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Lake of the Ozarks location students awarded scholarships from local Newcomers/Longtimers group

Posted by on Dec 29, 2017 in Lake of the Ozarks, Nationwide | 0 comments

Lake of the Ozarks location students awarded scholarships from local Newcomers/Longtimers group

From left to right: Vickie Faulstich, Timothy Davis, Tara Milo, Sharon Yoder, Maureen McDonald, Katie Sharp and Carole Olivarri

The holiday spirit of giving and helping others was on full display during the Lake of the Ozarks Newcomers/Longtimers December luncheon. The group, which consists of more 250 women from around the Lake area, awarded three students from Columbia College–Lake of the Ozarks with scholarships totaling over $7,500.

Nursing program students Tara Milo (Eldon, Missouri), Katie Sharp (Sunrise Beach, Missouri) and Timothy Davis (Jefferson City, Missouri) were each awarded $2,500 scholarships following a stringent application and interview process. Funds for the scholarships were generated via the group’s 2017 Home Tour event the Newcomers/Longtimers facilitate during the course of the year.

“It truly is an honor to have our students recognized by an outstanding community organization like Newcomers/Longtimers and we are grateful for their generous scholarships the group provided,” Lake of the Ozarks location Nursing Coordinator Sara Riley said. “This is a high-quality group of students who were recognized and we look forward to watching them grow in the nursing profession.”

 

Diane Davis reflects on 30-year Columbia College career

Posted by on Dec 29, 2017 in Faculty/Staff, Nationwide, Orlando | 4 comments

Diane Davis reflects on 30-year Columbia College career

Diane Davis says she’s not very good with names. You can’t blame her, really. She’s had to learn a ton of them during her 30-year career with Columbia College, during which she has served as an Administrative Assistant, Office Manager and Academic Advisor at the Orlando location.

Diane Davis
(Photo Submitted)

She does know the faces, though, of the students and staff members she’s had the pleasure of working with over the years. And the voices. And, especially, the stories.

“We’re not like a big college. We get to know our students,” Davis said. “Some of them have issues, sometimes, that they feel comfortable talking about. I would sit and talk with them, almost like a mother figure.”

The students show their appreciation by stopping by the office to say hello. Or to bring a cake for Davis. Or, in the case of one student who owns a gyro/submarine sandwich shop, to bring her hot wings.

“I’ll tell her, ‘No wonder I’m gaining weight!’” Davis said, with a laugh.

Davis is leaving Columbia College-Orlando on Dec. 29, for a retirement filled with gardening, bowling, reading, cheering on her husband, Robert, during his softball games and spending time with her three sons and three grandchildren.

She’s looking forward to the next phase of her life, but she will also miss the one she’s leaving behind.

“What I’ll miss most about Columbia are the students. I’ll miss the staff, especially the other Academic Advisors, because we’ve become close,” Davis said. “We can connect with each other. I’m going to miss that part. It’s going to be a whole new ballgame when I leave here.”

Dennis Wagner, the first director at Columbia College-Orlando, hired Davis as an Administrative Assistant in 1984. Before then, Davis had been raising her children and moving around frequently with her first husband, following his military career.

Once her family settled in Orlando, Davis went to work with the college at the Orlando Naval Training Center in December 1984. For about the first six months on the job, Mr. Wagner allowed Davis to bring her youngest son, who was 3 at the time, in to work with her until he was old enough to go to preschool.

“There was an extra room right behind my desk. He played in there,” Davis said. “He was no trouble. That was nice. Not many jobs would do that.”

Davis earned her Associate degree from Columbia College in 1987, then earned a Bachelor of General Studies with a minor in Psychology in 2004, which earned her a promotion to Office Manager.

In 2006, she left the college for a job with Orange County Public Schools. Three years later, then-director Dr. Alan Hilliard hired her back.

“I sorely missed the college,” Davis said. “I missed the students, missed the work. I really missed it.”

She became an Academic Advisor in 2010 and, over the past seven years, progressed to Academic Advisor II and Senior Academic Advisor I.

