Community colleges are unique institutions of higher education.
As someone who has spent a lifetime exposed to how community colleges can positively impact individual lives as well as entire communities—and as a northeast Indiana resident for the last six years—I want to share some of my observations and experiences that definitively illustrate what community colleges and Ivy Tech Community College Northeast can offer you, your loved ones, your business, and our collective community.
Inherent in the community college mission is an intimate connection to the communities served. This is best accomplished through the development and offering of relevant programs and services needed by local industry. It is also exemplified through a laser-sharp focus on individual student success and by offering programs and services that assist students in reaching personal goals. It gets personal.
And it’s personal for me
My father, Richard H. Mosier, was the founding president at both Claremore (Okla.) Junior College (now Rogers State University) and Colby (Kan.) Community College. As you might imagine, growing up with a parent whose job was as a community college president for 29 years, I was able to observe, ask questions, and learn a great deal from him and his experiences. In fact, I still do.
Based upon these conversations, I knew I wanted to contribute to a mission dedicated to the well-being and welfare of individuals within the communities I lived. I learned early on that I wanted to help change the lives of those I was fortunate enough to serve in an educational setting.
My experiences, though, go beyond my dad’s influence.
I was a community college student, too. At first, I took college courses on campus as a high school student at Colby Community College. Today, this is referred to as college-based dual credit. There, I took general education courses in order to get a head-start on my education and career path. Following graduation from high school, I attended one year at Claremore Junior College.
As a student of a community college, I was able to garner an excellent education before transferring to Oklahoma State University, where I was excited to be a fan in a Division I athletics environment and to become engaged with sorority life.
Why transfer early, you ask? I knew if I waited until my degree completion at Claremore, I wouldn’t have been able to take part in such activities at the time I was ready for them to be part of my college experience. I didn’t leave Claremore in the dust, though. I came back in the summer as a guest student to fulfill other baccalaureate requirements.
All of this is so similar to many of the students at Ivy Tech Northeast today. The sticky widget in all of this given today’s funding metrics, I would not have been considered a success, because I did not complete college where I started—even though I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in three years. These metrics continue to apply to the students of Ivy Tech who transfer early to a state institution of their choice.
It’s a family and friend affair, too
I know first-hand the impact that the community college experience has had on other family members and friends, too.
My brother, Greg, would acknowledge he didn’t have any idea what he wanted to do after high school. Many Ivy Tech students explore their options, like Greg. It was at Claremore that Greg found his path, and he attributes it to one biology teacher who made a difference—Mr. Ivan Lurz. The impact he made was so great that Greg earned a bachelor’s degree in biology education before he went on to law school. He worked as a corporate attorney for several years before earning a doctorate in higher education administration. He taught for many years at Oklahoma State University (OSU) in the Spears College of Business, where he was the Regents Service Professor and served as associate dean. He currently serves as dean of the School of Business at The University Nevada, Reno, where he continues to place high value on the student learning experience. He credits the talented faculty at the community college in Oklahoma for inspiring his career in academia—that and a genetic predisposition to higher education.
My husband, Russ, attended a community college in Wyoming. He left Chicago after working as a machine operator at a factory after high school, to work as a commercial artist at a company that printed training manuals for aviation airframe and powerplant programs. After being out of high school for 10 years, he was laid off from his job and decided to go to a community college in Powell, Wyo., and majored in electrical engineering. He paid for his first semester of college through a student loan. Every other semester he received a scholarship for his tuition and books, even upon his transfer to the University of Wyoming. Upon graduation from the university, he worked for Conoco Phillips, the same company he had interned prior to his junior and senior year of college. He went on to become a Six Sigma, Master Black Belt and earned an MBA from the University of Washington. Russ worked for Honeywell on many of its contracts with Airbus, Boeing, Gulf Stream, Bombardier, and Embry Air, prior to owning his own consulting business. He attributes the quality of the faculty and the smaller class size of the community college for his successful re-entry into education.
My best friend, Suzanne Ortega, is another great story of how a community college provided the education and the support, at a time when she needed it. She left high school before graduation for personal reasons. She subsequently earned an adult education high school equivalency diploma (at the urging of a community college advisor) and went on to complete her associate degree at a community college in Florida. From there, Suzanne transferred to a four-year university to earn her bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degree. Her work history includes being a professor of sociology, a published author, a graduate dean for several leading universities, provost at the University of New Mexico, and senior vice president for the University of North Carolina statewide system. She is now president of the Council of Graduate Schools in Washington D.C., and she remains an important advocate for the difference a community college education can make in the lives of the students.
Many of our community leaders and people in northeast Indiana, that many of you know, also attended a community college. They include Michael and Donna Packnett of Parkview Health (both met at Rose State College in Midwest City, Okla.), Tom Leedy of The Dekko Foundation (attended one semester at a community college in Virginia), Tony Mitson of Catalyst Public Affairs Group (attended as a guest student at Ivy Tech Northeast), and Cathy Maxwell, vice chancellor for academic affairs at Ivy Tech Northeast (a graduate of Wilbur Wright College in Chicago).
And last, but certainly not least, there are examples of successful alumni and entrepreneurs of Ivy Tech Northeast who chose to stay local and do wonderful things for our community. These include Donna Kessler (Calhoun Street Soups, Salads, and Spirits), Melody Wang (Fortezza), Chuck Pastor (Chop’s), Michael Rusher (respiratory care device inventor), Olivia Fabian (O’Fabz Swimwear), Trent and Erick Ehinger (3E Industries), Kent Prosser (Plumbers and Steamfitters Local Union 166), and the list goes on.
Many of our graduates are living and working in your communities as nurses, machinists, accountants, welders, automotive mechanics, nutritionists, small-business owners, graphic designers, interior designers, chefs, teachers, skilled tradesman, computer technicians; or they are transferring to colleges and universities to continue their education toward their career goal. We know we contribute to the welfare and the well-being of individuals within our communities and thus, contribute to the vitality of our communities.
Moving forward with our mission
The community college and all it stands for is obviously close to my heart. While my passion may have been instilled at a young age, it continues because of the immeasurable impact I’ve witnessed on lives of thousands of students.
At Ivy Tech Northeast, we serve students, like myself, who are high school students who want to get a “head start” on college. We are also a great option for those students, like my brother Greg, who are unsure of what they want to study once they go to college. We are perhaps best suited for those students who have been out of school for a while and are wanting to improve themselves through education and training, like my husband Russ. We also provide alternative entry points to higher education opportunities for individuals like my friend Suzanne.
We are open to all who want to learn and improve themselves, which is a striking parallel to the American dream. That is what makes community colleges unique in American higher education, but we cannot be passive in this work. Now more than ever, activism is required on the importance of higher education—specifically the role community college education plays—for our nation’s economy and future. We know that more than 80 percent of the jobs today and in the future will require education and training beyond high school. We also know that the costs of achieving a college education is out of reach for many. We must set expectations and establish clear pathways for students to reach their education and career goals at a reasonable cost. It is imperative for the talent development of the region. It has to be our priority.
Ivy Tech Community College Northeast is committed to its mission of helping others reach their goals. Their success may be measured by a number of things: a one-year certificate, associate degree, transfer to a bachelor’s degree, or even upskill training through one or two classes to move up in the workplace. Our students come with many different aspirations and their own background stories. Their goals may change as they learn more about themselves and their own potential. At Ivy Tech Northeast, we assist and walk alongside each student, as they establish their own new directions in life. I can think of no higher calling.
Jerrilee K. Mosier, Ed.D., is the chancellor of Ivy Tech Community College Northeast and has been a northeast Indiana citizen since 2010.