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© 2012 Waubonsee Community College

Waubonsee Celebrates Past Year's Accomplishments

Read about Waubonsee's institutional and individual accomplishments during the 2013-14 fiscal year in this annual memo from President Dr. Christine Sobek. 

© 2012 Waubonsee Community College

Castle Bank Continues Support of Illinois SBDC at Waubonsee

Entrepreneurs and owners of small businesses in the region again will receive some extra benefits from the Illinois Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Waubonsee Community College, thanks to continued support from Castle Bank.

The Illinois SBDC at Waubonsee has announced that Castle Bank, an Illinois-based division of First National Bank of Omaha, has, for a second year, committed additional funds to help the Illinois SBDC at Waubonsee sustain its mission of providing services to help entrepreneurs and small business owners continue to drive the local economy forward.

“The additional funding from Castle Bank will allow us to increase the variety and depth of services that we can offer our clients,” said Harriet Parker, manager at the Illinois SBDC at Waubonsee. “In particular, we will be offering a number of financial literacy services to help businesses improve profitability.”

Castle Bank provided the Illinois SBDC at Waubonsee with $15,000 in 2014 through funds set aside through the Community Reinvestment Act, which encourages banks to invest a portion of their capital back into the communities they serve.

Castle Bank chooses to use some of that money to help fund operations at various Illinois SBDCs operating in the communities it serves in Kane, Kendall, DeKalb, McHenry, Boone and Winnebago counties in Illinois, said Michael Algrim, director of business banking for Castle Bank.

In addition to the Illinois SBDC at Waubonsee, Castle Bank has also committed funds to support Illinois SBDC operations at Elgin Community College, Kishwaukee Community College and McHenry County College, as well as the Fox Valley Entrepreneurship Center.  

“The Fox Valley has a lot to offer small businesses, and with the help of supporting organizations like the SBDC, we’re reviving the entrepreneurial spirit that was once such a large part of the area’s history,” said Algrim. “There’s an entrepreneurial movement gaining momentum in the Fox Valley and we’re excited to be able to support the organizations that are at the front lines of this initiative.”

Algrim said future funding for the Illinois SBDC at Waubonsee and other regional institutions will be reviewed annually, but the intent is to maintain some level of financial support now and in the future.

The Illinois SBDC at Waubonsee is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

© 2012 Waubonsee Community College

What's in Your Belly: Faculty Talk to Cut Through Organic vs. GMO Debate

Few things consume the minds of human beings more than food.

And in recent years, many human minds have ruminated on questions concerning the food they are consuming, and specifically whether the food they are putting in their bodies is as healthy as it could be.

On April 2, Waubonsee Community College Biology Instructor Justin Hoshaw will serve up a discussion on this topic, as he attempts to cut through the debate surrounding the differences between so-called organic food and food obtained from so-called genetically modified organisms, or food-producing plants modified by humans for particular genetic traits.

Called “What’s in Your Belly?,” the session will be held Thursday, April 2, at 7 p.m. in the Waubonsee Auditorium on the college’s Sugar Grove Campus, Route 47 at Waubonsee Drive. The event is free and open to the public.

Hoshaw said the presentation was inspired by events in his own life, as he began to more closely examine the foods he and his growing family were consuming.

“These terms ‘organic’ and ‘GMO’ are thrown around a lot, and even among educated people, it’s hard to correctly define these terms,” said Hoshaw. “There is a lot of bad information in the media and online that takes a lot of time to sort out.”

Hoshaw said he intends to approach the presentation from the perspective of “a level-headed parent, instructor and biologist” trying to impart science-based knowledge on food to help others make informed decisions when shopping for groceries.

The presentation is part of Waubonsee’s Asset Earth series, which looks at people and their environment. For more information or to RSVP, email or call (630) 466-7900, ext. 2360.

© 2012 Waubonsee Community College

Waubonsee Hosts Two-Day Women in STEM Fest

This April, Waubonsee Community College will offer students and the community the chance to meet and draw inspiration from leaders in the fields of STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – who also happen to be women.

On April 1-2, Waubonsee will again celebrate Women in STEM Fest. The event will feature presentations and interactive sessions with eight women who are on the cutting edge of their respective fields and specialties.

Experts featured in the two-day event will include:

Rita Yusko, manager of Northern Illinois University’s Technology Transfer Office. Formerly, Yusko worked as a technology commercialization specialist, working alongside researchers from such agencies as NASA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, among others;

Dr. Crystal Porter, a chemist and hair scientist, who has worked the majority of her career at L’Oreal USA, managing the physics laboratory and consumer insights teams, which, among other tasks, study the biophysical characteristics of hair and pigmented skin within different ethnic groups;

Meka Francis, lead analyst at the Radionuclide Analysis Facility at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia;

Dr. Alicia Siston, an epidemiologist at the Chicago Department of Public Health, a position she took on after stints at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and as Assistant Director of the Communicable Diseases Unit of the Cook County Department of Public Health;

Dr. Chetna Patel, Professor of Chemistry at Aurora University, who formerly worked as a Process Development Scientist at Haarman and Reimer Corp. (A Bayer Company) in Elkhart, Ind., securing three patents; and,

Dr. Natalie Blake, who for the last 27 years has worked at Nalco, an Ecolab Company, specializing in water, hygiene and energy technologies and services around the globe. Blake began at the company in research and development, before transitioning into sales of chemicals for use in various economic sectors, including automotive and paper manufacturing, coming to lead the company’s global marketing for manufacturing, light industry, water and wastewater.

