2022-23 Annual Report

Student Success

Winter Commencement

Ҵý held its second winter commencement on Dec. 9 at Ҵý-Hastings.

Seventy-five graduates participated in the ceremony, which encompassed the Columbus, Grand Island and Hastings campuses.

Beth BoeschBeth Boesch, a Ҵý-Columbus graduate and current member of the Ҵý Foundation Board of Directors, served as the keynote speaker. She began by detailing her “education safari,” which took 20 years to complete. Raised in Humphrey, Boesch received a scholarship to Benedictine College in Kansas and returned home after one year because she was homesick and in love. She got married, but the idea of education was still lingering.

“Luckily, Ҵý in Columbus had just opened its doors and accepted the credits I earned at Benedictine,” said Boesch, who began studying journalism. “But finishing college alluded me again. I found out I was expecting. I was close to finishing an associate degree, but I was young, insecure and I let the pregnancy hold me back.”

Some four years later, she got a job in the public relations department at the Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD), which is the state’s largest public utility. Two years later, her departing supervisor wanted her to take his position, but she would have to complete the necessary 12 hours to earn her degree at Ҵý.

“So I jumped in with both feet,” said Boesch. “While caring for my family, I worked full-time during the day, took classes at night and completed the courses in one semester. I also got the job.”

Boesch went on to serve as NPPD’s first female district manager, regional manager and vice president. She also earned a bachelor’s degree from Doane University. During her professional career, Boesch was named Woman of the Year by both the Nebraska Business and Professional Women and the Norfolk Business and Professional Women chapters. She retired from NPPD following 40 years of service.

In total, 345 Ҵý students earned awards following the 2022 fall semester.

Spring Commencement

Nearly 500 Ҵý graduates received their degrees during three commencement ceremonies on May 5. The Heartland Events Center hosted both the Grand Island and Hastings campus graduations while the Raider Fieldhouse hosted the Columbus Campus commencement.

Keynote addresses at all three campuses were delivered by Ҵý’s Outstanding Alumni Award recipients, Marci Ostmeyer, Columbus; Jannelle Seim, Grand Island; and Brent and Andrea Winfield, Hastings. A recap of each ceremony is below. For complete biographical information on each Outstanding Alumni Award recipient, please see the Alumni section of this report.


Marci OstermeyerOstmeyer addressed 104 graduates and said her Ҵý days began in 1997 when she was a stay-at-home mother of three children. She registered for an American literature course through what was then known as the extended learning services (ELS) department but is now called community and workforce education. Ostmeyer was handed a packet, which contained a syllabus and assignments to be mailed in. Eventually, the ELS employees she had mailed her assignments to encouraged her to pursue an education degree through a partnership Ҵý had with the University of Nebraska-Kearney (UNK).  Ostmeyer took the challenge and then some.

“I started taking nine credit hours a semester from UNK and I filled up the rest of my classes with those packets,” said Ostmeyer, who completed 66 credits through packets. “There were some semesters I took 21 hours because I wanted to achieve this degree.”

In 2001, Ostmeyer graduated from Ҵý-Columbus and six months later, she graduated from UNK with her bachelor’s degree. She also went on to earn two master’s degrees. Following several years of teaching, Ostmeyer currently serves as the professional development director at Educational Service Unit 7 in Columbus.

Grand Island

Jannelle SeimA 2001 graduate of the Grand Island Campus, Seim went on to earn a bachelor and master’s degree and currently serves as the chief administrative officer for Hamilton Communications. She encouraged the 173 Ҵý-Grand Island graduates as they enter the workforce, to find a mentor.

“You don’t know everything,” said Seim. “Listen to those who’ve been around the block and soak up what you can. This doesn’t have to be a formal relationship, and the mentor may not even be aware that you’re listening and learning but keep your head on a swivel and your ears open.”

Seim mentioned the long-held belief that co-workers should not be friends and boundaries should be set on work relationships. She disagrees and recommends that everyone needs to find their people.

“Find those people who have your back, who will shoot straight, who will support you and be that person for someone else,” said Seim, who named her co-workers who do all those things. “These are people that I would call to bail me out. These are people that I would bail out.”


Brent WinfieldBrent Winfield spoke for both he and his wife to the 197 Hastings Campus graduates, sharing four pieces of advice they have gleaned since graduating from Ҵý-Hastings in 2009.

“First, life may have other plans for you than the exact plan that you’ve envisioned for yourself,” Winfield said. He explained that while Andrea wanted to be a CPA, they thought it best that she help run the business. Brent said that he originally intended to become a history teacher but decided that teaching wasn’t for him. He later had an opportunity to buy the business he was working for.

Second, enjoy what you do. “Time goes by way too quickly to be unhappy in your career choice. Find something that makes you happy,” said Winfield.

Third, make sure to take time for your family. “When your parents look the way they do today, and you look up 10 to 20 years in your career, and then make time to see them, they will age quickly.” Winfield said. “Make the time to call home. Make the time to go back home and visit.”

Fourth, live within your means. “As Dave Ramsey has said, ‘Live today like nobody else and you can live like nobody else tomorrow,’” said Winfield.


The SkillsUSA Nebraska State Leadership and Skills Conference was held at Fonner Park in April. Skilled and technical science students from all over the state, including Ҵý, took part in more than 100 competitions. Additionally, a few Ҵý employees served as judges. This is a list of the Ҵý students who placed in various competitions:

Additive Manufacturing

  • 2nd place – Challen Edwards, Jonathan Middendorf 
  • 3rd place – Brennan Brosseau, Landon Nelson

Automotive Refinishing

  • 3rd place – Jeremiah Kaup

CNC Programmer

  • 2nd place – Stefany Chavez-Gomez

Collision Damage Appraisal

  • 3rd place – Reagan Weisheit

Diesel Equipment Technology

  • 1st place – Adam Reinhard (took 7th place at nationals)


  • 1st place – Brandon Berger

Mechatronics – High School 

  • 1st place – Fisher Cyza, Blake Raemaekers (took 1st place at nationals)*

State Only Diesel Equipment

  • 1st place – Zach Smith
  • 2nd place – Aidan Lamb
  • 3rd Place – Owen Katen

Welding Fabrication

  • 3rd place – Jorge Garcia, Alexis Gutierrez, Kevin Ramirez

Both Cyza and Raemaekers were Columbus High School students and both had taken courses at Ҵý.


Ҵý-Hastings Hosts Cultural Event

Table with food and flag table cover.More than 12 different cultural food items were on the menu for students and employees to sample in April at the Hastings Campus.

The “Mingle with Cultures” event was planned and created by hospitality management students Taylor Henderson and Tina Park. As part of the event planning program, they applied for and received a mini-grant, and hospitality management and culinary arts instructors Kimberly Milovac and Ronnie O’Brien helped them line things up.

The food was paired with several activities. FOCUS hosted La Loteria for prizes, broadcasting students did a live broadcast over the 88.1 radio station, and the hospitality management students held “find your surname” and map pinning activities.


PTK All-State Academic Team

Six Ҵý students were named to the 2022 Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) Nebraska All-State Academic Team, which is sponsored by PTK and the Nebraska Community College Association to honor students for academic achievement, leadership and community service. Ҵý members were:

  • Brandon Berger is an information technology networking major at the Columbus Campus where he is vice president of scholarship for the PTK Chi Sigma chapter, vice president of the SkillsUSA chapter and an information technology tutor. He has been named to the president’s honors list for earning a 4.0 GPA each semester and received the Exceptional Student Award for information technology and systems. He will enter Wayne State College this fall to pursue a degree in network engineering.
  • Challen Edwards is enrolled in the drafting and design technology program at the Hastings Campus where is a member of the PTK Beta Alpha Delta chapter. He has earned a place on the president’s honors list the last three semesters for earning a 4.0 GPA. After he earns his degree, he plans to move to Lincoln where he will start a job at Olsson, an engineering firm.
  • Allison Durkop is enrolled in the academic transfer program at the Columbus Campus where she is active in the PTK Chi Sigma chapter, serving as its vice president of service, and as earned a spot on the dean’s and president’s honors lists. She also is an active volunteer in her community. She plans to attend Wayne State College this fall to pursue a degree in elementary education.
  • Jessica Goodrich is enrolled in the nursing program at the Kearney Center and is a member of the PTK Alpha Tau Tau chapter and the National Society of Leadership and Success. She has been named to the college’s Dean’s list for earning a GPA between 3.5 and 3.99 for four semesters. She volunteers for various activities in Minden with her family. After graduating from Ҵý, she plans to work toward a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
  • Aaron Hernandez is enrolled in the automotive technology program at the Hastings Campus and is a member of the PTK Beta Alpha Delta chapter. He has maintained a high GPA for the past five semesters at Ҵý. He plans to move to Lincoln and work at an automotive dealership.
  • Zaya Stuart is enrolled in the academic transfer program at the Hastings Campus where she is a member of the PTK Beta Alpha Delta chapter. She has maintained a high GPA throughout her time at Ҵý. She plans to transfer to the University of Nebraska-Kearney to work toward a degree in business administration.


