The Importance of Your Community College

Portrait of President Dr. Christine Sobek
Christine J. Sobek, Ed.D.

In many things in life, it is appropriate to occasionally take time to reflect and take stock of things; to assess the effectiveness and impact of performance. In the education industry, this often occurs immediately following commencement ceremonies.

Many college leaders and elected officials are doing this right now. Similarly, many current and potential students and their families are examining their current life circumstances and wondering if college is right for them. There is an ongoing discussion in the public sphere about the relative value of higher education and the college experience. Within that discussion is the idea that colleges need to do things differently. Recently, one elected official suggested that colleges should reduce the number of course options available to students; present a limited “menu,” like the restaurant chain Chipotle. The thinking is that by limiting options, students would be able to better focus on the fewer options available, get through those courses and would graduate faster. 

That could be true. However, that model probably works best in an environment in which consumers (in this case, diners) can go to another nearby location for other options if the limited options at the first location do not meet their needs. The consumers of higher education, though, (in this case, learners) often do not have the luxury of going to another nearby location to meet their educational needs. This is one of the central reasons that community colleges exist; to provide a variety of quality options for learners.

A better analogy for community colleges would be a buffet. Just as diners have different tastes and appetites, learners have different goals. Those goals range from a 16-week career certificate program to an associate degree to, for some people, a doctoral degree and the many other options in between. Because people come to college with different backgrounds and experiences, we work to ensure that all of those individuals have the very best educational choices available to them.

Earlier this year, Danny Peña, an ESL student at Waubonsee, was recognized by his employer, California Pizza Kitchen, as the top pizza chef in America for the year. We also learned the stories of Caroline and Isaí, both former students at Waubonsee, who have gone on to earn graduate degrees in the sciences and are working in their chosen professions. A few months ago, we recognized Commander Keith Cross of the Aurora, Illinois Police Department, a Waubonsee alum and current leader in our community. In May, we recognized musician Ashley Lewis as our Distinguished Alumnus. And in June, we recognized Mojisola Ayorinde, formerly homeless, now thanks to Waubonsee, a nurse with a bright future. These are just a few examples of the more than 300,000 people who have improved their lives through education at Waubonsee.

Each of those students had different goals and, of course, took different paths to achieve their goals. Because Waubonsee had options for each of them, Waubonsee was an option—a great option—for all of them.

In addition, community colleges across the country meet the learning needs of their community with programs such as Waubonsee’s Xcelerate youth programs, Lifelong Learning program, and personal enrichment and professional development courses for individuals and area businesses.

We take great pride in being a part of so many great stories. In 2016, we shared a Transformational Statement that our entire community helped to develop, “Waubonsee shapes futures through global, amplified learning that creates lifetime connections and knowledge growth.” In other words, we are here to help you write your story – today and tomorrow. This is not just college, this is community college!

 

Christine J. Sobek, Ed.D.

President, Waubonsee Community College 

Past Communications from Dr. Sobek

Dr. Sobek regularly writes columns about things going on at Waubonsee and on topics in higher education. These columns are frequently published in newspapers in the communities across the district that Waubonsee serves. You can read all of the past columns here. 

Related Reading

Each month, Waubonsee administrators, faculty members and staff write a column that highlights, people, programs and events from across the college. Read those columns here.