The scientists, technicians and executives will discuss a range of topics, including their specialties and career paths, while offering aspiring female scientists, technicians, engineers and mathematicians inspiration and guidance.

Presentations will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day in Room 106 of the Student Center on Waubonsee’s Sugar Grove Campus, Route 47 at Waubonsee Drive.

For more information on Waubonsee’s Women in STEM Fest, contact Amy Frankel, Associate Professor of Mathematics, at (630) 466-7900, ext. 2554, or email

© 2012 Waubonsee Community College

Lady Chiefs earn program's first ever win at National Tournament

Lady Chiefs earn historic win for Waubonsee's women's basketball program

(Overland Park, KS.) – Waubonsee Community College’s women’s basketball team earned the program’s first ever win at the NJCAA Division II National Tournament by making their free throws down the stretch to eliminate North Arkansas College 78-73. Freshman forward Julianna Wadsworth connected on 9 of 10 attempts from the line over the final two minutes to seal the Lady Chiefs’ historic victory.

Waubonsee grabbed the lead shortly after the opening tip and built a 14-point advantage midway through the first half. North Arkansas (20-11) battled back with a barrage of three-point baskets to get within two points before the Lady Chiefs headed to the locker room with a 41-37 lead at halftime.

Waubonsee stayed in front until Jordan Cottengim’s three-pointer gave the Pioneers the lead 62-61 with six minutes left in the game. However, North Arkansas’ lead only lasted about 10 seconds as Brooke Harner’s driving layup quickly put the Lady Chiefs back in front. Waubonsee would not relinquish the lead after that. The Lady Chiefs finished the game 23 of 30 from the foul line and out rebounded the Pioneers 37-28. In contrast North Arkansas made just 6 of 8 attempts from the line, but made up for that disparity by making 13 of 35 shots from three-point range.

Wadsworth finished the game 16 of 18 from the charity stripe to set a new tournament record for most made free throws in a single game. The Oswego East graduate booked a season-high 31 points to go along with her eight rebounds and three steals. Harner added 13 points, dished out four assists and hauled down six boards. Sarah Grams contributed 12 points, including three baskets from beyond the arc to give her 10 treys in the Lady Chiefs’ two tournament games. The Kaneland product also dished out six assists and made two steals. Ashley Prost and Bailey Klaas both chipped in with nine points each, while Lizzy Goll blocked two shots and snagged five rebounds.

The Lady Chiefs (21-13) will now play 16th seeded Phoenix College (13-21) at 1:00 p.m. (CST) tomorrow, Friday, March 20 in an elimination contest at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas. The winner moves into the seventh place game set for Saturday, March 21 at noon. All the tournament games can be viewed ‘live’ via the web at

© 2012 Waubonsee Community College

Waubonsee Dean Peska Appointed to NASPA Student Affairs Advisory Board

Dr. Scott Peska, Dean for Students at Waubonsee Community College, will represent the college and other regional community colleges on the NASPA (Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education) Region IV-East Advisory Board.

Dr. Peska was appointed to a two-year term, expiring in March 2017, as the Community College Division Representative on the advisory board.

NASPA exists to advance and improve the health and sustainability of student affairs organizations at institutions of higher education in the U.S., Canada, 23 other countries and eight U.S. territories.

NASPA’s Region IV-E includes schools within the Great Lakes region, including the states of Illinois, Iowa, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana and Minnesota and the Canadian province of Ontario.

“I see this as an opportunity to continue to raise awareness within higher education about issues facing students attending two-year colleges,” Dr. Peska said.  “It is important for community college student affair professionals to have a voice in shaping national, regional, state, and local legislation that may impact the educational process for our students.”

© 2012 Waubonsee Community College

Waubonsee Hosts High School Auto Tech Competition

High school students from four area schools put their automotive repair skills to the test in Waubonsee Community College’s annual Automotive Technology Competition.

Organized by Waubonsee Automotive Technology faculty, including Professors of Automotive Technology Ken Kunz and Jim Armitage and Automotive Technology Instructor Guy Tiberio through the Valley Education for Employment System (VALEES), the annual competition offers students a “reality check about their skills,” said Kunz.

Participating schools included Oswego High School, Oswego East, Fox Valley Career Center and Indian Valley Vocational Center in Sandwich.

Students participating in the competition spent three hours moving among skill stations in Waubonsee’s Automotive Technology shop, tackling various challenges related to the automotive field, such as electrical diagnosis, front end alignment, timing belt replacement, computer diagnosis and other related skills today’s technicians must perform.

Fox Valley Career Center captured the trophy this year, marking the second time FVCC has won since the competition began in 2008.

“Most participants realize they need further education,” Kunz said. “Meeting the staff and talking with our past graduates shows the students we’re here to help them start and succeed in their career.”

© 2012 Waubonsee Community College

Waubonsee to Survey Students to Increase Civic Engagement

This spring, Waubonsee Community College will continue its efforts to foster civic engagement among students.

From April 20-May 4, the college will be among a host of community colleges across the country to take students through the national pilot of the Civic Outcomes Survey.

