Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Update from the President's Desk

The following is an excerpt from my monthly report to the Board of Trustees:

The Joint Appropriations Interim Committee (JAIC) laid back its Subcommittee’s bill draft to modify the community colleges’ standard budget request process for state appropriations earlier this fall. The Joint Appropriations Committee budget hearing for community colleges will be held December 11 in Cheyenne.
I continue to sign articulation agreements between NWC and UW. I am pleased with the progress that has been made and the time our faculty have committed to this initiative.

Trustee Spomer and I attend the Governor’s Business Forum in Cheyenne November 17-18 with a number of other Park County business owners and community leaders. Business professor Lisa Satterlee also attended with three students. I traveled with economic development board members from the Powell Economic Partnership and Forward Cody. I had the opportunity to serve as a panelist from the Northwestern Region for the Tour 23 presentation on Wednesday morning. On Tuesday evening, former Powell economic development director Dave Reetz was named to the Wyoming Business Hall of Fame.

I continue my involvement on the Forward Cody and Powell Economic Partnership (PEP) Boards. Foundation Executive Director Shelby Wetzel and I are working with PEP Executive Director Christine Bekes to identify additional lodging options in Powell. On December 10, I will present to the Park County Leadership class on the topic of conflict management.

We are planning an emergency drill to be held over spring break in preparation for a campus- wide drill with community first responders this summer.

We are analyzing individual components of the Strategic Enrollment Management report from the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) consultant who visited campus this summer. Our Strategic Enrollment Management Team has reviewed recommendations for short-term and long-term implementation and has begun implementing some of the short-term solutions.

I continue to work on refining our college policies. We have identified areas of policy that are missing and are drafting policy language.  As well, in working with the College Council, we are compiling the Board of Trustees’ Rules and Regulations, Employee Handbook, Student Handbook, portions of the College Catalog, and various other documents into a comprehensive Board policy manual.
I continue to meet weekly with our Student Senate President, Sam Jones. I meet monthly with constituent group Presidents and hold all-employee meetings Friday afternoon before Board of Trustees meetings. In addition, I have been holding regular VP transition meetings with Vice Presidents Watson and Giraud and facilities planning meetings with Foundation Executive Director Shelby Wetzel, Ms. Watson, and Dr. Giraud.

We have embarked on a Mission Statement review process with input from the campus. Data from employees were compiled into a questionnaire, which was given to faculty and staff following my August State of the College Address. Following employee input as part of our Mission Statement revision process, we broadened our request for input to include area residents at a successful on-campus public meeting October 1. We have analyzed the results and are in the process of finalizing the process to include student input. The data will be used to update our current Mission Statement.
As part of our campus-wide strategic visioning process to develop the next iteration of our strategic plan, the Institutional Effectiveness Committee will recommend Key Performance Indicators following your approval of the Institutional Priorities.

Foundation Executive Director Shelby Wetzel and I are discussing timelines and workloads for the college’s next capital campaign. This campaign will include projects related to strategic planning, facilities, landscaping, and athletics. We are also in the process of reviewing the MOU between NWC and the Foundation as well as the MOU between the Foundation and the Booster Club.

Kudos to our Foundation for being named among the nation’s top 25 community colleges with enrollments under 2,000 FTE.



Tuesday, December 1, 2015


At Northwest College, we try to give a little more every day to our students. It’s that little extra that makes us such a great college. It adds up every week, every month, every year. Here’s a video showing what it means after decades—showcasing some of our recent retirees who’ve become legends on campus.

Today on #GivingTuesday, I invite everyone to join us in giving just a little bit more. It’s easy. Go to or text “NWC” to 501501 to give $10. No matter the amount, every gift counts.

Meet two special people who’ve already joined the NWC Foundation’s #GivingTuesday and proudly posed for an "unselfie." They are Nada Larsen of Meeteetse, Board of Trustees Vice President/Secretary, and Shawn Warner of Powell, NWC Alumni Association President. Thanks for all you do, Nada and Shawn!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

It takes a village

The adage of "it takes a village" has hit close to home in the last few weeks. My husband and I have been like two ships passing in the night lately due to our our schedules.

I appreciate that we have made such good friends in Powell who are willing to help us. One of my friends picked up my son from school and took him to hockey practice when my husband was out of town. Later that week when I was traveling another friend kept him overnight and took him to school the next morning. It really does take a village to raise a child.

It also takes a village to raise a president. A couple of weeks ago I parked the NWC car that I drive in Shoshoni and traveled to Cheyenne with the president of Central Wyoming College. I received a text at 7:30 the next morning letting me know that the business where I had parked needed me to move it for a fuel delivery in two hours. I appreciate the help of Dennis Quillen, Roxie Herman, and Deb Jacobs. The next thing I knew the car had been moved across the street to the bait shop. It was there safe and sound when I arrived back at Shoshoni at 6:00 that evening.

