Monday, December 22, 2014

Happy Holidays!

This holiday season many people have said to me, "I don't know how you do it." As many of you know, I have two elementary sons involved in hockey. So in addition to the regular activities and tasks that come with preparing for the holidays, we have been traveling for hockey tournaments around the state this month.

I find that reconciling my expectations for the holidays helps me enjoy the season much more. For gifts, I streamline as much as possible and get books or itunes gift cards for all my nieces and nephews. I make only one special holiday treat on December weekends that I am home rather than trying to juggle ingredients for 15 or more different recipes. I decorate my house Thanksgiving weekend and call it good. All my decorations didn't get up this year and I have accepted this reality.

The best thing I have done over the years to save time and energy is to create a grocery list that I keep in a special journal with all of my holiday recipes and family memories. This time of year I just pull it out and I don't even need to think about what I need because I already know I am going to cook over the break. Oddly, my grocery list includes sauerkraut, dried yellow peas, fish, and lima beans for the Hicswa family Valia (also spelled Wigilia) tradition that my husband's grandparents celebrated as children in Poland. Part of the tradition includes bestowing wishes for the new year. My wish for you is that you have balance in your days so that you have time to enjoy the sunrise, savor moments with the children in your lives, and find joy in the interactions you have with the people around you.

Best wishes for a most wonderful holiday season!


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

On the Road Again

Mark Kitchen and I are traveling to Worland today for our final legislative visit before the session. After today we will have met with all of our Big Horn Basin legislators. They are all very supportive of Northwest College.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Top 10 Reasons For Completing Community College

  1. You'll earn more! Students who complete their associate degree or certificate can expect to earn about $500,000 more in a lifetime than a high school graduate.1
  2. You'll be prepared! When you are job-hunting, a college credential will always give you an edge.2
  3. Unemployment for community college graduates is typically 30 percent lower than for high school grads.3
  4. You'll encounter fewer barriers to transfer! You'll save time and money by not having to repeat courses or take courses you did not know you needed.4
  5. You'll help reverse a national trend in the declining number of college graduates.5
  6. You'll open doors for your children. Children of college graduates are more likely to graduate themselves.5
  7. You and your family's health will improve. Research links greater educational attainment to longer life, healthful eating, exercising and avoiding risk factors.6
  8. You will be more likely to promote environmental sustainability.5
  9. You'll be more likely to volunteer, vote, contribute to charity, serve on boards and run for office.5
  10. You'll be an educated, prepared and higher-paid employee, providing support.5
Statistics show the surest way for anyone to land a job in their chosen field is to finish college and earn a degree or certificate.

And that's exactly what students at Northwest College are promising to do - signing a mass pledge to complete their associate degrees or certificates before leaving community college for transfer or to enter the job market. Administrators, faculty and staff will be committing to do whatever they can to facilitate completion of student credentials.

This week, students will gather to sign a completion pledge, part of a national community college movement called C4. The event is being hosted by the college's Phi Theta Kappa chapter. Learn more at about the C4 initiative:

Please come to one of the events below to sign the C4 banner and pledge cards as a commitment to your pursuit of graduation!

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014 - DeWitt Student Center

      11:00 a.m. -1:00 p.m.
      4:30-6:30 p.m.

Thursday, December 11th, 2014 - Hinckley Library Lobby

      2:30-4:30 p.m.

Friday, December 12th, 2014 - Trapper Basketball Game

      5:30-9:00 p.m.

Stefani Hicswa, Ph.D.
Northwest College

  • 1Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, June 2010
  • 2Rosenberg McKay, D. "How Often Do People Change Careers?" Guide to Career Planning since 1997 (2006)
  • 3Internationally, College Graduates Fared Better During Recession, Chronicle of Higher Education, September 2010
  • 4The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, American Association of Community Colleges, The National Articulation and Transfer Network
  • 5With Their Whole Lives Ahead of Them, A Public Agenda Report for The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • 6Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Commission to Build a Healthier America

Monday, December 8, 2014

Pathways for Students

Last week I had the opportunity to travel to Washington DC to particpate in a conversation on building relationships to develop more seamless education pathways for students. I was honored to have been invited by AACC President and CEO Walter Bumphus (pictured with me below).

AACC President and CEO Walter Bumphus and NWC President Stefani Hicswa

An article on the panel was featured in the December 3rd edition of the Community College Daily, titled Connecting on Student Pathways.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Giving Thanks

As we approach the Thanksgiving Holiday, I am thankful to be a part of the Northwest College family. Last week was one of those times when I had multiple opportunities to gush about NWC. My pride in our students and gratitude for all that our staff and faculty do fills my soul.

