Spring 2019 Community Connection

June 25, 2019

Helping Students Stand Confidently on Their Own
At Central Community College, we help students learn to stand confidently on their own. We teach them the skills they need for their chosen field and help them out if and when they need it. One way CCC does this is through Career Pathway programs that give high school students a head start on college. A good example is Logan Kershner of Hastings in the construction lab at CCC-Hastings.

Another good example is Jose Aguilar of Kearney, who is working
with instructor Jared Pettit in the mechatronics lab at
CCC-Kearney. Read about Career Pathways under the “Career
Pathways Pave the Road to Educational, Professional Success”
and “Meet Three Career Pathways Students” tabs.

The college also has invested in writing coaches such as Judy
Obert (left) who provide students like Anna Perrett, a CCC-
Hastings student from Valentine, with one-on-one assistance
on anything having to do with writing. Read about the writing
coaches under the “Righting Students’ Writing” tab.

Photos and text by Joni Ransom


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

Dear CCC Alumni,

Each of you is an important part of our 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 and 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 the 2020 commencement ceremonies.
  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!

Finally, here are the perks we offer to 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.

Tee Time

Bill Hitesman, president of Central Community College-Hastings, is hanging up his tie and grabbing his golf bag as his retirement begins.

He became campus president in 2002 and also has served as vice president over the skilled and technical sciences and the business and entrepreneurship/incubator divisions.

In recent years, he has overseen the groundbreaking for the Hamilton Building expansion; the installation of an on-campus 1.7-megawatt wind turbine; and the creation of the heavy equipment operator technician, truck driving, diesel technology and energy technology programs.

His 47 years in higher education also includes serving as dean of the Boone campus of Des Moines Area Community College and in various capacities at three other Iowa community colleges. He is the recipient of the Iowa Community College Student Services Association’s Distinguished Service and Dedicated Service awards.

An Iowa native, Hitesman earned a bachelor’s degree in health and physical education from Winona State University, where he was on the wrestling team. In 2002, he was inducted into the Winona State University’s Athletic Hall of Fame. He later graduated with a master’s degree in leadership and community college administration from Iowa State University. He also holds a welding diploma from Northeast Iowa Community College.

In addition to his campus duties, he is active in the Hastings community. He is a member of the Hastings Rotary Club, the Hastings Area Education Consortium and the Hastings Area Chamber of Commerce. He serves as a board member for the Hastings Economic Development Corporation, the Hastings Utilities Advisory Board, the Hastings Noon Rotary Club, the South Central Economic Development District Inc. and SkillsUSA Nebraska. In 2009, he was appointed to the Judicial Nominating Commission for the Nebraska Court of Appeals Fifth District.

Hitesman and his wife, Jody, have six daughters and 11 grandchildren.

Story by Scott Miller; photo by Kelsey Keep

It's a Home Run!

The year was 1980. Mount St. Helens erupted, the U.S. boycotted the Olympics in Russia, the world found out who shot J.R. and a young man from Lexington named Jack Gutierrez arrived at Central Community College-Columbus.

Originally hired to coach the Raiders men’s basketball team, Gutierrez also served as the financial aid director and admissions director before assuming the role of athletic director. He compiled a win-loss record of 418-386 over 27 years before stepping down as basketball coach. In 2007, Gutierrez started the CCC softball team, guiding it to four NJCAA Region IX titles.

In March, Gutierrez announced his retirement saying it’s been a good ride, but it is time to move on. In looking back on nearly four decades of service, he said the CCC athletic department has really changed in the numbers of sports offered and in new and upgraded facilities.

“We came in with four sports, went back to two and now we’re up to seven,” said Gutierrez. “We have new locker areas, a new office area for all of the coaches, and a new soccer and softball field on campus. Whenever I reflect on Central Community College, those are the things I think of.”

For an athletic director, those types of accomplishments are what it’s all about. However, Gutierrez said he is equally proud of is his design of the Raider Rex logo.

“That face of Raider Rex is everywhere and I’m pretty proud that I’m the one that actually designed it and that it will be with Central forever,” said Gutierrez.

He plans to spend more time with family in retirement, but first he will take time for himself.

“I’ll work out when I want to work out,” said Gutierrez. “I’ll mow my lawn when I feel it’s time to mow my lawn. I’ll clean my garage and hold a garage sale when it’s time to hold a garage sale.”

Story and Jack Gutierrez photo by Scott Miller

On a Mission, With a Vision

Look up the word “foundation” and you’ll find it means the load-bearing part of a building or an underlying principle.

Both meanings can apply to the Central Community College Foundation. Not only does it provide an underpinning for CCC, but it also stands on its own mission and vision.

Its mission is advancing opportunities for quality educational services in Nebraska-based institutions, and its vision is improving quality of life by fulfilling one dream at a time.

For 30 years, the CCC Foundation has met this mission and vision by providing financial assistance to students. And with $40 million in assets and in a new building in a more visible location along Highway 218 north of Hastings, it’s well positioned for the future.

Executive Director Dean Moors summarizes those 30 years this way: “In 1989 we paid out $44,000 in scholarships, and in 2018, that total increased to $790,000. We expect to award over $900,000 in 2019-20.”

The foundation raises those scholarship dollars through employee and yearend appeals, major gift campaigns, planned giving and community-based Give Days.

From left: Billy Dunbar, Nichole Olson, Pat Stange, Sharon Liske, Cheri Beda and Dean Moors

Moors, of course, doesn’t do this alone. He’s backed up by Cheri Beda, alumni director; Billy Dunbar, development director; Sharon Liske, foundation treasurer; Nichole Olson, administrative assistant; and Pat Stange, development coordinator.

Most of their titles are self-explanatory. Dunbar and Moors handle fundraising; Beda, alumni; Liske, financial matters; Olson, administrative duties; and Stange, well, she says she’s a bit “like the grout in the wall. I have my fingers in a little bit of everything.”

That’s actually true of her co-workers, too. Although each person has his or her own set of responsibilities, they are all quick to emphasize that the foundation’s work is a team effort.

That’s what it takes to manage all the ins and outs of raising and then awarding money.

“When we receive a donation, we can’t just go out and spend it,” Liske said. “We have to track it and document it.”

It’s also a team effort when it comes to organizing activities such as retiree get-togethers, alumni events and the annual community appreciation event. These activities give the foundation an opportunity to interact with various constituents of the college and to update them on the latest CCC news.

