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April 18th, 2021
L&T Opinions Page

brad bennettGUEST COLUMN, SCCC President Brad Bennett


Upcoming graduation reflects their service and commitment

Trustees for Kansas community colleges are not front and center when it comes to news of events and initiatives, but don’t be mistaken: they are integral to everything we do at Seward County Community College. The board of trustees expanded to seven members last year, and the trustees elected by the voters of Seward County each bring a unique perspective and skill set to our college. 

Chairman Ron Oliver, Vice-Chair Marvin Chance Jr., and trustees John Engel, Sharon Hobble, Dustin Ormiston, Casey Mein, and Kay Burtzloff contribute a wealth of knowledge, from accounting, farming, real estate, education, nonprofit operations, military service, and more. Most important might be the fact that they are all local folks, people from Southwest Kansas who have call this region home and are dedicated to making our corner of the world more productive, appealing, and positive. 

As elected officials, they are also representatives of the community itself. They are stewards of the local funding, and entrusted with ensuring SCCC operates within the requirements of our many governing bodies. It’s a big responsibility, and one they take seriously.

Though I am relatively new to the college, I have been continually impressed by the dedication of our trustees and their involvement in campus matters. 

One of the hallmarks of the SCCC board is its commitment to working as a team, listening to various viewpoints and then finding consensus. This is such an important part of effective leadership. When it’s in place, a healthy board keeps the focus on the priorities of the community and service to students. We are fortunate in having a board that understands and practices this principle. 

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Later this month, the board and our SCCC executive team will spend a day in a retreat to evaluate how Seward can position itself to flourish in the coming years. After 12 months grappling with the pandemic, we have learned so much about what students need to succeed, how our community can work together to overcome big challenges — and that we have a lot to be excited about as we look ahead. 

An economic impact study completed just over a year ago measured how well SCCC fosters human capital. “Every year, a new cohort of former SCCC students adds to the stock of human capital in the SCCC service Area, and a portion of alumni continues to add to the area’s economy,” noted the report. In all, SCCC generates $62.5 million of added value to the area. In the most recently measured year (2017-18), SCCC supported 992 jobs in the area — in other words, one out of every 31 jobs in our service area is supported by the activities of SCCC and its students. 

It’s also impressive to see that the 2,563 students who attended SCCC during that same time period included many who were new to this region, “and not all of them would have remained in the region if not for the existence of SCCC,” the report said. A conservative estimate — 10% of those students — shows that with average spending by those students, the community benefited. The total impact of student spending is $1.3 million in added income, and equivalent to supporting 33 jobs in the community. 

With graduation soon approaching, we’re proud to add around 300 more graduates to the “human capital” of Seward County and the region. Thanks to careful planning by our college team, we will host three separate graduation ceremonies on the weekend of May 7 - 8, where our board of trustees members will take part in congratulating the newest alumni, hand out diplomas, and celebrate the 50th cohort of graduates. Commencement ceremonies will be limited in size, with two tickets provided to each graduate. We will continue to practice caution with COVID protocols. Graduation is such a important milestone for students and their families, we are excited to offer an in-person event. 

I’m proud of everyone who is part of this achievement — from our board of trustees to the SCCC faculty and staff, executive team, and students and their families. With a first degree or certificate in hand, each graduate can look to the future with confidence, and gratitude for everyone who made it possible. 

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