Thursday, August 25, 2016

Governor Mead visits NWC

Governor Mead with new NWC students

Last week during our Kick Off Weekend activities, students had the privilege of being welcomed to campus by Governor Matt Mead. He talked to them about the importance of a college degree and how they are an investment in the future of Wyoming.

Following his presentation to the students, he also spoke to NWC faculty and staff. He understands that community colleges are key to the future of the state and he congratulated us on being the first community college in the state to complete the first round of articulation agreements with the University of Wyoming.  He also gave us his perspective on the state's budget situation.

It was an honor to host Governor Mead on our campus. He truly cares about our future and appreciates that we are making a difference in the lives of our students.


Monday, August 22, 2016

We are Northwest Strong!

The following is an excerpt from my Fall 2016 State of the College Address:

In his book, My Story (2013), National Hockey League defenseman Bobby Orr states, “Strength is about making a conscious decision to try to be at the top of your game every day. That kind of attitude doesn’t mean you are never going to make mistakes. It doesn’t even mean you will achieve a personal best every day. But if you try, the negatives are going to be outweighed by the positive things you accomplish. If you can do that, your strength won’t just propel you along, it will make everyone around you better. One of the indescribable things about being on a team… [is]when everyone is focused on inspiring everyone else, there is almost nothing you can’t do.”

Grounded Theory researcher Brene’ Brown, in her book Rising Strong (2015), states that strength is found where our courage is tested and our values are forged. Strength is daring greatly and living courageously. Courage not only transforms our being, it will transform our college.

Dr. Brown also says that strength is a critical mass of badasses who are willing to take on tough stuff, face discomfort head-on live their values, and keep showing up. If we are clear of what our institution can become, we WILL get there. Strength is about being “all in” (Brown). Just like the training regimens of Olympic athletes, it will take consciously doing something every single day to get us there.

Yet, we cannot be fully strong and move forward until we heal from the pain of the past. Olympic swimmer Dana Vollmer posted on social media that she did not know pain and strength until she became a mother. Like Ms. Vollmer with a new level of awareness we learn that by working through pain, we grow and change.

This new awareness, although scary, can be invigorating and reignite our sense of purpose. To be strong we must be brave. Being pulled forward to even greater courage is an inescapable part of rising strong (Brown). To be strong we will need the energy generated by our passion for student success.

We are reinventing how we do things and changing our systems to promote student success. We are taking on bold new ideas and changing our paradigms. We are becoming brokers of educational opportunities rather than just offering classes. We are strengthening the role of advising and learning assessment to help our students succeed. We are implementing policies and practices that promote academic rigor and accountability. We are empowering students as partners in developing their paths and achieving their educational goals.

We are strong.We have the strength to do this together. The definition of strength is: “durable, solid, resilient, tough” and “the quality that allows someone to deal with problems in a determined and effective way.”

That is us!

Strong colleges survive. Northwest College is just that. Together we will remain strong now and into the future. I know when we work closely with each other, we capitalize on our strengths. May you have “Olympic fever” throughout the year as you think about the strength we have as a college and the gold in your heart. We are Northwest Strong!


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Beloit College's "The Mindset List"

Each August since 1998, Beloit College has released the Beloit College Mindset List, providing a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college this fall.

For this year’s entering class, there has always been eBay, snowboarding has always been an Olympic sport, and the Euro has always existed.


The Mindset List for the Class of 2020
  1. There has always been a digital swap meet called eBay.
  2. Grandpa has always been able to reach for the Celebrex.
  3. They never heard Harry Caray try to sing during the seventh inning at Wrigley Field.
  4. There have always been Cadillac Escalades, but they just don't seem to be all that into cars. 
  5. West Nile has always been a virus found in the U.S.
  6. Vladimir Putin has always been calling the shots at the Kremlin.
  7. The Sandy Hook tragedy is their Columbine.
  8. Cloning has always been a mundane laboratory procedure.
  9. Elian Gonzalez, who would like to visit the U.S. again someday, has always been back in Cuba.
  10. The United States has always been at war.
  11. Euros have always been the coin of the realm...well, at least part of the realm.
  12. Serena Williams has always been winning Grand Slam singles titles.
  13. SpongeBob SquarePants has always lived at Bikini Bottom.
  14. The Ali/Frazier boxing match for their generation was between the daughters of Muhammad and Joe.
  15. They have never had to watch or listen to programs at a scheduled time. 
  16. James P. Hoffa has always been president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
  17. Surprise: There has always been sex in the city.
  18. John Hinckley has always been able to get out of the hospital to go for a walk.
  19. Each year they've been alive the U.S. population has grown by more than one million Latinos. 
  20. TV ads for casinos have always been permitted to mention that there is actually gambling going on in there. 
  21. Vaccines have always been erroneously linked to autism.
  22. Laws against on-the-job harassment have always applied to parties of the same sex. 
  23. Even as the national mood gets glummer, there has always been an annual prize for the most humorous American.
  24. Catholics and Lutherans have always been in agreement on how to get to heaven.
  25. To greet them with some cheery news, when they were born, India and Pakistan became nuclear powers.
  26. If you want to reach them, you'd better send a text—emails are oft ignored.
  27. They disagree with their parents as to which was the "first" Star Wars episode.
  28. "Nanny cams" have always been available to check up on the babysitter.
  29. NFL coaches have always had the opportunity to throw a red flag and question the ref.
  30. Bada Bing – Tony and Carmela Soprano and the gang have always been part of American culture.
  31. They have no memory of Bob Dole promoting Viagra.
  32. Books have always been read to you on
  33. Citizens have always been able to register to vote when they get their driver's license.
  34. Bluetooth has always been keeping us wireless and synchronized.
  35. X-rays have always been digital allowing them to be read immediately.
  36. Exxon and Mobil have been one company—and it doesn't own any gas stations.
  37. They have always eaten irradiated food.
  38. A Bush and a Clinton have always been campaigning for something big.
  39. Physicians have always had unions.
  40. Some have always questioned the sexual orientation of certain Teletubbies.
  41. Snowboarding has always been an Olympic sport.
  42. Students have always questioned where and by whom their sweatshirts are made.
  43. While chads were hanging in Florida, they were potty training in all 50 states. 
  44. Presidents have always been denied line item veto power.
  45. Nigeria has always been a constitutional republic with a civilian government.
  46. The once-feared Thalidomide has always been recognized as a cancer fighting drug. 
  47. DreamWorks has always been making animated creatures heroic and loveable.
  48. Deceased men have always been able to procreate.
  49. John Elway and Wayne Gretzky have always been retired.
  50. They have never seen billboard ads for cigarettes.
  51. The New York Stock Exchange has always reported its ups and downs in fractions.
  52. Airline tickets have always been purchased online.
  53. There have always been iMacs on desks.
  54. Instant, tray-less ice cubes have never been a novelty.
  55. Robots have always been surgical partners in the O.R.
  56. Peregrine falcons have never been on the endangered species list.
  57. Outstanding women basketball players have always had their own Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tenn.
  58. Newt who?
  59. War films have always shown horrific battle scenes inspired by Saving Private Ryan.
  60. Michael J. Fox has always spoken publicly about having Parkinson's disease.
The Mindset List is created by Beloit College.


