Update From President, Jason S. Wood, Ph.D. – November 20, 2021


Thanksgiving is quickly approaching.  Oprah said, “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”  Wise words indeed.

How do you plan to celebrate Thanksgiving?  Are there any traditions you really enjoy?  What is your favorite way to acknowledge your gratitude?  I would love to hear anything you’d like to share. 😊

This year I am thankful for family, faith, and fun.  In the spring, I was able to take a few trips into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area with my dad, my brother, my nephew, and all six of my daughters.  I love being in the wilderness!  My faith and spirituality restore and sustain me through trials, mistakes, and difficult times while helping me focus on serving others.  Most importantly, I am grateful for my six beautiful and talented daughters and I love Kathryn, my best friend, deeply and dearly.

Thanksgiving creates a space to appreciate the good in life.  I invite you to find a meaningful way to express your gratitude to someone who you may not normally recognize.  If you share your efforts with me I would be happy to tell you about what we are doing to accomplish this as a family.

Here are a few updates from around the college:

  1. Program Highlights:
    1. Gen-Eds are not an academic program in and of themselves.  They are, however, essential to providing the skills and perspective necessary for students to be successful in their programs.  Gen Eds also develop valuable skills which contribute to success at any job.  I am grateful our Gen-Ed instructors strive to cater to our purpose as a technical college.  Our faculty find ways to apply and contextualize the learning in their courses so students can see how the material relates to their careers.  To the Southwest Tech professors who teach gen-eds…THANK YOU!  You broaden our perspectives and help us learn how to learn.
    2. The Board of Directors recently approved the purchase of new welding machines from a manufacturer in Mineral Point.  We our proud of our college-wide approach to maintaining up-to-date and state-of-the art equipment which benefits our students and their learning.  I am grateful to our welding instructors: Jeff Midtlien, Tim Jacobson, Ed Anderson, and Ben Halvorson.  Each of them brings a wealth of experience not to mention a strong commitment to helping students learn.  Students can take welding courses in our regular labs, during the evening, or in our mobile welding unit.  We also offer programming in the Prairie du Chien Correctional Insitution.  Thank you, Ben, Jeff, Tim, and Ed!
  2. Hy-Flex Classrooms:
    1. Thank you to Amanda Vissers and Michael Madsen, both are math instructors, for demonstrating the recently retrofitted classrooms at the Board meeting.  Amanda was present in the classroom and Michael participated remotely with one of his students.  They simulated a real class with members of the Board participating as students so everyone could experience the enhanced technology.  Hy-Flex classrooms help students remain active participants when their circumstances require accommodations.  Thank you to Beth Cummins for her work to support this initiative (Beth did double duty at the Board Meeting also presenting on our accreditation planning efforts as a lead for Criterion 2 – Integrity: Ethical and Responsible Conduct).  John Troxel, representing IT, was at the meeting and played a key part of moving the presentation at the last minute to make sure everyone had the best experience possible.  And, when we work together like this, our most at-risk students benefit the most.
  3. Project Rise
    1. As was presented during the college forum on Tuesday, we are re-evaluating our timeline and finances to ensure a quality implementation.  Yes, there have been difficult challenges that are threatening our original expectations.  An updated plan, with a revised timeline and budget, will be presented to the Board of Directors at their meeting on December 16 for their endorsement.  I remain confident in our partnership with Anthology and Campus Works.  We have talented and dedicated people in place on our team to create the best path forward.
  4. COVID Update
    1. Please see the chart below for an update on disease burden case load arranged by counties in our service district and the state as a whole.  As you can see, there are still wide ranges and high rates. 
      COVID-19 chart of district counties
    2. The COVID Ops team is meeting at least weekly to work through positive exposures impacting campus.  We are planning an on-campus clinic for vaccine booster shots.  Stay tuned for more information.
    3. Area healthcare professionals report increasing numbers of patients and requests for employees to work long hours.  They are also wrestling with the federal vaccine mandate which impacts our students in clinicals.  Needless to say, it is a stressful time in healthcare.  I extend my respect and appreciation for our faculty, staff, students, and alumni who are serving in healthcare.
  5. Kudos to…
    1. Heather Day!  She is a hard worker who diligently completes her many responsibilities in registration and records.  Heather, like everyone else in reg and records will surely be excited when our new student module is live!  In the meantime, thank you, Heather, for all you do to keep things running smoothly! 😊
    2. Katie Snitker!  Katie was recently chosen to lead the Knox Learning Center efforts and is doing an admirable job.  In working with Katie on a few decisions she leads I have found her to be very conscientious and aware of multiple perspectives.  Katie’s positive outlook benefits others on a regular basis.  Thank you, Katie, for your service! 😊
    3. Craig Woodhouse!  Recently 16 of his students, at two different local employers, completed their White and Yellow belts in Lean Training (a systematic approach to eliminating activities that don’t add value to the organization).  As part of the program, Craig and his students used the course to make process improvement proposals directly to management at the local businesses which resulted in over $200,000 in savings!  Nice work, Craig! 😊

Trust is such an integral part of integrity.  One principle, Smart Trust, is particularly relevant to successfully find our way through the turmoil and controversy in society.  Stephen R. Covey defines Smart Trust like this: “Trust is judgment. It’s a competency and a process that enables us to operate with high trust in a low-trust world. It minimizes risk and maximizes possibilities. It optimizes two key factors: (1) a propensity to trust and (2) analysis. Simply put, Smart Trust is how to trust in a low-trust world.” 

The five action items associated with Smart Trust are:

  1. Choose to believe in trust
  2. Start with yourself
  3. Declare your intentions and assume positive intentions of others
  4. Do what you say you will do
  5. Lead by extending trust to others first

Trust, when it is a deeply held core belief, is the cornerstone of healthy interpersonal relationships.  Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage and The Orange Frog, wrote, “social relationships are the best guarantee of heightened well-being and lowered stress, both an antidote for depression and a prescription for high performance.”

As we all have some time away from work to celebrate and be thankful, may you each be blessed to be with those you trust and love.  Hopefully those relationships of trust with the people you love will bring you comfort, joy, and gratitude.

Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.  And, as always, if there is something I can do for you, please don’t hesitate to ask.  Take care.




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Posted in COVID-19, Update