Letter from the President: A Reflection on My First 100 Days
As I look upon my first 100 days as president, I reflect on the deep commitment Owens Community College has to the region it serves, as well as the pride expressed by the many stakeholders I’ve met. The support of Owens’ mission is tangible. That mission – to provide students with an education that is both high quality and affordable – is made possible when a region and its people are united in the belief that students’ access to rewarding careers and personal growth benefits us all. Founded in 1965 as a technical institute, Owens has evolved in fulfillment of our mission. From technical training to preparing students for advanced degrees at four-year institutions, we help drive economic development and enrich the community. Our past has readied us for the future. As we continue to adapt to accelerated change, we must reconsider strategic priorities to better serve our students and our region. Listening to you is helping to crystalize the initiatives that will be most impactful for our institution, our students and our community. Vital input during my first 100 days and beyond will shape the roadmap we will rely upon as we renew with pride and optimism our vision for the future.
You have reinforced within me the strength of our collaboration and partnerships, the responsibility we have to continue to dialogue with one another, and the commitment of our faculty and staff who work hard for our students’ education and personal growth.
Thank you for making me feel so welcome. You inspire me to ensure I do my best to preserve Owens’ legacy for future generations.
Dr. Dione D. Somerville
First 100 Days Milestones
Powering the Region’s Economic Vitality
During her first week, President Somerville met with community leaders in Findlay and attended a reception for the Findlay-Hancock Economic Development Board. A strong believer in the importance of building relationships with the business sector, President Somerville serves on the board of the Regional Growth Partnership and continues to strengthen connections with employers across northwest Ohio.
A Commitment to Equity
President Somerville’s first public address took place at the African American Legacy Project’s historical marker dedication commemorating the Toledo Negro League teams. On Juneteenth, the holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States, President Somerville spoke to a large gathering of community members, elected officials and civic leaders.
Owens is dedicated to cultivating an equitable and inclusive college community that considers the impact of its actions on all members. To that end, the College just concluded an engagement with Bowling Green State University’s equity consulting team to assess the effectiveness of Owens’ diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts.
Strengthening K-12 Collaborations
President Somerville welcomed educators from the Penta Career Center who toured the Toledo-area Campus in July. Later, she led a team from Owens who toured Penta’s campus. Penta also hosted Owens Week featuring guest instructors from the College.
Early in her tenure, Dr. Somerville also visited Toledo Public Schools as part of her commitment to listen, learn and engage with K-12 leaders as we advance our shared goal of educating the workforce of tomorrow. Owens is making progress with our plans to offer an Associate of Technical Studies degree in collaboration with Toledo Technology Academy.
Honoring our Veterans
President Somerville threw the first pitch for the Toledo Mud Hens game on July 17 at Fifth Third Field. Owens sponsored Military Appreciation Night to demonstrate the College’s commitment to serving those who have served our great nation. Owens provides several exclusive benefits to help veterans get the most out of their college education.
Preparing a Skilled Workforce
After a quick visit to the Dana Incorporated Advanced Manufacturing Training Center (Dana Center) on her very first day at Owens, President Somerville returned on July 20 for a complete tour of the new $9.6 million, 59,000 square-foot facility. The Dana Center will help Owens expand its offerings in advanced manufacturing degrees and certificates, while helping to fill in-demand jobs and address the region’s critical workforce shortages. Ohio ranks third in the nation in manufacturing — the largest of the state’s 20 major industry sectors.
Cultivating the Arts
President Somerville met with Owens’ first Artist in Residence, Beth Genson, who featured her solo exhibit “The Heavens and Earth” and offered a variety of classes to students, faculty, staff and the community during her time in residency. While the Artist in Residence program is new, the Department of Fine and Performing Arts has hosted thousands of performances, events and exhibits since 2004.
Celebrating Success in Athletics
President Somerville was thrilled to welcome Coach Mike Llanas back to Owens as the new men’s basketball coach. Coach Llanas had a successful tenure previously in women’s basketball. Owens Express Athletics has had a tremendous year. With a 35-15 overall record in 2021, the baseball team won the Great Lakes District and Region XII Championships and were College World Series Qualifiers. The softball team had a 13-7 overall record in 2021 and won the Great Lakes District and Division III Region XII Championships. After winning the 2018 and 2019 national championship, the volleyball team started this fall ranked No. 1 nationally.
