have John Brooks as an instructor and a mentor.

“He always made us work harder and put pride into our work,” she said. “When we did those two things and he said he liked or loved what we did in his class, we knew we had done a good job.”

Now, as fellow CCC employees, Vincik said Brooks still makes her smile. “I love talking to him and joking around with him,” she said. “I know he is proud of how I have grown over the years.”


Jason Vogt

Jason Vogt of Kearney is a 2014 graduate of the Hastings Campus with a graphic design degree. He is now employed as a graphic designer and marketing assistant at Bosselman Enterprises.

“CCC gave me the tools to succeed in a career that I was passionate about,” he said. “My professors pushed me to my highest potential and put me in the right position to succeed after college.”

He said he was fortunate to learn from instructors Carole Meyer, Drew Ceperley and John Brooks as well as from talented students.

He encourages other people to take the opportunity to learn from CCC’s excellent instructors and to remember one thing: “Don’t give up. It sounds cliché but it’s true. The hard times make you a stronger person in the end.”

Alumni Notes


Eric Bauman of Grand Island has received the 4 Million Miles Safe Award from Grand Island Express. He is an over-the-road driver for the company, where he started working as a student driver in December 1989. He is the first driver in the company’s history to reach four million miles accident-free. Bauman is a graduate of CCC’s truck driving program.

Gary Pearson of Genoa was recognized for 35 years of service by Loup Power District. He joined the company in 1983 as maintenance man at the Genoa headworks and was promoted to equipment operator in 1986, dredge operator in 1990 and to his current position as headworks supervisor in 1997. He is a graduate of Genoa High School and attended CCC-Columbus. Pearson and his wife, Betty, have two children and seven grandchildren.

Travis Schauda (1997) who was the voice of the Nebraska National High School Rodeo Finals from 2003 to 2010 and is now an announcer for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA). He has announced at rodeos in 13 states and has been fortunate enough to share the microphone with legendary hall of fame member Hadley Barrett. He is a graduate of the broadcasting program at CCC-Hastings and lives in Broken Bow with his wife, Amy, and their three children.

In Memoriam

Jennifer Hope Abernathy, 37 (2005)
Columbus, April 26, 2018

Donald Anderson. 80 (former CCC board member)
Lincoln, Aug. 5, 2018

William “Bill” A. Bailey, 83 (former CCC-Kearney instructor)
Lexington, June 6, 2018

James Michael Cochnar, 61 (1977)
Grand Island, July 15, 2018

Sue Louise Cook, 64 (1986 and 2007)
Grand Island, April 30, 2018 

Terry Gallagher, 76 (former CCC-Grand Island EMS instructor)
Cairo, Aug. 26, 2018

Aaron Gardner, 41 (1996)
Hastings, May 21, 2018

Sharon Jo (Goodwin) Halligan, 80
North Platte, June 7, 2018

Benjamin Huber, 85 (former CCC-Columbus ground maintenance crew member)
Schuyler, June 7, 2018

Jessica Guerrero-Hurtado, 19
Lexington, Sept. 19, 2018

Holly Lynn Johnson, 71 (former CCC-Hastings and CCC-Columbus instructor)
Shickley, July 5, 2018

Bob Keating, 60
Wayne, July 19, 2018 

Debra M. (Hemmer) Kessler, 54 (1985)
Columbus, June 20, 2018

George P. “Pete” Konen, 68
Hastings, Aug. 15, 2018

Beverly (Neuhaus) Machmueller, 77 (1985)
Leigh, July 27, 2018

Jose Martinez, 19
Grand Island, Sept. 19, 2018

Theresa Ann (Wendland) Meyers, 67
Kearney, July 16, 2018

Larry D. Nowka, 77
Hastings, July 22, 2018

Thomas J. Pattno, 83 (former CCC Foundation board member)
Naples, Fla., May 15, 2018

Debra Ann (Westejen) Rockefeller, 57 (1985)
Kearney, March 19, 2018

Cindy (Stittle) Shafer, 44 (1992)
Kearney, June 3, 2018

Terry Skucius, 61
Chester, July 27, 2018

Victor “Vic” Springer, 78 (former CCC-Hastings security chief)
Hastings, June 23, 2018

Broedy “Bubba” Starkey, 22
St. Paul, May 21, 2018

Scott William St. John, 47
Omaha, Aug. 17, 2018

Dennis “Denny” Vollbracht, 66
Columbus, Sept. 6, 2018

Mia (Vredeveld) Weakland, 51
Aurora, July 6, 2018

Charlene Weber, 64
Aurora, Sept. 14, 2018


Holden Bruce (2018) and Laurel Christensen 

Cortney Dawn Hendrickson (2011) and Alex James Ideus (2013) 

Charles Robert Himmelberg (2016) and Caroline Mae Naiman 

Lincoln Johns (2015) and Carrie Summerford 

Seth Lee Meadows (2013) and Brenda Marie Bern 

Tommy Safarik (2015) and Ashley Spilinek 


Amanda Lipker (current student) and Philip Rasmussen

A Textbook Example of Saving Students Money

A concern over students having to pay for expensive textbooks led Dr. Susan McDowall, an English instructor at Central Community College-Grand Island, to do something about it.

She focused on English 1010: English Composition I, a class taken by an average of 1,010 students during the fall semester and 370 students during the spring semester. Reducing textbook costs in this single class would result in thousands of dollars of savings for CCC students.

McDowall believed the best way to reduce those costs was through open educational resources (OER). Her familiarity with OER began with Project Kaleidoscope, a group of eight partner institutions committed to using only OER in its course designs. Not only does the use of OER reduce the cost of textbooks, but it also gives institutions increased control and creativity in changing materials to match student needs and faculty preferences.

“I love OER textbooks,” McDowall said. “They save students big money.”

So she took a deep breath, dived into the project and made the OER book available as a Google Doc in January so it could be reviewed by fellow English instructors Jim Kosmicki, Grand Island Campus; Chyrel Remmers, Columbus Campus; and the now retired Harry Hamel, Hastings Campus.

“They were able to comment and make changes through March,” McDowall said. “Then I shut the Google Doc down.”

She began transferring the information into Microsoft Word, adding the headings and other items needed to make the textbook accessible and in line with the college’s commitment to universal design.

Jamey Boelhower, former CCC education technology coordinator and integration consultant, took the next step and turned it into a Moodle book.

The result was an OER textbook that became available for the first time this fall, one that is free and searchable in both its PDF and Moodle forms.

McDowall sees only one problem with undertaking the same effort with other textbooks for other classes.

“It took a ton of work to do one textbook for one basic required course, but it will save students in that course thousands and thousands of dollars,” she said. “It’s also sure to help with successful college completion because it means one less barrier to their education.”

Story by Joni Ransom


The Community Connection is designed and edited by Joni Ransom, communications assistant to the college president. Also contributing to the publication are these CCC staff members:

  • Cheri Beda, alumni director, CCC Foundation
  • Doug Hann, information technology systems specialist, Columbus Campus
  • Kelsey Keep, print shop manager and designer, Hastings Campus
  • Elena Olson King, learning center manager, Holdrege Center
  • Emily Klimek, college graphic design specialist
  • Scott Miller, college public relations and marketing director
  • Tiffany Seybold, college web content specialist