Posted on September 21st, 2023
Owens Community College’s remarkable history in Flag City USA began in downtown Findlay at the corner of Cory and Davis streets next to the University of Findlay in 1983. That year, our first campus opened with 201 students, and two years later we graduated our first 15 students.
Over the next 20 years, as Findlay grew into an increasingly vibrant city with a diverse economy, we grew alongside, expanding our programming and investing in our campus. In 2005 we opened the current Findlay Campus on Bright Road. Today we offer more than 20 degrees and certificates in Findlay, including the first two years of a bachelor’s degree with seamless transfer to regional universities, including the University of Findlay.
In addition to the accessible, quality education we provide, there is so much about our Findlay Campus that we are proud of, including
- our five-star Child Care Center;
- our certification as a Bee Campus USA (first in the State of Ohio);
- our having served as a Red Cross Disaster Relief Point during the historic Blanchard River flood of 2007; and
- the addition of our Physical Therapist Assistant program last year, which already has a second student cohort.
We are most proud of the 5,012 students who have graduated from our Findlay Campus since that first class in 1985.
Partners in our Success
Findlay plays a prominent role in Northwest Ohio, and is known for its commitment to economic development and collaboration with business, public and nonprofit sectors. Owens is also a driver of economic and workforce development, and so our deep partnerships within the Findlay community are incredibly important.
One of our most important partnerships is the Center to Advance Manufacturing, a collaboration between Owens, the University of Findlay and Bowling Green State University. The purpose of the Center is to be the crucial conduit between industry, higher education, and economic development. This year we are working with the Center to expand our training opportunities in truck driving and in the solar industry. As the Center’s presence evolves, Owens and our partners will collaborate with industry and create partnerships that allow manufacturers to tackle their biggest obstacles, including changes in workforce, policy, supply chain, operations, and energy.
Last year clinical site access for Owens students was expanded with Blanchard Valley Health System. This partnership gave more School of Nursing and Health Professions students supervised access to direct patient care to provide clinical training and experience, giving them access to real-world patient care. Blanchard Valley also opened up more spots for last semester students to complete their preceptorships, which pair students as novices with experienced clinicians. These relationships benefit students and the Health System, as students get a real experience of what it is like to work at Blanchard Valley.
Our partnerships extend to our elected officials as well. For example, in February we were proud to host U.S. Congressman Bob Latta at our Findlay Campus for a Workforce Roundtable, where we brought together industry leaders to discuss the challenges they face in the workforce, especially concerning retaining employees. Last month our executive director of the Center to Advance Manufacturing Tim Mayle also facilitated a business roundtable in Findlay with education stakeholders and regional legislators about the importance of supporting manufacturers in our region.
As we celebrate 40 years of serving Findlay this year, we want to continue to grow our presence, and we can use your help. We have to have alignment between what students are interested in and what the industry needs. If you have ideas, you can help us find that alignment. Please reach out to our Findlay Campus Dean Brad Wood and to my office with your ideas – our contact information is below. We want to meet the needs of the community and of our students, and we look forward to your ideas.
Dione D. Somerville, Ed.D.
Posted on May 17th, 2023
In many ways, this is my favorite time of year. I’m filled with excitement and pride for all that our students have accomplished. Whether they’re gearing up for their next educational adventure or starting their careers, it’s a joy to see graduates celebrate their achievements alongside their loved ones and our faculty. Commencement season is also a time of reflection, especially for me as I mark my second anniversary as president of Owens Community College. As I look back at all that we have accomplished together, I am equally delighted to look ahead to our plans for the future.
This year has been a turning point for us. We’ve welcomed new leaders who are building on our past successes by bringing new perspectives and ideas to elevate the student experience. We’ve also sought out external consultants who bring specialized expertise and the latest techniques and tools to augment internal expertise and help us reach – and exceed – our goals.
Together with our faculty, staff, and community, we’ve created a forward-thinking strategic plan that positions Owens as a leader in northwest Ohio. I am so grateful to all of you who participated for being such an important part of our strategic planning process over this past year.
When I reflect on our past two years, what stands out most to me are the strategic investments we’ve made that prioritize the needs of our students, faculty, and staff as well as this region, business and industry.
Our academic programs are constantly evolving to stay relevant, and our program accreditations continue to be successful. Nearly 1,900 students have earned their associate degrees from Owens over the past two years and are now members of our alumni community of more than 43,000.