Columbia College-Orlando has gone through a multitude of changes since Davis started there. But she says one thing is still the same from the first day she walked into her office on the naval base.

“I enjoyed Columbia College because of the family atmosphere within the office and with the students,” Davis said. “My thing was the students are not just a number, but a part of who I am.”

She has been an integral part of their lives as well.

Salt Lake alumnus’ life story hits the big screen

Posted by on Dec 7, 2017 in Alumni, Featured Story, Nationwide | 0 comments

Salt Lake alumnus’ life story hits the big screen

Ron Stallworth sat in a Brooklyn studio in October, watching a table full of actors re-enact a pivotal period of his life that happened nearly 40 years ago.

Ron Stallworth and his wife, Patsy, with Oscar-winning director Spike Lee, who will be bringing Stallworth’s autobiographical book Black Klansman to the big screen.
(Photo submitted)

John David Washington, son of Academy Award winner Denzel Washington, was there, playing the part of “Ron Stallworth.” So was Laura Harrier, whose latest credits include Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Adam Driver, who plays the main villain in the current Star Wars trilogy of movies.

Presiding over it all: Oscar-winning director Spike Lee. His next project, Black Klansman, is based on a nonfiction book by the same name that Stallworth authored. This was the first table read with the cast.

Stallworth turned to his wife, Patsy Terrazas-Stallworth.

“We looked at each other, smiled and said, ‘Can you believe this?’” Stallworth said. “That’s my name they’re mentioning. We’ll be able to see it in a dark theater with popcorn and Coke and actually watch all this take place. It’s very surreal. We periodically look at each other, pinch ourselves and say, ‘Can you believe this?’ Because it’s a rollercoaster ride that we’re on, one that we never imagined.”

The film’s distributors are targeting a release date of November or December 2018. They want to get it into theaters before Jan. 1, to make it eligible for the 2019 award-show cycle.

Stallworth, who spent more than three decades in law enforcement, earned his Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice from Columbia College-Salt Lake in 2007. He published Black Klansman in 2014, because he felt it was an important chapter of his life to share.

It tells the story of how, as a Colorado Springs Police Department detective in 1978, Stallworth ran an eight-month undercover sting operation in which he embedded himself deep within the fabric of the Colorado Springs chapter of the Ku Klux Klan hate group. Along the way, he helped thwart criminal acts the chapter had planned, gained critical intelligence about the national KKK apparatus and how it intersected with other extremist groups and rose to a leadership position within his local chapter.

Not only was Stallworth a police officer, but he was an African-American police officer.

Stallworth conducted his portion of the operation over the phone and through correspondence. When a meet-up was required, he sent a white friend who worked in narcotics to be “Ron Stallworth.”

“The insight I got is that they’re not the brightest lightbulbs in the socket,” Stallworth said. “They’re relatively ignorant people in the sense that, if they had been on their game, I never would have been able to accomplish what I did accomplish.”

While it was primarily an intelligence-gathering operation, Stallworth and the Colorado Springs Police Department were able to stop three planned cross burnings during the course of the sting. Chapter members would loop Stallworth in on the plans, he’d call police dispatch, and patrols would flood the area.

Ron Stallworth with a copy of his book, Black Klansman, and his Ku Klux Klan membership card. (Photo submitted)

“Once they would get in the area to plant their cross and see all these police cars cruising back and forth, they would panic and chicken out,” Stallworth said.

Stallworth also caught wind of a plot to bomb two gay bars in the area as well as a plan to steal automatic weapons from a nearby Army base, Fort Carson, during the life of the sting. Neither of those crimes ever happened. Through his conversations with group leaders, Stallworth was able to help connect the dots between the local Klan chapter and an American Nazi Party group out of Denver, as well as the militant Posse Comitatus organization.

He had multiple conversations with David Duke, then Grand Wizard of the KKK, in which the Anti-Defamation League would feed Stallworth questions to mine Duke for information.