Created by The Democracy Commitment (TDC), a network of 125 community colleges with the purpose of increasing civic learning and democratic engagement among students, the survey will help assess students’ civic outcomes and identify the institutional characteristics contributing to greater civic capacity.

To pay for the survey administration, TDC has awarded Waubonsee a $2,000 stipend.

© 2012 Waubonsee Community College

Waubonsee Marketing & Communications Team Wins Awards

Waubonsee Community College’s Marketing and Communications team has collected more recognition for its work, receiving six awards in the 30th Annual Higher Education Marketing Report’s Educational Advertising Awards competition.

The college received Gold awards for the “Learning First” Student Newsletter, for the campaign to support the Xcelerate Summer Camps program, for the Spring 2014 Semester Credit Course Catalog and for the 2014-2015 College Catalog.

The college also collected Silver Awards for the 2013 Annual Report to the Community and the “Do Something Memorable” direct mail piece.

© 2012 Waubonsee Community College

Waubonsee Dean Rambish, Math Professor Pulver to Serve on ICCB Developmental Ed Committee

A Waubonsee Community College administrator and faculty member have been selected to represent the college on a statewide committee responsible for helping to refine developmental education at Illinois’ community colleges.

Dr. Medea Rambish, Dean for Developmental Education and College Readiness, and Thomas Pulver, Assistant Professor of Mathematics, were selected to serve on the Illinois Community College Board’s Developmental Education Advisory Committee.

The committee stands to help the ICCB review developmental education in Illinois, participating in a number of projects to encourage best practices to help community colleges help students in developmental education programs succeed.

Pulver, who also serves on the full ICCB, has served on the Developmental Education Advisory Committee since the committee’s inception six years ago.

“It’s very important for Waubonsee to have exposure to the current community college trends within the state and the nation,” Pulver said. “My service on this committee allows me to better understand these trends and to bring back to Waubonsee students those processes and curriculum design that will better facilitate their path through developmental education.”

Rambish, who is new to the Developmental Education Advisory Committee, attended her first committee meeting in January.

She said she believed service on the committee represented an important opportunity for her to represent the college and Waubonsee’s students on the committee.

“Decisions made on this committee will directly impact them and their success,” Rambish said.

© 2012 Waubonsee Community College

Waubonsee Receives Distinguished Budget Presentation Award

Waubonsee Community College has been nationally recognized for its financial reporting and budget presentation practices.

For the second consecutive year, the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA) awarded Waubonsee its Distinguished Budget Presentation Award.

The award recognizes the college’s 2013 budget and financial reports.

The award represents a significant achievement by the college, reflecting the commitment of Waubonsee and its staff to meet the highest principles of governmental budgeting and financial reporting.

To receive the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award, Waubonsee was required to satisfy nationally recognized budget presentation guidelines, designed to assess how effectively the budget serves as a policy document, financial plan, operations guide and communications device.

Those four categories include 14 mandatory criteria.

Twenty-eight community colleges nationwide, including 12 other community colleges in Illinois, received the GFOA Distinguished Budget Presentation Award.

The GFOA, with offices in Chicago and Washington, D.C., is a non-profit professional association serving more than 17,000 government finance professionals.

© 2012 Waubonsee Community College

Waubonsee Creative Writing Club Announces Inagural Contest Winners

Two Waubonsee Community College students have captured prizes in the college’s Creative Writing Club’s inaugural Creative Writing Contest.

Planned, organized and funded by the club’s students through fundraisers, the contest offered students the opportunity to submit entries in fiction and poetry. All Waubonsee students were eligible to enter.

Entries were received at the end of fall semester, and judged by the club’s faculty advisors Assistant Professors of English Dan Portincaso and Todd Laufenberg.

Waubonsee student Jessica Meyer, of Oswego, captured first place in fiction writing and the contest’s overall grand prize. Student Nicholas Richard-Thompson, of Oswego, claimed first place in poetry.

Winners secured $25 Amazon gift cards, and Meyer also won publication of her winning fiction piece in this year’s Horizons Literary Magazine, which publishes outstanding creative writing by Waubonsee students.

© 2012 Waubonsee Community College

Waubonsee Announces Winners of Local High School Drafting Contest

Waubonsee Community College this month hosted the annual Illinois Drafting Educators Association regional competition at its Sugar Grove Campus.

Seventy-four students from five local high schools, including Aurora Central Catholic, West Aurora, Waubonsie Valley, Oswego East and Indian Valley Vocational Center in Sandwich, participated in the competition on March 5.

Students competed in eight different categories, testing their skills in traditional and computer-aided design, architectural drafting, and modeling.

Students placing first and second in each category earned bids to compete in the state competition, scheduled to be held April 11 at Illinois State University in Normal.

Students earning top scores in the category of Architectural Board included Morgan Powell and Cassy Tsagaris, both of Waubonsie Valley;

In the Introductory CAD Division, Emily Rusnak, of Waubonsie Valley, and Enrique Chavez, of West Aurora;

In the Introductory Board division, Keegan Donnely, of Aurora Central Catholic, and Darryl Watkins, of West Aurora; in Machine CAD, Adam Spooner and Francisco Martinez, each of West Aurora;

In Architectural 2D CAD, David Vellejo, of West Aurora, and Rachel Kaltencker, of IVVC; in Assembly Modeling, Jake Schroder and Dan Cordero, both of Waubonsie Valley, and Zach Baker, of Aurora Central Catholic;

In Solid CAD, Devin Ratcliffe and Evan Grove, both of Oswego East, and Max Hurst, of Waubonsie Valley;

And, in Architectural 3D CAD, Nicolet Chovancak and Reilly Devine, both of Waubonsie Valley.