We’ve centralized our services and resources for students with the renovation of College Hall, and our partnerships with local businesses have allowed us to remain an indispensable partner to the community. We now have various levels of involvement with hundreds of organizations throughout our service district.
Our Center for Advanced Manufacturing and Logistics is a perfect example of those efforts. The Center, made possible through funding from the State of Ohio, is a partnership between Owens, Bowling Green State University, the University of Findlay and multiple industry partners. Last year we signed our operating agreement and hired our first executive director, and we are excited to see the Center moving forward.
We’ve also worked hard to build relationships with lawmakers at all levels of government, and invested in a comprehensive government relations strategy. Since June 2021, we’ve had 70 touchpoints with our legislators, locally, in Columbus and in Washington, D.C.
One of my top priorities has been to lead with integrity and to keep our community informed and engaged through open communication channels. To that end, we introduced the College Forum and Open Office Hours on campus, as well as this blog and our Conversations podcast for our students, faculty, staff, alumni and stakeholders throughout this region.
I believe these efforts have contributed to our strong foundation as we look to the bright future of Owens. I feel positive about our enrollment as we finish a strong year, and am optimistic as we look toward the upcoming semesters.
Later this summer we will break ground on a $32 million renovation to our School of Nursing and Health Professions. Our new space will allow for enrollment growth, double our lab space, and ensure our students are working on state-of-the-art equipment in an interdisciplinary professional education setting that will ultimately lead to better patient outcomes.
This fall we will celebrate the 40th anniversary of our Findlay-area Campus and will learn the results of our Toledo Task Force and Feasibility Study. The study is a team effort, as we are working with an external advisory board, the City of Toledo, JobsOhio and Trellis Company to consider a physical presence in Toledo.
These initiatives align with the strategic plan that will move us forward together over the next five years. The plan’s framework is complete, and is based on six strategic objectives:
- Building a community of belonging
- Expanding our partnerships
- Developing an agile framework
- Deepening employee engagement
- Ensuring a sustainable organization
- Telling our story
We are building out the operational plan to support those pillars in the coming months.
I have such a sense of pride working at an institution that has allowed me to collaborate with award-winning faculty and high-achieving students, experience athletic championships, and witness the impact that Owens has on our community.
We have been sharing that impact through this blog and will continue to do so, although on a different schedule. To better streamline our communications and align with our academic year, moving forward our President’s Blog will be issued tri-annually in September, January and May.
I’m confident that by honoring our past successes, we are preparing for an exciting future. I am already looking forward to our next academic year. Until then, thank you for your support and readership, and have a wonderful summer!
Dione D. Somerville, Ed.D.
Posted on April 19th, 2023
April is National Community College Month, and so we celebrate our mission to transform our students’ lives. We are very intentional in our commitment to supporting our students by offering value through access to incredible faculty, student services, new facilities, and state-of-the-art equipment.
Thanks to the hard work and dedication of our talented and innovative faculty, Owens is at the forefront of preparing students for their careers. When students come to Owens, they learn in small classes, where our experienced educators provide them with a top-notch education that immediately transfers directly into today’s workforce needs or to bachelor’s degrees.
As a community college, we adapt to the needs of our students and the community. For example, our faculty members have created a collection of openly licensed course content for students. These Open Educational Resources (OER), which are free and used in place of traditional textbooks, increase equity in student learning. Since starting to use OER, Owens students will have saved more than $1 million over four semesters.
Owens continues to play a leadership role among community colleges. In April, our faculty will lead a county-wide training focused on nursing and health professions and developmental disabilities that will ultimately lead to better patient outcomes. This event will provide interdisciplinary professional education and align healthcare professions across the region.
This month our School of Nursing and Health Professions will also collaborate with the Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities to provide a free Assistive Technology Fair for students, health professionals, and those who work with individuals with developmental disabilities.
Owens’ Fine and Performing Arts department also recently held its biennial Networking Fair and Symposium. This event was free and open to the public and featured dynamic speakers and interactive sessions related to careers with an arts focus. Those in attendance had the opportunity to meet educators and professionals from the fields of graphic design, photography, recording arts, broadcasting, theatre, music, music business, and fine arts.
We are also proving that we have some of the best and brightest faculty members in the country through the awards and accomplishments many of them have recently received.
Dr. Sara Burke, Assistant Professor in our Physical Therapist Assistant program, received the Dale P. Parnell Distinguished Faculty Recognition from the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). Named in honor of former AACC President and CEO Dale P. Parnell, this designation has been established to recognize individuals making a difference in the classroom. Dr. Burke is the third Owens faculty member to receive this prestigious honor.
