WITC 2012 Student Ambassadors
By Deborah Anderson, Allison Iacone, Shawnda Schelinder and Elizabeth Whitchurch
than 20 years ago, the Wisconsin Technical College System started the Student
Ambassador program, a unique initiative that recognizes outstanding student
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.
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.”
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
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.
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
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
Montalvos’ accomplishments, her sister, Sasha, has registered for WITC’s new
dental assistant program and is excited to be starting in the fall.
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
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
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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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