Soft Drink Giant Recognizes Durkop

Allison DurkopAllison Durkop was named a 2022 Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise Scholar.

The award came with a $1,000 scholarship for the Ҵý-Columbus elementary education major.

The Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise Scholarship Program helps new Phi Theta Kappa members defray educational expenses while they’re enrolled in associate degree programs.

Recipients were selected for their scholastic achievement, community service, and leadership potential. More than 1,300 applications were received.

The $207,000 awarded through the program is funded with $200,000 from the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation. The remainder comes from donations to the Phi Theta Kappa Foundation.

The funds provided by the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation aid college completion and give students the opportunity to engage in PTK programs and develop their leadership skills.

Durkop, a Humphrey Public Schools graduate, served as vice president of service for the Ҵý-Columbus Chi Sigma PTK chapter.


Jim R. DeBord Scholarship

Brock Poppe, Jim DeBord and Nate Mehling.Two students in the Heavy Equipment Operator Technical program at Ҵý-Hastings were presented with the Jim DeBord Scholarship.

Nate Mehling (right) and Brock Poppe (left) each received a $1,000 scholarship to assist them financially in their educational pursuits. Both Mehling and Poppe graduated in May. Mehling said he planned on returning to Scottsbluff to work while Poppe said he planned to relocate to Lincoln to work in land clearing or excavation.

Ron and Tammy DeBord established the scholarship in 2020 in honor of Ron’s father, Jim, who worked in the heavy equipment field for more than three decades.


Fall and Spring Plays

The theater department at Ҵý-Columbus presented plays in the fall and the spring. "Charlotte's Web" was the fall presentation while "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" was presented in the spring. 

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Mixed Media Art Show

The creative work of seven media arts students at the Hastings Campus was on display in the 2023 Mixed Media Art Show. Each student artist is pictured while standing next to one of their works. 

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Fine Arts Festival

A unique band concert and art display in the Fine Arts Theater closed out Alumni Weekend in February. In the weeks before the concert, student artists listened to the songs the band planned to perform and then created paintings reflective of what they heard. The paintings were displayed during the concert on a screen behind the band specific to each musical piece being performed. At the reception following the concert, there were many positive comments on the musical performance, the works of art displayed and how the art and music worked together.

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Teaching and Learning

Metallica Scholars Initiative

All Within My Hands LogoҴý returned for the second year as part of the Metallica Scholars program, receiving $50,000 to transform the future of students in the community.

Since establishing the Metallica Scholars Initiative in 2019, All Within My Hands (AWMH) has been working with the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) to provide direct support for career and technical education programs across the US. Having grown from a concept to a thriving educational strategy that focuses on enhancing skills while providing services to students looking to enter a traditional trade or other applied learning program, the Metallica Scholars Initiative has generated a proven and measurable impact. AWMH will replicate the program further by adding ten more schools to the roster, investing $1.8 million to expand in year four.

Direct impact on job and wage growth drives the Metallica Scholars Initiative. On average, students who complete the program see new job opportunities and increased salary potential up to three times higher than pre-program. Ҵý will focus its efforts on more than 50 criminal justice students through scholarships, forensic kits, field trips and subject matter experts to provide real world application to the program.

“Ҵý is very pleased with the renewal of the generous grant from the All Within My Hands Foundation to continue to support students in our growing criminal justice program throughout central Nebraska,” said Ҵý President Dr. Matt Gotschall.

Funded by Metallica’s All Within My Hands (AWMH) and led by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), the Metallica Scholars Initiative is designed to directly support students while elevating the importance of career and technical education. Metallica continues to use its global platform to speak out on the dignity of professional trades and community colleges that prepare students.


Crime House Open for Business

The community got an up-close look at the recently completed crime house at the Grand Island Campus during an open house in April. The 2,200-square-foot facility serves as a lab for Ҵý’s criminal justice students as well as law enforcement agencies and schools in the community. Different crime scenes were staged in rooms throughout the crime house and the Metallica Scholars led the tours. The crime house open house was a boon for media coverage as NTV, Local 4, Telemundo/News Channel Nebraska and the Grand Island Independent were there. Steve White of NTV also did a live shot at the top of the noon newscast. 

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Aspen Prize Qualification

The Aspen Institute named Ҵý one of the 150 institutions eligible to compete for the $1 million Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the nation's signature recognition of high achievement and performance among America's community colleges. The colleges selected for this honor stand out among more than 1,000 community colleges nationwide as having high and improving levels of student success as well as equitable outcomes for Black and Hispanic students and those from lower-income backgrounds. 

The 150 eligible colleges were invited to submit data and narratives as the next steps in an intensive data and practice review process, culminating in the announcement of the Prize winner in spring 2023.

The Aspen Prize spotlights exemplary community colleges in order to elevate the sector, drive attention to colleges doing the best work, and discover and share highly effective student success and equity strategies. Since 2010, Aspen has chosen to focus intensively on community colleges.

The Aspen Prize honors colleges with outstanding achievement in five critical areas: teaching and learning, certificate and degree completion, transfer and bachelor’s attainment, workforce success, and equity for students of color and students from low-income backgrounds.

The eligible colleges represent the diversity and depth of the community college sector. Located in urban, rural, and suburban areas across 34 states, these colleges serve as few as 230 students and as many as 57,000.

New Home for Columbus Adult Ed

Ҵý and Platte Valley Literacy Association (PVLA) adult education staff, Ҵý
administration and board members and Columbus Chamber of Commerce representatives came together
Sept. 23 to cut the ribbon for the new Columbus adult education space in the Family Resource Center,
3020 18th St. “We are very pleased to have large, functioning classrooms as well as quiet space for
students to test and work one-on-one with a tutor,” said Becky Fausett, Ҵý adult education director.


Google Career Certificates

Ҵý began offering Google career certificates to students, faculty, staff and community members free of charge.

The certificates are recognized by more than 150 national employers and are available in data analytics, digital marketing and e-commerce, project management and UX design. The curriculum provides a comprehensive and practical approach to learning the essential skills with hands-on project and interactive activities. Participants have the flexibility to complete each course at their own pace anytime, anywhere.

The free certificates are made possible through a partnership between Google and the American Association of Community Colleges in support of rural community colleges. The curriculum is designed by subject matter experts at Google and prepare learners for more than 1.5 million jobs in high-demand, high-growth fields.

ASE Reaccreditation

The automotive technology program at Ҵý-Hastings received ASE Training Program reaccreditation by the ASE Education Foundation. Ҵý’s automotive program has been accredited in automotive service technology.

To achieve reaccreditation, Ҵý’s automotive technology program underwent rigorous evaluation by the ASE Education Foundation. Nationally accepted standards of excellence in areas such as instruction, facilities and equipment were used.

“This reaccreditation means that Ҵý is teaching what industry wants,” said Kyle Finecy, automotive technology instructor. “With that, it allows the students to have an advantage in the workplace, and it also gives them experience towards the professional certification of ASE.”

The ASE Education Foundation is a nonprofit, independent organization that evaluates and accredits entry-level technician training programs against standards developed by the automotive industry.

“This is great news for automotive-minded young people and their parents,” said foundation president Michael Coley. “Because this program increases cooperation between local education and industry leaders, it gives added assurance that Ҵý’s graduates will be employable entry-level technicians. As a result of the quality education provided by Ҵý, the motoring public will benefit since better repair technicians will join the workforce.”