Last Wednesday evening, I had the opportunity to attend the NJCAA National Volleyball Tournament Banquet with a group of young ladies and coaching staff that made me beam with pride to accompany them. The following day they beat the nation's top-ranked team and went on to finish 4th overall. When I visited with them over Facetime on Friday afternoon I told them that setting goals is about making it to the national tournament, but beating the number one team in the country and playing in the final four is what dreams are made of. Ladies, I am proud of you! Congratulations.

On Thursday night, my family and I attended the annual Native Ways Buffalo Feast. Not only was the performer amazing, the organization of the event and the food were superb. Through dance, music, and comedy, Supaman (pictured with me below) shared a powerful message with us that night.

I appreciate his willingness to perform at NWC, as well as visit classes and meet with us to discuss ways we can better recruit and retain Native students. Chris, thanks again for demonstrating the power of kindness and gratitude.

Supaman and President Hicswa

There was a Arapaho quote on a card at the Buffalo Feast that said, "When we show respect for other living things, they respond with respect for us." The same can be said for the power of gratitude.

Have a happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Update from the president's desk

Below is a copy of my November report to the board of Trustees.

Trustee Jim Vogt and I attended the 2014 Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) Leadership Conference in Chicago October 20-22. Prior to the conference, I attended my first national Advisory Board meeting of the Higher Education Research and Development Institute (HERDI) to which I was recently appointed. The opportunity to serve as a member of this Advisory Board is one of the most rewarding professional development experiences I have had since becoming a college president. During those two days, I worked with 20 other presidents to advise vendors seeking to develop products for the community college sector.

A recent article in the Community College Journal reports that the newly signed Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) puts a deeper emphasis on earning postsecondary credentials  across various job training and higher education programs including a focus on helping adult basic education students transition to postsecondary education. For community colleges, that means occupational education and adult basic education programs working better together. As a result of this new federal legislation we will see more focus on job-driven training activities. Senator Enzi played an important role in the 11 year Workforce Investment Act reauthorization process.

On November 5 I traveled to Gillette to meet with Senator Enzi and Higher Learning Commission President Dr. Barbara Gellman-Danley to discuss the implications of the Work Force Innovation and Opportunity Act.

The community college presidents in conjunction with Wyoming Community College Commission Executive Director Jim Rose have been discussing our legislative strategy for the upcoming legislative session. We are seeking legislation to recalibrate the enrollment growth portion of our variable funding every four years and endowment challenge funding.

The Wyoming Community College Commission will meet by conference call on November 20 to discuss tuition rates for next year and the potential of tuition incentives for continuous enrollment.

In conjunction with the Powell Economic Partnership Board meeting this month, Ady Voltedge and the Wyoming Business Council held a discussion for Powell’s business retention and expansion initiative focused on workforce development. The discussion centered on Northwest College as an asset, specifically the Center for Training and Development in meeting immediate workforce training needs in the community.

In addition to attending both Forward Cody and Powell Economic Partnership board meetings, I met with several community leaders and business owners in Powell and Cody in regard to concerns as well as potential partnerships. On October 15 I was Darian Dudrick’s guest on the Big Horn Radio Network’s Speak Your Piece program where I discussed student success, concurrent enrollment and the importance of meeting area workforce needs. I continue to prioritize attending community events and being visible and approachable in the community. I find that Blair’s Market is one of my best venues for informal interaction with community members.

As you know under my annual performance goal of organizational effectiveness, one of my priorities is to develop a policy framework. I have hired a consultant who will be working with our campus this year to assist us with this process.

Vice President for Administrative Services finalists were on campus for interviews the last two weeks. I expect to make a decision later this week. I appreciate all of the time and dedication the search committee has put into this search.

I attended the NWC Alumni Board meeting on Saturday, October 25, followed by a reception at the Nelson House. In my report to the Board, I discussed the importance of student success and our focus on improving our retention and graduation rates. I am always inspired by the strong ties our alumni have to NWC and Board members’ desire to help current students.

It was my privilege to speak at the Phi Theta Kappa induction on October 15th. Megan Eisenhower, a student in our radio/television program, interviewed me last week on NWC-TV and Alexandria Preis, a journalism student interviewed me for an article she is working on for the Trail. I always enjoy opportunities to interact with students.

The Foundation Resource Collaboration Group, of which I am a member, met on October 15 to finalize the draft of the NWC Foundation’s next strategic plan. I am very pleased with the participation of college trustees and administrators in this process. The plan incorporates the future needs of the college and our students excellently.