Dr. Burke embodies all four of the major aspects for consideration of this award. She demonstrates her passion for students and teaching and learning in the classroom. She is intentional in engaging students in learning experiences that reinforce the concepts taught within the context of real-life experiences. She also supports students outside of the classroom, as she is a mentor for the Ohio Physical Therapy Association.
Dr. Burke is a learner who lives for continuous self-improvement in order to be a better teacher and colleague. She successfully completed the virtual 2021 IPEC Interprofessional Leadership Development Program, and she was awarded Owens’ School of Nursing and Health Professions Teaching Excellence Award for 2021-2022.
Several Owens faculty members have completed the Association of College and University Educators (ACUE) course in Effective Online Teaching Practices, which was co-endorsed by the American Council on Education (ACE). This intensive course with 25 modules is based on evidence-based pedagogy and is designed to empower faculty to be impactful online instructors to ensure student success. Congratulations to faculty members in the last cohort:
- Eileen Alexander, Assistant Professor, Nursing
- Kelley Colston, Adjunct Faculty, Business Technologies
- Danielle Dremann, Adjunct Faculty, Life and Natural Sciences
- Michelle Gonzalez, Adjunct Faculty, Radiography
- Tiffany Hastings, Adjunct Faculty, Business Technologies
- Laud Kwaku, Professor, Math
- Brittany Moore, Adjunct Faculty, Dental Hygiene
- Michelle Poole, Adjunct Faculty, Social and Behavioral Sciences
- Farida Sidiq, Instructor, Biology
- Kevin Walker, Lab Technician, Advanced Computer Aided Machining
Our outstanding faculty members are making their presence known on a national level through their recognitions and leadership work.
Julie Lohse, Professor of Nursing, won Owens’ 2022 Presidential Teaching Award, based on quality and innovation in teaching and commendable service to the College and/or profession.
Brad Wood, Findlay Campus Dean and former Chair of our Physical Therapist Assistant Program, was awarded the Excellence in Accreditation Leadership Award for his leadership in the field of accreditation in Physical Therapy Education. He also attended the Commission of Accreditation for Physical Therapy Education Fall Meeting in Washington D.C. and was re-elected to serve as a commissioner for the Physical Therapist Assistant Panel for a four-year term.
Jodi Gore, Instructor in Social Work and Human Services, was selected as a member of the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB), which serves as a task force and subject matter expert for the practice analysis process. As a member of the task force, she helped develop the Social Work Census, the largest practice analysis survey of social work practitioners ever undertaken, which launched during Social Work Month in March. In addition, the task force will shape the next iteration of the social work licensing examination content to be released in January 2025.
Bernard Goedde, Assistant Professor in our Transportation Technologies Department, attended John Deere Instructor Development Week training in Wichita, Kansas, where he achieved new certified technician status.
Kimberly Moore, Dental Hygiene Instructor, was nominated for the James Quilty Champion of Oral Health Award for her efforts in addressing access to oral health and improving the oral health of Ohioans. She is fulfilling this by encouraging student participation in the Owens Kids Access to Oral Health Program.
Kevin Schroeder, Professor of Fine Art, was awarded first place for his piece Artists Who Teach at the Ellington-White Contemporary Gallery (Fayetteville, NC). His work was also featured in the 28th Parkside National Print Exhibition (University of Wisconsin-Parkside) and the 57th Annual Drawing and Small Sculpture Show at the Joseph A. Cain Memorial Art Gallery (Corpus Christi, Texas).
Shannon Holleran, Adjunct Faculty, Psychology, was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2023, Vol. 124, No. 1, 215–235: “Do People Agree on How They and Others Are Acting? Examining the Degree of Target–Observer and Observer–Observer Agreement About Current Behavior as It Changes Across Situations” Eranda Jayawickreme, Shannon E. Holleran, Scott Sutton, R. Michael Furr, and William Fleeson.
Dr. Michelle Arbogast, Chair of Teacher Education and Human Services, was selected as a Community Leader for the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). She will work to develop activities as a content expert for global webinars, articles, and open educational resources in all areas of educational technology and levels/disciplines of teaching and learning.
Beth Tronolone, Chair of Dental Hygiene, is serving her second term as a two-year American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA) District V Trustee. She also serves on the ADHA Finance Committee and on the ADHA Board Governance Manual Committee.
I’m very proud to see the many achievements of our faculty members and how they selflessly give of their time. Owens faculty members are essential to improving the quality of life in northwest Ohio.