“The community appreciation event gives us a chance to thank the community and the donor base for their support,” Dunbar said. “It also gives us a chance to showcase programs and educate people about what CCC has to offer. The college and community are great partners.”

Those partnerships benefit both parties. When the college builds new facilities or remodels existing ones, it can offer students the latest technology or serve more students because of increased square-footage.

For the past five years, the foundation has been working with the college on its master facilities plan. Its first major gifts campaign was for the new Kearney Center, which opened for the 2017 fall semester.

It has raised funds for the current Hamilton Building project at the Hastings Campus which will add new space for the advanced manufacturing and design technology program and remodeled space for the welding technology program.

The next campaign, which is already underway, is for the Center for Science and Technology at the Columbus Campus.

These are multimillion-dollar campaigns, but Beda emphasizes that gifts of any size are welcome.

“Every single dollar, no matter the amount, helps out students,” she said. “Those small donations add up and can be impactful.”

One regret, though, is that no matter how much money the foundation raises “we can’t help everyone,” Stange said.

Even though there is always more need than money, the foundation still manages to serve a lot of people.

That’s something Olson learned when she first came to the foundation as a work-study. It was a position that eventually turned into a part-time job.

“I didn’t know anything about the foundation,” she said of her first days there. “Now that I understand what happens here, I couldn’t be prouder to be part of it. That’s because we help people.”

Moors agreed. “It’s about raising money for people to go to school so they’ll stay within our area, or at least in Nebraska,” he said. “We’ll keep fine-tuning what we do so we can continue to address the needs of our workforce.”


Assisting CCC Students, Programs

New Accounts Created in the Past Year 

  • Student Veterans Association Fund: Assistance for student veteran and student military led campus/community projects; also helps with the cost of travel to various conferences.
  • CCC Food and Hygiene Pantry Fund: Monetary donations for the pantries at the Columbus, Grand Island, Hastings and Kearney locations.
  • Jennifer A. Hoagland Memorial Scholarship: For students in the business division on the Hastings Campus.
  • Central for Student Success Fund: Additional monetary support for students who face unforeseen emergency or life events that could prevent them from completing their classes or programs.
  • Hastings Campus AMDT/WELD Endowed Scholarship: For students enrolled in the advanced manufacturing design technology or welding technology programs on the Hastings Campus. 
  • Women’s Soccer Fund: Support for the women’s soccer program on the Columbus Campus.
  • Emerson Family Scholarship Fund: For students on the Columbus Campus.
  • Ganow Dental Hygiene Fund: Support for dental programs and scholarship assistance.
  • CNA and Elderly Care Fund: Scholarships for students in health-related classes and programs at the Kearney Center; funds for professional development and workshops in the nursing field.  
  • Cornhusker Power Employees Endowment Scholarship Fund: For students attending CCC from Albion, Columbus and Fullerton and their rural areas.

Established Funds Now Permanently Endowed

  • Ord Learning Center Fund: Supports scholarships and programs at the Ord Learning Center.
  • Mike Swanson Welding Scholarship: For students in the Hastings Campus welding program.
  • Dvoracek-Woodward Scholarship Fund: For students from Howard, Polk and York counties.

Note: We wish Billy Dunbar well as he leaves CCC for a new career in medical sales in the Kansas City area.

Story and photo by Joni Ransom

Righting Students' Writing

Top: Jim Eads and Chery Bieber. Middle: Anita Lorentzen, Scott Schwalenberg and Sarah
Fowler. Bottom: Judy Obert and Kay Clarke.

Whether Central Community College students want to or not, they’ll end up having to write an essay or do a research paper. For some, it will be easy; for others, not so much.

For those who need help, they can find it from CCC’s writing coaches. They provide one-on-one instruction on using correct grammar and punctuation, making an outline, conforming to APA or MLA style, and addressing anything else having to do with writing. They help with essays, research papers, letters and resumes, and more.

Take a moment to meet these essential individuals:


Chery Bieber
Grand Island Campus

“I think this is how writing should be taught, one-on-one,” said Chery Bieber, a Hastings native who returned to central Nebraska after many years of working as a language arts instructor in Lincoln.

She started as a writing coach at the Grand Island Campus in the 2018 fall semester and works 20 to 25 hours per week.

Because business has picked up at the Writing Clinic, she packs a lot of coaching into her schedule, but it’s worth it.

“The students who come in for help really want to be here, and that’s the way it should be,” she said.

For some of those students, writing may also evoke deep emotions about a personal experience or something that happened at home.

“You have to be prepared for that,” Bieber said. “It’s not always just writing, making a point and getting across a message. Sometimes it’s more.”


Kay Clarke
Grand Island Campus

“I love everything about this,” Kay Clarke said of her duties as a writing coach at the Grand Island Campus. “I love working with the people here, some of whom I’ve known for a long time.”

She fits five and a half hours of coaching into a schedule that also includes teaching three CCC classes. “Chery takes up the bulk of the schedule,” she said.

Their schedule is typically full, or close to it, and that may be thanks to faculty members who tell their students about the writing center, or even bring them by.

The students who seek help come from different programs and bring in a wide variety of assignments. That diversity is appreciated by Clarke, who has taught everything from elementary reading to college-level English over a 37-year career spanning five states.

Her CCC destination had a plus: former writing coach Danielle Helzer. “We (Clarke and Bieber) really appreciate the time she spent training us and the way she had everything efficiently organized in the writing center.


Jim Eads
Hastings Campus

  “I’ll ask students how they’re doing when they come in,” said Jim Eads, one of the Hastings Campus writing coaches. “I don’t want to assume too much, but I usually get an idea of where they’re going pretty quick.”

Often they need help with an essay. If they haven’t started it, Eads will talk over ideas with them and explain how to set up an outline. If the essay is partly done, he is often ends up helping them with the mechanics or wording.

His approach to coaching rests on 40 years of experience: 35 years in public schools as an English and math teacher and yearbook sponsor and five years at CCC as an adjunct instructor.

“I love the job,” he said of the 17 hours per week he coaches, “but it’s self-serving. It plays to my inner needs of fulfillment. As an adjunct, I interact with students. Here I’m working one-to-one. It’s been rewarding.”


Sarah Fowler
Online/Ord Learning Center

Sarah Fowler is unique as a writing coach. She helps Columbus Campus students online and also travels to the Ord Learning Center twice a month.