Ҵý Tabbed for Cyber Skills Initiative

Ҵý is one of 14 community colleges across the nation chosen to participate in the Cyber Skills for All initiative, made possible by a partnership between the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) and Microsoft. In addition to receiving a grant of $20,000, Ҵý will be part of a community of practice consisting of community college workforce and economic development executives across the nation aimed at skilling people for participation in the digital economy.

“The United States faces a cybersecurity skills crisis – we simply don’t have enough people to combat the increasing number of cybersecurity attacks,” said Kate Behncken, Corporate VP, Microsoft Philanthropies. “By working with AACC we can help ensure there are enough people with the necessary skills to keep organizations secure and people safe.”

Other institutions part of the second cohort include: Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College; Hostos Community College; University of Arkansas Cossatot; North Hennepin Community College; Wichita State University Campus of Applied Sciences and Technology (WSU Tech); and Community College of Philadelphia. Also selected were Bellevue College; Southwest Tennessee Community College; Blue Ridge Community and Technical College; College of Western Idaho; Tulsa Community College; City Colleges of Chicago; and College of Southern Nevada.

Partnerships and Community Service

Walter Scott Jr. Pathway Scholarship

Walter Scott Jr. Career Pathway Scholarship shieldҴý was selected by the Suzanne & Walter Scott Foundation to establish a Walter Scott Jr. Career Pathway Scholarship at Ҵý-Hastings. The foundation made an initial reviewable commitment of more than $6 million over the next decade for this one-of-a-kind program.

“We are excited to partner with Ҵý to deliver one of the most comprehensive scholarship programs in the state of Nebraska,” said Calvin Sisson, President and CEO of the Suzanne & Walter Scott Foundation. “The Foundation is committed to supporting youth through higher education and developing the next generation of leaders for a skilled and talented workforce. Walter Scott, Jr. believed that investing in young people through scholarships is one of the finest investments we can make as a society. We are proud to invest in the education of Ҵý students who strengthen communities and ultimately our state.”

The innovative program will annually provide up to 50 students in skilled technology programs with the opportunity for a full scholarship that covers tuition, fees and room and board. Additional amenities include an on-campus living and learning environment and program enrichment activities throughout the year. Student support and career placement will be coordinated by a full-time director dedicated to the program.

“This life-changing program will allow hundreds of skilled technology students make positive impacts throughout Nebraska,” said Ҵý President Dr. Matt Gotschall. “Our faculty, staff and administration are grateful for this opportunity to implement the shared vision with this generous donor.”

The ultimate outcome is for the students to complete a paid internship, receive a career and technical education credential and be placed in a high-demand, high-wage and skill position within six months of completion, with no or minimal debt.


Apprenticeship Coalition Grant

Ҵý received a $4 million U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Apprenticeship Building America grant. Nationally, the DOL awarded more than $121 million to 30 organizations to strengthen and modernize existing registered apprenticeship programs.

Ҵý the funds were used to create a multi-network registered apprenticeship hub along with Northeast Community College and Southeast Community College and other support partners. The coalition serves 59 counties or half of the state’s population.

The apprenticeship hub will conduct outreach and education to help employers better understand what registered apprenticeships are and how they can be implemented in their businesses by partnering with Project ELEVATE.


JBS Provides Better Futures

In 2021, JBS USA launched Better Futures, a free-of-charge, two-year college tuition program. Better Futures has afforded more than 66,000 company employees and their dependent children with the opportunity to pursue higher education. As JBS’ Grand Island Beef processing plant is located 10 minutes from the Grand Island Campus, it seemed only natural that JBS employees would sign up and sign up they did.

The program commenced in the 2021-22 academic year with some 138 JBS employees from the Grand Island plant applying each semester and 60 students receiving a tuition waiver. In the most recent academic year, 2022-23, there were 186 applicants, and 61 students had their tuition waived.

In the two years since Better Futures commenced, JBS Grand Island employees or dependents enrolled in 1,953 credit hours on multiple Ҵý campuses. Under the terms, JBS pays 80 percent of tuition after federal and other state aid is applied.

“The JBS Better Futures partnership with Ҵý opens the opportunity of higher education to JBS employees or their dependents who may not have otherwise been able to pursue further education and training,” said Becca Dobry, Ҵý areawide director of financial aid. “It provides an amazing education and training for low to no cost to the employee and their family.”


Ҵý and WGU Team UP

WGU logoWestern Governors University (WGU), a nonprofit, fully online university, and Ҵý (Ҵý) entered a joint partnership that provides Ҵý graduates with an affordable pathway to earning their bachelor’s or master’s degrees from WGU. Together, the two institutions aim to create a seamless transfer of credits for Ҵý students transitioning to WGU to further their education.

The partnership between Ҵý and WGU was first announced when then Gov. Pete Ricketts signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with WGU to expand access to affordable, high-quality degree programs for the estimated 306,000 Nebraskans who have some college credits but no bachelor’s degree. According to the MOU, the State of Nebraska supports the partnership by enlisting relevant agencies to collaborate with and promote WGU in hopes of targeting underserved populations that include dislocated workers, veterans and rural residents. Additionally, WGU will join forces with local employers and employer organizations to meet workforce needs throughout the state.  

WGU offers students graduating from Ҵý more than 60 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in the fields of business, K-12 teacher education, information technology and health professions, including nursing. The university pioneered online, competency-based education, a model that allows individuals to further their education and careers on their own timeline, no matter where they live. This approach allows students in Nebraska to take advantage of prior learning and work-based experience to move through courses at their own pace and graduate quicker.

Regenerative Ag Conference Held in Holdrege

More than 250 students and ag producers from four states attended the Central Nebraska Regenerative Ag Conference Nov. 18 in Holdrege.

The event featured nationally renowned speaker Gabe Brown, owner and operator of Brown’s Ranch in rural Bismarck, N.D.

He shared the story of how he used conventional practices when he took over his in-laws’ farm. After losing crops because of years of freak storms, he rediscovered the holistic agriculture management practices of previous generations.

Brown explained how working with the natural ecology of his land allowed him to restore the soil’s fertility and eventually make the transition to no-tilling, cover and companion crops and controlled grazing. These practices have led to increased yields and profits while eliminating synthetic fertilizers, fungicides and pesticides.

The free morning session covered ag entrepreneurship primarily for high school and college students while the afternoon session focused on ag producers already in the field. Keith Berns of Green Cover presented “Carbonomics” and a panel of local ag producers shared their experiences.

“Gabe and Keith gave an excellent presentation on what needs done to rebuild our soil,” said Curtis Scheele from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. “Gabe Brown lives the topic. He is someone who is real and knows how to relate to other farmers.”


Dia de los Muertos

FOCUS and the Multicultural Resource Center at Ҵý-Grand Island hosted the 4th annual Día de los Muertos event in November. Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a celebration of life and death. While the holiday originated in Mexico, it is celebrated all over Latin America. On November 2 of every year, it is believed that the souls of the dead return to visit their living family members. Many people celebrate this day by visiting the graves of deceased loved ones and setting up altars with their favorite foods, drink and photographs.

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Employee Success

Dale P. Parnell Faculty Recognition

Michael David, a criminal justice instructor at Ҵý-Grand Island, received the Dale P. Parnell Distinguished Faculty designation from the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). He and 41 other recipients were honored during the AACC annual convention April 1-4 in Denver, Colo.

Since David joined the Ҵý staff in 2018, enrollment and graduation numbers have increased in the criminal justice program, resulting in an expansion from one to three full-time instructors.

Accomplishments include receiving two Ҵý mini-grants, signing a 2+2 agreement with the University of Nebraska-Kearney, starting the Criminal Justice Student Association and SkillsUSA Forensic Team, participating in the Metallica scholarship program and opening an on-campus Crime House.


