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WITC 2012 Student Ambassadors

By Deborah Anderson, Allison Iacone, Shawnda Schelinder and Elizabeth Whitchurch

WITC's 2012 Student Ambassadors. From left, Dan Nourse, WITC-Ashland; Debi Mager, WITC-New Richmond; Gladys Montalvo, WITC-Rice Lake; Derek Burns, WITC-Superior.

More than 20 years ago, the Wisconsin Technical College System started the Student Ambassador program, a unique initiative that recognizes outstanding student achievement.

WITC’s 2012 ambassadors, Dan Nourse, WITC-Ashland; Debi Mager, WITC-New Richmond; Gladys Montalvo, WITC-Rice Lake; and Derek Burns, WITC-Superior; have distinguished themselves through community involvement, leadership qualities and a commitment to higher education.

“The Ambassador program is an excellent way for the college to recognize some of our most highly motivated students, such as these four individuals,” says Craig Fowler, vice president, continuing education/ executive director, foundation and campus administrator. “The program also allows the students to develop their leadership skills while they represent WITC in our communities.”

Dan Nourse

With an inexhaustible supply of energy and enthusiasm, WITC-Ashland student ambassador Dan Nourse describes his appreciation for all that WITC has done for him, calling WITC-Ashland his second home, his fellow students and the staff his family.

“What hasn’t WITC done for me?” he exclaims. He jokingly states that WITC has sheltered and fed him – done all but clothe him. Then he recalls the free WITC T-shirt he received at Career Day. So it appears WITC has met Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for Nourse.

All kidding aside though, Nourse is grateful for the opportunities he’s found through WITC. The IT-network specialist (ITNS) student is the supervisor of WITC-Ashland’s help desk and is completing an internship at the Northern Great Lakes Visitors. As WITC-Ashland’s help desk supervisor, he gets hands-on experience troubleshooting computers and working with customers. “I like to help people try to solve their problems,” he says. While he likes working with other people, he is also happy to work independently providing IT support for the Great Lakes Visitor Center.

If you ask Nourse why he went into ITNS, he’ll tell you he didn’t choose it; it chose him. “I have always been interested in computers and how they talk to each other,” Nourse says. He was one of those kids who loved taking things apart and figuring out how it worked. He knew he wanted to study IT and that he wanted to attend a technical college. Because he wanted the real world experience of being on his own, he decided to attend WITC-Ashland, even though WITC-New Richmond was just eight miles from his hometown of Roberts, Wis.

When Nourse graduates this spring, he knows he’ll be ready for anything that life can throw him. “The education I’m getting here is so hands-on,” he says. “I talk to people in a four-year school, and I feel like I know so much more than they do because I understand why we do things, as well as how.”

The outgoing young man is willing to work anywhere throughout the country and hopes to continue his education when time and finances allow. Until then, he’s proud to be WITC-Ashland’s ambassador. “I love selling this school,” he says. “I will do the best that I can.”

Debi Mager
WITC-New Richmond

Though not of the stereotypical description of a college student, people with work experience are becoming more the norm on campus. Debi Mager is a third semester accountant student, who came to WITC to get an associate degree in accounting – despite her 15 years of accounting experience.

Though Mager has worked in payroll, human resources, accounts receivable, and has tested a government payroll accounting system, she clearly points out her goal to obtain the WITC associate degree: “I realize that to compete with the surplus of qualified candidates, I need to do something to stand out and show I am committed to attaining and maintaining proficient skills in my field.”

“Debi has superior communication skills,” says her accounting instructor, Linda Richie, who nominated Mager for the WITC Ambassador role. “She’s an excellent student and has a very positive attitude.”

Mager continues to add to her list of qualifications: she tutors students in accounting, written communication and technical reporting. She’s actively involved with the campus’s Business Professionals of America as its vice president, and Student Senate Association.

Her community involvement includes co-facilitating a survivors of violence group at TurningPoint, fundraising events for TurningPoint, and walking 60 miles in the Susan G. Komen cancer walk. She’s also active in her church and mentors victims of violence.

