A Call for Unity

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Photo taken June 1, 2020 in Appleton, Wisconsin. Photo used with permission from Ray Wright & Detective Sergeant John Schira, Appleton Police Department (pictured).

Normally in this blog I stay away from the constant barrage of incidents, actions, and controversies of the day in our state or country, but not this time.  My heart breaks to see this nation being ripped apart, both literally and figuratively because of the historical injustice to people of color and the continuous cycle of oppression.  It’s especially difficult to see this when the daily work of our college is to build people up, develop skills and abilities for brighter futures, support economic development in our region, and advance our communities.

The recent event in Minneapolis leading to the death of George Floyd and countless other incidents over the years are constant reminders of the effects of inequity and racism in our communities. And our college’s understanding of the needs of those we serve is critical to eliminating the historical inequities that stand in the way for many of our staff, students and community members.

We must now, more than ever, be comfortable listening to those affected, seeking out targeted strategies to ensure that opportunities are accessible, and implement actions to ensure that achievements are possible for everyone regardless of individual abilities, differences, and backgrounds. Let’s learn from the vast experiences of our business, professional and community leaders of color, seek their input, and value their contributions as we transform challenges into opportunities.

One of our organization’s core values is diversity, a value that we do our best to live and support every day.  We do this by recruiting and serving a diverse student body in numbers even greater than the growing diversity of our communities.  We do this by dedicating staff and resources to specifically focus on advancing students and staff of color, supporting their success and opportunities.  We also do this by continuously educating ourselves on the challenges of inequity and ways in which we can continue to close current gaps.

Central to current civil unrest are deep issues of social justice and policing in America – very justified outrage given the pattern of incidents of police brutality involving people of color.  I’m particularly dismayed about the issues at hand because at FVTC we offer some of the finest law enforcement training in the country.  For many years we’ve worked with area law enforcement agencies to increase student, instructor, and agency diversity to better reflect our communities.  We prepare officers to serve and protect everyone, placing great emphasis on cultural competence, ethics, critical thinking and professional communication skills.

We have much work to do here in this region and across the country.  We all do – every person, every organization, every level of government.  But this work in rebuilding can only truly advance with a sense of unity – coming together to work on issues that affect us all, especially our disenfranchised community members; not through division and all of the forces that work to divide us in so many ways.

We remain committed as a college to continue working collaboratively with diverse community members, law enforcement agencies, K-12 school districts, non-profit organizations, and others to focus on not just words, not just dialogue, but additional actions to ensure that all members of our community have opportunities and can experience the highest levels of success possible.

I know that the uncertainty we face right now is troubling and unsettling for many in our community and would encourage anyone experiencing anxiety, sadness or deep feelings of fear or anger to reach out for help.  I’ve linked here a number of college and community resources available:  www.fvtc.edu/emergency-resources

Finally, a personal note to our students and staff of color:  I see you, I hear you, I care about you and your future, and we will all continue to learn from you and find ways to ensure that you continue to feel welcome, valued and appreciated at FVTC.

Global Connections

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Last week I had the wonderful opportunity to spend some time with a group of visiting students and faculty from Argentina.  The group is engaged in a grant-funded program called 100,000 Strong in the Americas and consists of student entrepreneurs.  Also in our discussion and this program were FVTC students from a variety of programs interested in entrepreneurship.  These students and several of our staff will travel to Argentina for this program’s exchange experience in the coming months.

I always enjoy meeting and talking with visitors to FVTC from around the globe where we can share perspectives and explore topics from such an expanded view.  These young guests were just terrific – so eager to learn, engage, and experience all they could as part of this international learning opportunity.  And what an incredible experience for our own students!

Having met and interacted with thousands of international students and visitors over many years, I can certainly attest to the fact that we have far more in common with others in the world than differences.

Wautoma — a New College Town?

 

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Wautoma Regional Center
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… L to R: Tom Rheinheimer (Wautoma Area School District Superintendent), Tony Gonzalez (Board Chair), Jackie Weber (Foundation Board Chair), Chris Brown (Wautoma Regional Manager)

On September 18 a large gathering of community leaders, school district representatives, elected officials, and other partners joined us for a special dedication ceremony of the college’s new Wautoma Regional Center. This welcoming facility located adjacent to Wautoma High School brings fresh technologies and innovative learning spaces to a part of our district that we’ve been serving for 40 years; however, facility upgrades and expanded services to meet regional workforce demands and employment opportunities were needed.

A new industrial bay and health care lab, along with an expanded welding lab, were big hits by those who toured the center before and after a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony. The faculty and staff were literally gleaming when showing off their regional center, which also houses the Wautoma Area School District administrative office and a regional office for the Fox Valley Workforce Development Center.

I couldn’t be more grateful for the support for this project by the FVTC Foundation.  Fully half of the funding to make this center a reality came from the Foundation.  It was great to see Foundation Board Chair, Jackie Weber, side by side and cutting the ribbon with the Chair of our Board of Trustees, Tony Gonzalez.

What really struck me during the dedication ceremony of the 12,000-sqaure-foot facility was observing the enthusiasm on the faces of our speakers and those in attendance. It felt like a college town had emerged from the commitment of the people in attendance—one that is poised to support and complement the unique educational needs of the greater Waushara County area.