I sure appreciate having so many good people to take care of me!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Employee appreciation

Last week I announced to all employees my decision to use one-time money that Northwest College received from the state to fund an employee bonus.

Since becoming president over 2 years ago, I have emphasized my appreciation for the hard work and dedication of our employees. Tight budgets and projections of enrollment decline did not allow us to fund across-the-board cost-of living adjustments for our employees.
This year NWC received "recapture/redistribution" funding as part of the state's review of valuations in the seven community college districts. When revenue from a district’s valuation exceeds estimates, colleges must “share the wealth” with other colleges; NWC was a beneficiary this year, but that isn’t always the case.
I have therefore chosen to utilize these funds as a one-time bonus to invest in our employees and to show my gratitude for their diligence and commitment to NWC and our students.

San Diego

Trustee Nada Larsen and I attended the American Association of Community College Trustees Annual Leadership Congress in San Diego October 14-17. The conference was good. Lots of information on student success initiatives.
Trustee Larsen presented with other Wyoming Trustees on our statewide retention initiatives through Complete College Wyoming.
I arrived early to attend the Higher Education Research and Development Institute Board meeting where I evaluated three technology companies that market their products to community colleges nationally.


The view from my hotel window

One of the ships in the Maritime Museum of San Diego near the conference
I used UBER for the first time! Quick. Easy. Cheap.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015


Please join me tomorrow (Thursday, October 8) at noon in observing a moment of silence in memory of the victims of last week's tragedy at Umpqua Community College.

Feel free to share this message and use #IamUCC on Twitter and Facebook.

As a community college president, I feel for everyone at Umpqua and in the community of Roseburg, Oregon. We join together in solitude against violence on our campuses.  As we take out our emergency plans to review campus policy and procedures, we need to also remember to take care of each other as we grieve. We are all one in these kind of tragedies - we all suffer.

Our hearts go out to the UCC faculty, staff, students and families during this difficult time.


Friday, October 2, 2015

Oh what a difference a a week makes

The weekend of September 18th I was in Jackson Hole for Leadership Wyoming where we had dinner outside at the Snake River Ranch. This past weekend I had dinner at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West's Annual Patron's Ball. Who knew that as a college president in Wyoming my wardrobe would require such diversity!

                                                     Stefani Hicswa at the Snake River Ranch

Stefani and Scott Hicswa at the Patron's Ball
Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

How do you say hello?

My family and I hosted our international students at our home for dinner last week. The students all signed the following poster with how they say hello in their language.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

State of the College Address

I hope you all enjoyed the Labor Day weekend. My family and I camped near Lander. On our way into camp we stopped at Sinks Canyon where the Popo Agie River goes underground.

The following is an excerpt from my recent state of the college address:

At Northwest College we are redesigning students’ educational experiences, reinventing how we do things, and changing our systems to promote student success. We are taking on bold new ideas and changing our paradigms. As a result, our passion is launching a 21st century comprehensive community college. How exciting is that?!

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 empowering students as partners in developing their paths and achieving their educational goals. And we are implementing policies and practices that promote academic rigor and accountability.

According to a recent report from the American Association of Community Colleges on building the nation’s future to do all of this, we must provide leadership and financial resources to:
  1. Focus on policy governance – Substantial change cannot happen unless the Board of Trustees strategically creates the policy conditions necessary to improve student success and supports the president in leading courageous transformational change.
  2. Commit to the work – Sustainable change requires commitment and persistent focus.
  3. Use and share data – There is no reason to collect data if we don’t use it to drive our decision-making.
  4. Design for scale – Well-intentioned interventions do not have an impact unless they are implemented for all students.
  5. Emphasize professional development – Development of staff and faculty must be supported financially and be strategically focused to make an impact.

Northwest College needs everyone to be involved in implementing these initiatives and contributing ideas to redesign the new 21st century community college. When you believe THE purpose of your institution is to make students better through your passions, you take risks.

At a deep level, my passion is serving our students. In fact, it is my calling. That’s why I am at Northwest College. It is my hope that you will be as energized by the passion of your NWC employees and our students as I am. The turmoil of the past is over. I am very proud of the amazing shifts that I have seen over the last two years.

Our passion is moving us forward, and it’s making a difference in the lives of our students every day.


Thursday, September 3, 2015

Your future, our focus

At Northwest, we tell our students it’s “Your future, our focus.” When an institution focuses intently on its students, good things happen: they stay in school and complete their educational objectives; they are continually challenged by faculty who know how to help them get the most out of their classes; they find personal and academic success here at NWC and at the university level. And they succeed in the working world.
As a college, our success is measured by the success of each and every one of our students. While we’re busy focusing on them, it’s nice to know others are looking at us and comparing NWC to other colleges.