The online process works this way: CCC-Columbus Academic Success Director Krynn Larsen connects Fowler and the student via email.

“I work with them through email but will help them over the phone if they want talking time,” she said.

The one thing she must guard against is spending too much time working. She aims for four hours online and eight hours in Ord.

Fowler has several years of history with CCC. She taught English as a second language (ESL) classes for the CCC Adult Education program in Grand Island for seven years before moving to David City and becoming an on-campus writing coach at the Columbus Campus for three years. It was then that she and her family moved to Broken Bow and she began her latest phase with CCC.

Prior to moving to Nebraska, she lived in Chicago where she taught Spanish in a suburban elementary school.

One disadvantage about working online rather than in a classroom is that she doesn’t get to know those students. She does get to read the essays they write, sometimes on interesting topics she knows nothing about.

“It’s not always about grammar. Sometimes it’s about content and organization,” she said. “No matter what the issue is, I always try to find something positive to say.”


Anita Lorentzen
Kearney Center

Anita Lorentzen also combines her duties as a writing coach at the Kearney Center with teaching. She puts an extra twist on the combination, though. In addition to her composition class at CCC, she teaches part-time for another college.

Her writing coach duties began with the 2018 fall semester, and the 12 hours she works every week brings her in contact primarily with ESL and GED students.

“I have regulars, but all the students are different,” she said. “Some are working two jobs. Some have other priorities. Some haven’t been to school in a long time, and others have families.”

There are students who need help understanding the vocabulary they’ll encounter when taking TEAS (Test of Essential Academic Skills) for the nursing program. Others are preparing to take their GED tests to earn their high school diploma. A good example is Veronica who immigrated 30 years ago, got her kids through school and finally decided it was her turn.

“Some students are good writers who only need some polish on their assignments,” she said, “but I like working with all of them side by side.”


Judy Obert
Hastings Campus

Judy Obert may be a newcomer to Hastings, but not to teaching writing. She was an adjunct professor for 20 years, teaching English for Omaha Public Schools, Metro Community College and a little for the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

CCC-Hastings has been the beneficiary of her experience for more than six months. She teaches one class and spends about five hours a week s a writing coach.

Obert calls herself a great believer in writing clinics.

“I like it a lot because it’s that one-on-one instruction,” she said. “I like rolling up my sleeves and helping people improve their writing and getting my hands dirty with editing.”

In the class she teaches, she gives students extra credit for going to the writing clinic.

“It helps them get rid of some of their nerves,” Obert said. “I love it when the light bulb goes off and they get it. Their subsequent writing becomes so much better.”


Scott Schwalenberg
Columbus Campus

Scott Schwalenberg brings a big passion for the arts to his roles as a writing coach and an instructor to the Columbus Campus.

He is immersed in the campus, spending about 11 hours in the writing clinic and teaching about three reading and writing classes a semester.

His presence at the college was the result of good timing. When CCC was advertising the brand-new writing coach position five years ago, Schwalenberg was just finishing graduate school.

It seemed a good way to get experience for the born-and-bred Columbus native armed with both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in fine arts.

As an instructor and a coach, Schwalenberg teaches students how to get started writing. The coaching position, however, allows him to give a student individualized attention.

“Sometimes it’s been a while since a student has had to take English,” he said,” and they need an extra boost of confidence.”

The challenge can be getting the student to come in the first time. “Once they do and get the help they need,” he said, “they’ll often come back and use the service again.”

Schwalenberg said his reward is helping students gain confidence in their writing. “Their opinion is valuable, and I like teaching them how to express it in their writing.”


Jenn Anderson
Columbus Campus

Despite best efforts, there was one writing coach who couldn’t be cornered. That’s Jenn Anderson who is on maternity leave. Congratulations!

Story by Joni Ransom

Real-Life Lessons

Ahna Ruh and Rachael Robinson-Keilig

Students in Rachael Robinson-Keilig’s fall-semester developmental psychology class at Central Community College-Hastings took part in a real-life experience to augment their classroom lessons.

The topic was poverty and how it affects cognitive development in children. Cognitive development involves the construction of thought processes such as remembering, problem-solving and decision-making, according to the Encyclopedia of Children’s Health.

For their real-life experience, the students created cognitive development activities that could be included in food packs assembled by Food4Thought at Hastings College.

Food4Thought is a nonprofit program that sends meals home with Hastings public elementary students. These children qualify for the Free and Reduced Lunch Program, which ensures they receive meals during the week. Food4Thought helps make sure they have something to eat over the weekend.

 “This was a collaborative event between my class and the volunteer students at Hastings College who organize Food4Thought,” said Robinson-Keilig, who assigned her students the task of creating cognitive development activities appropriate for students ages 6-12.

Upon completion of their activities, the students assessed them to determine two areas they could improve and then to apply those improvements. They also had to provide instructions for the activities.

CCC student Ahna Ruh of Kenesaw was one of the students in the class. “We had four different groups charged with coming up with two activities,” she said.

For one of its activities, Ruh’s group made glitter jars filled with pink and blue objects. Children could match the objects by color and use them to create a story or diorama.

Ruh also helped pack food bags at Hastings College. Food4Thought is run by Hastings College students, but it relies on volunteers to pack and deliver the meals as well as donations and local grants for funding.

Because Ruh experienced financial uncertainty as a child when her dad lost his job, she found it rewarding to volunteer for this project. “It’s about being able to help kids who need it,” she said.

Robinson-Keilig agrees. “Poverty affects all levels of development. Food4Thought is about more than food. It’s about being an aid in learning.”

Story by Joni Ransom; photo courtesy of Rachael Robinson-Keilig

Career Pathways Pave the Road to Educational, Professional Success

We talk about the road to success. And about bumps in the road, or worse, dead ends.

Wouldn’t a smooth route to desired goals be welcome?

That smooth route – at least for high school juniors and seniors – is something called a Career Pathway.

Career Pathways give students an opportunity to explore career fields in greater depth, delve into areas of study not typically available, receive an introduction to college-level coursework and have the flexibility to earn college credit while attending high school.

Central Community College offers 12 Career Pathways as part of its Early College program.

“Early College provides a stepping stone for students,” said Early College Director Jamey Peterson-Jones. “It gives them an opportunity to take college courses for credit or dual credit and allows them to experience success when completing college classes, something many of them fear and dread.”