All the while, Duke was certain he was speaking with a like-minded white man.

“He would answer my questions, not recognizing that he was basically snitching on himself,” Stallworth said. “Then I would pass that information back to the Anti-Defamation League for whatever purpose they had in mind, closing a few gaps in their understanding of what was happening at the time.”

A major motion picture studio bought the rights to Black Klansman soon after it was published in 2014, but it let the contract expire without moving on it. At one point, Emmy Award-winning screenwriter Christopher Cleveland expressed interest in bringing the story to the screen, but that fell through as well.

“He told me, ‘Don’t give up. This is a blockbuster in the making, if it’s done right. And the story should be told,’” Stallworth said.

QC Entertainment bought the film rights in March 2016. The next spring, the studio scored a huge hit with the thriller Get Out, written and directed by Jordan Peele. QC told Stallworth that Peele had read his book and wanted to produce and direct Black Klansman as his follow-up project.

Shortly after, Stallworth got a call from the head of QC. Peele would still be producing the film, but someone else was stepping in as director.

“I asked him, ‘Who?’ And he said, ‘Spike Lee,’” Stallworth said, referring to last year’s Academy Award recipient for lifetime achievement in directing. “I was even more tickled to death with that news. He apparently read my book, liked it and contacted Jordan to tell him he’d like to direct it. I had no goals in mind, no particular intention, other than to tell the story that I had been a part of those many years earlier. So, when Hollywood came calling, it was a pleasant surprise. Then it was a shock to the system when I get the top two black directors right now in Hollywood saying they want to take it on as a project.”

Black Klansman, the book, is also set for an updated national release, in hardcover, through Flatiron Books, a subsidiary of Macmillan Publishers, next fall. Stallworth is intent on not letting this new level of celebrity go to his head.

Ron Stallworth with actor John David Washington, who will be playing the part of Stallworth in the Black Klansman movie.
(Photo submitted)

He’s still the same man that devoted his career to law enforcement, sought out a college degree when he was through, then earned the Columbia College Alumni Relations Community Service Award in 2010 for his work coaching youth sports teams in Salt Lake City and serving as an expert on gangs at the state and local levels.

“My Columbia College experience has been wonderful,” Stallworth said. “I enjoyed the learning process. It was very pleasant, very friendly at the Salt Lake campus. And, subsequently, when I got to know people at the main campus, who were very open, warm people. I have nothing but positive things to say about Columbia.”

He and Patsy live in El Paso, Texas. They graduated from high school together in 1971. After the tragic death of Stallworth’s first wife, Micki, from cancer in 2004, Stallworth says he wandered in an “emotional wilderness” for six years before he and Patsy started talking again in 2010. Stallworth says her love, dedication and devotion to him has brought him out of that wilderness.

Their friends think they’re millionaires now, but they’re not. They’re just Ron and Patsy.

“My wife and I have made a commitment that there will be no sense of celebrity with us,” Stallworth said. “We’re not going to get caught up in the hype of what’s happening to us. It’s nice. We enjoy it. But we have a very simple, humble life. We have no intentions of becoming Hollywood celebrities or playing that scene. We just refuse to let it happen.

“I’m just enjoying this journey with my wife. We’ll ride it for as long as we can, then see what the next chapter brings.”

Walsh’s path leads from Columbia College to state house

Posted by on Nov 21, 2017 in Alumni, Featured Story, Jefferson City, Nationwide | 0 comments

Walsh’s path leads from Columbia College to state house

Sara Walsh watched as her parents made things work paycheck to paycheck when she was growing up.

They never had a lot, but they had enough. They instilled a desire to strive for more in Walsh and her sisters.

“They always encouraged us to dream big,” Walsh said. “They always wanted us to do better than they did, because they were just struggling to keep us fed. My parents always taught me to work hard, and you can achieve your dreams.”