NWC Foundation Executive Director Shelby Wetzel and I continue to meet with prospective donors on various projects.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Speak Your Piece

This past weekend my family and I made our first run of the season. We had to hike up the mountain in below zero weather but it was worth it!! 

Here is a recording of an interview I did on the Big Horn Radio network last month. I am pretty outspoken regarding my thoughts on concurrent enrollment.

From Speak Your Piece (October 15, 2014)
Credit: Big Horn Radio Network

Stay Warm!


Thursday, November 13, 2014


I was recently interviewed by NWC student Megan Eisenhauer for the NWC Conversations program on our TV station.

Below is a copy of the interview. As you will see Megan is quite impressive. She has a bright future in this business.


NWC Reads

Have you seen the new NWC Reads poster? I am reading one of Janet Evanovich's novels right now as my guilty pleasure and listening to an audiobook featuring Stone Barington by Stuart Woods audiobook when I travel.

You can read more about my favorite books and other former NWC Reads cover models


Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween

What's in the box? Maybe it's a head...
Mu ha ha ha ha!!  

Trick or Treat

Have a safe and happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Breaking in the Yellowstone Building

Last week we had the pleasure of breaking in our new building at two fantastic events: the Yellowstone Building Dedication and Open House on Tuesday and the Foundation Gala on Saturday night.

Below are excerpted comments from both events and some photos:

We had a number of funding partners to make this project possible. The State of Wyoming invested approximately $9 million. This is the first time we've received state resources for a construction project at Northwest College and we are thankful to the Wyoming Legislature.

The college’s trustees courageously tapped into reserves to put forth $2 million. Our students were also part of the equation with the addition of a $5 per credit hour fee.

The NWC Foundation raised over $900,000 in private funds. I'm deeply grateful to the NWC Foundation and our donors for their tremendous support of students and the enhancement of academics at Northwest College.

I appreciate the time, energy and generosity of our construction partners, the State Construction Division, Sletten Construction, and CTA Architects. As well I am thankful for NWC employees who worked tirelessly on this project (you know who you are).

The building’s importance to the college, its programs, faculty and students cannot be overstated.

with former NWC President SinClair Orendorff

with a (fake) cigar in my hand

Update from the President's Desk

Below is a copy of a recent report I submitted to the Board of Trustees:


As you may recall, I was recently named to the Higher Education Research and Development Institute (HERDI) national advisory board. I will be attending its semi-annual meeting in Chicago, IL October 20-22, 2014 prior to the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) meeting October 23-25, 2014.

On November 15, 2014, I will be facilitating a session at the American Association for Women in Community Colleges (AAWCC) CEO retreat in Stevensville, MD.


On September 24 I attended an Executive Council meeting in Casper with Jim Rose, Executive Director of the Wyoming Community College Commission and the other Wyoming community college presidents. We discussed performance objectives and our legislative agenda.

The University of Wyoming brought a group of their new faculty accompanied by President Dick McGinity, Vice President for Student Affairs Sara Axelson, and Vice president for Government and Community Affairs, Chris Boswell to campus on October 3rd. Vice President Kitchen gave them a campus tour and we hosted a luncheon for them attended by our faculty members in the lobby of the Science Math Building. UW hosted a dinner that evening held in the Yellowstone Building for legislators and Powell community leaders. I am pleased with President McGinity’s commitment to address transfer and articulation issues.

I had the opportunity to serve as a panelist at the 4th Annual Summit on Community Colleges on October 9, 2014, in Laramie, WY. The panel focused on defining student success. Other panelists included an industry representative, a student, a Wyoming Community College Commissioner and a legislator. (SP1.1) One of the keynote speakers at the Summit was Kay McClenney, former Executive Director of the Center for Community College Student Engagement (CCCSE). I worked for her as a research assistant in the Center when I was a graduate student at UT Austin.


With the end of summer has come numerous meetings and community events in Powell and Cody that I have participated including the Buffalo Bill Art Show which I attended with art major Gabriela Rodriguez and the Patrons Ball which I attended with Shelby Wetzel.

I was honored to be the keynote speaker at the regional Soropitmist meeting on Sunday, September 28. I spoke to their theme, “Leading from the Heart.”


In addition to working on the enrollment data report and addressing current and future facility needs, my campus focus this month has been on studying campus operational efficiencies and policy.

Foundation Executive Director Shelby Wetzel and I continue to strategize ways to maximize our fundraising efforts to meet college needs.