Taking college-level courses in high school has other benefits. It saves students time and money in completing a college degree, enhances their personal and academic achievement and prepares them to make the transition from high school to college and a career.

Early College students pay full tuition, but they also have access to scholarships and foundation funds. In addition, those who successfully complete 12 credit hours from CCC while in high school can apply for the CCC Transition Advantage Scholarship. This scholarship funds up to 12 credit hours, split over two semesters, for full-time students who enroll at CCC within 12 months of their high school graduation.

So where does Career Pathways fit into Early College?

“Career and technical education is career pathways,” Peterson-Jones said. “That’s their whole purpose. Students taking part in programming gain the education and skills necessary for their future success, whether it’s for college or employment.”

CCC’s Career Pathways are advanced manufacturing design technology; agricultural sciences; automotive technology; business, marketing and management; business technology; construction technology; drafting and design technology; health sciences; information technology; mechatronics; media arts; and welding technology.

The college has either partial or full pathway agreements with the majority of the 81 high schools in its service area.

“Some programs are easier to adapt to a Career Pathway than others. Just because we teach something at the college doesn’t necessarily mean we can do it at a high school,” Peterson-Jones said. “We work with the school to meet both community and student needs.”

She said that some Early College students will leave high school with a college diploma while others will earn multiple certificates. It’s possible some may have more than 30 credits when they graduate from high school.

Now that sounds like a smooth, bump-free journey worth taking.

Story by Joni Ransom

Meet Three Career Pathways Students


Logan Kershner

Logan Kershner of Hastings is a senior at Adams Central High School, which just began offering Career Pathways this year, making him one of the first students to take advantage of it.

He’s already completed enough courses that when he graduates from high school and begins attending CCC in the fall as a full-time student, he should be able to graduate with an associate of applied science degree in construction technology after only one year.

Kershner likes working with his hands, loves everything about construction and someday hopes to start his own business.

About coming to CCC for the first time, he said, “I was very excited but it was also very scary. This opportunity has meant a lot to me. I’ve built a lot of good relationships, and I’m excited to come here every day. It’s a passion.”


Jose Aguilar 

Jose Aguilar of Kearney is on a fast track. He graduated in December 2018 from Kearney High School and then crossed the street to take mechatronics classes at the Kearney Center.

“I wanted to get a head start,” he said. “I saw an opportunity to pull ahead.” He likes mechatronics because it involves so many different processes such as electricity, fluids and pneumatics.

Aguilar also likes the process itself: creating a design on the computer and then going into the lab to make it. “Sometimes it’s frustrating when it doesn’t work, but then you figure out where you went wrong and fix it. Seeing it come together makes all that effort so much better,” he said.

Because he’s now taken almost all the mechatronics classes the center has to offer, he’ll be transferring to CCC-Columbus to continue his education.


Bryan Fanholz

Bryan Fanholz, a junior at Amherst High School, is enrolled in the advanced manufacturing design technology program at the Kearney Center. Although he has to balance high school and college classes, a commute between Amherst and Kearney, and work at Hy-Vee, he said coming to the Kearney Center has “been a blast.”

He enjoys the process of cutting metal and making items that will be used in everyday life, but the best part is learning in an environment where students work together and help each other.

Fanholz believes Early College will give him a head start on preparing for a career that pays well and needs employees.

“The baby boomers are coming out of the market, and machining is something I especially enjoy,” he said. “”Central Community College is very affordable and close to where I live. It’s quite convenient.”

Stories and photos by Joni Ransom

Loomis Teen Scores Perfectly

Something Olivia O’Clair took to be a fluke on a practice test turned into reality during the actual exam.

That something was a perfect score on the Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) Word certification examination.

The Loomis High School senior said she had gotten a perfect score on one of the practice tests she had taken at the school.

Olivia O'Clair and Hannah Robison

“I was going over and over everything,” she said, but even with all that preparation, going to Central Community College-Holdrege to take the exam was nerve-racking. “I went to take the test at CCC with two of my best friends. We were all taking bets on who would fail. It took the stress off, and we all passed.”

She gives a lot of the credit to Hannah Robison, a business teacher at Loomis High School. “Mrs. Robison is exemplary in her teaching and the support she gives students,” O’Clair said. “Honestly, I don’t think I would have scored nearly as high without her guidance.”

“She worked really hard to get certification,” Robison said of O’Clair. “It’s difficult to get a perfect score, and it’s a credit to her that she did.”

Robison encourages all her students to take MOS certification classes in Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Access. They can take these classes online through CCC and earn dual credit through the college’s Early College Program.

“These classes will give them an advantage when applying for a job or even going to college. They will help with writing papers and doing projects,” she said.

O’Clair agreed, saying she believes the ability to use Word will be useful when she enrolls at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the fall. “I took the Word class on a whim. I thought it would set me up for the future,” she said. “I’m assuming I’ll have to write a lot of papers next year, and the Word class will allow me to do that and do it well.”

She may gain yet another MOS certification. She has moved on from Word to Excel. “They’re similar but they’re also different,” she said of the two programs. “Word focuses more on English, but Excel is handy for charts and numbers.”

The first thing she’s using it for? Her high school graduation list, of course.

Story and photo by Joni Ransom

A Passion for Chemistry, A Talent for Teaching

Was there ever a student who hasn’t sat in a classroom displaying a periodic table? Or didn’t have to memorize the elements and their symbols?

We may never know the answers.

The periodic table has long been a staple of science classrooms, although it has changed with the discovery or synthesizing of each new element. Some elements, however, go way back. One of those is helium, a noble gas discovered in 1868. It sits on top of the periodic table’s last column where it’s identified as HE.

At Central Community College, HE has an additional meaning. It’s the last name of Yunteng He, who is, appropriately, a chemistry instructor at the Kearney Center.

He was born in China and, while growing up there, fell in love with chemistry.

“I was very passionate about it,” he said. “When I had to choose a major for college, I thought learning chemistry would be fun.”

He received his bachelor’s degree from Shandong University and began thinking about getting a doctorate in chemistry. His sights were set on America, specifically on Corvallis, Ore., home of Oregon State University.

The year was 2011 when the 21-year-old He stepped onto the soil of a new country.

“There was some culture shock,” he said of America. “I didn’t feel like I belonged when I first walked on campus, but then I became part of a research group and they made me feel welcome.”

This educational experience at OSU also included working as a graduate assistant, a position that gave him his first taste of teaching and instilled him “a desire to help a new generation grow.”