League Excellence Awards

Ten Ҵý employees received the 2022-23 League Excellence Award from The League for Innovation in the Community College:

  • Troy Davis (top row, left), advanced manufacturing and design technology instructor at the Hastings Campus, has been instrumental in multiple state and national projects. This is most notable with the designation of Ҵý-Hastings as a regional teacher training center for Haas manufacturing equipment where teachers are trained on the latest equipment for use in their classrooms. Davis also has participated in Nebraska SkillsUSA contests as a judge and has shared his knowledge with manufacturing leaders in the state through the Nebraska Manufacturing Advisory Council.
  • Nick Freelend (top row, second from left), retired director of student activities and an academic adviser at the Grand Island Campus, was involved in promoting innovation, compassionate and engaging student activities in the Grand Island community for decades. Additionally, he sought opportunities to engage students in attending regional National Association for Campus Activities conferences.
  • Lisa Gdowski (top row, center), financial aid director at the Columbus Campus, has served in leadership roles for state and national financial aid associations as well as taken on adviser roles that have positively impacted regional and national recognition of students through the Phi Theta Kappa organization. Most recently, she received a Distinguished Service Award from the Nebraska Association of Student Financial Aid Directors. She also is one of only a few Nebraskans to achieve national certification in financial aid administration.
  • Catrina Gray (top row, second from right), college apprenticeship director, successfully launched an apprenticeship model for Ҵý, making connections with the state and national Department of Labor and receiving recognition from the Nebraska governor. She now leads a $4 million grant expanding and replicating Ҵý's successful model to the Northeast and Southeast community college areas of Nebraska to reach dozens of companies and a significant amount of student apprentices.
  • Corey Hatt (top row, right), state director of the Nebraska Math Readiness Project. He successfully launched this innovative project that helps high school students build the skills needed to succeed in college-level math. This project includes public and private schools of all sizes in all Nebraska’s community college service areas. The results are exceeding national benchmarks in preparing students to reach college math competencies prior to high school graduation and in projecting student postsecondary success.
  • Lindsay Higel (bottom row, left), former hospitality management and culinary arts program director at the Hastings Campus, was instrumental in developing innovative curriculum and updating facilities on the Hastings Campus. She expanded services by including new curriculum and adding a food truck. Higel promoted student involvement in national hospitality and culinary tours and attended an international conference in Australia and New Zealand to bring back best practices to incorporate in Nebraska.
  • Jeff Kitson (bottom row, second from left), vocal music instructor at the Columbus Campus, received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music theory and composition from Michigan State University with a secondary emphasis in choral conducting. His choirs have appeared across Nebraska and at Carnegie Hall in New York City; the International Festival of the Aegean in Syros, Greece; the Vatican in Rome, and most recently in Austria and the Czech Republic. In 2018 and 2019, he was selected for the Oxford University Choral Summer Singing School in Oxford, England. At Ҵý, Kitson has served as president of the Faculty Senate and as lead of the humanities area.
  • Joni Ransom (bottom row, center), college chief of staff, has reached hundreds of thousands of area citizens through regular news releases, the Community Connection alumni magazine, the Central Connection newsletter and web-based communications and marketing efforts. Always an advocate for our students, employees, alumni and communities, she has received writing, editing, photography and publication design awards from the Nebraska Press Women, National Federation of Press Women and District 5 of the National Council for Marketing and Public Relations.
  • Joni Schlatz (bottom row, second from right), health information management services (HIMS) instructor at the Grand Island Campus, has been a leader in business technology and HIMS curriculum for decades, always up to date and on the cutting edge. She holds a national certification in HIMS while assisting with regional accreditation efforts and completing a sabbatical. She recently worked with the Nebraska Department of Education to present workshops on ethics, trust and leadership across the state after becoming an Ethics Integration Specialist for the MBA Research and Curriculum Center.
  • Aaron Thiessen (bottom row, right), former groundskeeping supervisor at the Hastings Campus, has been a leader in arboretum development. He has held workshops on tree management and earned ACRT Arborist Training certification. He was instrumental in getting Ҵý-Hastings recognized as a USA Tree Campus and was part of Ҵý’s recognition for the 2022 Nebraska Statewide Arboretum’s Affiliate Excellence Award. He also hosted a Mid-Nebraska Tree and Landscape Workshop that draws attendees from across the state to the Hastings Campus each fall.


Brase Graduates From PLA

Taylor BraseTaylor Brase, director of Ҵý’s early childhood education program, recently graduated from the Nebraska Early Childhood Policy Leadership Academy (PLA). Brase and 22 other professionals from early childhood and higher education, public health, nonprofits, civic organizations, businesses and economic development agencies took part in the six-month program.

The PLA specifically focuses on empowering citizen-advocates to play an active role in public policy conversations affecting early childhood at the local and statewide levels. Participants in the program work with specialists in public policy, data analysis and strategic partnerships to develop strategies for engaging with policymakers and promoting grassroots advocacy in their own communities.

The goal of the PLA is to create policy change to address the state’s child care crisis, strengthen the early childhood professional workforce and advance the well-being of young children, families and communities.

Launched in 2018, the PLA is an initiative of First Five Nebraska, a statewide, nonpartisan organization focused on promoting early childhood policy to create social, educational and economic opportunity for all Nebraskans.

Rieger Receives Ovation Award

Karin Rieger holds Ovation AwardKarin Rieger, associate dean of community and workforce education at Ҵý-Columbus, received the Ovation Award April 27 at the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce annual celebration.

The award is given annually to a woman who supports the goals of professional women and provides assistance on their behalf.

At Ҵý, Rieger has been instrumental in the growth of the Early College program and co-founded several events, including the Women’s Conference, Tomorrow Leaders Today and Community Builders, a regional effort to share learning among communities.

Her community service has included board terms for the Columbus Public Schools Foundation, Platte Valley Humane Society Endowment and the Center for Survivors. She has served in many roles at Peace Lutheran Church and has reached emeritus status as a Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce Commodore.

She co-chaired Taste of Columbus in 2020, she served as activities co-chair for the Cattlemen’s Ball in Columbus in 2021; and was part of a volunteer team that raised over $1.57 million to fund cancer research at the Fred and Pamela Buffet Cancer Center in Omaha.

Rieger was in the inaugural class of Leadership Columbus and is is the current chair of the Columbus Days “Running of the Frankfurters Dachshund Race.”

In 2021, she received the League of Excellence Award from the League for Innovation in the Community College in recognition of her involvement in the National Endowment of the Humanities grant, Central Honors Institute camp for high ability learners and the Verizon Innovation STEM Learning grant.

She was recognized for her community engagement as Queen Isabella in 2018,  received the Charles Farnham Volunteer of the Year Award in 2016 and was named the 2015 Columbus Area United Way Outstanding Volunteer and the 1997 Ҵý-Columbus Employee of the Year.


Ҵý-Columbus Employee of the Year

Kim NoonanKim Noonan was named the Employee of the Year.

The award is presented annually to a Columbus Campus employee who demonstrates dedication, enthusiasm and innovation as well as a rapport with students and other staff members and a willingness to go the extra mile.

Noonan, the administrative assistant for the arts, sciences and business division, was described as a team player who personifies accessibility, dedication, cooperation, innovation and loyalty. She was also was noted for her diligence in scheduling classrooms, knowledge of Colleague, attention to detail, and ability to support everything from copying to proctoring, from purchasing to budgeting.

Noonan graduated from the University of Nebraska-Kearney with a bachelor’s degree in education. She taught special education for nine years and then operated her own Curves business.

She and her husband, Greg, have six children.


Ҵý-Columbus Faculty Member of the Year

Dr. Lauren GillespieFormer biology instructor Lauren Gillespie received the Faculty Member of the Year.

The award is given annually to a Columbus Campus faculty member who displays excellence and innovation in teaching; rapport with students; and institutional, professional and community involvement.

Gillespie, a biological science instructor, was cited for her enthusiasm for her subject and the rapport she builds with students. Whether it is finding new opportunities for students to experience hands-on learning or helping them gain the confidence they need, she’s known for going the extra mile.

Gillespie graduated from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst with a bachelor’s degree in animal behavior and neuroendocrine mechanisms.

She worked as an avian field research assistant for Texas Tech University and the Cary Institute of Ecosystem studies and pursued her doctorate in biology at the University of Southern Mississippi.

Before coming to Ҵý, Gillespie was awarded a National Science Foundation fellowship in Taipei, Taiwan, studying the impacts of herbicides on the hormones and behavior of hermaphroditic fish, and then taught biology as an adjunct professor at Central Maine Community College in Auburn.