It’s a lesson Walsh held dear, from her first job frying chicken at the Moser’s grocery store in Holts Summit, Missouri, to serving as quality control inspector at the Maytag factory in Jefferson City. From earning her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Columbia College-Jefferson City in 2005, to achieving her master’s in public affairs, with a nonprofit and public management concentration, from the University of Missouri four years later, both as a working adult.

From volunteering as secretary of the Boone County Republican Committee, to being elected a state representative from the 50th District in August.

It all hit home as she took the oath of office at the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City on Sept. 13. As a child in mid-Missouri, she had pictures of Mount Rushmore, Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan on her wall. She idealized the vision of America in which anybody could set a goal, work hard and achieve it.

She is living her dreams.

“(Taking my oath of office) was honestly the first time where it just felt like everything froze in time,” Walsh said. “Standing there where so many other people had been, seeing the beautiful murals, the history of the building and the great honor and privilege and responsibility of serving the people, it just all kind of felt like time stopped, just the gravity and the honor of the moment.”

Walsh was born in Torrance, Calif., but her family moved to mid-Missouri in the 1980s, when she was 7 years old. They lived in rented houses in Climax Springs, Lohman, Eldon and other areas in rural Callaway County, where the weeds were taller than her and the people acted a little differently than they did on the west coast.

“I remember a bunch of kids on the back of a pickup truck waving on this gravel road by Climax Springs,” Walsh said. “I had never seen anything like that before. I was like, ‘Dad, why are those people waving at me?’ He’s like, ‘They’re just friendly out here.’ It was a wonderful childhood. I’m so glad they made that decision, because Missouri is home. It really, truly is.”

While working at Maytag, Walsh started taking business classes at Columbia College’s Jefferson City location. She worked the midnight shift, and Columbia College’s flexible class schedules gave her the opportunity to fit work, college and home life into her busy days.

She started a Student Government Association chapter at the location and won the presidency. She helped spearhead efforts to raise money for the Red Cross shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks and oversaw location-wide efforts such as providing for teacher appreciation certificates and pencil sharpeners in every classroom. Walsh also worked as an administrative assistant at the Jefferson City location and utilized employee education grants to help pay her way through college, the same track she would later take while working and studying her way to her master’s degree at Missouri.

“One of the things I loved when I worked for Columbia College was helping people. It was so wonderful, the bonds that I made,” Walsh said. “I would tell them, ‘I’m an adult, too, working and going to college. You can do this.’ It made me feel so good to encourage them, inspire them and let them know that this was doable.”

Walsh’s first job in politics was as a legislative assistant for a state representative. She went on to work in the state auditor’s office, sandwiched between jobs at the National Newspaper Association and handling communications for the Missouri Pharmacy Association.

When she and her husband, Steve — and their dog, Wish — moved to Ashland in southern Boone County, she started looking into opportunities to run for office. She knew that her district’s representative, Caleb Jones, would have his term run out in 2018, so she began laying the groundwork to succeed him.

Jones left office to become new Governor Eric Greitens’ chief of staff in January. The Republicans nominated Walsh to run for his seat and, after a whirlwind seven-month campaign, Walsh was elected to represent the 50th District, which contains parts of Cole, Cooper, Moniteau and Boone counties.

“I’m someone who is 110 percent committed on everything that I’ve done,” Walsh said. “I’ve always been an overachiever. The ‘dream big’ part is good, but you’ve got to do the ‘work hard.’ So I’ve always focused on that part, so the dreams would come true. It’s just a good formula.”

The new legislative session begins in January. Until then, Walsh is crisscrossing the district to catch back up with constituents she met during the campaign and hear their concerns, so she can take them with her back to Jefferson City. Once the session starts, she’ll be on the budget and pensions committees, as well as a special committee on employment security.

She wants to focus her efforts on three main issues: public safety, agriculture and education. Walsh has firsthand experience with how valuing education can change people’s lives.

“It’s being able to let young folks make sure they’ve got those opportunities to be able to start exploring ideas, so they can then chart their course to success,” Walsh said. “That’s a passion of mine. What I tell people in the communities who don’t have scholarships or come from poverty, I’ll encourage them to get a job at Columbia College. Apply for a job at the University of Missouri. You can work there and get your degree.”