Armed with his doctorate, he arrived in Nebraska in 2017 to teach at CCC-Kearney, which had just opened that fall in a new building in a new location.

He’s made an impact in the short time he’s been with the college. For example, he received the Best Presentation Award at the Clute International Conference on Education, held in early 2019 in Hawaii.

His presentation, “Traffic Light Cards – A Cross and Modification between the Minute Paper and Muddiest Point” focused on a simple, effective classroom assessment technique for improving student learning.

The assessment method was inspired by Muddiest Point, a popular technique developed in 1989 by Harvard University professor Frederick Mosteller. It gives an instructor a quick way to find out how students are learning in every lecture and which material is least understood.

Here’s how a Traffic Light Card works: Shortly before the end of class, the students rate their understanding of the topics covered on a notecard as high (green), partial (yellow) or low (red). The results are then used by the instructor to give an appropriate review in the next lecture and to help students gain a better understanding of the content.

He’s method also was published online by the academic journal, College Teaching, in November 2018.

Of course, he uses his own technique in his own classroom, where most of all, he wants students to succeed.

“My philosophy is that as long as students appear in class, they want to learn well,” he said. “I want them to explore how chemistry can be useful to their lives and to make them feel confident about themselves.”

His approach must work, because when he asked students why they’ve signed up for his class, “a number of them said, ‘I’m here because I heard you were a good teacher,’” he said. “That makes me feel so warm.”

When he’s not teaching, He may be found at home. He met his wife, Haiwei Lu, in an online OSU discussion group. She also is scientific-minded and is pursuing a doctorate in biology.

Chemistry won out, though, when they named their 2-year-old son after Linus Pauling, a notable OSU alumnus and Nobel Prize-winning chemist from Oregon.

Linus is a perfect name, reflecting He’s love of chemistry and teaching.

“Teaching is fun,” He said, “and it is fulfilling to see my students recognize their own potential in chemistry.”

Story and photo by Joni Ransom

Pharmacy Technician Program Off to a Healthy Start

Central Community College’s first pharmacy technician class (left to right): Delaney Barr of Wolbach, Meleny Lopez of Grand Island, Tiernan Mach of Anselmo and Rachael Amick of Grand Island in the front and Brett Klima of McCook, Zaria Schirmer of Grand Island and Reece Maske of Shelton in the back. Not pictured is Isela Escalera-Mercado of Grand Island.


The lab is bright, crisp and clean in its furnishings, and filled with students learning, very intently, the proper way to fill a syringe.

They are the first students in Central Community College’s brand-new pharmacy technician program, which opened its doors on the Grand Island Campus for the 2018 fall semester.

The program has gotten a healthy start with nine enrolled students. It can handle a maximum of 16 students who want to earn either a pharmacy technician diploma or an associate’s degree.

The program is all online, making it more attainable for students who live at a distance from Grand Island although they still need to come to CCC one day each week to practice what they’ve learned in the lab. Also, in the summer, they will participate in clinical experiences at a hospital and retail location.

Hospital and retail experience is what Program Director Kerri Dey and instructor Karen Smallwood have brought to the program. Dey worked for 15 years as a store manager at Walgreen’s, and Smallwood was a pharmacy tech at Skagway until it closed and then worked at the hospital.

“I have a passion for pharmacy and customer service,” Dey said, “and this (program) brings them together.”

“Kerri and Karen are pretty awesome,” said student Reece Maske of Shelton. “They make learning the material fun.”

That material includes such wide-ranging topics as interpreting physician medication prescriptions, performing pharmaceutical calculations, communicating with patients, maintaining patient confidentiality and, of course, preparing and distributing medications.

To help students learn and retain the information, Smallwood and Dey use a variety of techniques, including flash cards for drug information and role playing for patient interaction.

“I love it,” said McCook student Brett Klima of the program. “I really enjoy it when we work together as a group. We help each other because we’re a team.”

Both Maske and Klima applied for the pharmacy tech program because they were interested in entering the medical field.

Because Maske had already spent two years working toward an associate’s degree, she was seeking something that didn’t require going to a university. “I hope to be working in a pharmacy office after this year,” she said.

Klima already had a bachelor’s degree in biology with a minor in math that he earned from the University of Nebraska-Kearney in 2016. He was working in an agricultural laboratory, but wanted a change and this one will put him in the business of “helping people feel better and live a normal life.”

Meleny Lopez practicing her syringe-filling skills

Dey sees a lot of opportunities for them and other pharmacy technicians.

“The field is growing,” she said. “We have an aging population that needs shots, medications, health information and screenings.”

Another consideration: Nebraska has 19 counties without a pharmacist. This is a problem that could be addressed by pharmacy technicians, who could live in these areas and provide needed services with support from a full-fledged pharmacist only an online conversation away.

And the demand for pharmacy techs keeps growing in doctor’s offices and even in some larger vet clinics.

In addition to their classroom training, CCC’s pharmacy tech students can prove they have the necessary knowledge and skills by taking the Certified Pharmacy Technician Exam (PTCE). The exam is part of the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board’s mission to advance medication safety by certifying qualified technicians to support pharmacists and patient care teams in all practice settings.

Keeping up with certification requirements and an evolving field, Dey said the program must stay relevant. “We’re still working on it and adding new things. Recruiting students and building relationships with them is important but so is reevaluating how everything is going.”

It’s also important to celebrate accomplishments. During the 2019 CCC-Grand Island commencement in May, one pharmacy tech student received an associate of applied science degree and six more – including Klima and Maske – received their diplomas.

From first students to first graduates, the pharmacy tech program is off to a good start.

Story and photos by Joni Ransom

Less Greenhouse Gas, Thanks to Greener Choices

In 2012, here are some things you didn’t see at Central Community College:

  • Recycle bins
  • LED dimmable/programmable lighting
  • Hybrid vehicles
  • Pollinator gardens
  • Water bottle fill-up stations
  • Solar modules
  • A wind turbine
  • Bike share

Since then, the addition of these and other measures have demonstrated CCC’s commitment to environmental sustainability. And several of them have played a large role in the college decreasing its overall greenhouse gas emissions by 49.6 percent.

“A part of our Environmental Sustainability Plan is reducing our overall energy use,” said Ben Newton, environmental sustainability director. “This decrease puts us well ahead of schedule for meeting our goals.”