Grand Island Campus Spirit Award

Amy HillAmy Hill received the 2023 Spirit Award at Ҵý-Grand Island.

The award recognizes Grand Island, Holdrege, Kearney and Lexington employees who make a significant contribution to Ҵý, focusing on service above and beyond what is considered a normal part of their job description.

Hill is regional director of community and workforce education at Ҵý-Lexington, but she works with many college departments and divisions, including Early College, Adult Education, student services and enrollment services. Her responsibilities include probationary students, Follett Campus Bookstore and even snow removal.


Hastings Campus Outstanding Service Award

Charles McGimpseyCharles McGimpsey received the 39th Annual Outstanding Service Award at Ҵý-Hastings.

The award is presented annually to a Hastings Campus employee who demonstrates exemplary service to the college.

McGimpsey joined the Ҵý staff in 1974 as a custodian, the same position he holds today.

McGimpsey graduated from Osceola High School and has taken several classes at Ҵý.



Leading with Excellence

Nineteen employees completed the 2022-23 Ҵý Leading with Excellence program.

The nine-month program is designed to help employees identify internal opportunities for growth or advancement. Participants visit every Ҵý location, learn about college operations, build relationships, and gain from personal and professional development activities.

Employees that participated in the 2022-23 program were:

Administrative Office: Emily Klimek, graphic design specialist; and Pennie Morgan, senior director of human resources, who oversees the Leading with Excellence program.

Ҵý Foundation: Traci Skalberg, executive director.

Columbus: Michelle Evert, registration and assessment technician; Tod Heier, associate dean of arts and sciences; Tiffany Hunt, math readiness project coordinator; Amy Mahoney, Adult Education coordinator; John McKinney, associate dean of skilled and technical sciences; and Josh York, former associate dean of students.

Grand Island: Angie Araya, Academic Success Center director; Kerri Dey, associate dean of health sciences; Lisa Mount, library resource center supervisor; Ricardo Ramirez, financial aid technician; and Ulises Valencia, enrollment specialist.

Hastings: Jeff Buescher, agricultural sciences instructor; Susan Klusman, student activities and engagement director; Brad Lang, agribusiness instructor; Ronda Ryan, assistant registrar; and Kelsey Seidler, print shop manager and designer.


Barwick Receives NCCA Distinguished Alumni Award

Scott Barwick and Dr. Matt GotschallҴý alumnus Scott Barwick received the Nebraska Community College Association (NCCA) Distinguished Alumni Award. He recieved the award at the NCCA conference in Grand Island

Barwick (pictured left) is a 1990 of what was then known as the machine tool technology program at Ҵý-Hastings. He then worked as a toolmaker for several companies in the tri-cities area, learning the trade and employing available technologies. Barwick gained experience creating metal stamping dies and plastic injection molds for parts that are used in everyday life.

In 2003, Barwick was working for a company north of Grand Island that closed shop. He found himself at a crossroads with 23 years of toolmaking experience and a strong desire to take charge of his career. Barwick was encouraged by many of his colleagues and friends to start his own tool shop. 

In January 2004, Barwick and three of his former associates opened Drake Tool & Design Inc. in Hastings. With hard work and determination, Drake has grown into a reputable and successful job shop. Some of Barwick’s customers include Toyota, Hornady, Nebraska Aluminum Castings, BUNN coffee makers and many more.

Barwick and his wife, Stephanie, are the parents of three children.


2023 Outstanding Alumni

Four Ҵý graduates were named Outstanding Alumni Award recipients for 2023. They are:

Columbus Campus – Marci Ostmeyer

Marci Ostmeyer at the podiumMarci Ostmeyer earned an associate of arts degree from Ҵý-Columbus before going on to earn a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of Nebraska-Kearney, a master’s degree in mathematics from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a master’s degree in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade administration from UNK.

She began her career as a fourth-grade teacher but later made the transition into teaching middle school and high school mathematics.

Today, Ostmeyer is the professional development director at Educational Service Unit 7 in Columbus and coordinates its efforts in supporting the 19 public schools in the ESU’s service area. As the ESU’s math specialist, she also helps school district teachers and administrators improve the teaching of mathematics and select high quality instructional materials.

She has been active at the state level as a member of the 2009 and 2015 Nebraska Math Standards revision teams and several Nebraska Department of Education committees. Since 2009, she has held numerous positions as a board member for the Nebraska Association of Teachers of Mathematics. Nationally, she was tapped to serve on committees for the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and is the chair of its Membership and Affiliate Relations Committee.

She received the 2008 Pinnacle Bank Teacher of the Year at Cross County Community Schools and the 2019 Donald W. Miller Distinguished Service Award for contributions to the improvement of mathematics education in Nebraska.

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


Grand Island Campus – Jannelle Seim

Jannelle Seim at the podiumJannelle Seim received an associate of arts degree from Ҵý-Grand Island in 2001. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice administration from Bellevue University in 2005 and a master’s degree in management from Doane College in 2008.

Seim’s career first focused on social service work with South Central Behavioral Services, Ҵý-Hastings and Nebraska State Probation-District 5. In 2016, she made a change and went to work at Hamilton Telecommunications where she is the chief administrative officer. She is part of the executive team that supports the company’s strategic initiatives and works closely with its board of directors and shareholders.

A passion for economic development led her to serve as president of the Aurora Housing Development Corporation (AHDC) and Aurora Construction Enterprises since 2018. She worked with Hamilton County community leaders to establish a $2 million revolving workforce housing fund, made possible by $750,000 of local donations and $1.25 million in grants from the 2020 Rural Workforce Housing Fund and Nebraska Investment Finance Authority.

In 2023, AHDC raised an additional $500,000 in funds and applied for an additional $1 million in Rural Workforce Housing Funds, which if funded, will expand rental properties in Aurora, continue building single-family houses in Phillips, and start focusing on housing in Hordville.

Seim and her husband, Anthony, have two sons.


Hastings Campus – Brent and Andrea Winfield

Brent Winfield at the podiumBoth Winfields graduated from Ҵý-Hastings in 2009 with associate of arts degrees. Andrea went on to also earn a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Hastings College.

They are owners of Aurora Meat Block, which they bought in 2014. It is a custom processor and retailer of meats and specialty products, and they have continued to grow the business every year they’ve owned it.

In 2020, they purchased a food trailer and opened Winfield Sweets N Eats, which offers baked goods and a variety of meal options as well as catering.

Both businesses stay busy throughout the year. So do Brent (pictured) and Andrea, who not only thrive as business owners but also as the parents of three daughters.

Community Connection

If you would like to keep up on what other Ҵý alumni are doing and how they are making a difference in their community, please take a look at the Community Connection. The magazine is published twice a year and an electronic version is always available here


Ҵý Sustainability is Gold

AASHE Stars Gold EmblemҴý earned a STARS Gold rating in recognition of its sustainability achievements from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). STARS, the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System measures and encourages sustainability in all aspects of higher education.

According to Ben Newton, Ҵý environmental sustainability director, the school’s goals include carbon neutrality by 2034 and making strides toward greater resource conservation and sustainability each year. A major ongoing initiative from this report includes an overall reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 75 percent since 2014. Ҵý was recognized as being a leader in the state through hosting the sustainability pavilion at the Nebraska State Fair, increased composting efforts, being selected for a World Wildlife Fund Climate Week spotlight and two former sustainability interns being named Guinness World Records holder. Ҵý faculty and staff continue to expand educational activities through eBadges, energy technology workforce development, sustainability clubs and newsletters. 

With more than 900 participants in 40 countries, AASHE’s STARS program is the most widely recognized framework in the world for publicly reporting comprehensive information related to a college or university’s sustainability performance. Participants report achievements in five overall areas: academics, engagement, operations, planning and administration, and innovation and leadership.


Arboretum Recognizes Ҵý-Hastings

Aaron Thiessen holds awardҴý-Hastings was presented with the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum’s (NSA) Affiliate Excellence Award at a ceremony on Nov.  4. Aaron Thiessen, who at the time was head groundskeeper for Ҵý, accepted the award at First Plymouth Congregational Church in Lincoln. The Affiliate Excellence Award recognizes excellence in plant collection diversity, maintenance practices and community engagement.