Randall Hines, Waubonsee’s Instructor of Computer-Aided Design and Drafting, organized the IDEA Waubonsee Regional Competition.  

© 2012 Waubonsee Community College

Waubonsee Faculty to Use Philippines Seminar to Deepen Instruction

Three Waubonsee Community College professors have been selected for an opportunity to spend their summer gaining insight into the people, culture, history and current issues of the Philippines.

In June, Waubonsee Assistant Professor of Economics Sowjanya Dharmasankar, Associate Professor of Sociology Kathy Westman and Associate Professor of History Dr. Timothy Draper will travel to the Philippines as part of the Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad Short-Term Seminar to the Philippines through the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at Northern Illinois University.

The project is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education and led by Dr. Sue Russell, Professor of Anthropology at NIU.

The Waubonsee professors were three of only 11 educators from northern Illinois selected to participate in the study experience.

The seminar is designed to further the Fulbright-Hays Program’s mission of fostering international educational exchanges between U.S. citizens and those of other countries and NIU’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies’ work of furthering international education through engagement with K-12 schools and community colleges in the Northern Illinois region.

While in the Philippines, the professors will have a full month to delve into the global issues, different cultures, geopolitics, and human rights issues in the archipelagic nation.

They will then bring the knowledge they amass back to Waubonsee, to share with fellow faculty and students to deepen educational programs, classroom instruction and independent study options at the college.

With her interest in sociology, Westman said she intends to use the seminar to investigate racial and ethnic relations among the Philippines majority Christian population and the ethnic minority Moro people, a majority of whom are Muslim, living mainly on islands, including Mindanao and Sulu, at the south end of the archipelago, near Malaysia.

“At this early point, I think my focus is how do ethnic-religious group behaviors create in-group positive feeling or group detachment avoidance to other groups?” Westman said. “I wonder what that looks like off paper and in the Philippines.”

Westman said she believes the experience will deepen her ability to teach on such subjects, particularly in classes, such as those dealing with race and ethnic relations, which can also include a number of native Filipino immigrants.

“Discussing this experience will benefit students beyond readings, film clips, group work and more,” Westman said.

Dr. Laura Ortiz, Dean for Social Sciences, Education and World Language at Waubonsee, said the faculty participating in the seminar intend to share their knowledge and experiences with other instructors, as well. At the beginning of the Spring 2016 semester, for instance, the three plan to facilitate a discussion session with colleagues tentatively titled “Human Rights Education in Global Perspective: From the Philippines to the United States.”

“Faculty play a critical role in the students’ holistic development,” said Dr. Ortiz. “Through their direct or indirect participation in this project, they will be better equipped to mentor our students on their journey to become global citizens and educated ambassadors of the United States.”

© 2012 Waubonsee Community College

Waubonsee Students Qualify for Illinois SkillsUSA Competition

Fourteen Waubonsee Community College students will advance to the Illinois SkillsUSA Skills Competition in April after demonstrating their knowledge in the local competitions.

In February, 20 Waubonsee students were evaluated in categories related to automotive repair, auto body repair, computer-aided drafting and machine tool technology during the SkillsUSA qualifying sessions.

For this round of competition, students received written tests and those whose scores ranked in the Top 10 of each category advanced to compete in the Illinois SkillsUSA Competition April 23-25 in Springfield.

Earning invitations to the state competition were: in the Automotive Refinishing category, Waubonsee students Jose Martinez Joya, of Carpentersville; and Mitchell Hogan, Andrew Butzow and Jordan Herrera, each of Marengo;

In Auto Service Technology, Luis Martinez, of Carpentersville, and Drew Kleyweg, of Yorkville;

In Collision Repair Technology, Daniel Dwyer, of St. Charles; Paul Giuliano, of Batavia; Rene Alanis, Humberto Alvarez and Jose Coronel, each of Aurora; and Benjamin Koehler, of Sandwich;

In the Technical Drafting CAD category, Marc Thornton, of Plano;

And, in CNC Technician, Joseph Lemire, of Plano.

© 2012 Waubonsee Community College

Waubonsee Introduces New Carpentry Apprenticeship Degree Program

Waubonsee Community College will offer a new degree program designed to help carpentry apprentices translate their specialized education and work experience to date into a college degree.

On March 18, the Waubonsee Community College Board of Trustees approved the new Construction Technology Professional Associate in Applied Science Degree program.

Administered in partnership with the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters, the program will allow those completing the council’s four-year registered apprenticeship program to earn 45 college credits based on their apprenticeship classroom training and on-the-job learning. When combined with 15 semester hours of traditional college course work in communications, the humanities, mathematics, physical science and social and behavioral science, participants in this program will be eligible to earn an Associate in Applied Science Degree through Waubonsee.

The Construction Technology Professional program is scheduled to begin accepting students for the Fall 2015 semester.

The program is the result of extensive research conducted by Suzette Murray, Waubonsee’s Assistant Vice President of Career and Technical Education, and Michael Cermak, Dean for Business and Career Technologies.