CCC’s initial greenhouse gas inventory was completed in 2013. It gave the college a baseline of 31,613 megatons of CO2 equivalents resulting from commuting and utilities. That number has now dropped to 19,204 megatons of CO2.

A GEM electric vehicle used on campus by maintenance staff, including
now-retired Willis Horton, 2013.  (Photo by Marilyn Reynolds)

“That’s 8 percent per year, which is good,” Newton said. “We’re at 40 percent from where we were in 2013 and we thought we’d only be at 25 percent at this time. We’ve doubled our reduction in emissions.”

Those reductions are: natural gas, 27 percent; purchased electricity, 42 percent; and commuting, 38 percent.

“The overall 40 percent reduction will put us at number 13 out of the 83 two-year colleges that have signed either the Presidents’ Climate or Carbon commitment to reduce emissions with Second Nature (an organization committed to taking bold climate action in and through higher education),” Newton said. “We plan to be in the top 10 next year.”

The start in reductions began with the addition of gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles to the college fleet, a small 3.7 kilowatt wind turbine and a 17-kilowatt solar array on the Hastings Campus.

One of the college’s new Ford Fusion Hybrid SEs, 2013.
(Photo by Joni Ransom)


Photovoltaic solar panels at the Hastings Campus, 2012.
(Photo by Mike Garretson)

Then came a couple of big projects.

One was the building of the new Kearney Center to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver Standard. LEED is a green building certification programs used worldwide. The Kearney Center features daylighting in the hallways, solar tubes in the classrooms and monochromatic windows that react to light. The center also purchases 100 percent of its electricity from the Kearney community solar array project in partnership with Nebraska Public Power District and SoCore Energy.

“The solar farm consists of about 23,000 panels on 53 acres located in the city’s technology park, Tech One Crossing,” Newton said.  “All of the panels are mounted on a sun tracker-designed racking system and to date is Nebraska’s largest solar project.”

Another major project was the completion of a 1.7-megawatt wind turbine on the Hastings Campus. The project was the result of a partnership between CCC, Bluestem Energy and the City of Hastings. The wind turbine began operation in January 2017 and is now providing all the electricity the campus needs.

The wind turbine isn’t alone in providing clean energy for the college. Other sources include a 17-kilowatt ground-mounted tracking solar system in Hastings and geothermal systems in Grand Island, Hastings and Kearney.

“Many other energy efficiency projects during 2012 to 2016 helped with the decrease in energy use, too,” Newton said. “Energy efficiency is also the cheapest way to reduce emissions.”

These projects include setting computer screens to go into energy-saving, sleep and hibernation modes after set periods of inactivity; setting back the temperature in buildings during unoccupied times; investing in new boilers, chillers, double-pane windows and spray foam insulation; shifting from fluorescent to LED lights; installing automatic sensors; and increasing the use of videoconferencing.

The Columbus Campus provides a good example of these projects. It has changed out 60 old halide fixtures in the gym with new dimmable/programmable LED lighting; installed two high efficiency hot water boilers in the North Education Center; and replaced all the windows and doors in the Fine Arts Center, going from original steel frames and single-pane glass to their higher efficiency counterparts.

“We view the emissions inventory based on utility and commuting data every year,” Newton said. “We saw a great overall reduction in 2016-17 due to all the great energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.”

Story by Joni Ransom

Program has Energy to Grow
An inside look at CCC’s wind turbine

Central Community College has announced the creation of an energy technology (ETEC) program at its Hastings Campus.

The program has been in the works for several years, but it received renewed vigor in January 2017 when the 432-foot, $4 million, 1.7-megawatt commercial-scale wind turbine went online at CCC-Hastings.

Students in the ETEC program will study core aspects of renewable energy technology and system design and sizing. The curriculum will also include courses in wind energy, solar power, battery storage system design and energy efficiency technology.

“The energy technology program will provide students with needed skills in a growing industry with great job opportunities in wind, solar and a rapidly growing technology in battery storage,” said CCC-Hastings President Bill Hitesman. “The uniqueness of battery storage in this program will give students the latest skill sets in this fast-growing segment of sustainable energy. This is an exciting new program for CCC.”

Other instructional resources include two smaller wind turbines and a series of solar panels that were installed on the Hastings Campus in recent years.

“We are excited to begin offering the energy technology program as industry needs continue to grow and additional job opportunities are developed,” said Dr. Nate Allen, dean of instruction for skilled and technical sciences. “The technology is changing so rapidly, especially in the area of battery storage. Our curriculum will allow us to adapt as the technology evolves.”

ETEC graduates will be prepared to enter the field as installation or maintenance technicians in areas of renewable energy such as photovoltaic or passive solar, wind turbine technology or battery storage system design.

Courses will be available starting in the fall 2019 semester.

CCC is also pleased to announce that Taylor Schneider has been appointed as the ETEC instructor. Schneider brings a wealth of experience to the position, having served as a wind turbine technician for Colorado-based Nextera Energy and as a wind turbine erector for Blattner Energy in Texas. He also has experience as a heavy equipment mechanic and solar system builder.

A CCC student since 2018, Schneider is working toward an associate degree in drafting and design technology-architecture. While in the U.S. Army, he underwent advanced individual training in construction equipment repair. Schneider is currently a member of the Nebraska National Guard.

“I am very excited to be taking on the role as the first energy technology instructor for Central Community College,” said Schneider. “When I began studying drafting at CCC, I told my instructors about my wind energy experience and they strongly encouraged me to apply. My family and I are pleased and happy to be a part of the CCC family and I look forward to growing the interest of renewable energy in this area of Nebraska.”

Schneider began his employment on May 1.

Story and photo by Scott Miller

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.


Chris Hofbauer

Chris Hofbauer of Greeley, Colo., was a student at the Hastings Campus from 1982 through 1986. He graduated from CCC in 1986 with a degree in electronics technology-biomedical sciences.

He is employed as an electrical engineer by the Department of Energy.

“CCC sparked my interest in electronics and electricity where I have had a career for over 30 years,” he said.

One of the people who most influenced him at CCC was Alan Hartley, who was an electronics instructor at the time.

“He was very helpful and had great advice and teaching skills,” Hofbauer said.

Hartley also suggested he pursue a degree in biomedical electronics. The education he received in the area helped him start his career at a hospital where he worked for 20 years.

“That degree and job experience made me realize that I could learn anything I wanted,” Hofbauer said. “I went back to school to advance my job prospects and earned a degree in electrical engineering from Colorado State University.”