During his three-year tenure at the Hastings Campus, Thiessen served as co-chair of the Tree Campus Higher Education Committee and worked closely with faculty to conduct an extensive tree inventory using drone technology to collect pertinent data on species, size, health and location of more than 1,000 trees.

Thiessen also partnered with faculty to integrate a service-learning component into curriculum that enables students to actively participate and invest in the beautification of their campus while also gaining hands-on experience in urban forestry.

Ҵý has been an NSA affiliate site since 2008.


Administrative Office Makeover

Administrative office walkwayThe administrative office walkway underwent a planting update. A thoughtful selection of Nebraskan native plants, shrubs, and trees now adorn the adjacent landscaping bed. Some of the plants include the Dwarf Chinkapin Oak, the Snowflurry Aster and the Husker Red Penstemon. 

The project was a joint effort between the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum and the environmental sustainability office to expand pollinator habitats at all Ҵý campuses.  


Earth Month at Ҵý

Earth Day is a month-long celebration at each Ҵý campus in April with a wide range of activities, including sustainable craft making, student sustainability projects and composting demonstrations. The Kearney Center conducted tours highlighting the facility’s sustainable features and gave demonstrations of the electric vehicle charging station. The Hasting Campus hosted a morning bike ride to the wind turbine for a tour along with a stuff-a-plush table where students could make their own sustainably sourced stuffed animal. There were also several community organizations that participated in the student exhibition, including the UNK Wildlife Club, the Crane Trust, the Rowe Sanctuary and Conservation Nebraska.  


Introduction to Sustainability

One of the newest additions to Ҵý’s course offerings in spring 2022 was Introduction to Sustainability, listed under BIOS 1040. This is a must-have course for students wanting to become more knowledgeable about and engaged with the planet. The course covers the essential concepts of sustainability, including environmental policy history, climate change, biogeochemical cycles and sustainable infrastructure.


Esports Reaches National Championship Match

The Ҵý esports team capped it inaugural season by making it to the National Junior College Athletic Association national championship title match.

The esports team was the #2 seed in the Call of Duty: Cold War Gunfight national tournament and received a first-round bye. In the semi-final, the Raiders defeated Glen Oaks (Mich.) Community College, 3-1. That set up a meeting with top-seed Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs.

In the opening map, the Raiders, led by Justice Silver (bottom row, right) and Zack Hollingsworth (bottom row, left), built an early 2-1 lead before the Reivers took off and posted a 6-4 win.

IWCC scored first in the second map and Ҵý answered right back to make it 1-1. The Reivers rattle off three in a row to take a 4-1 advantage before posting a 6-2 victory.

In the third map, IWCC again took a commanding 4-1 lead when the Raiders responded with two points to cut the Reivers’ lead to 4-3. However, that’s as close as the Raiders would get as Iowa Western claimed the national title with a 6-3 win to close out the best-of-five match.

“Obviously, we were hoping for a different result, but Iowa Western came out strong and they knew the maps and the matchups,” said Ҵý head coach Lucas Lumbra (bottom row, center). “We were making some mistakes and they were forcing our hand a little bit. I’m super proud of our team. They did everything they could, played well and did their best.”

Two other Ҵý Call of Duty team members played prominent roles during the match. Jackson Peabody (top row, right) served as an advisor throughout each map and Ayden Veik (top row, second from left) served as one of the commentators for the online telecast.


Men's Basketball Returns to National Tournament

2023 NJCAA North District championsThe Ҵý men’s basketball team returned to the NJCAA Division II Men’s Basketball National Tournament for the first time since 2014. After winning the Region 9 and the NJCAA North District championship (pictured), the Raiders were the 15th seed matched against the second-seed Niagara County (N.Y.) Community College.

The game was close throughout and NҴý tied the game at 57-57 at the 7:48 mark of the second half, and from that point on, neither team led by more than three points. The Thunderwolves held on for the win, 72-70, after Blake Daberkow’s three-point attempt from backcourt fell short.

The Raiders moved on to the consolation round of the national tournament, meeting Mott (Mich.) Community College. With 32 seconds to play, Daberkow gave Ҵý a 57-56 lead as he made one-of-two free throws. The Bears passed the ball for the entire 30 seconds of the shot clock before Nate Brown sank a jump shot to take a one-point lead. Ҵý’s inbound pass was stolen away, and the Bears prevailed, 58-57.

“To lose two games by a combined three points at the national tournament is heartbreaking, but I can never ever fault the fight of our guys” said Ҵý head coach John Ritzdorf, whose team finished 22-11.

Following the season, Trey Deveaux was named to the NJCAA Division II All-America First Team, the first Ҵý player to do so in program history. Deveaux started all 33 games and led the Raiders in scoring with 18.9 points per game. He scored 20 or more points in 14 games. Raiders head coach John Ritzdorf was named as the Nebraska Community College Athletic Conference Coach of the Year, the Region 9 Coach of the Year and the NJCCA North District Coach of the Year.


Marshall Recognized

Ҵý athletics trainer Denise Marshall received the University of Nebraska-Omaha Distinguished Service Award for her outstanding contributions to the athletic community and to the athletic training profession. She is a certified athletic trainer for Columbus Community Hospital, providing athletic training services to Ҵý-Columbus and is the current president of the Nebraska State Athletic Trainers Association.   

Each year, the National Athletic Training Association's (NATA) Intercollegiate Council for Sports Medicine recognizes one individual for exceptional performance as a head athletic trainer in two-year colleges. Award recipients are actively involved in their community or campus, athletic training associations and promotion of the profession. Marshall received the award at the NATA national convention in June.


Ҵý Athletic Hall of Fame Inductees

The Ҵý Athletic Hall of Fame added three individuals and one team during induction ceremonies in February. The 2023 inductees are:

Jack Gutierrez

Jack GutierrezGutierrez joined Ҵý on July 1, 1980, as the men’s basketball and golf coach as well as the financial aid director. In 1992, he accepted the role as athletic director and retained his role as men’s basketball coach. Gutierrez led the Raiders to five national tournament appearances, including a fourth-place finish at the National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division II tournament. In 1983, the Raiders were the runners-up in the National Little College Athletic Association championship game. He stepped down as men’s basketball coach following the 2006-07 season with a career mark of 418-386.

The next season, Gutierrez started up and became the head coach of the Ҵý softball program. Under his direction, the Raiders won Region IX titles in 2010, 2011, 2014 and 2018.

As athletic director, Gutierrez oversaw the addition of men’s and women’s soccer and softball and the return of golf and women’s basketball. During his service, the Ҵý Athletic Hall of Fame ceremonies were established, and all-star games were implemented. Gutierrez was also instrumental in facilities improvements including the remodel of the Raider Fieldhouse and the addition of the turf soccer and softball complex.

Lindsay Larson

Scott and Terri Larson with Caitlin SimonAn outfielder on the Ҵý softball team, Larson had a stellar career in 2013 and 2014. As a freshman, she led the Raiders in stolen bases (35) and slugging percentage (.766). As a sophomore, Larson led Ҵý in runs (45), hits (48) stolen bases (46) and slugging percentage (.730). Her 81 career stolen bases stood as a Ҵý record until 2022.

Larson was twice named All-Region 9, All-Nebraska Community College Athletic Conference (NCCAC), Academic All-Region 9, Academic All-NCCAC, and Region 9 All-Tournament Team.

An early childhood education major at Ҵý Larson sported a 4.0 GPA. She had planned on transferring to Concordia University to earn a bachelor’s degree and play softball but died in a car accident in July 2014. In memory of Larson, funds given to the Ҵý Foundation are being utilized for book scholarships for Ҵý softball players.

Larson's parents, Scott (left) and Terri (right), accepted her hall of fame plaque. They are pictured with current Ҵý softball coach Caitlin Simon (center).

Riley Callan Smith

Riley Callan SmithAn outside hitter for the Raiders in 2008 and 2009, Smith was Ҵý’s first two-time National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) All-American. As a freshman, she led the Raiders to the NJCAA national volleyball tournament. Smith is a previous Ҵý volleyball record holder with 1,028 kills.