I’m happy to tell you we stack up pretty darn well! This week, the Powell Tribune reported Northwest College was ranked the No. 4 community college in the nation by WalletHub.

We don’t measure our success by national rankings, but it’s nice to be able to give that outside seal of approval to our students.

Congratulations! Thank you to all NWC faculty and staff for your dedication to students. And, thanks to our larger community for all your support in making this level of dedication possible.


Friday, August 21, 2015

The 2019 Mindset List

As new students begin to arrive on campus this week, this link gives you some insight into the mindset of our traditional age students. 



Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Harvest Time!

Last night after the Board of Trustees meeting I sat outside on my patio and snapped green beans. I then proceeded to blanch and freeze 8 quarts of green garden goodness.

During this process, I was flooded with memories of harvest seasons throughout my childhood. As my mind wandered I began contemplating how planting and harvesting seasons compares to the work we do with our students.

In many ways, the only difference is that at Northwest College we plant in the fall and harvest in the spring. Some students are late bloomers and require a little more TLC. Some students grow quickly, perhaps before we are quite ready. Regardless, the joy of watching them grow is beyond compare.

As my vegetable garden and the barley field next to my house await harvest and the morning light changes, I eagerly anticipate fall "planting season" at Northwest College.


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

2 down 20 to go!

This year I begin my 10th year as a rural community college president. Today is my two-year anniversary as President of Northwest College. If I want to match SinClair Orendroff's record,
I only have 20 more years to go.

The longer I am in this job, the more frequently I receive calls from headhunters to apply for university presidencies. Though universities play a very important role in our society and they are imperative to continued advancement for our students, I am not tempted by the allure of serving as a university president.

I am driven to serve community college students, particularly low-income, first generation students in rural areas. This is due to the fact that I came from a similar background. That is just one of the reasons Northwest College is the perfect place for me.

I find that my passion for the success of our students has only increased over the years.

As I prepare my remarks for the August 19th State of the College Address I have chosen "Passion" as the theme.

In preparing my remarks, I want to know what drives your passion? Please send me your thoughts over the next couple of weeks.

Thank you!

I hope you are having a great summer.


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

It's the climb

As I was backpacking with my family in the Cloud Peak Wilderness recently, the lyrics from the Miley Cyrus song "The Climb" were running through my head (it must have been due to the elevation).
"There's always gonna be another mountain
I'm always gonna wanna make it move
Ain't about how fast I get there
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side

 It's the climb
Keep on moving, keep climbing
Keep the faith

 It's all about the climb"
On any given day it is easy to get focused on all that we have to do and the challenges we face; but there is a tremendous sense of accomplishment in the climb itself regardless of whether it is a physical, mental, or emotional journey.
Unfortunately it is too easy to get bogged down in obsessing about how far we have to go. However, it is imperative that we take time to reflect on how far we have come.
The link to our annual report below is just one example of how reflection can instill a tremendous sense of accomplishment. The hard work and determination of our faculty, staff, and students is amazing and something in which we can all have a great deal of pride.
Enjoy the climb!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Vacation fun

My family and I recently returned from a camping trip to the Black Hills. There is nothing I enjoy more than sitting around a campfire in the summer - although I came to work yesterday still smelling like smoke.
There is something about camping that flips a switch for me to go instantly into relaxation mode. However, as you can see from the photos below, we did more than just hang out at our camp site.

Enjoy the rest of your week!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Time flies when you are having fun

Shannon Behounek has been my best friend since 5th grade when I was the new kid at school and she kindly offered to eat the pickled beets off my hot lunch tray. We have been through a lot together over the years. Recently we celebrated her son Jeremy's graduation from MSU-B.

My how time flies.... 

With Shannon

With Jeremy age 4
With Jeremy age 24

Tuesday, June 2, 2015


Commencement is the culmination of hard work on the part of our students and all of us involved in the process. But also, it is the reason why we do what we do. Student success is our passion!
Congratulations graduates. I am proud of you.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Elite Eight! Let's Rally!

I'm happy to announce that NWC defeated Sierra Nevada College in the second round of Elevation Outdoors’ Top Adventure College Tournament last week!

This week we're up against Western State Colorado University and it looks like they've got an early lead! Vote early and vote often (you can vote every 24 hours!) and let's get to the Final Four!

Voting for round 3 ends on Monday, June 1 at 9 AM MST.  The Final Four voting begins at 12 Noon the same day.

Let's get out the vote and show them what we're made of!

Monday, May 18, 2015

We made it to the Sweet 16. Please Vote!