It follows Waubonsee’s commitment in 2014 to become a member of the Registered Apprenticeship-College Consortium (RACC), a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. Department of Education.

RACC member institutions have agreed to partner with others in a network of colleges and registered apprenticeship programs operated by unions and others to provide greater college-to-career opportunities and create an accelerated pathway for those enrolled in registered apprenticeship programs to earn associate or bachelor’s degrees.

Waubonsee’s involvement in RACC helped facilitate its partnership with the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters, Cermak said.

For more information on the program, contact the Waubonsee Division of Business and Career Technologies at (630) 466-7900, ext. 2263.

© 2012 Waubonsee Community College

Photo by Student Michelle Conklin Selected as Finalist in Photographer Forum Contest

A Waubonsee Community College photography student’s work has been selected as a finalist in the Photographer Forum magazine's 35th Annual College and High School Photography Contest.

“Eat My Dust,” a digital image by Michelle Conklin, of Maple Park, was one of 974 finalist images selected by judges from among more than 17,000 images submitted by photography students from the U.S., Canada and elsewhere in the world for the contest, sponsored by Nikon.

Conklin’s work was published along with those of all other finalists in the Winners’ Gallery on the Photographer’s Forum website,

© 2012 Waubonsee Community College

Waubonsee Student Artwork Selected for Skyway Juried Art Exhibition

The artwork of 11 Waubonsee Community College students has been selected for inclusion in the 2015 Skyway Juried Art Exhibition.

The selected works include:

•“Crayons,” an ink, graphite and charcoal work by Ashley Blocker, of Oswego;

•“Confined” and “Pinks,” archival inkjet prints by Esther Espino, of Oak Park;

•“Taurus,” an acrylic by Taylor Fatland, of Sandwich;

•“Skull,” a charcoal by Ruby Garza, of Aurora;

•“Ghost,” an archival inkjet print by Kelsy Goodwin, of Sugar Grove;

•“Cloths,” a charcoal by Ye Bin Lee, of North Aurora;

•“Paper Chase,” a newspaper work by Anna Lopatin, of Sugar Grove;

•Three works by Casey Rose, of Maple Park, including acrylic “10 to 5 in the Autumn,” mixed media work “Circuitree,” and charcoal on paper, “Stationary;”

•“Almost Home,” an archival inkjet print by Michelle Conklin, of Maple Park;

•“Rawr,” woodfired stoneware by Caitlin Geiger, of Aurora; and

•“Dried Sunflower,” an ink by Katelyn Phillips, of Oswego.

Espino also received an Excellence Award for “Confined,” while Garza collected a Merit Award for “Skull.” The honors were awarded during a reception at the exhibition and competition site at Morton College in Cicero on March 6.

The artwork will be on display at Morton College until April 2.

The exhibition and competition includes work produced by students attending two-year colleges within the Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference, which includes Waubonsee, McHenry, Elgin Community College, College of Lake County and others in Chicago’s suburbs.

The works by these students, as well as those of 14 others, will be on display as part of Waubonsee’s Spring 2015 Skyway Selections Exhibition in the Arrowhead Room, located in Dickson Center on Waubonsee’s Sugar Grove Campus, Route 47 at Waubonsee Drive.




© 2012 Waubonsee Community College

Passing It On: E. Aurora Teacher Assistant Olivas Recognized as Student Success: Featured Alumnus

All in all, Saúl Olivas has adjusted well to walking the halls of an East Aurora elementary school again.

But every so often, he still feels a bit awkward and tongue-tied.

“It’s not the school I attended as a kid, but sometimes, I still come face-to-face with teachers I had as a kid,” Olivas said. “They want me to call them by their first names, but it’s just hard; it still feels too disrespectful,” he said with a laugh.

For the last five years, Olivas, 33, has served as a teacher assistant for special needs students in classrooms at C.I. Johnson Elementary School, on Liberty Street, just east of Farnsworth Avenue. He also serves as fifth grade volleyball coach and coach of the school’s 100 Mile Club, which encourages students to walk, jog or run 100 miles each school year.

In coming months, however, Olivas said he hopes to take his place at the front of a classroom in the district, becoming a full colleague with his former educators as an elementary school teacher in East Aurora School District 131.

The achievement would serve as the latest step in a lifelong journey of learning for Olivas, the first and only person in his family to graduate college, to date.

For his dedication to education and his drive and passion to raise up a new generation of young learners in his home community, Waubonsee Community College is pleased to recognize Saúl Olivas, of Aurora, as its Student Success: Featured Alumnus for the month of March.

While born in Aurora, Olivas spent much of the first seven years of his life in his family’s native Mexico.

Returning to Aurora two-and-a-half decades ago, Olivas and his family dedicated his childhood to helping Olivas become the first in his family to graduate high school in 2000.

With an East Aurora High School diploma in hand, Olivas paused to evaluate his options.

“I was the first in my family to do this thing,” Olivas said. “I kind of knew I should go to college, but I didn’t really know what to do next.”

That changed when he began exploring Waubonsee, and discovered not just a goal, but a host of people and programs to help him make his dreams real.