Walsh followed her passion all the way from mid-Missouri to Washington, D.C., for the presidential inauguration in January. To Cleveland last summer as a Missouri delegate to the Republican National Convention, which she calls “a Disneyland for political geeks.”

“There were just (famous) people walking by like it’s nothing. Like, ‘Wow, you don’t see them at Walmart,’” Walsh said. “It was pretty cool, a little Missouri girl going and seeing these national figures. It was quite an honor.”

She followed her passion all the way from Columbia College to the state house.

“Public service is something where it’s government of, by and for the people,” Walsh said. “I serve them. They’re my boss. I’m not the special one.”

Fort Leonard Wood holds community Halloween events

Posted by on Nov 16, 2017 in Fort Leonard Wood, Nationwide | 0 comments

Fort Leonard Wood holds community Halloween events

Saturday, October 28 was a chilly morning, however it was perfect weather for a Zombie 5K Walk/Run.

Runners participate in the fifth annual Fort Leonard Wood Zombie 5K Walk/Run on Oct. 28. Proceeds from the event went to two local charities.
(Photo submitted)

Columbia College–Fort Leonard Wood hosted the fifth annual zombie 5K event at Waynesville Park, which is located in downtown Waynesville, Missouri. The event was held at 11 a.m. and continued until 1 p.m. on a brisk Saturday.

“The turnout of this event was outstanding.” Fort Leonard Wood location director Mike Siegel said.

There were more than 90 participants in the race, not including the supporters and volunteer zombies. Participants took part in the five-kilometer fun run, while being chased by “zombies.” The run included water stations and arrows directing runners over the course. During the zombie 5K, there were more than 20 volunteer “zombies” who participated, with the zombies dressed in distressed clothing and makeup. Everyone enjoyed taking part in the event.

The proceeds will be donated to the Janet’s Wish foundation and the Little Heroes Playground in Waynesville. Janet’s Wish is a nonprofit organization, founded in Waynesville, which provides services and items to individuals that are in hospice with terminal illnesses. The Little Heroes Playground is in the Waynesville City Park and is currently being constructed. When it is completed, the playground will provide a wheelchair-accessible playground for children.

After the fun run, the college staff and students hosted the annual Community Trunk or Treat in the park. More than 400 children attended the event. Fifteen businesses and individuals decorated their vehicles for Halloween. The children visited each vehicle and received treats. During the event, the children and parents voted on the best vehicle decorations. Certificates were awarded for the scariest, cutest, most festive and most creative.

Columbia College–Fort Leonard Wood would like to thank all who contributed for the Zombie 5K Walk/Run and the Trunk or Treat. We will be posting about the next event coming up shortly and hope to see everyone there!

 — Caitlin Beasley, academic advisor, Columbia College-Fort Leonard Wood

Check out below for more photos from the event:

50th District elects Columbia College graduate Sara Walsh ’05

Posted by on Aug 25, 2017 in Jefferson City, Nationwide | 0 comments

50th District elects Columbia College graduate Sara Walsh ’05

Photo credit: Columbia Missourian

Missouri’s 50th District stuck with its Republican roots earlier this month, electing Sara Walsh, a 2005 graduate of Columbia College-Jefferson City,  to the seat previously held by former Rep. Caleb Jones. Walsh, 37, beat Democrat Michela Skelton with a final tally of 3,737 to 3,439 to take the seat vacated when Jones left to become Gov. Eric Greitens’ deputy chief of staff. Walsh was overcome with emotion at her watch party at Pizza Haus restaurant in Ashland. 

“50th District elects Sara Walsh, remains Republican” – Columbia Missourian

College receives grant to help educate students on financial aid

Posted by on Jul 31, 2017 in Nationwide | 0 comments

College receives grant to help educate students on financial aid

via KOMU.com and KOMU TV

The Missouri Department of Higher Education has awarded 18 Missouri colleges and universities, including Columbia College, with their Default Prevention Grant for the 2017-2018 academic year. The grant is given to schools to be used to promote financial literacy and help prevent students from defaulting on their student loans. Higher education institutions use the funding for programs, such as the college’s Money Stacks efforts, that focus on strengthening students’ money management skills.