Dione D. Somerville, Ed.D.
Posted on March 15th, 2023
Since my arrival at Owens, one of the many initiatives I’ve enjoyed is our annual BIG Read. An initiative of our Humanities Department, the BIG Read brings awareness of different perspectives and prompts critical thinking of deeper issues through reading books, discussions and engaging in activities on campus and in our communities.
This year’s BIG Read focuses on mental health, mental illness, ableism and trauma. Such a relevant choice for our time, as the World Health Organization released a comprehensive report in 2022 that urges mental health professionals and advocates to collaborate and transform systems and environments toward better mental health for everyone. A variety of events are planned throughout March and April, culminating with a visit from author Stephanie Foo on April 27. Stephanie will appear at both our Toledo-area and Findlay-area campuses to discuss her book, What My Bones Know, conduct a book signing, and hold a writing workshop with our students.
In her book, Stephanie, who is a 2019-2020 Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Fellow, explores the science and psychology behind Complex PTSD through the lens of her own personal narrative of healing. In an interview with The Carter Center, Stephanie said that after she was diagnosed with Complex PTSD in 2018, she could only find scientific research on the topic. What she really wanted was to be able to read a personal, first-person story from someone else who had gone through the process of dealing with this diagnosis. When she didn’t find anything like that, she realized there was a space for her to share her own story.
This year’s BIG Read emphasizes that we must be intentional in giving one another grace. We never know what someone is dealing with or has gone through, so it’s important that we are adaptive to nurture a sense of belonging. I found myself very moved by Stephanie’s story and it has impacted how I hope we respond to each other as a community here at Owens.
Obviously, each person’s mental health journey is completely unique but our purpose remains the same: to meet each student where they are. We have many different populations among our student body and they each deserve to be empowered to reach their personal goals. That’s why I’m mindful of looking at everything from the lens of not just asking our students to be college-ready but rather asking Owens to be student-ready and other-centered.
Our Counseling Services is an important part of this work and helps provide leadership to create an environment that empowers students to positively respond to challenges and opportunities, which will lead to both personal and academic development.
Outside of the support students can receive through our Counseling Services office, there are also many discussion themes related to mental health that are included in the teaching tools that accompany the BIG Read series.
To get all the details about these exciting events, visit our 2023 BIG Read page. I look forward to the discussion about the book in the weeks ahead.
Dione D. Somerville, Ed.D.
Posted on February 16th, 2023
February is a month full of important symbolism. For this blog, I found myself reflecting on the heart and how I try to lead with the heart in everything I do at Owens.
During college, I really fell in love with the opportunity to impact other people’s lives in a positive way. And that passion has stayed with me throughout my career. Being in a leadership role in higher education is not something that you take on and off like a coat. It’s part of who you are, especially at a community college.
Part of who we are at Owens is a proud culture of belonging. We welcome and embrace everyone – from literally every background and walk of life. We have students who come to us academically confident and choose Owens as a great place to start or explore, and we have students who wouldn’t have the life they are going to have if it wasn’t for this institution. We are able to provide learners whatever it is that they need – their start, their opportunity, the tools, caring people – to be able to move forward. We meet them where they are and I think that’s very meaningful.
I’m proud to say our faculty and staff take initiative, which is incredibly valuable in building our culture. Extra touches of care determine how someone feels about us. And if they have a good feeling and a good impression, they are more likely to feel good about their connection here. I want everyone to look at Owens as a reflective and thoughtful college community that embodies a mission and vision of belonging and growth.
Personally, I believe I have a pretty open and engaging leadership style. I believe that there is wisdom in our teams and that the collective wisdom comes together to set the best direction for whatever we are trying to do. People want to feel included and want to be part of the decision-making process. I really believe, particularly in higher education, and especially at community colleges, people are here because they want to be here. What’s been so reaffirming is that our faculty and staff talk time and time again about how they love our students, how they love the institution. If we’re able strengthen the culture where people feel free to bring their best thinking and share their best ideas, that will continue to make us a better organization.
Our mission at Owens relates perfectly to the advice I give young leaders today. We foster student success by providing high quality and affordable education and training that leads to rewarding careers and personal growth. To our current and future students, I encourage you to believe in yourself, be reflective, and seek education.
