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The Jefferson Community & Technical College Shelby Campus is celebrating its 10th anniversary this week. John Wieland has been with JCTCS since 2003 after having worked at Spalding University and Marquette University. Raised in Wisconsin, Wieland, 59, earned graduate and undergraduate degrees at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside and Marquette, where he received his PhD. He is involved in numerous organizations in Shelby County, including serving as vice president of the Shelby County Extension Advisory Council. He and his wife, Lisa, have a son, Leo, 14, and a daughter, Lucy, 12. He took a few moments to answer some questions from The Sentinel-News about the growth of JCTCS and his role there.
THE SENTINEL-NEWS: JCTC Shelby is celebrating its 10th anniversary this week. Is the school fulfilling its mission?
JOHN WIELAND: The mission of Jefferson Community and Technical College is to provide open access to affordable, quality education and training for a diverse community of students; promote opportunities for lifelong learning and success through its programs and services; and support the attainment of statewide educational goals. Shelby County community leaders wanted a campus established to provide such opportunities. As a result of the vision of those leaders, since 2002 hundreds of students from throughout the region have enrolled in our programs. Without the accessibility and affordability of our programs, many of those students would never have pursued post-secondary education.
S-N: How does the school set itself apart in a busy educational environment?
WIELAND: The college’s most distinctive feature is the cost of our tuition. We are by far the most affordable post-secondary option in Kentucky. We are the primary provider of college and workforce readiness, transfer education, as well as workforce education and training. Students also appreciate our small classes and the personal attention they receive. Students aren’t in a classroom with 300 other students; our professors know them by name.
S-N: How has student enrollment and curriculum changed in 10 years?
WIELAND: Enrollment has skyrocketed. That’s the biggest change. In 2002 we only had a couple of hundred students, and now we serve over 1,300. We’ve tripled the faculty in our practical nursing program, added criminal justice and industrial maintenance as programs, assumed responsibility for Adult Education in Shelby County, offering free GED and ESL classes. We’re also home to Area 6 of the State Fire Commission’s Fire and Rescue Training program. However, the biggest growth has been in the expansion of liberal arts courses, allowing us to offer the Associate of Arts and Associate of Science degrees.
S-N: What¹s the most difficult part of running a busy vocational school?
WIELAND: Actually, we’re much more than a vocational/technical college. While we provide a good deal of technical and workforce training, our largest enrollment is in general education or liberal arts courses, which are for students who intend to transfer. Students can earn their associate’s degree, then transfer into four-year programs as juniors. The most difficult part is keeping up with demand. Students and businesses are finding value and quality in what we do. We know that the college will need to expand to meet that need.
S-N: What is the most rewarding part of your tenure here?
WIELAND: I was an auto worker for a number of years, got laid off, and then attended college. Attending college totally changed my life. Now, I get to be part of that life-changing process each day, working with the students that we serve.
S-N: What do you see for the future of the school?
WIELAND: The college is in the process of shifting from a purely “access” mission, to one emphasizing student success. We are revamping many of our programs, including our first-year experience course, developmental math, orientation, and student services to place an emphasis on moving students toward graduation. We will also emphasize diversity more in equipping students to be a part of a global workforce. When I talk to business leaders in Shelby County, they emphasize the challenge of competing in the global market place. Our students need to be prepared to meet that challenge. We also will be providing training for and administering the newly formed Shelby County Training Consortium. Since this region is one of the manufacturing centers of Kentucky, I also see us playing a greater role in training students for careers in advanced manufacturing. The campus has been at the forefront of the college’s sustainability initiative, and we will also be expanding those efforts in the future.
S-N: If you could add one element to the school – curriculum, facilities, whatever – what would that be?
WIELAND: An additional building would allow the college to increase our offerings in science – chemistry, physics, biology, anatomy and physiology, for example, – and expand our current technical and career programs.
S-N: Any other details you would like to add?
WIELAND: We’re extremely grateful for the support we receive from the local community. It’s a privilege to be the “community’s college.” We look forward to expanding community partnerships as we begin our second decade.