“Missouri colleges use grant to educate students on loans and debt” – KOMU.com

“Columbia College Director of Financial Aid Nathan Miller outlines the college’s use of the grant” – KOMU TV

Columbia College-St. Louis takes part in ‘Cinderella Project’

Posted by on Mar 23, 2017 in Nationwide, St. Louis | 0 comments

Columbia College-St. Louis takes part in ‘Cinderella Project’

As someone who’s going through the adoption process herself, Columbia College-St. Louis location director Erika Thomas has a soft spot for children who are in the foster care and adoption system.

As she talked to her staff about the location’s upcoming involvement with the Cinderella Project — an event held by the Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition of St. Louis — she realized she wasn’t alone.

“It kind of pulled on everybody’s heartstrings a little bit,” Thomas said. “I found out that a few of my staff were actually adopted, went through foster care. Or their mom was adopted. It just seemed like everybody had some kind of connection.”

Over a five-week period that ended February 14, Columbia College-St. Louis collected 77 prom dresses for the Cinderella Project, which provides new or slightly used dresses to high-school aged girls in the St. Louis area who can’t afford a formal gown.

Thomas said she first became involved with the group three or four years ago while working at the Art Institute of St. Louis. When she was named director at Columbia College-St. Louis last year, she already knew it was a great way for the location to get involved in the community.

“I really felt how things like this can change a young lady’s life. A lot of times, they just need a positive, somebody who takes the time to mold and care for them,” Thomas said. “There’s nothing like a school being associated with something in the community. We care about the people in the community, and this is what we do.”

After Columbia College-St. Louis and the other 20 donation locations around the area collected their dresses, they brought them all to the Refresh resale boutique store in Brentwood for a “Say Yes to the Prom Dress” event March 4.

Thomas and other Columbia College-St. Louis staffers volunteered their time as personal shoppers for the girls who came in looking for dresses, taking them around the store and helping them pick out the perfect look.

She said it’s important for the staff and students at Columbia College-St. Louis, which has a strong human services program, to see the sort of people their work can benefit, as well as letting college prospects in the community know about the academic programs the location has to offer.

“It’s that word of mouth. Most of the time what we hear from students is they find out about Columbia College from somebody they knew,” Thomas said. “It’s because somebody they knew at church, across the street, a best friend, whatever the case may be. We’re coming from a good, healthy place. We want to make sure they don’t feel like we’ve just cut them loose and sent them off into the woods. Just letting them know they still have support as they age out of the foster care system.”

And it’s not stopping with the Cinderella Project. Thomas said the location is already in the process of creating a partnership with the Fathers’ Support Center of St. Louis, which helps people become responsible parents, and wants to branch out into other community endeavors.

“I believe it brought us closer together and gave us something else to shoot for,” Thomas said. “It makes an impression on the students, because the students see that we care about the community, and we’re not just trying to sell you education.”

A Columbia College education can be a “Life Changer”

Posted by on Feb 10, 2017 in Alumni, Featured Story, Nationwide | 0 comments

A Columbia College education can be a “Life Changer”

This feature was published in the latest edition of Affinity Magazine! Click here to check out the magazine in its entirety. 

Earning a college degree is an accomplishment that changes lives. It takes courage, dedication and encouragement. If we’re fortunate, we have people, places and moments in time that have helped us to achieve heights we never thought possible. The following five alumni come from different backgrounds, but they all had the dream to finish their college degree. These are their stories of how they were inspired to reach their goals.

Charting a New Course

Jennifer Shala

Jennifer Shala joined the Army when she was 25 – several years older than the 18-year-olds around her. During her seven years of service, she was stationed in Kansas, Korea and Georgia. She then went to Iraq, where she dealt with the horrors of the war around her.