Tuesday, October 7, 2014

In your face Heart Mountain!

I am the kind of person who looks at the top of a mountain and wonders what the view is like from the top, if there is a trail, and if climbing gear is necessary to get there. As you might imagine, I have looked at Heart Mountain every day since I moved here.  
View of Heart Mountain from my front porch

On Saturday, my family and I finally hiked to the top of Heart Mountain with friends - ascending 2500 feet in a few hours. Upon reaching the summit my youngest son put his arms in the air and yelled, "In your face Heart Mountain!"  He immediately turned and started the decent.

View from the top of Heart Mountain looking West

Friday, October 3, 2014

Legislative Update

As you can see from the photo below, I am getting excited for the Foundation Gala next Saturday October 11th. It will be the first big event  in the Yellowstone Building following the Dedication and Open House on Tuesday, October 7th.

"So we beat on...borne back ceaselessly into the past" F. Scott Fitzgerald

Below is a recent update I sent to our area legislators. Have a good weekend!

Dear Big Horn Basin Legislators,          


I hope you’ll be able to join us at the Dedication and Open House for our new Yellowstone Building Tuesday, October 7, at 4 p.m. We’re anxious to show off this beautiful and functional new instructional building. It would never have happened were it not for generous legislative funding that provided just over 60% of construction costs. It was the first capital construction appropriation NWC has ever received from the state’s general fund. We’ll be forever grateful. As you know from my message last month, Nursing students and faculty were fully moved in for the first day of classes August 25; all other programs—Criminal Justice, Communication, Social Science and Education—occupied the building September 22. 


It appears that our earlier enrollment estimates of an approximate 6% decline were accurate. This dip in numbers is a continuing response to a stronger economy after its weakening in fall 2009 produced an enrollment spike of nearly 20%. The good news is that during the 2009-10 year we worked very hard to accommodate the huge enrollment increase without adding faculty and staff. That puts us in a strong position as our enrollment returns to traditional levels.


A pilot Summer Bridge Program in mathematics attracted 12 student participants in a week-long, intensive math instruction session last month on campus. Designed to help NWC-bound students with math deficiencies prepare for college-level math courses, the program also included introduction to college services and procedures as well as on- and off-campus activities like a rafting trip. A Northwest College Foundation grant covered all students’ expenses for the entire week, including residence halls and food service. I’m pleased to tell you that five of the participants achieved a level of proficiency allowing them to enroll in college-level math this fall. In our ongoing efforts to help students succeed, that’s great news! 


Thanks to NWC Foundation underwriting, a new initiative implemented this fall is helping students who face emergency situations. Our new Higher Education Resource Opportunity (HERO) grant helps students with limited financial resources deal with unexpected financial challenges—loss of a job, medical issues or inability to afford child care—that may jeopardize their ability to succeed academically or threaten their continued enrollment. This program is but one initiative in place to retain students. Again, student success is our constant focus.


I’m excited to serve as a panelist at the Wyoming Association of Community College Trustees’ Fourth Annual Community College Summit October 9 in Laramie. The panel will focus on defining student success. Other panelists include an industry representative, a student, a Wyoming Community College Commissioner and a Legislator.


Ag program ranking: Northwest College’s Ag program ranks 27th in the nation in associate degree production, according to Community College Week. NWC bested 73 other two-year institutions that made it into the top 100 community colleges in the Agriculture, Agricultural Operations and Related Sciences category.

National Player of the Week:  Freshman Volleyball Team standout Aleksandra Djordjevic from Serbia was named NJCAA National Player of the Week. This marks the third consecutive season NWC has had an NJCAA National Player of the Week and the fourth in the last three seasons.

 Have a good weekend!                    


Stefani Hicswa, Ph.D.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

2014 Patron's Ball

As part of the Rendezvous Royale week in Cody, I had the opportunity to attend the Buffalo Bill Art Show and Sale with art student Gabriela Rodriguez as the guest of Dick and Jeanie Nelson. One of the featured artists was Associate Professor of Art John Giarrizzo. The highlight of the evening was Gabriela teaching me about the various methods used by the show's featured artists.
Red Dessert by John Giarrizzo
The week long celebration of the arts in Cody was culminated with the Patron's Ball on Saturday at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West which I attended with NWC Foundation Executive Director Shelby Wetzel and Vice President for College Relations Mark Kitchen.  
Shelby Wetzel, Mark Kitchen, Stefani Hicswa, Sandee Kitchen

   with State Farm Agent Jen Talich                                with former Senator Al Simpson

Friday, September 26, 2014

Garbology 101

Last week I had the opportunity to participate in the NWC Anthropology Department's fourth annual garbology project. Many thanks to Associate Professor Greg Smith for providing the data below: 

Participating students gained practical experience in using the scientific method and a heightened awareness of the life-cycle of garbage. As you can see, it was quite a visceral experience. A fortuitous by-product is that the project functions as a major campus publicity campaign for anthropology and recycling.