Smith was named NJCAA Second Team All-American as a freshman and NJCAA First Team All-American as a sophomore. She was twice named All-Region 9, All-NCCAC, Academic All-Region 9 and Academic All-NCCAC. She was also named as the Sertoma Athlete of the Year.

Smith transferred to Morningside College where she played volleyball for two more years. Today, she is a licensed mental health practitioner in Ord and is the head volleyball coach at Ord High School.

1999-2000 Men’s Basketball Team

1999-2000 Ҵý men's basketball teamUnder the direction of Jack Gutierrez, the 1999-00 Ҵý men’s basketball squad posted a record of 21-13 and won the Region 9 and district championships. At the NJCAA Division II National Tournament, the Raiders took fourth place and finished fourth in the final rankings. Team members were Beau Brown, Gayle Carey, Jeron Epting, Jesse Hart, Andy Johnson, Vernon Johnson, Jeff Kopecky, JJ Oberg, Bill Parker, Travis Ratzlaff, TJ Rickert, Ted Standing Soldier, and Justin Vogt. Brian Doke was the student manager and Saul Soltero served as assistant coach.


NJCAA Academic All-Americans

The National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) recognized 35 Ҵý student-athletes for academic achievement during 2022-23.

Student-athletes who earned a 4.0 GPA were named NJCAA All-Academic First team, while those who posted a GPA of 3.80-3.99 were named NJCAA All-Academic Second Team. The NJCAA All-Academic Third Team is comprised of student-athletes who finished with a GPA of 3.60-3.79.

The Ҵý softball team led the way with 10 student-athletes earning NJCAA academic honors followed by volleyball with seven. Men’s soccer and women’s basketball each had five honorees while women’s soccer sported four. Men’s basketball had three and golf had two.

The Raiders had six teams that earned NJCAA Academic Team of the Year honors for posting a combined 3.0 GPA or better. Softball posted a 3.5 GPA while volleyball sported a 3.37 GPA. Women’s soccer posted a 3.28 GPA and golf and men’s soccer each recorded identical GPAs of 3.2. Women’s basketball posted a 3.07 GPA.

The following is a list of each sport and team members’ specific honor:


Blake Barner, 1st team and Brett Downing, 3rd team.

Men’s Basketball

Josh Baker, 1st team; Ashton LaPointe, 3rd team; and Derek Merwick, 3rd team.

Men’s Soccer

Rasmus Berg, 2nd team; Paul Kelling, 1st team; Israel Robledo, 3rd team; Tobias Sereining, 1st team; and Niklas Thiel, 1st team.


Jadalyn Berry, 3rd team; Kenzie Bonner, 3rd team; Myah Essman, 3rd team; Addison Heule, 1st team; Emma Lees, 1st team; Kaylee McNeese, 2nd team; McKinna Moats, 1st team; Sasha Perrin, 3rd team; Kailee Pollard, 1st team; and Caroline Riffer, 1st team.


Kamryn Chohon, 3rd team; Abby Elstermeier, 2nd team; Chelsie Fisher, 1st team; Jillian Kelly, 3rd team; Katee Korte, 1st team; and Josie Richards, 1st team; and Allison Sander, 2nd team.

Women’s Basketball

Madisen Jelinek, 1st team; Alessandra Neujahr, 2nd team; MaKenna Pelster, 1st team, Sasha Perrin, 3rd team; and Alyssa Reardon, 2nd team.

Women’s Soccer

Natalie Crouse, 3rd team; Clara Dos Reis, 1st team; Kaylee Gerber, 2nd team; and Lilli Reisser, 2nd team.


Ҵý Remains Best for Vets

Ҵý is the top choice for veterans among all Nebraska colleges and universities, according to the Military Times Best for Vets: Colleges rankings for 2022.

The list focuses on the efforts of two-year universities and colleges nationwide to support the military community. Ҵý is in 27th place of all institutions and fourth place among community colleges.

“This is a great honor to be selected and ranked so well against 310 other schools, both locally and nationally, many of which are much larger than Ҵý,” said Barry Horner, veterans and military services director. “Ҵý’s efforts to provide the best possible services for our military affiliated students is proven by their success. Our veterans’ program is not successful unless our student veterans are successful in their educational goals.”

Ҵý’s Veterans and Military Resource Centers (VMRC) in Columbus, Grand Island, Hastings and Kearney help veterans with benefits and academic advising, assistance for disabled vets and mental health resources. A tuition waiver program provides 100-percent tuition for spouses and children of eligible veterans paid by the college, and the Ҵý Foundation provides veteran-specific scholarships.

“We are proud to see the work of our veteran services staff having such a positive impact on student success throughout our 25-county service area,” said Ҵý President Dr. Matt Gotschall. “We have locations open for these adult students to meet in person and remotely. Faculty, staff and administrators are grateful for their service and welcome the opportunity to help these students in their next career field.”


Ҵý Remains Military Friendly

Ҵý has achieved a top 10 gold level ranking for small colleges, earning it the 2023-24 Military Friendly School designation. Specifically, Ҵý finished sixth on the list of 95 small colleges nationwide.

“Ҵý’s military-connected students deserve the credit for this award,” said Barry Horner, Ҵý director of veterans and military services. “They attended classes, did the homework, took the tests and walked the stage in graduation regalia. The Veterans and Military Resource Center (VMRC) staff had the easy part, supporting the students on their journeys. Their success is what made Ҵý successful.”

Institutions earning the Military Friendly School designation were evaluated using both public data sources and responses from a proprietary survey. More than 1,800 schools participated in the 2023-24 survey with 665 earning special awards for going above the standard.

Final ratings were determined by combining the institution’s survey scores with the assessment of the institution’s ability to meet thresholds for student retention, graduation, job placement, loan repayment, persistence (degree advancement or transfer) and loan default rates for all students and, specifically, for student veterans.

 Ҵý’s VMRCs provide support to active duty, reservist and National Guard members; veterans; and their family members. In addition to military education benefits, the VMRC assists with transferring military credit; scholarships; career planning; registration and direct access to state and national veterans; and military benefits, resources and programs.


Freedom Paws

In April, the veterans and military resource center at the Grand Island Campus hosted an event called "Freedom Paws. Ҵý students, veterans in the community, faculty and staff learn about service dogs and available related resources.

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Veterans Day

Veterans Day ceremonies were held at the Columbus, Grand Island and Hastings Campuses.

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Ҵý Foundation

Pirnie Inclusive Park Donations

The Ҵý Foundation received two significant donations for the Pirnie Inclusive Playground at Ryder Park project.

In April 2023, a $250,000 challenge gift was given by two anonymous donors with the stipulation that it be matched by community donors. Once the challenge gift was matched dollar for dollar, fundraising for the $2.6 million project in Grand Island was complete.

Groundbreaking for the 27,000-square-foot playground was held in the summer and is expected to open in spring 2024. The playground will offer experiences for three stages of development, including spaces designed specifically for children ages 2-5, 5-11, and 12 and older. The concept originated with Ҵý students in the occupational therapy assistant program. The students were challenged to design a community project that would increase the mobility and quality of life for individuals who are unable to participate fully in daily activities due to physical or psychological limitations.

“This playground is going to be something truly special,” said Katie Soto, one of the co-chairs of the Pirnie Inclusive Playground campaign. “I never imagined it would be possible for my daughter Karsyn to be able to zipline or ride a merry-go-round with her two older siblings.”

In November 2022, the Greater Grand Island Community Foundation presented a check for nearly $67,000 for the playground. 

The donation is a discretionary grant from the Greater Grand Island Community Foundation. It is comprised of proceeds from the Arthur E. Klinkacek Community Enrichment Fund combined with gifts from the Dubas-Werner Family Fund, the Jim and Dee Price Donor Advised Fund, the Russ and Kim Rerucha Donor Advised Fund and an anonymous fund.

“The Greater Grand Island Community Foundation houses many funds that invest in the betterment of the Greater Grand Island area,” said Melissa DeLaet, Greater Grand Island Community Foundation CEO. “The opportunity to work with fund holders and our discretionary funds to better the quality of life for so many through the Pirnie Inclusive Playground is one we could not pass up, especially on National Philanthropy Day. Kudos to the Ҵý Foundation and the OTA students for taking the lead on a project that makes our community more welcoming to all who come to play.”