Thursday, July 28, 2016

Flashback to the 1960's

Shelby Wetzel, Stefani Hicswa, and Megan Nickles

NWC Foundation Board President Megan Nickles, Executive Director Shelby Wetzel and I wore pink retro outfits to celebrate the Foundation’s founding in 1966 at a dinner Ms. Nickles hosted in her backyard for Foundation Board members and spouses last week. Guests enjoyed some fun facts honoring 50 years of history, including:

  • The Foundation was incorporated with the State of Wyoming on June 2, 1966.  Its first meeting ran from May 19 to June 13 (they recessed and re-opened the meeting on different days)
  • Six different donors have made gifts of $1 million or more to the Foundation
  • We have received gifts from all 50 states and 14 foreign countries
  • Employee giving to the Foundation totals $1,082,908 from 331 individuals.

Look for more Foundation trivia and retro photos throughout the year as we celebrate the Foundation's 50th anniversary.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Northwest Strong!

The following op ed piece on our budget was as recently published in local newspapers:

It is no secret that fallen energy prices have created a serious revenue shortfall in Wyoming. It is being felt in both public and private sectors throughout our state. Northwest College and the other six community colleges are certainly not immune. In fact, not only are we dealing with cuts in state appropriations, we are also faced with revenue loss from local mill levies as lower oil and natural gas prices and disastrous impacts to the coal industry mean lower county valuations.

At Northwest College, we have responded strategically and proactively to realign expenditures with decreased revenue. That has meant cuts of nearly $3 million for the 2016-17 year. About 75 percent of NWC’s roughly $22.5 million operating fund is composed of employee salaries and benefits. Our $1 million monthly payroll has an enormously positive impact in this area.

We have made both personnel and non-personnel cuts across campus, and believe me, it was painful. Because I often get questions about athletics, I will add that reductions are also being made to athletics. The Board of Trustees implemented our Reduction in Force policy, initiated a one-time special early retirement offering, approved more than $1 million of operating cuts throughout the college, and discontinued three instructional programs—Farrier Business Management, Journalism and Film/Radio/TV. Those decisions, coupled with not filling several positions from resignations or retirements earlier in the year, mean the loss of about 20 employees and reduction of administrative operations.

The three program terminations impact a total of 13 students, all of whom will be allowed to enroll in courses to complete their degree next year as we “teach out” the programs. All scholarships, including those for returning students in those programs and those for students who had planned to enter the programs, are being honored.

Obviously, cuts of this magnitude will unquestionably impact our students, employees, and the communities we serve, but we are being proactive in our communication and deliberate as we transition these changes. It is important to note that while some of our sister colleges are approaching their reductions differently and may defer action until the second year of the two-year funding cycle, Northwest has chosen to execute permanent cuts now, starting July 1, knowing that they will be permanent and ongoing.

Your community college is moving forward with responsible, intentional planning. Strong institutions survive such trials. Northwest College is just that, and we will remain strong.

A year of impressive accomplishments

As challenging as it has been from a budget standpoint, 2015-16 was a year of successes. The following is a partial list of accomplishments:

  • 4th in the nation on WalletHub’s list of 2015's Best Community Colleges
  • In the 98th percentile nationally for students completing and transferring in three years
  • 43rd national ranking for our Ag program
  • The first Wyoming community college to finalize an initial tier of 17 articulation agreements with the University of Wyoming, giving students assurance that courses they are taking will meet requirements for UW bachelor’s degrees
  • A 95.8% pass rate for Registered Nurse graduates on the National Council Licensure Examination, a nationwide examination for licensing nurses
  • Improved enrollment, and strong growth in Photography, Criminal Justice and Music
  • 1st place among two-year colleges at a prestigious forensics tournament
  • 4th-place national volleyball finish
  • Top 25 ranking among community college private foundations nation-wide
  • Welcomed 300 Big Horn Basin high sophomores at a Career Day on campus where students explored possible careers
  • Hosted Sherman Alexie, one of the most acclaimed Native American authors in the country

To review a robust list of strong accomplishments and related photographs from last year, check out Northwest College’s Annual Report at

Continue to expect strong accomplishments from your community college next year.

We are Northwest Strong!