The project involves conducting yearly waste stream audits on campus and delineating how much recyclable material is being thrown away with the regular garbage (see that cardboard coffee cup sleeve among the pizza? Yes, that really is pizza).

The first three garbology studies documented a slight increase in campus recycling over time and the results of the fourth are still pending. Averaging the data from the first three sessions results in some sobering statistics: between 25-35% of all campus garbage by weight could have been recycled.

Assuming that the garbage they have looked at is representative of an average day on campus, we throw some 828 recyclable plastic containers into the trash every day. Projected over an entire school year, NWC throws over 170,000 plastic containers into the trash!

Food for thought...(ok, maybe that is not the best idiom given the visuals above, but you get what I am saying).

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Shoshone Irrigation District

and Roll!
Last week I had the opportunity to tour the Shoshone Irrigation District with Beryl Churchill. What a treat for this former farmer!

Not only did I learn about the structure and history of the canal system, but also I learned the history of the Churchill family homestead. The quality production agriculture surrounding the NWC campus is the result of years of TLC by the Churchills. It was great to spend the morning with Beryl. The best part...she taught me how to set a siphon tube!
I have been watching my neighbor Perry Fisher from my kitchen window all summer but hadn't got up the courage to ask him to teach me because I figured he would probably put me to work. Thanks Beryl!!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Legislative Update

Below is an excerpt from a recent update I sent to our Big Horn Basin Legislators with a link to a video interview with Professor Allan Childs who was selected by the Wyoming Department of Education for the Post-secondary STEM Educator of the Year Award. Congratulations Allan!

Dear Big Horn Basin Legislators,         


The campus is experiencing excitement with the start of fall semester classes. Reuniting with returning students and greeting first-time students is always such a pleasure. While enrollment dust has far from settled, we anticipate a decline of about 6%—a continuing response to a stronger economy after we saw an unheard-of enrollment spike of nearly 20% in fall 2009 when the economy soured. I’ve mentioned this dichotomy to you before: Community colleges experience increased enrollment in economic downturns (usually, with no additional funding to accommodate it, or worse, when budget cuts are imposed) and decreased enrollment when the economy brightens (usually, with no ability to take advantage of the state’s general fund revenue growth). While we’ve come to expect these dichotomous predicaments, it’s nonetheless troubling. We’re hopeful that review of the community colleges’ current funding formula will yield a new model that addresses this dilemma.


Construction of our new Yellowstone Building is “substantially complete,” and we now have the keys to this beautiful and functional instructional facility. We’re so proud to add it to our campus. To think that it was completed in 14 months is truly amazing! Because all the technology pieces weren’t completely in place and there wasn’t time to train faculty on their use, we’re phasing in occupancy. Our Nursing program was fully moved in for the first day of classes. Students and faculty in all other programs moving to the new space—Criminal Justice, Communication, Social Science and Education—will occupy the building September 22. Mark your calendars for a Dedication/Open House, including tours, on Tuesday, October 7, at 4 p.m. Hope to see you then!


Recent research confirms that students who participate in first-year experience programs demonstrate more positive relationships with faculty, greater knowledge and use of campus resources, more involvement in campus activities, and better time-management skills than their non-participating peers.  Our fall-to-spring retention rate for students enrolled in freshman seminars was 91%. It’s definitely the right approach, and I’m proud of those students and the faculty and staff who helped lead them to persevere.


I’m also proud to report that Northwest College employee responses to the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Great Colleges to Work For employment satisfaction survey show a 23% increase in satisfaction with shared governance from 2012 to 2014 and 25% improvement in satisfaction with senior leadership at the college. 


Last year was filled with many accomplishments. Evidence of our progress can be found in our 2013-14 Annual Report. While it’s impossible to list all accomplishments, the report demonstrates that we’re getting things done and moving forward with confidence and a sense of purpose.


Statewide award: Dr. Allan Childs, Professor of Chemistry and Mathematics, was selected by the Wyoming Department of Education for the Post-secondary STEM Educator of the Year Award. The honor was noted at the "Roadmap to STEM" Conference earlier this month. Allan has taught chemistry at NWC for nearly 30 years. You’ll find a brief video interview of Allan here.