The second degree helped him get his current job as an electrical engineer who designs power grid protection systems for the Department of Energy.

“I love my job,” he said, adding that students should work hard and not give up on their education.


Cassidy Weiss

Cassidy Weiss with her daughter, Annabelle

Cassidy Weiss of Wood River attended the Grand Island Campus from 2016 to 2018. She graduated from CCC in 2018 with a degree in early childhood education and then transferred to the University of Nebraska-Kearney.

When she enrolled at CCC, she had been out of a high school for a year and was a single mother with a full-time job.

Although school felt like an impossibility, her family told her they would help if she wanted to go.

“They did, too,” Weiss said.

They gave her a less expensive place to live so she didn’t have to work as much; helped with her daughter, Annabelle, when she had to go to class or do homework; and encouraged her to keep going.

“I’m proud to say I am a graduate from Central Community College,” Weiss said. “I would not have gotten this far without the support of my family, my friends, my beautiful daughter and the staff of CCC.”

Another way CCC helped was the Santa for Central program. “It is overwhelming to receive presents that a stranger bought for your child only to find that they bought her seven presents instead of one,” she said. “It brings me great joy to know that there are people who care that much about children they have never even met.”

Weiss gave credit to the CCC classes and instructors for the excellent job of changing the way she views child development, and in turn, the way she views children.

“It has helped me be a better mother and will help me in my future career,” she said.

She wants to encourage students to stick with their educational goals. “Even when it feels impossible, keep going,” she said.

The Cream of the Crop

Three Central Community College graduates received the Outstanding Alumni Award at the 2019 commencement ceremonies.


Lindsay Higel

Lindsay Higel of Kenesaw holds an associate of applied science degree in hospitality management and culinary arts from the Hastings Campus and is now working toward a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management at Bellevue University.

She has been employed by CCC-Hastings since 2001. She served as kitchen manager in the hospitality management and culinary arts department until 2015 when she was promoted to program director. She serves as a sponsor for the Hospitality Management and Culinary Arts Club and works with the extended learning services department to offer community education classes for adults and children. She also developed and has conducted a Kids College for six years.

Prior to joining the CCC staff, Higel gained industry experience at Sehnert’s Dutch Oven Bakery where she learned the art of baking from scratch, candy making and cake decorating; Big Dally’s Deli in Hastings where she was responsible for opening the second location; and Allen’s Bakery where she taught cake decorating classes to staff.

She has served on the Big Brothers Big Sisters Board of Directors, KN for Kids Board and Kenesaw Booster Club Board.

She and her husband, Jeff, have four children: Kaylee, 16; Blake, 13; Bodie, 6; and Calvin, 5.


Tracy Jakubowski

Following her 2007 graduation from the Grand Island Campus, Tracy Jakubowski of Wood River went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Nebraska at Kearney in 2009 and a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Doane College in 2012. She will complete her educational administration 7-12 endorsement through UNK this fall.

Jakubowski began her career with Grand Island Public Schools at Walnut Middle School and then was an integration specialist at West Lawn Elementary School before accepting her current position as a history teacher at Grand Island Senior High School.

During her time as a teacher, she has served in many additional capacities, from coaching volleyball and basketball to traveling with students to Washington, D.C. She serves as a team leader for the Academy of Freshman Exploration and a sponsor for GISH students attending the Capitol Forum on America’s Future with Humanities Nebraska in Lincoln. She is a member of the district’s Teacher Leader Coalition, the American History Task Force for Curriculum Design, and the Nebraska Department of Education’s Social Studies standards revision team.

Jakubowski’s dedication to bettering history education led to her being selected to attend the 2018 Belfer National Conference at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. She has also attended conferences in Nashville and Anaheim to help with the transition of GISH into a career academy school as a teacher leader.

In 2018, she was named the Nebraska History Teacher of the Year by the Nebraska Department of Education and the Gilder Lehrman Institute. Next year, she will attend a National Gilder Lehrman Teacher Seminar in American History.

She and her husband, Ron, make their home in Wood River with their daughter, Julia.


Nick Steinsberger

Businessman Nick Steinsberger attended the Columbus Campus before transferring to the University of Texas in Austin where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering.

Steinsberger began his career with Mitchell Energy in 1988 as a production engineer in Fort Worth. He was promoted to completion manager and was responsible for the first slickwater stimulation in the Barnett Shale in 1997. He continued in this role after Mitchell Energy’s sale to Devon in 2002, completing the first 30 horizontal wells in any shale formation.

When Devon closed the Fort Worth office in 2003, Steinsberger took a job as vice president of engineering for Republic Energy in Dallas. Under his supervision, Republic drilled and completed about 50 horizontal wells in less than two years before selling their assets to Burlington Resources. After the sale, he began Steinsberger Gas Consulting.

He has been involved in more than 600 horizontal shale wells in the U.S. and Canada. His completed horizontal wells in the Barnett, Fayetteville and Marcellus shales were the best producing wells for any operator in those basins at the time.

Steinsberger is currently developing other resources in Oklahoma and Texas with ValPoint and advising INEOS on shale in the UK, Renaissance Oil on their work in Mexico’s shale play and Resource Energy on their work in the Bakken.

He received the ECC Engineer of the Year Award in 2013 for his work in the Shale Revolution while at Mitchell Energy.

He has written many technical papers on completion techniques in shales and has been featured in five books, with “The Frackers” being the most well-known. He has also been interviewed by such news organizations including the Wall Street Journal, NPR, CNN, BBC, The Guardian, Bloomberg, La Jornada, NBC Dallas Channel 5, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Star Telegram, Houston Chronicle and the Columbus Telegram.

Alumni Notes


Ashley Boryca of Fullerton has joined the Nebraska Extension Office staff in Nance County. She manages the front desk, does secretarial duties, helps with the Nance County Fair and works with youth in 4-H activities. She has a degree in early childhood education from CCC.

Dr. Mike Chipps retired May 31 as president of Northeast Community College. Before coming to Northeast in 2012, he served as president and chief executive officer of Mid-Plains Community College in North Platte and McCook and held several instructional, student services and administrative positions at CCC in Grand Island and Hastings.

Ed Elm of Columbus has retired as an equipment operator from Loup Pubic Power. He began work at the Genoa Headworks in 1977 as a maintenance man and also was an assistant dredge operator and heavy equipment relief operator before transferring to Columbus. He attended CCC-Columbus.

