Waubonsee Community College’s updated mission statement describes how the college provides exceptional learning and is committed to enriching the lives of students, employees, and community by working together to discover new passions, share knowledge, and embrace diversity. Discovering new passion has always been part of Waubonsee’s purpose. Our vision statement shares that the college “welcomes the diverse abilities, goals, and experiences of individuals standing on the threshold of discovery.”
This is a fundamental purpose of higher education. It is one of the greatest joys for an educator to work with a student when they find that spark that drives them to fully engage in their educational experience and develop or renew their passion. I have witnessed this take place both in and out of the classroom. Commonly, it starts in the form of an inquiry as students explore interests with faculty who inspire them, through leadership or multicultural programs that open their eyes, or as part of advising appointments as students explore careers.
John Maxwell, the author of “Intentional Living,” shared that “there are two great days in our lives—the day we are born and the day we discover why.” As a college, we are honored and excited when alumni return to campus and share how they discovered their life’s purpose at Waubonsee. In May, I gave Tim Coakley, a former student who attended Waubonsee in 1990, a campus tour. During his visit, he shared how impactful starting at Waubonsee was to his educational career. He went on to obtain his bachelor’s degree and his medical doctorate. He served over 30 years in the military and built an amazing career, helping impact the lives of so many others. He attributes part of his success to a specific Waubonsee faculty member who believed in him and helped him develop his academic confidence.
A more recent alumnus, Sandy Orozco, a 2019 graduate, accepted a fellowship with the Governor’s Office of Equity and Wellness Team. She was a member of the Waubonsee Student Senate. Sandy shared that Waubonsee allowed her to discover her passion for advocating for those around her and using her voice to make a difference.
Dianna Irchata, a 2016 graduate, returned to Waubonsee serving as the keynote speaker for the opening of Waubonsee’s Latinx Resource Center in the Aurora Downtown Campus this past March. She shared her story and how the Waubonsee STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Program was pivotal to her success and building her confidence toward becoming an engineer.
Each of these alumni represent how passion leads to discovering one’s purpose and how that can one day become their profession. This is also evident for the college’s 2022 Distinguished Alumnus, Coach Tim Buckley, who acknowledged that Waubonsee served as a foundation for him. After graduating from Waubonsee, he went on to play at Bemidji State University, where he secured his first coaching position. Coach Buckley went on to have a successful coaching career with numerous four-year institutions and most recently was named Assistant Head Coach at the University of South Carolina. We are honored to be part of Coach Buckley’s story and glad to see him continue to follow his passion.
Additionally, Dr. Indigo Debra Triplett, who graduated from Waubonsee in 1988, is one of three 2022 Outstanding Alumni Award recipients from the American Association of Community Colleges. She became a prominent business owner, speaker, and author. She shares how one person at Waubonsee made all the difference in her life and helped propel her toward her purpose.
As gratifying as it is to hear from former students, Waubonsee also aspires to help employees and community members discover their passion. Jenny Becker, Financial Education Coordinator at Waubonsee, started the college’s financial education program, Money Matters, a year ago. She has a boundless desire to learn as much as she can about financial wellness to serve Waubonsee’s students best and has decided that working in higher education is her long-term career goal. To that end, Jenny is exploring master’s programs for higher education administration. As Jenny’s supervisor, I am excited about the opportunities that await her. I also look forward to helping her grow professionally like others who helped me along my journey.
One of the best parts of my role is connecting with former students and learning what meant the most to them during their time at Waubonsee. Faculty or staff members invested in them, believed in them, and helped them take those first steps over the threshold of discovery. John Maxwell shares that there are two types of elevator people in our lives; those who lift us and those who bring us down. Waubonsee prides itself on being a college that strives to lift others up. We love that so many former students and alumni have shared that Waubonsee helped them find and foster their passion.