I am pleased to announce that NWC defeated Rocky Mountain College in the first round of Elevation Outdoors’ Top Adventure College Tournament this week!

But the fun doesn't stop there. We're on to Round 2 against Sierra Nevada College this week. Vote early and vote often (at least once a day!) and let's get to the Elite 8!

Round 2 ends on Monday, May 25 at 9 AM MST.  Round 3 begins at 12 Noon the same day


Friday, May 15, 2015

Celebrate good times!

In the words of Kool and the Gang from 1980....

"There's a party goin' on right here
A celebration to last throughout the years
So bring your good times, and your laughter too
We gonna celebrate your party with you"

Numerous end of year events, retirement parties, receptions, speakers, concerts, and awards ceremonies have occupied most of my evenings over the past few weeks. At a reception the other night someone asked me how many of my meals I eat at these kind of events. My reply: "All of them."

Although I need to cut back on the cake, it is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate all the great things happening at Northwest College!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Please Vote!

We all know that Northwest College is the Top Adventure College in the Rockies. You can help me make sure everyone else knows.

Here’s how:
Elevation Outdoors Magazine is holding its first annual Top Adventure College Tournament. It’s conducted as a bracket where two colleges compete against each other to advance to the next round. We’re facing Rocky Mountain College in the first round. We have until May 18 to vote NWC into the next round.
Please cast your vote as soon as you can. And keep voting!

Everyone is allowed to vote once a day until the deadline.

Go NWC!  


Monday, May 4, 2015

Remembering Alan Jeffs

Alan Jeffs
NWC custodian Alan Jeffs passed away last week. As I grieve the loss of this kind man, I am struck by the flood of memories I have of my interactions with him. On a regular basis he brought me sometimes secret, sometimes not-so-secret deliveries of fish he had smoked from his most recent fishing trip.

He was always happy. He always had a positive outlook. He would always stop whatever he was doing to visit with me.

As many of you know, he was also a bit of a jokester.

Alan: "What do you use to give a dolphin a bath?"
Stefani: "I don't know. What?"
Alan: "All porpoise cleaner."
Stefani: "Boo."
Alan: "But it made you laugh"
Stefani: "True."

And, I am still laughing. My family and I have started calling the bottle of Lysol bathroom spray, dolphin cleaner - all because of Alan.

The week before he died, I stopped at the grocery store on my way home. I was a bit frazzled after a busy day and was focused on getting in and out of the store as quickly as possible. Upon getting out of my car and shutting the door, I heard a loud noise. I looked around. Opened the car door. Closed it. And looked around some more.

That was when I saw Alan parked right beside me laughing. He had honked his horn precisely to correspond with me shutting my car door. Not only did he make me laugh, he made my day. He was instantly able to get me out of my funk and put a smile on my face.

Alan, may you continue to find all the best streams and the biggest fish. We will miss you!

What are your favorite Alan memories?


Thursday, April 30, 2015

NWC Superheroes

NWC saluted our employees at at last week’s annual Employee Recognition Banquet. We honored employees' years of services as well as our retirees, faculty receiving emeritus status, faculty receiving promotions and  tenure, and Outstanding Service Award recipients.

Our 2015 Outstanding Service Award recipients are (cue drum roll please...)

Classified Staff Award – Jennifer Cannizzaro, Senior Office Assistant, Student Success Center

Professional Staff Award – Jo Ann Heimer, Business Office Manager

Faculty Award – Allan Childs, Professor of Chemistry and Mathematics

Team Award – Central Assessment Team members Eric Atkinson (Biology), Dave Erickson (Sociology), Gerry Giraud (VP, Academic Affairs), Rachel Hanan (English), Micah Humphreys (Ag), Jan Kliewer (Music), Aura Newlin (Sociology and Anthropology), Astrid Northrup (Engineering and Mathematics), Susan Richards (Library Director), Lisa Satterlee (Business Office Technology), and Lisa Smith (Institutional Researcher).

Congratulations to all of our honorees. You are all superheroes.  

President Hicswa with Jo Ann Heimer

I think this should go on the trustee web page
Next stop, Gotham City

Thursday, April 23, 2015


I recently returned from San Antonio where I attended the opening ceremonies of the national Phi Theta Kappa conference (AKA NerdNation) with seven NWC PTK members and advisor Dr. Eric Silk (see photos below).

The keynote speaker was Grammy Award-winning musician John Legend. True to his song, “Made to Love” his address to over 3000 NerdNation attendees was focused on the theme that we are all made to love. He shared is philosophy that love is the opposite of fear and that if we live without fear, through education we will have peace on earth. His message was very powerful!

“I am one of you. I have always been a nerd and I’ve always been proud of it.
So let’s get our geek on! ” John Legend