“My first objective is to complete my accounting degree. Then I will begin an earnest search for a challenging and stimulating position,” Mager explains. “’My ideal position will utilize my prior work skills and my acquired skills from WITC.”

Gladys Montalvo
WITC-Rice Lake

Many roads will take you from Southwest Texas to Northwestern Wisconsin. Some are straight; others have more twists and turns along the way. For WITC-Rice Lake Student Ambassador Gladys Montalvo, it took many miles and several career paths before she arrived at the right destination.

Montalvo grew up in Texas as the daughter of parents whose education did not go beyond high school. Six months after graduating from high school with a distinguished diploma, Montalvo and husband, Andres, moved to northern Wisconsin. She soon earned an associate degree at UW-Barron County and then started attending UW-Eau Claire to major in French with the goal of teaching. But making the two-hour round trip from Rice Lake to Eau Claire every day, with two young boys at home and another child on the way – all while holding down a job – proved to be too much for her and she soon dropped out.

After giving birth to a daughter, Montalvo rethought her career goal. She realized that she enjoyed working in payroll and accounts payable/receivable at past jobs. Last fall, Montalvo enrolled in the accounting program at WITC-Rice Lake.

Montalvo earned a 4.0 GPA in her first semester and is determined to continue the good grades. Her two boys, ages 8, and 6, see her ‘doing her numbers’ and join her, saying proudly, “Mom, I have homework too.”

“I want to be a good role model for my kids,” Montalvo says. “I want them to know there’s no excuse for not going to college.”

Seeing Montalvos’ accomplishments, her sister, Sasha, has registered for WITC’s new dental assistant program and is excited to be starting in the fall.

“I have friends who are thinking about going to school, but are doubtful if they can do it,” Montalvo says. She is quick to tell them, “Everyone is intelligent, you just have to use it. The instructors are there for you. There is a lot of support.”

“Gladys is exemplary as a leader through her respectful communication skills and open-mindedness,” says WITC communication instructor Lynette Emanuel, who nominated Montalvo for campus Student Ambassador. “That she is trilingual speaks to her culturally sensitive and empathetic capabilities. Gladys is motivated to go above and beyond to meet the challenges of being our ambassador. She will fly.”

Derek Burns

Family man, full-time employee and full-time WITC-Superior student Derek Burns is adding a new role to his resume; that of 2012 Student Ambassador.

The 34-year-old Burns says he’s taken on the new responsibility because he believes in WITC and the education he’s receiving. When asked what sets the college apart, he doesn’t hesitate to answer.

“They care. I’ve [visited] all of the schools in the area. And at this school, like none other, you as an individual are so incredibly not just a number,” says Burns. “The instructors care for you, not just your student life, but your life as a person.”

It’s Burns’ life that led him to WITC’s industrial maintenance technician program in the first place. A chef for nine years, he came to realize there was little time left in the day for his wife and two small children. So, he left that career in 2005 and began working in environmental services at Essentia Health.

It’s a good job, he says, but not the career he hoped could take him through his working days. He first considered industrial maintenance because he thought it would give him an opportunity to advance at his current workplace.

“Going into the industrial maintenance program, I knew nothing when I got there, absolutely nothing. Now I’ve got a good knowledge of a lot of different things.”

In addition to his chosen trade, Burns has also learned a lot about leadership. Since starting at WITC-Superior, he often finds himself in a mentoring role, helping out students who may be struggling.

“I’ve tried to befriend them; tried to help them through. It’s not like I’m loaded, but if I’ve got a little extra, does it not behoove me to help out somebody a little more unfortunate?” Burns asks. “I just tried to make them feel welcome and a part of something more.”

Burns describes himself as having a deep Christian faith. He is set to graduate in May 2012 with one dominating career objective, providing for his family.

“My plan is to take the knowledge that I have been given here at WITC and try to stay in the area. But if God wants me in the Siberian outback working on conveyors in 273 degrees below zero, then that is where we will go.”

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