Heartwell Renewables Donates $100K

Ҵý has received a $100,000 donation for scholarships at the Hastings Campus. Heartwell Renewables, a partnership between Cargill and the Love’s Family of Companies, made the donation to benefit students in the career and technical sciences programs.

Heartwell Renewables is constructing a processing facility adjacent to Ҵý-Hastings, which is expected to produce 80 million gallons of renewable diesel fuel each year. The plant is expected to be operational by the summer of 2024 and will employ nearly 100.

“Heartwell Renewables is proud to present this check for $100,000 to Ҵý to further opportunities for technical training and development,” said Rocky DeMello, Heartwell senior operations advisor. “As neighbors, not only do we share a property line, but we also share a commitment to advancing innovation and knowledge in the Hastings community and beyond.

More than 50 career and technical science students will benefit from the scholarships over the next three years.

“We are excited about how this scholarship will directly impact the lives of our students in our career and technical science programs,” said Ҵý-Hastings President Dr. Chris Waddle. “With a preference for students in financial need, or who are first generation students or single parents, this scholarship will allow Ҵý to provide more opportunities for those looking to advance their skills. Heartwell Renewables has been a great partner to work with and we are looking forward to a collaborative relationship for many years to come.”

Leading for Success

2023 Board of Governors Officers

Rita Skiles

Tom Pirnie

Rita Skiles (Huntley) 
Chair/ NCCA Representative
Tom Pirnie (Grand Island)
Vice Chair
Linda Heiden (Bertrand)
Linda Aerni (Columbus)
Diane Keller (Harvard)
NCCA Representative


ACCT Recognizes Keller

Ҵý Board of Governors member Diane Keller was named as the recipient of 2022 Western Region Trustee Leadership Award by the Association of Community Colleges Trustees (ACCT). The award recognizes community college leaders for meeting the needs of their communities. She received the award during the 53rd annual ACCT Leadership Congress in New York City.

Keller is an active proponent of Ҵý’s lead role in multiple statewide grants and initiatives including the Nebraska Math Readiness Project, National Science Foundation mechatronics grants, U.S. Department of Labor transportation grants, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services health occupations grants, and U.S. Department of Education veterans services grants. Each endeavor required Ҵý to work with local industry, students, community college peers and area high schools.

She has also supported initiatives in entrepreneurship, precision agriculture and student support services including TRIO, federal and state aid to students, the American Association of Community College’s (AACC) Equity Transfer Initiative and AACC’s Metallica Scholars Initiative.

Keller has been a member of the Ҵý Board of Governors since 2000 and served in numerous leadership positions, including two terms as chair.


Ҵý Board Adds New Members

Dan Quick of Grand Island and Jason Buss of Central City were welcomed as new members of the Ҵý Board of Governors in 2023. Quick was elected in November 2022 to represent District 4. He replaced Austin Miller, who decided not to run for reelection. Buss was approved by the Ҵý Board of Governors at its June meeting to fill the remainder of the term previously held by District 1 representative Michelle Broekemier, who relocated outside the district.

Quick, who attended Ҵý for one year as a welding student, worked at the Grand Island Utilities Department’s Platte Generating Station until retiring in 2017 after being elected to the Nebraska Unicameral. He served as a state senator through 2020.

He is a member of the Heartland United Way Board of Directors and the Blessed Sacrament Parish Council. He previously served as president and business manager of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1597 and president of the Central Nebraska Central Labor Council and the Nebraska State Utility Workers.

His honors include being named to the 2017, 2018 and 2019 Holland Children’s Movement Honor Roll and receiving the 2020 Farmer’s Union’s President’s Award, 2021 Tobacco Education Advocacy Midlands’ Advocate of the Year Award and 2021 Dan Lutz Passenger Rail Advocacy Award.

Buss is the human resources manager and global environmental health and safety leader for Camaco in Columbus. He has nearly 20 years of experience in the field.

He has strong ties to Ҵý. His parents, Steve and Vicki Buss, both worked for Ҵý-Hastings for most of their careers and are now retired.

He took auto body, AutoCAD and college algebra classes at the Hastings Campus. He later attended classes in Microsoft Excel, leadership, welding and robotic welding at the Columbus Campus.

Buss has served on various Ҵý advisory boards and most recently participated in the welding advisory meeting and on the mechatronics education curriculum’s business-industry leadership team. As the former human resources deputy director for the Department of Health and Human Services, he used Ҵý-Kearney for large employee focus groups.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Missouri Western State University.

Waddle Leads Ҵý-Hastings

Dr. Chris Waddle was appointed to lead the Hastings Campus. He had previously served as Ҵý's vice president of human resources for 11 years. Waddle was hired as a history/political science instructor in 2003 and taught at the Hastings Campus for eight years.

Prior to joining Ҵý, Waddle was an owner/partner of Ericson-based Waddle Enterprises LLC from 2003 to 2009. He oversaw management of the busing contract for Wheeler Central Public Schools. From 1995 to 2003, Waddle was a customer service manager for Walmart stores in Lincoln.

A native of Sterling, Waddle earned an associate of arts degree from Southeast Community College in 1998 followed by a bachelor of science degree from Peru State College two years later. In 2002, he graduated with a Juris Doctorate from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and was admitted to the Nebraska Bar. Active in the community, Waddle recently concluded an 11-year membership on the Giltner Board of Education. He served on the Nebraska State Education Board of Directors from 2009 to 2012 and the Nebraska Association of School Boards legislative committee from 2017 to 2022.

Budget and Finances

Budget Report

The college operating budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year was $59,985,471. Funding sources were:

  • State aid in support of the operating budget increased from $10,144,145 in 2020-21 to $10,693,566 in 2021-22, which provided 17.83 percent of the total.
  • Local property tax for 2021-22 contributed $37,660,326 to the operating budget, compared with $37,313,271 in 2020-21, which provided 62.78 percent of the total.
  • Tuition provided $9,631,577 in 2021-22, which amounted to 16.06 percent of the total.

Operating budget breakdown:

  • 60.26 percent went toward instruction and academic support.
  • 20.20 percent went to institutional support.
  • 9.32 percent went to physical plant support.
  • 8.41 percent went to student services.
  • 1.81 percent went to student aid.

The capital improvement budget for 2021-22 was $10,502,422 and the budget for the hazardous materials/handicapped fund was $2,091,088.

Ҵý Total Economic Impact Near $450 Million

Ҵý added $442.1 million in income to its 25-county service area’s economy. That’s according to an economic impact analysis of fiscal year (FY) 2020-21, which found that the $442.1 million is approximately equal to 2.3 percent of the region’s total gross regional product.

Ҵý’s impact supported 6,247 jobs and the activities of Ҵý and its students support one out of every 33 jobs in the service area. Some of the jobs supported (by industry) include 797 in health care and social assistance, 620 in retail trade, 600 in manufacturing, 495 in construction and 620 in other services.

The study also looked at the return-on-investment for taxpayers, students and society.

The total investment made by Ҵý’s over 17,000 credit and non-credit students in 2020-21 in out-of-pocket expenses and forgone time and money amounted to a present value of $39.7 million. However, for each dollar students invested in their Ҵý education, they are estimated to receive a cumulative value of $5.30 in higher future earnings.

The total benefit to society is $704.7 million or $5.60 for each dollar invested. The societal benefit is comprised of additional student income, added income from college activities, added business income and social savings related to improved health, less crime and state income assistance.

Ҵý’s $49 million payroll for 777 full-time and part-time employees that year was spent primarily in the service area for mortgage and rent, utilities, groceries, transportation and other household expenses. Ҵý’s alumni also had a tremendous impact. The increased earnings of Ҵý alums and the businesses they work for added $379 million in income.

The total taxpayer benefits amounted to $60.1 million, $55.3 million of which came from state and local government tax collections. The remaining dollars came from public sector savings in the form of savings generated by the improved lifestyles of Ҵý students and corresponding reduced need for government assistance.

The economic impact analysis was conducted by EMSI Burning Glass, a private labor market data firm serving clients in the U.S. the U.K. and Canada.


During 2022-23, there were a number of facilities projects completed at various Ҵý campuses and centers. Here is a pictorial sample:

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