As a first generation college student, Olivas qualified for Waubonsee’s TRIO and Student Support Services program, opening up a range of assistance options to him.
Funded by federal U.S. Department of Education grants awarded over five-year cycles and additional monies from the college, Waubonsee’s TRIO/SSS program provides a broad range of academic services to help students like Olivas, including academic planning and course registration; individualized tutoring; help in applying for and obtaining scholarships and financial aid; help in transferring to four-year schools; and guidance with life skills.

“The best thing was they (TRIO) helped me get the classes I really needed,” Olivas said. “They helped me find my way, when I didn’t know how.”

Once in those classes, Olivas said he also received a hand from a number of “great teachers,” including Associate Professor of Sociology Kathy Westman, Professor of Mathematics Bill Trunkhill, Associate Professor of Political Science and History Rich Kiefer, and Associate Professor of English Billy Clem.

“I wasn’t always an A or B student,” Olivas said. “So I needed a little help.”

But beyond the support he received from faculty and staff, Olivas said he benefited greatly from his involvement in a litany of extracurricular activities.

The list includes such organizations and clubs as Hispanic student organization Latinos Unidos, Waubonsee Student Senate and Model Illinois Government, as well as Waubonsee’s cross country and tennis teams, among others.

Olivas said the time he spent participating in those extracurriculars was just as important to him as the time he spent in class or elsewhere studying.

“They taught me a lot about leadership, about putting myself out there, and experiencing so many things,” said Olivas. “These activities energized me.”

And that involvement came on top of Olivas’ job at the Sears store at Westfield Fox Valley Mall in Aurora.

“I had to make sure everything was carefully planned, every week,” he said with a laugh.

Graduating from Waubonsee in 2003, Olivas transferred to the University of Illinois at Chicago, earning a bachelor’s degree in Spanish, with a minor in sociology.

He eventually was hired at District 131 in 2010, and is now pursuing a master’s degree in elementary education through an online program offered by Grand Canyon University.

Olivas said he carries what he learned from his time at Waubonsee into the classroom and other assignments every day.

The discipline he learned while juggling his studies with a job and extracurriculars, and the leadership skills developed while participating in so many activities, have helped him take initiative, while still working steadily toward his dream of teaching.

And the compassion, attentiveness and diligence he learned from so many faculty and staff at Waubonsee prepared him in many ways for working with disadvantaged or troubled students at his school, as well.

“I remember being in their seats, not sure what to do or how to do it,” said Olivas. “But so many of my teachers, if they saw me struggling, they were there to help, and it’s made me able to connect with my students, because they know I know how they feel.

“All those experiences have prepared me, and opened me up to what I’m doing now.”

© 2012 Waubonsee Community College

Waubonsee runs out of time at NJCAA Division II National Tournament

Waubonsee rally falls short at NJCAA Division II National Tournament 

(Overland Park, KS.) – Making their first ever appearance at the NJCAA Division II Women’s Basketball National Championship Tournament, Waubonsee Community College nearly pulled off a stunning upset. The 12th-seeded Lady Chiefs (20-13) rallied from a 17-point deficit midway through the second half, but fell just short in a 69-63 loss to 5th-seeded Monroe Community College from Rochester, New York.

On the strength of five baskets from beyond the arc, Monroe (27-1) raced out to a 30-10 lead midway through the first half. The Tribunes led by as many as 23 before heading to the locker room with a comfortable 44-25 lead at the intermission. Monroe shot 51 percent (17 of 33) in the first period, while Waubonsee shot just 34 percent (10 of 29) and committed 10 turnovers.

In the second half the Tribunes went cold from three-point range, misfiring on all 10 attempts to finish the game just 5 of 24 (20.8 percent) from long range. However, Monroe continued to utilize their superior height advantage to maintain a nearly 20-point lead through the first 10 minutes of the second half.

In a somewhat David versus Goliath matchup, the Tribunes often employed at least three players 6’0” or taller on the floor at all times. Meanwhile the undersized Lady Chiefs countered with only 5’9” Ashley Prost in the post. Despite those shortcomings, Waubonsee grabbed a 13-12 edge in offensive rebounds and Monroe only won the overall rebounding battle 41-36 for the contest.   

Still down by 17 with 10 minutes to go, the Lady Chiefs gradually clawed their way back into the game as they began to find the range on their shots down the stretch. Sarah Grams caught fire from long range, connecting on four baskets from beyond the arc to spark Waubonsee’s comeback. The Lady Chiefs pulled to within four points at 67-63 with 1:18 remaining on a layup by Brooke Harner, but failed to score on their next two possessions. A three-point attempt by Grams with 0:40 to go rattled in and out. The Tribunes, who finished 14 of 20 from the charity stripe, added a pair of free throws in the waning seconds to seal the victory. Waubonsee shot only 3 of 4 from the foul line, with all four attempts coming in the first half.  

The Lady Chiefs were led in scoring by Grams as the 5’4” sophomore guard netted 21 points on seven three-point baskets. Freshman forward Julianna Wadsworth, the Region IV Tournament’s Most Valuable Player struggled in the first half, but persevered to finish with 18 points and nine rebounds. Harner, a 5’6” sophomore forward added 10 points and hauled down eight boards, while Bailey Klaas handed out nine assists.

The Lady Chiefs are set to play 13th-seeded North Arkansas College (20-10) at 1:00 p.m. tomorrow, Thursday, March 19 in an elimination contest at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas. All the tournament games can be viewed ‘live’ via the web at

© 2012 Waubonsee Community College

Prospective Students Invited to Tour Waubonsee Campuses

Students interested in attending Waubonsee Community College are invited to experience its campuses this spring, with two tour options to choose from.

