Waubonsee Voices: Partnerships crucial to shared success

Dr. Brian Knetl

I am humbled and honored to have been selected as the fifth president of Waubonsee Community College, an organization with a long history of service to and collaboration with a vibrant and thriving community. I have learned a lot in my first month as president, and I have more to learn! I am actively meeting with and listening to employees and community members to continue my process of discovery. I hope to meet with more of you in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, you can get to know me a bit better by accessing my bio at waubonsee.edu/president.

This moment is a particularly exciting time to join the Waubonsee community. Higher education is being challenged to redefine its future to meet the needs of a rapidly evolving work force. Waubonsee has an amazing reputation for responding to the community by offering programs that meet the educational needs of the community. The important work of community colleges is further amplified by a proposed Illinois state budget that includes an almost 10% increase in funding which will support continued work within our community.

Community colleges and the communities in which they reside working in partnership is so critical to their shared success. In 2013, James and Deborah Fallows set out to visit small towns and cities across the United States. James Fallows is best known as a presidential speech writer, and Deborah Fallows is a writer who also worked as an administrator in higher education. The couple wanted to find out what common characteristics made communities successful. Their travels culminated in a book called “Our Towns: A 100,000 Mile Journey Into the Heart of America.” In the final pages of the book, they identify common features that contributed to the civic success of the communities they visited. They discovered that a common feature of most of the communities was that they had a community college nearby that the community cared about. The Fallows write, “The more often and more specifically we heard people talk about their community college, the better we ended up feeling about the direction of that town” (406). A community college that played a key role contributing to the civic development of the community was a sign of a successful town. You never had to convince me that community colleges significantly impact the health and wealth of a community, but the Fallows’ work was further affirmation of our impact.

March is Women’s History Month. As I reflect on how we are celebrating on campus, I am reminded of the impact Waubonsee and other community colleges have made through female leaders such as my predecessor Dr. Christine Sobek, who served Waubonsee students and communities for more than 33 years and more than 21 years as president. I am also reminded of the impact community colleges have had on the lives of female students and their families such as Dr. Indigo Triplett, Waubonsee 2022 Distinguished Alumnus Award recipient and 2022 American Association of Community Colleges Outstanding Alumni Award recipient. Dr. Indigo credits Waubonsee with providing the safe place where she gained the self-confidence to continue her education, and become a successful entrepreneur, and a nationally and internationally known speaker and author.

In my role as president, I am mindful of the past, current, and future impact Waubonsee can have on the lives of each of our students, their families, and the broader community. It will be crucial to remain connected to and partner with the community to continue providing a high quality, relevant education.

• Brian Knetl is president of Waubonsee Community College.