Successful nurses: Last year’s Registered Nursing student graduates achieved a 93% pass rate on the National Council Licensure Examination.



Tuesday, September 9, 2014

NWC Accomplishments

I received the nicest note from Ruby Hopkin the other day. Her kind words meant so much that I want to share her sentiments with you.

"It was with profound interest that I read the [NWC] statistics quoted in the Powell Tribune. In 1946 I enrolled as one of the first students at Northwest Center of the University of Wyoming. Having just graduated from high school in Powell, it was a real blessing to have the opportunity to attend college here...I couldn't have visualized what NWC has become and I'm so proud of the accomplishments of those involved through the years. I sincerely wish for continued success for you and everyone at this great school."


Friday, September 5, 2014

Kick off Weekend

The following is an excerpt from my second annual fall State-of-the-College address plus photos from Kickoff Weekend:

Think about where Northwest College was a year ago, where we are now and the potential we have for the future. Imagine where we will be 10 years from now if we continue on this trajectory! It's pride that can take us on that trajectory, and we have already started that process. I see more pride on campus than when I arrived a year ago.

I am proud to report that employee responses to the Chronicle of Higher Education's Great Colleges to Work For employment satisfaction survey show a 23% increase in satisfaction with shared governance and 25% improvement in satisfaction with senior leadership since 2012.There are many reasons why the climate has improved on campus. We accomplished a great deal in the last year.

The evidence can be found in our 2013-14 Annual Report. I have a great deal of pride in the accomplishments highlighted in the report. Although it's impossible to list all the things we accomplished last year, our annual report demonstrates that we are getting things done. The annual report is on our website at Check it out!

Another point of pride for our campus community is our new alumni magazine. I'm really excited about the new format of our alumni publication. Projecting the excellence of our college makes a strong statement to our alumni and donor audiences. Kudos to College Relations, Printing Services and NWC Foundation personnel for producing this high-class publication.

We're making substantial progress implementing high-impact practices that research shows make the most difference in community college student completion. Pride in the student experience is the reason we are here.

I am proud of the Summer Bridge Math program for NWC-bound high school graduates recently taught by Assistant Professor of Mathematics Don Anderson. Research shows that these types of courses minimize the number of college courses students need to take.

Student success research clearly demonstrates that directed advising shows students how each course brings them closer to the certificate or degree they seek. Last year our Academic & Career Advising Center logged 922 student consultations.

Recent research confirms that students who participate in first-year experience programs demonstrate more positive relationships with faculty, greater knowledge and use of campus resources, more involvement in campus activities, and better time-management skills than their non-participating peers. Last year's fall-to-spring retention rate for NWC students enrolled in freshman seminars was 91%. I'm proud of those students and the faculty and staff who helped them succeed.

Likewise, I'm proud that NWC Foundation staff and the Financial Aid and Scholarships Office have partnered to develop a Higher Education Resource Opportunity (HERO) grant to provide emergency funds to help at-risk students. In doing so, they have also begun considering ways to maximize scholarship funding. Nonetheless, we MUST do more to heed the emerging promising practices and strategies that are associated with student success. Recent proliferation of student success research demonstrates that we have to be much more directive because too many options tend to overwhelm and hinder the success of today's community college students.

When you believe the purpose of your institution is to make students better through pride, you take risks. We will take risks to implement best practices because we have determined it's the best practice for our students. We will NOT compromise our academic integrity, rigor or standards. We will value innovation and creativity and seek solutions to problems in new and collaborative ways. We will make strategic shifts to move our focus from striving to be better by doing more, to BEING better by doing things differently. We will continue to hire high-quality, qualified faculty and staff. And finally, we will continue to serve our citizenry as intended by the referendum which established us as a comprehensive community college in 1953. We were chartered to serve our community and support our citizens in achieving their dreams.

To close, I will leave you with one of my favorite Goethe quotes: "Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Begin it now!"

Begin it with Northwest College pride.
Have a great weekend.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Monday, August 25, 2014

President Hicswa's Graduation Challenge

On Saturday I braved 50 degree weather to challenge students to complete their degree at Northwest College.
In order to have a chance to dunk me, they had to commit to complete college by filling out the Phi Theta Kappa Community College Completion Corps Student Pledge. 
Almost 50 students signed the document and committed to graduate by planning for college completion, discussing career planning and seeking advisement on course selection from college faculty and staff. They committed to learning about college resources, attending and participating in class, as well as reaching out to encourage other students to complete college.
I was proud of them for making the commitment! I didn't expect so many of them would hit the target though. As you can see I got soaked - over and over.  