“Fully Caffeinated Campus Tours” begin at 2 p.m. on select Fridays throughout the spring, including March 20, April 17, May 8 and May 22. Tour attendees will enjoy a free drink from the Sugar Grove Campus’ Café and Starbucks Coffee Bar before exploring the college’s main campus and learning what it takes to get started at Waubonsee.

For those who want more detailed information about the overall college process at Waubonsee and beyond, the college offers its Experience Waubonsee events. Running from 6 to 8:30 p.m., these events combine in-depth college information, including financial aid details, with a campus tour. The March 25 Experience Waubonsee session will take place at the Aurora Campus, 18 S. River St., while the April 15 event will be held at the Sugar Grove Campus, Route 47 at Waubonsee Drive.

For more information or to RSVP for any of these events, go to or call the Admissions Department at (630) 466-7900, ext. 5756.

© 2012 Waubonsee Community College

Waubonsee Dedicates Field House, Celebrates 2020 Plan Completion

Throughout its history, Waubonsee Community College has made a habit of celebrating achievements.

Tuesday, the college celebrated yet again, as a collection of dignitaries, friends and supporters gathered to mark the completion of Waubonsee’s 2020 College Master Plan and to dedicate the final pieces of that plan, Waubonsee’s new Field House and renovated Erickson Hall.

“I am proud to be here today to celebrate this new building, and all the new buildings of the 2020 College Master Plan,” said Richard “Shorty” Dickson, Chairman of the Waubonsee Community College Board of Trustees, during Tuesday afternoon’s event. “These projects have allowed Waubonsee to greatly improve and expand our educational programs and services.”

Launched 14 years ago with the support of voters in referendums in 2002 and 2003, the 2020 College Master Plan has reshaped the college, adding an abundance of new classrooms, labs and learning spaces, and has positioned Waubonsee to respond to the needs of its communities in 2020 and beyond.

From 2005-2011, Waubonsee opened a new building or new campus nearly every year, beginning with the Campus Operations building on the north side of the Sugar Grove Campus in 2005.

From 2006-2009, the college opened its new Science Building, Academic and Professional Center and Student Center on the Sugar Grove Campus.

In 2010 and 2011, Waubonsee opened its new campuses in Plano and downtown Aurora.

When the Field House/Erickson Hall facility opened to students earlier this month, it marked the completion of the 2020 College Master Plan, both on budget and ahead of schedule.

Waubonsee President Dr. Christine Sobek noted, since 2001, the population within Waubonsee’s district has increased 41 percent and today, Waubonsee serves more than 32,000 students, including nearly 2,000 students who earned degrees and certificates in 2014 alone.

Dr. Sobek thanked the college’s board of trustees; hundreds of volunteers through the “Friends of Waubonsee” organization who helped educate voters and foster the positive community response to the 2002 and 2003 referendums; and hundreds more faculty, staff and students who gave of themselves to support the 2020 College Master Plan.

“I am thrilled to be here today to celebrate the official completion of the 2020 College Master Plan,” Dr. Sobek said. “It’s been a wonderful 14 year journey, and I again extend my heartfelt thanks to all who helped make our dream become a reality.”

Dr. Sobek said the Field House stands as a worthy capstone of the 2020 College Master Plan.

“The same teamwork that brought the 2020 buildings to life will be reflected inside the walls of our new Field House and renovated Erickson Hall, as the college’s 13 teams and individual athletes practice, train and compete here,” Dr. Sobek said. “They look to carry on the Chiefs’ winning tradition, which now spans almost half-a-century.”   

Offering three indoor courts, a suspended running track and a fitness/dance studio, among other amenities, the Field House offers Waubonsee students and athletes almost 60,000 square feet of additional space to practice, train and exercise.

At the same time, the college rededicated Erickson Hall, Waubonsee’s longstanding gymnasium and athletic facility, to which the Field House is attached. While the Field House was under construction, beginning in November 2013, Erickson Hall also underwent extensive renovations as part of the $19 million project. Renovations included the expansion and upgrade of a dedicated athletic team workout room, improved locker rooms and a remodeled athletic study hall room.

Erickson Hall continues to serve as Waubonsee’s competition gymnasium, with bleacher seating capacity for 800 people.

The Field House/Erickson Hall complex offers a seamless, first-class facility to support Waubonsee’s athletics programs, credit and noncredit physical education, wellness instruction and general recreation.

Dr. Deborah Lovingood, Waubonsee’s Executive Vice President of Educational Affairs and Chief Learning Officer, said the Field House project is a result of the work of “a talented team of Waubonsee coaches, faculty, staff and students.”

“Because of their teamwork, our students and community members have this beautiful new facility in which to gather, train, learn and play,” Dr. Lovingood said.

© 2012 Waubonsee Community College

Waubonsee Designated Tree Campus for Fifth Straight Year

For the fifth consecutive year, Waubonsee Community College has been recognized for its care of its campus canopy.

The Arbor Day Foundation recently awarded Waubonsee its Tree Campus USA designation for 2014. The distinction comes through the Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree Campus USA nationwide program.

Launched in 2008 by the Foundation and Toyota, the program honors colleges and universities and their leaders for promoting healthy trees and engaging students and staff in the spirit of conservation.