CCC-Hastings graduate Garrett Griess has joined IdeaBank Marketing as lead developer. He is responsible for designing and building dynamic new websites and troubleshooting and coding existing sites. His 14 years of web and graphic design experience has garnered him numerous awards for his work on newspaper websites in central Nebraska.

Ginny Johnson of Genoa has been promoted from part-time to full-time customer service representative at Loup Power District. She works in both the Genoa and Fullerton offices. She took accounting and computer courses at CCC-Columbus.

Steve Osterbuhr of Minden, an irrigation work coordinator at Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District, recently graduated from the Nebraska Water Leaders Academy, a one-year program that provides leadership training and educates participants about the vital role of rivers, streams and aquifers play in economic sustainability. He studied automotive and architectural drafting at CCC-Hastings.

George D. Parli of Albion was honored in November as the 2018 Living Veteran by American Legion Post 162 and VFW Post 736. He was an aircraft sheet metal worker in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean Conflict from 1950-54. Among his many post-service activities, he served as a first aid and CPR instructor for CCC-Columbus.

Gary Pearson of Genoa has retired from Loup Power District as headworks supervisor at its Genoa Headworks. He joined Loup in 1983 as a maintenance man and also worked as an equipment operator and dredge operator. He attended CCC-Columbus.

Jordan Stanczyk has joined the staff of First Bank and Trust in Fullerton. She earned an associate’s degree in business administration from CCC-Grand Island in 2018.

Lynne Werner, a member of the CCC Foundation Board of Directors, has been promoted to community president of First National Bank in Grand Island. She will continue to manage the bank’s Trust Services and Wealth Management group while leading the Grand Island market.

Stan Wielgus has retired as a line foreman at Loup Power District. He joined Loup in 1980 as an apprentice lineman at the Columbus Service Center and also worked as a lineman, journeyman lineman and service foreman. He earned an associate of applied science degree in electricity/management from CCC-Columbus.

Mick Yrkoski has joined Behlen Mfg. Co. in Columbus as maintenance manager. He earned his associate’s degree in mechatronics from CCC and his bachelor’s degree in business from Bellevue University.

In Memoriam

Alice Aerni, 92
Grand Island, Jan. 8, 2019

Melissa Bockman, 40 (2015)
Grand Island, March 28, 2019

Roger Cline, 72
Grand Island, April 19, 2019

Jerome Cochnar, 51
Grand Island, May 9, 2019

Jared Corlett, 39
Denver, Colo., April 29, 2019

Randy Damratkowsski, 56
Kearney, Jan. 18, 2019

Vernon Dyer, 91
Kearney, May 11, 2019

Roger Gipson, 71
Billings, Mont., Feb. 2, 2019

Leota Griess, 60
Sutton, Feb. 11, 2019

Ashley Hellbusch, 27
Columbus, Feb. 5, 2019

Kalin Henn, 21
Elgin, April 27, 2019

Larry Huerta, 72 (1971)
Kearney, Jan. 17, 2019

Jim Johnson,  75 (former CCC-Hastings instructor)
Lincoln, April 17, 2019

Seth Johnson, 39
Upland, April 16, 2019

Sharon Kracl, 76
Schuyler, Feb. 9, 2019

Edward “Eddie” Kresha, 63
Humphrey, April 16, 2019

Kathy Nebuda, 65
Scribner, Feb. 8, 2019

Henry Rice, 78 (former CCC-Columbus instructor)
Columbus, Feb. 16, 2019

Don Richards, 71 (former CCC-Grand Island instructor/registrar)
Red Cloud, March 8, 2019

William Rinke, 70 (1968)
Aurora, March 2, 2019

Ethel Sawyer, 65
Howells, May 1, 2019

Cynthia Shaugnessy, 64
Superior, April 13, 2019

Jeffery Soucek, 54
Harvard, Jan. 19, 2019

Robert Upward, 65
LaGrande, Ore., March 11, 2019

Richard Utter Sr., 81
Hastings, Feb. 24, 2019

James Wilke, 50
Columbus, March 14, 2019

Kenneth Willets, 66
Cozad, April 12, 2019

Keith Williams, 44
Fullerton, April 25, 2019

Kristin Williams, 66
Columbus, Jan. 12, 2019

Steven Winter, 29
Grand Island, Feb. 26, 2019

Richard “Butch” Woznick, 70
Loup City, Feb. 12, 2019

We want to share happy news, too. If you’ve gotten married, had or adopted a baby, won an award or received a promotion, please tell us about it by going here: www.cccneb.edu/alumni-news.

VMRC Awards Reflect a Team Effort

The veterans and military resource center (VMRC) at Central Community College is an award-winning entity. Each year, the VMRC is recognized multiple times.

For example, the VMRC has won the top spot on the Military Times list of best two-year colleges for six consecutive years. In 2016, CCC was one of three colleges in the nation to win the highly coveted Bellwether Award, which recognizes innovative practices. CCC won in the Planning, Governance and Finance category for its presentation, “GRADES – Guiding Reintegration and Directing Educational Success for Veterans and Military Students through Faculty and Staff Professional Development.”

If you ask Travis Karr, CCC veterans and military services director, he’ll say winning the Bellwether Award is the one that means the most to him. However, he firmly believes that any award that the VMRC receives is recognition for all of CCC, not just his office. He calls it a “team effort.”

“The VMRC just didn’t win the Best for Vets Award, the college won the award,” said Karr. “The students were a part of that. The Students Veterans Association was a part of that. We all had a part of winning that award.”

Karr said winning each award provides a positive boost in promoting all of CCC’s programs and services.

“It has a ripple effect on the campus,” said Karr. “It improves not just [the VMRC] culture on campus, it improves the culture overall of the whole campus. From that, that is where the awards and recognition comes from. It looks at it from the best practices aspect.”

Karr also believes the awards and recognition is an opportunity for alumni relations.

“I want [the military and veteran students] to stay connected,” said Karr. “I want them to be mentors for younger students that are going to come to CCC. I want them to hire these students.”

Story by Scott Miller; photo 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:

  • Mike Garretson, college media producer
  • Kelsey Keep, print shop manager and designer, Hastings Campus
  • Emily Klimek, college graphic design specialist
  • Scott Miller, college public relations and marketing director
  • Marilyn Reynolds, retired printing technician, Hastings Campus