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The most wonderful time of the year

I absolutely LOVE the month of August! 
This is my favorite time of the year - the anticipation and excitement of the back to school season, the buzz around campus, new school supplies, tomatoes from my garden, the smell of fall in the air, purple ambrosia (a.k.a wild huckleberries) along hiking trails, the color of sun ripened barley, and the smell of fall in the air first thing in the morning. An added bonus is that I celebrate both my birthday and my wedding anniversary in August.
Below are photos of my husband Scott and I at our wedding in Seely Lake, Montana and 21 years later at the Willwood ponds here in Powell.  
Stefani and Scott Hicswa in 1993
(photo by Sheri Rhodes)

Stefani and Scott Hicswa in 2014
(Photo by NWC grad Keith Christensen)

Monday, August 4, 2014

Legislative Update

The following is an excerpt from a recent update I sent to our local legislators:
We had a very productive meeting with UW President Dick McGinity and key staff members earlier this month when they came to Powell to discuss UW acceptance of our transfer students’ credits. It’s a frequently-mentioned concern among our current and prospective students, their parents and high school counselors. NWC participants included academic Division Chair, VPs for Academic Affairs and College Relations, Registrar, and myself. Joining President McGinity were his Associate VP for Academic Affairs, Coordinator of Student Success and Transitions, and Associate Director of UW Extension. In addition to credit transfer, we also discussed the potential of increased UW degree offerings in Park County. They listened closely to our concerns and suggestions. My sense is that Dick is taking the issues seriously, and I appreciate the commitment they made to come to our campus for discussions. Naturally, we want to see our transfer students attend the state’s only four-year university. We’ve worked closely with UW in the past and will continue doing so. I look forward to productive discussions as the JEIC considers this topic.

Construction of our new Yellowstone Building is going well. Our Instructional Technology and Computing Services staffs have considerable work ahead of them in the building however. The first space occupied will be classrooms, and the dividable Conference Center. We have the luxury of transitioning into the rest of the building over time. I’m excited that my second annual Fall State of the College Address on August 20th will be in the Yellowstone Building’s Conference Center! We anticipate an October building dedication ceremony. Legislative funding was paramount in providing just over 60% of funding for the building.

Our Trustees recently approved the new Facility Master Plan, which the college is required to update every five years. It provides a strong road map for development of the physical campus. Projects in the plan total 10s of millions of dollars, with construction of a new DeWitt Student Center being the top unmet need. Completing such enormous projects will undoubtedly require a variety of funding sources.

I spent most of the day on July 2nd getting to know Meeteetse residents. Thanks to Trustee Nada Larsen, I got a first-class introduction to that unique community and its members. I heard several great ideas for ways NWC can improve its service to that area of our district.

We’ve selected a company, Chartwells, to provide dining services to our students. Chartwells has developed a higher education niche and has a strong reputation for understanding, engaging and satisfying students with tailored campus dining service operations. Chartwells assumed operations in July, replacing Aramark with which Northwest contracted for about 25 years. I’m pleased to let you know that the new company has rehired Ken Beebe, longtime Director on campus, and that off-campus catering to community groups will remain a part of services provided.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

89.1 Trapper Radio

What do a saxophone, meatloaf, sunshine, air guitar and jitterbug have in common?

Recently I had the opportunity to be in the studio with Troy Hunt for a recording of his "Pop Music" show on 98.1 Trapper Radio. When he asked me for 15 of my favorite songs to feature on the show, I thought I needed to be there to defend myself so he wouldn't dis my favorite country songs. He had never even heard of David Allen Coe!

It turned out some of the songs on my list were his favorites too. Since we are close to the same age and some of the songs brought back high school memories for both of us we had a great time.

Tune in to Film and Television Instructor Troy Hunt's "Pop Music" show on 89.1 Trapper Radio this Saturday, August 2 at 5 p.m. to find out what a saxophone, meatloaf, sunshine, air guitar and jitterbug have in common. You will probably learn more about me than you ever wanted to know, but you'll get to listen to some great music in the meantime. If you miss it, the show will be rebroadcast on Sunday, August 3 at 11 p.m.

Happy Wednesday!


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Park County Fair and Parade

Now that I have been in Powell for a year and have experienced one annual cycle, I am starting to repeat annual events, most recently the Park County Fair and Parade. Below is a photo of the NWC entry in the parade on Saturday.