After Iraq, she came back to the U.S. and was medically discharged from the Army as she suffered from PTSD along with bad knee problems and asthma. It was then that she knew it was time to figure out another career path. “I couldn’t keep doing physical work forever,” Shala says. “I had to have a job where I can use my brain.”

Shala began taking classes through Columbia College’s Online Education program in 2005. She took a few classes here and there, but it wasn’t until 2008 when she was working as a civilian in Iraq that she began taking classes non-stop. After moving back to the states, she was determined to finish.

“When I was younger, I didn’t feel college was that important,” Shala says. “Now, it’s absolutely necessary to get a decent job.”

That determination kept her on track with her coursework, even when she was dealing with life changes. When she was pregnant with her daughter, Shala took a midterm exam right before driving herself to the hospital for a C-section. One of her Columbia College instructors gave her an extension on a second exam and, two days later, she drove home and completed the test.

“I am so thankful for Columbia College and my instructors,” Shala says. “I wouldn’t have been able to do it otherwise.”

Shala finished her associate degree in 2012, her bachelor’s degree in General Studies in 2014, and then this past July, finished her bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice Administration.

Her degrees hang on the wall at her office where she works as an administrative programs officer for the Grand River Dam Authority in Chouteau, Oklahoma. “I walk by them several times a day, and I can’t believe I did it,” Shala says. “I stand a little taller and a little prouder.”

Making Today Count

Dr. Nathan Miller (left) and Aileen Zei

Aileen Zei had intended to go to college but had put it on the back burner for years as she raised her family. When she had to recover from a cancer diagnosis, she decided it was time to fulfill her dream. Luckily, the cancer was at Stage 0 and treatable with surgery and radiation. But the experience changed her way of thinking.

“You realize that life is really short,” Zei says. “If there are things you want to do, you should do them.”

She also wanted to show her sons the importance of getting a college degree. At the time, her older son was in high school and her younger son in middle school.

“How can I tell them that college is important if I don’t finish it? I knew it would be hard, but if there was ever a time to do it, I knew I needed to do it now,” she says.

Zei decided to pursue a degree in human services at Columbia College–Crystal Lake. She says that two of her instructors, Jean Beard and Kathleen McNamara, inspired her in her area of interest, gerontology.

“Because they worked in the field, they could give students a real-world account for what things are like when you’re working with senior populations,” says Zei.

Zei graduated in 2014. She now works as assistant director of senior and disability services in Wheeling Township, Illinois, helping elderly patients to find services in the community.

“My degree allowed me to get the job that I have now,” she says. “It’s rewarding to know that we’re able to help the elderly and adults with disabilities find services in the community.”

Finding the Inspiration to Finish

Irma Ortiz

Irma Ortiz had always dreamed of going to college. However, with a husband in the military, she and her family were often on the move.

After years of raising her family and moving from place to place, she still kept her dream alive to get her degree. In 2009, her husband retired from the military, and the family moved to Fort Worth, Texas. There, Ortiz visited a recruiter who happened to be a student at Columbia College.

“He said, ‘you’ll love the school,’” she says. And he was right. “I felt like I belonged there.”

Ortiz started in the General Studies and Business Administration program in 2012. She was scheduled to start in January, but that month, her mother-in-law passed away in Puerto Rico.

“I called the school and told them to drop me,” Ortiz says. “They said not to worry, and that I could start the next semester. No matter what, they are always supportive and understanding.”

Ortiz feels grateful to her teachers for their inspiration and their flexibility when dealing with family issues. In particular, she credits Walter Belcher, Kenneth Newell and John Hardy.

“They’re not going to cut you slack, but they ask how you’re doing and how they can help,” she says. “They really take the time to get to know you.”

In 2014, Ortiz received her associate degree in General Studies and Business Administration, and this year, she is on track to complete a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration.

“I believe I’ve been successful because of the understanding teachers at Columbia College,” Ortiz says. “And I’ve proved to myself that I can succeed and attain the goals I set for myself in life.”