To be so recognized, Waubonsee met five core standards established by the Tree Campus USA program for effective campus forest management: establishing a tree advisory committee; adopting a campus tree care plan; annually dedicating resources to its campus tree program; hosting an Arbor Day observance; and implementing a student service-learning project.

© 2012 Waubonsee Community College

Kendall County Health Director Dr. Tokars Elected to Waubonsee Foundation Board

At its quarterly meeting March 3, the Waubonsee Community College Foundation elected Dr. Amaal Tokars, of Yorkville, to its board of directors. She will serve the remainder of a vacated three-year term.

Dr. Tokars has been the Executive Director/Public Health Administrator at the Kendall County Health Department since March 2012.

She has spent much of her professional career working in the diverse areas of health and human services, and has committed much time and research to topics related to leadership and policy.

Her interests range from adult education and community development to crisis intervention, crisis response and cultural competence.

Dr. Tokars holds a Ph.D. in Education and Anthropology.

© 2012 Waubonsee Community College

Waubonsee Hosts Art Exhibitions in February, March

A Chicago-based fine arts photographer who explores humanity’s impact on the environment will exhibit a selection of her works at Waubonsee Community College’s Sugar Grove campus gallery for the next few weeks.

At the same time, a group art show, investigating abstraction through various approaches, will be on display at Waubonsee’s downtown Aurora campus.

Through March 8, photographic works by artist Allison Grant will be on display as part of “Unsoiled,” an exhibition in the Arrowhead Room gallery in the Dickson Center on Waubonsee’s Sugar Grove Campus, Route 47 at Waubonsee Drive.

The exhibit is free and open to the public Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., closed Sundays.

The exhibit includes a dozen of Grant’s works, each designed to address the dichotomy existing between the pristine environment many perceive in nature and the reality of the omnipresence of plastics and other byproducts of human consumption in the surrounding landscape.

Grant, an artist, educator and curator, has exhibited her works on numerous occasions in Chicago, New York, Dallas, Cincinnati and other locations since 2008.  Her works are held in public collections at DePaul Art Museum in Chicago, Columbia College Chicago and 4-Culture in Seattle.

Through March 29, the Café at Waubonsee’s Aurora Campus will host “Shift What You See…,” a group show featuring a dozen abstract works from various artists, including Garrett Austin, Christopher Binkley, Kelly Fahle, Taylor Fatland, Caitlin Geiger, Michelle Linden, Amanda Meyer, Yirian Perez-Roig, Casey Rose, Ryan Werrline and Les Westphal.

The show, which opened Jan. 27, is free and open to the public Monday-Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., and Fridays, 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.For more information on these Waubonsee exhibitions, contact Art Coordinator Cecilia Vargas at or (630) 466-7900 ext. 2964.


© 2012 Waubonsee Community College

Waubonsee Volunteers to Provide Free Income Tax Preparation Services

This spring, a team of volunteers associated with Waubonsee Community College again will not only help hundreds of local residents file their federal and state income tax returns for free, but will help boost the local economy in the process.

Working this year until the April 15 tax return filing deadline, dozens of volunteers will staff Waubonsee’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance site.

Waubonsee has partnered with the Center for Economic Progress for more than a decade to sponsor the free income tax preparations assistance sessions through the VITA program.

In 2014, the Waubonsee VITA volunteers processed 902 income tax returns, bringing almost $1.9 million in tax refunds home to the Waubonsee region.

VITA sessions began Jan. 28 and will continue on Wednesdays from 5:30-8 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. at Waubonsee’s downtown Aurora Campus, 18 S. River Street, until April 15.

The site will be closed during spring break on Wednesday, March 18, and Saturday, March 21.

At these sessions, volunteers from Waubonsee and the Center for Economic Progress will help prepare and electronically file income tax returns, including those requiring the 1040 Schedule C used by small businesses and the self-employed.

Those eligible for the program include families with annual incomes of $50,000 or less, and individuals with annual incomes less than $25,000. Those seeking tax return preparation assistance at the VITA sessions should bring a copy of last year's tax return, if they have one; Forms W-2 and 1099 from all employment in 2014; Social Security cards for all family members; and a photo ID.

The free income tax return preparation is done on a first-come, first-served basis, and the site closes when capacity is reached.

For more information, contact Waubonsee Community College at (630) 466-7900, ext. 2992, email, or visit the Center for Economic Progress website at

© 2012 Waubonsee Community College

Waubonsee Spring Break Camps to Offer Kids, Teens Week of Fun, Enrichment

What are your kids doing over spring break? Registration is underway for Spring Break Camps at Waubonsee Community College.

Presented by the college’s Community Education Department, the weeklong camps will run from March 30 - April 3 at various times at Waubonsee’s Sugar Grove and Aurora campuses. The Spring Break Camps will offer children ages 4-14 the chance to engage in a range of fun, educational and enriching activities while school is out.

Children ages 7-10, for instance, will have the opportunity to learn to play a ukulele, work with LEGO robots, create video games or learn about the inner workings of the human body. At the same time, young teens can explore animation creation or learn sign language.And younger children, ages 4-6, can spend their spring break learning about dinosaurs.

Camps range in cost from $69-$89 per weeklong session.

For more information or to register, visit    

© 2012 Waubonsee Community College