Local community college featured at NC Rotary

Kirt Manion
Nebraska City News-Press

Nebraska City Rotarian Kathy Spittler introduced Dr. Paul Illich and Southeast Community College as the program for the Nebraska City Rotary Club meeting on July 7 at Valentino’s on South 11th Street.

Illich opened his talk by saying that he was excited to be coming to Nebraska City to talk to the Rotary Club, especially since citizens are finally able to have such gatherings after having to call all such events off due to COVID-19 protocols.

Dr. Illich, who came to Southeast Community College after previously residing in Texas, said he got clear direction when he took his post as SCC President.

The directive was to take Southeast Community College to “the next level.”

What that meant for Illich was a concentrated effort on making sure Southeast Community College served all its students.

The service area for SCC is 15 counties wide. Illich said that, when came to SCC, there were just three physical presences in that area. 

“That was an obvious thing we needed to change right away. And we did,” said Illich.

Also in the strategic plan was a desire to address the need for skilled workers in the area.

New learning centers were part of the out-reach plan and Illich said some might have questioned why SCC was putting up centers in rural areas where populations have been declining. 

Illich explained the population decline was the reason to invest in the learning centers. By developing a skilled work force, the college would help students become equipped for jobs that kept them in rural areas, thus boosting and preserving population numbers.

Included in SCC’s newest projects are the Crete Carrier Diesel Technology and Welding Center at Milford, the Academic Excellence Center on the Beatrice campus and the Health Sciences Facility on the Lincoln campus.

SCC added a new learning center in Falls City. Other centers are located in Hebron, Wahoo, Plattsmouth and York as well as Nebraska City.

The Nebraska City learning center just moved into a new space at 1400 Central Avenue in what was previously the Pioneer Academy.

The move addressed deficiencies that existed at the previous learning center—from a lack of classroom and student study spaces to parking issues.

At the 1400 Central Avenue location, new programs will be added that would not have previously been possible, such as health science programs.

Southeast Community College is embarking on a new strategic plan for 2020-24 which includes improving the outreach of SCC to include broader relationships with local partners such as municipalities and school districts.

By completing its goals with the learning centers, SCC now has a geographically spaced presence which allows all students in the service area to be within 35 miles of a learning center or campus.

The Nebraska City learning center, Illich explained, is not just for those residents of Nebraska City but is intended to serve students in the greater surrounding area, neighboring towns and students in southwest Iowa.

Illich said SCC has been pleased with all that the Nebraska City learning center has been able to accomplish thanks to the leadership of Cindy Meyer, program coordinator.

“I think Cindy Meyer is a huge part of that (success),” said Illich.

Meyer in turn thanked the SCC leadership and Illich for the college’s continued focus on, not only having a strategic plan for growth and improved service, but also for a commitment to live out that plan on a day-to-day basis.

“We live it day-in and day-out. That is the reason things are happening. It’s these guys and their leadership,” said Meyer.

Also included in the presentation by Illich was information about the health of the school’s enrollment after the 2020-21 effects of COVID-19. The college committed itself to as much in-person class time as possible while keeping with all COVID protocols for safety.

And that seems to have paid off.

Illich said the students communicated a desire for in-person experiences where possible.

This fall, the school will have full in person opportunity but will also preserve virtual capability for students who desire that kind of learning experience.

By the numbers, enrollment appears to be up for SCC as fall approaches, not just as compared to the fall of 2020 but also compared to fall of 2019.

Dr. Paul Illich, President of Southeast Community College, gave a presentation at the Nebraska City Rotary Club meeting on July 7 at Valentino's.