Getting a Degree at Sea

Nolan Nichols

Nolan Nichols served in the Navy on four different ships and was deployed six times. Even with all of these transfers, he knew he wanted to pursue an education.

“My goal was to get a degree to open up opportunities in my career in the Navy,” Nichols says.

He had his associate degree in Marine Engineering, but his goal was to get his bachelor’s degree as well. After a few years of taking classes, Nichols enrolled at Columbia College in 2005 because of its strong presence on Navy bases.

“I chose Columbia because of the reputation that they had as a solid school when I was growing up in Northeast Missouri,” Nichols says.

He started in the history program, but when those degree requirements changed, Nichols began to question whether he should continue to take classes. That’s when he got an email from Rachel Smith, a Student Success advisor at the main campus in Columbia, Missouri. She recommended that he switch to General Studies, which would automatically qualify him for a bachelor’s degree.

“I had been taking college classes off and on for over 10 years,” Nichols says. “I was ready to stop altogether when the program changed. She was the one that had the positive attitude and took her time to help me get what I needed.”

Nichols officially graduated from Columbia College-Lake County this past May. A lieutenant junior grade in the Navy, he is currently deployed conducting operations in the oceans off the coast of Asia. He says that working on his degrees has helped him to advance in his military career.

“It means a lot,” Nichols says. “I just want to thank Columbia and Rachel once again for the help they gave me and the flexibility they provide for military members getting their degrees.”

You’re Never ‘Too Old’

Dori Cantrell

Dori Cantrell was working as an administrative assistant for Columbia College–Kansas City when she overheard the academic advisor tell a student, “You are never too old to learn.”

The phrase stuck with Cantrell. She had been the first in her family to go to college, and years ago, she had graduated with an associate degree in her home state of California. After hearing the advisor’s encouragement, she decided to further her education. She discussed it with her family and signed up for her first class in 30 years at Columbia College-Kansas City in 2004.

“At first I thought that I would feel out of place being an older student,” says Cantrell. “What is so wonderful about Columbia College is that everyone, no matter your age, is equal.”

Cantrell enjoyed her classes so much that when she received her bachelor’s degree in 2006, she continued with classes until she earned her MBA at Columbia College-Kansas City.

“All of the instructors were so inspiring,” she says. “Some of them went back to school later to get their master’s degrees. I thought if they can do it, then I can do it.”

Today, Cantrell works at the Kansas City location as an academic advisor. She says she’s happy to be able to give students the same advice she got from an advisor years ago.

“I feel I was placed here for a reason,” Cantrell says. “I wanted to help other students in the same way by advising them and letting them know they’re never too old to learn.”

Ellen Parham named new director at Columbia College-Fort Stewart

Posted by on Dec 15, 2016 in Fort Stewart, Nationwide | 0 comments

Ellen Parham named new director at Columbia College-Fort Stewart

parhamColumbia College Region 3 and Hunter Army Airfield location director Dana Davis recently announced the promotion of Ellen Parham to location director for Columbia College-Fort Stewart.

“Ellen has been part of the Columbia College team at the Fort Stewart location for more than 14 years and has played a vital role in the location’s operations,” Davis said. “She is a natural fit for the director position and her dedication and commitment to helping students has shone throughout her time at the college.”

As location director, Parham is responsible for managing the day-to-day activities of the location, including class scheduling and student and faculty recruitment. Parham began her career at Columbia College-Fort Stewart in 2002 as an administrative assistant after a 20-year career in the United States Air Force as a personnel management specialist. In 2004, she was promoted to academic advisor and in 2006 to assistant director. Parham then served as the associate director at the Fort Stewart location from 2010 before being promoted to the director position in November. She also served as the trainer for the Southeast Region for a number of years.

Parham received an associate degree in Information Management from the Community College of the Air Force. She then earned a bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems from St. Leo University and holds master’s degrees in Computer Information Systems and Human Resource Management from Webster University.