President Hicswa and future NWC students at the Park County Parade

My family and I spent three evenings at the fair last week. My sons worked the youth hockey booth and I took tickets for Rotary at the grandstand. It was a fun week. Last year we sat with Jory Yates at the pig wrestling. At one point I leaned over to him and said, "We are going to fit in here just fine."  A year later it has proven to be absolutely true.




Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Update from the President's Desk

It seems that summer is never long enough!
President Hicswa at Fish Lake west of Dubois, Wyoming 
The above photo was taken on a recent camping trip to Fish Lake where my family and I hiked a few miles of the Continental Divide Trail, mountain biked, and spent plenty of time sitting around the camp fire.
Below is a copy of my July report to the Board of Trustees.
July 14, 2014
I am pleased that NWC’s federal loan default rate of 13.6% is well below the national average of 21% for two-year public colleges.
On June 19th I traveled to Casper to attend the College National Finals Rodeo. Our Men’s Team finished 24th at the CNFR sponsored by the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association for which Coach Del Nose serves as a board member. Our Men’s Rodeo Team’s 24th place finish is added to the impressive list of competitive teams finishing their seasons in the top echelon of the nation. Other national finishes by our competitive teams this year include Wrestling (2nd), Volleyball (8th), Journalism (2nd) and Forensics (Bronze).
I was privileged to participate in the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation’s reenactment of the 1944 trial of Heart Mountain draft resisters as part of the 26th Annual Conference of the National Consortium on Racial and Ethnic Fairness in the Courts. Trustee John Housel, Instructor of Sociology and Anthropology Aura Newlin, and I were among “cast members” for the reenactment. Ms. Newlin is a HMW Foundation Board member who deserves special praise for her work in helping host the consortium.
Recently, I was named to the Higher Education Research and Development Institute (HERDI) nationwide advisory board. HERDI provides better products and services for students, faculty and staff of America’s community colleges by facilitating frank and critical dialogue between community college leaders and the business community that seeks to serve us.
I have been asked to present a pre-session workshop for the American Association of Community Colleges Annual Conference in April 2015 on the unique challenges and opportunities of serving as a rural community college president.
We were once again honored to host the Wyoming American Legion Auxiliary Girls State on our campus June 7-14. Vice President Sean Fox greeted the group at their opening on June 7th, and I had the opportunity to speak with them at their graduation ceremony on June 14th. 
On July 8th I met with UW President McGinity and a few of his staff members to discuss transfer and increased degree offerings in partnership with NWC. Joining President McGinity were Dr. Alyson Hagy, UW Associate VP for Academic Affairs; Dr. Patrice Noel, UW Coordinator of Student Success and Transitions; and Kelly Crane, Associate Director of UW Extension.   
I had the opportunity to serve as the guest on KODI Radio’s Speak Your Piece talk show in Cody with alumnus Bryce Cornatzer on May 4. Vice President Mark Kitchen and I attended the annual National Parks Day luncheon sponsored by the Cody Chamber of Commerce on May 19th.
I met with Cody Superintendent Ray Schulte May 27th to discuss concurrent enrollment and other issues. Leah Bruscino, Wyoming Business Council’s Northwest Region Field Operations Director, and I met on July 3rd to discuss partnership opportunities. I have been actively involved in the Forward Cody Board and Powell Economic Partnership Board.
On July 2nd I traveled to Meeteetse to get to know community members better and hear their ideas for ways we can improve our service to our tax district. I appreciate Trustee Nada Larsen making the arrangements.
Vice President Gerry Giraud and I met with representatives from Choice Aviation on June 17th to discuss terms for the renewal of our memorandum of understanding with them for our Aeronautics program.
Nurses pinning and Commencement were particularly poignant, as I ended my first year as president with this graduating class. We granted 354 degrees and 43 certificates during 2013-14.
Members of the Professional Staff Care Committee and their families joined my family for dinner at my home Wednesday, May 21st. The following week, the custodial and grounds crew joined us for an appreciation BBQ in my backyard.
On June 28th I attended my first NWC alumni reunion. Alumni from each decade were in attendance including two from the class of 1946 and a future alumnus who will start at NWC this fall. It was a joy to meet everyone and hear stories of their experiences as students.
Foundation Executive Director Shelby Wetzel and I continue to discuss ways we can leverage foundation dollars with college needs as well as match college needs with donor preferences. In addition, we have met with donors regarding the Yellowstone Building, large legacy gifts, and special projects. 
 Enjoy these warm summer days!