Supporting Students into High-Paying Jobs
President Somerville attended a series of presentations made by students in the Manufacturing Technician Apprenticeship program. Companies that participate in the Regional Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (RAMP) employ the apprentices to work for a minimum of 24 hours per week, at a competitive hourly wage. The companies also agree to pay at least half of the apprentices’ tuition and fees. In May 2021, the program graduated its first cohort of 10 students who completed an Associate of Technical Studies degree in Applied Engineering.
Producing Career-Ready Graduates
President Somerville congratulated students who completed the rigorous Licensed Practical Nursing program on August 17. In addition to this most recent class of graduates, the College conferred 970 degrees and certificates in Spring 2021 and 1,841 degrees and certificates in 2020. Our graduates are entering the workforce in high-demand fields like healthcare, manufacturing and logistics, keeping northwest Ohio’s economy moving forward in spite of the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Excellence in Action
President Somerville welcomed faculty and staff to Opening Week on August 23 as the College prepared to begin Fall Semester. She presented Rob Thomas, Assistant Professor of Broadcast Technology, with the College’s first Presidential Teaching Award. Sarah Long, Assistant Professor of Mathematics, received the Dale P. Parnell Distinguished Faculty Recognition from the American Association of Community Colleges. President Somerville also congratulated other Owens faculty and staff who received national recognition for their contributions in a variety of disciplines.
Creating a Shared Vision, Together
President Somerville arrived at Owens with 27 years of experience in higher education and an open mind. Her first priority has been to listen to feedback from students, faculty and staff, as well as alumni, retirees and community leaders, with the goal of moving forward together. To better understand how Owens is perceived by the community and where change is needed, President Somerville has hosted a series of listening sessions to establish an ongoing dialogue. Unwavering attention to the needs and hopes for the community has been the keystone of her early months in leadership.
Cultivating Higher Education Partnerships
President Somerville signed a new agreement with Siena Heights University, enabling students to transfer seamlessly through Owens’ healthcare and business programs. Students who take advantage of this new pathway will join the thousands of students who have transferred to or from Owens over the past decade.
Currently, more than 1,700 Owens students have opted into one of our four Express transfer partnerships with Bowling Green State University, the University of Toledo, Lourdes University and the University of Findlay.
Fostering Scholarships for Academic Achievement
President Somerville attended the Owens Community College Foundation Golf Classic along with alumni, volunteers, employers and community members. The Foundation has provided nearly 200 awards from more than 80 scholarships, totaling more than $230,000 for the 2021-22 academic year.
Keeping Northwest Ohio Safe
President Somerville attended the completion ceremony for the Ohio Basic Peace Officer Training Academy at Owens Community College on September 14. For more than 50 years, Owens has supported safe communities across northwest Ohio by graduating career-ready law enforcement officers. Further, our Center for Emergency Preparedness provides ongoing training solutions as a premier all-hazards national training facility. This Fall Semester, via a partnership with the City of Toledo and Toledo Public Schools, Owens launched a new training pathway that enables high school students to embark on a career in public safety. PS 419 features College Credit Plus courses, allowing students to get both high school and college credit.
Building Relationships for the Good of the Region
President Somerville participated in a panel discussion on preparing tomorrow’s workforce hosted by the Regional Growth Partnership. Leadership from the University of Toledo, Bowling Green State University, Lourdes University, Northwest State Community College and Terra State Community College were also at the table. President Somerville appreciates that northwest Ohio boasts several high-quality institutions of higher education. First and foremost, she prioritizes collaboration over competition.
Reflecting on 100 Days
President Somerville’s First 100 Days concluded with a Welcome Reception hosted by the Board of Trustees and Foundation Board of Directors at the Center for Fine and Performing Arts Rotunda. The reception was one of nearly 70 meetings and events President Somerville attended to engage with the community during her first three months at Owens.