Blackhawk Technical College students to benefit from new success center

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Nick Crow
Saturday, June 21, 2014

JANESVILLE — DeShanna Goodman had no time for college.

As a mother of two, the 29-year-old quit high school to care for her children.

"I had kids at a young age--my daughter when I was 17 and my son when I was 21," Goodman said.

She hadn't finished high school let alone considered getting a secondary education.

"I had a lot on my plate," Goodman said. "It was tough to make time for it all."

Once her kids were old enough, Goodman decided to pursue a GED. She found the process slow.

"I decided it was time for me to pursue other things," Goodman said. "I had started to go to get it, but prior to actually finishing, it took some time."

A change in GED testing at the end of 2013 required anyone partially finished with the courses to completely finish by the end of the year or lose all progress and start over.

Goodman was faced with a choice: finish what she had started or let the GED deadline pass and possibly never finish her education.

It was the deadline that lit a fire under her, Goodman said. She finished her GED at Blackhawk Technical College and then enrolled in classes at the college last fall.

"I went back and got my GED and thought to myself, 'I'm not going to stop now' and enrolled in classes," Goodman said. "I started my first semester last fall. I got two A's and a B in my first semester and expect to graduate in May 2016."

Goodman, a business management major, credits the staff at Blackhawk for getting her on the right track.

"I am absolutely glad I went back," Goodman said. "There are people on campus who can help you with what you need. I think the classroom atmosphere is better for me."

Blackhawk wants to make the learning experience more convenient for incoming students such as Goodman to receive the services they need to succeed.

The college is opening the Student Success Center to centralize services for students into one location.

"It's been 10 years since I was in school," Goodman said. "It's helpful to have a place to ask questions and people that can help you and guide you through what to do."

Gary Kohn, marketing and communication manager for the college, said the new space will be in the old academic support and child care areas on the main campus.

"It's a benefit to have an area for students who might not be aware of some of the services we provide," Kohn said. "It's huge to have everything in the same proximity."

The success center will house career and professional development, disability services, tutoring, testing and placement, computer assistance, academic support and learning labs.

"The end result is to ultimately get a career," Kohn said. "It will all be here, now, which will allow for a lot of collaboration."

The capital improvement project for the center was approved by both the Blackhawk and Wisconsin Technical College System boards. Construction will cost $1.3 million. Furnishings and technology such as new computers will cost $375,000, Kohn said.

Terese Tann, director of the student success center, said the new area will double testing space, provide more opportunities for resume and interview services and boost workshops and tutoring.

"The center will have a huge conference area to work with students on real life interviews," Tann said. "There will also be an area for video conferencing. When we have career fairs, students can have the opportunity to have an interview right there and be hired on-site. It's going to be a state-of-the-art, beautiful facility."

The success center will be equipped to handle more than 350 students and has been in the works for more than two years, Tann said.

The new area will provide services and staff in career and professional development, a tripling of space for disability services, the formation of a formal tutoring program with instructor led study groups, a doubling in space for testing services and a doubling of computers available to students as resources.

"It will be good for new and upcoming students," Goodman said. "Being a new student, they want you to succeed. They explain things thoroughly, and having it all in the same place will help me make sure I get it right."

Tann said the center will be open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays.

An employer survey by Blackhawk found the majority of local businesses want employees to have not just degrees but also soft skills. The new center will help with resume writing, interviewing and teamwork.

"Technical colleges' core abilities are a collaboration of employers and faculties deciding what skills employees need," Kohn said. "We are training students looking for a job."

The 15,800-square-foot project is expected to be completed by August.

"It's pretty exciting," Tann said. "It's really cool. Even though this is a two-year school, we want students to have all the tools and experience they need to get those jobs."

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