People have better lives overall if they earn a degree or certificate or complete short-term training after high school. It leads to better outcomes – higher lifetime earnings, better health, greater lifelong learning potential, and other things that allow you to have a stable life. Those outcomes aren’t limited to the individual; it impacts their families and their communities. It’s one aspect of how we drive workforce and economic development. It goes beyond just a skill, trade or program of study. You learn about yourself. You learn different perspectives and are able to look at situations from multiple angles.
When I look to our future together, I want Owens to continue to grow as an institution, and I’m excited as we continue to build momentum. If we’re able to coalesce as a college community to leverage our strengths and take advantage of the opportunities, and to do that for the betterment of all of northwest Ohio, we’re unstoppable.
Dione D. Somerville, Ed.D.
Posted on January 19th, 2023
Happy New Year! I am excited for the start of what I anticipate will be an inspiring and prosperous year for Owens Community College. As we start spring semester, I want to update you on some exciting things happening at the College.
As a community college, one of our goals must always be responsiveness to our community. Providing access to high-quality education and training opportunities and aligning those with employers’ needs (now and for the future) that lead to meaningful careers is not only at the core of economic development; it’s our mission. I’m pleased to share that we are launching a feasibility study to examine the possibility of a physical location for Owens within the city limits of Toledo. As with everything we do at Owens, we want to ensure that if we move forward with this plan, it provides value to and serves our students and the Toledo community, especially underserved populations. Over the next three to six months, we’ll gather and analyze data to evaluate the need for a location and what academic offerings would be attractive to students and to business and industry.
Owens is no stranger to Lucas County. We previously had learning centers in Maumee and Downtown Toledo. We also have partnerships that provide a physical presence in Lucas County, such as our welding and machining classes at the Cherry Street Mission’s Life Revitalization Center and special interest workshops and high school equivalency preparation classes at branches of the Toledo Lucas County Public Library. In addition, we are continuing to build our new partnership with Toledo Public Schools at the Toledo Technology Academy as well as several other partnerships that are in development. We believe that the time is right to re-examine the possibility of a broader presence, letting data determine our path. Our service district includes Lucas, Wood and Hancock counties and we want to assure that we’re fully serving it’s needs.
Continuing to look forward, we are well underway with our strategic planning process, which began in September. There are three phases, which we’ve referred to as “Where are we now?”, “Where are we going?” and “How will we get there?”. Phase I focused on collecting data and input to determine our current state. We are currently in Phase II of the process and anticipate launching the completed plan later this spring. Our new strategic plan is comprehensive in process, based on input from our students, faculty and staff, alumni, business and industry, and other partners.
Lastly, I am excited to share that you will see some new faces at Owens this spring. With some openings in leadership, I’ve had the opportunity to add to our Owens team with individuals who can bring us new perspectives and ideas that will help propel us to the next level of excellence. These new leaders have a proven ability to collaborate and a strong desire to build relationships within our organization and partnerships with our broader community. These new leaders are strategic thinkers and are here to build upon Owens’ past successes and expand our future. As we’ve worked to fill multiple leadership roles at basically the same time, it’s been so exciting to see how these different people will work together and what we will be able to do as a team and as an institution as we move forward.
As you can see, Owens is welcoming 2023 with excitement about our future. It’s an honor to lead this institution and to be a part of the Northwest Ohio community. I look forward to all we will accomplish together as we forge ahead into this new year.
Dione D. Somerville, Ed.D.
Posted on December 14th, 2022
At this time of year, the spirit of giving is everywhere! As we bring 2022 to a close and look to give back in meaningful ways during the holiday season, I’d like to share two stories that demonstrate the impact that Owens has on our community. These stories may be familiar to some of you, as the Owens Community College Foundation has recently shared them in an end-of-year letter.
Kara McCloud ‘ 22 and Zack McCloud ’21 ’22 provide the perfect example of how Owens becomes a part of the fabric of our students’ lives. They were both Army veterans and first-generation students when they arrived on campus. As I shared in my blog earlier this year, Owens has ties to the military dating back to before our opening, and, just last month, we talked about how first-generation students have played an integral role at Owens.
Although they both initially felt overwhelmed when they arrived at Owens, Kara and Zack said they quickly felt like they belonged because of the guidance and support they received from our dedicated faculty and staff, particularly the Veterans Services Office .
Now, as alumni who graduated with honors, Kara and Zack said they are focused on making sure other young people know that they belong here, too. Their goal is to work with disadvantaged youth to show them that, with an education and support like Owens provides, there are many choices and opportunities that will help them realize their dreams.
Kara and Zack said the selfless generosity of the donors who funded the scholarships they received changed their lives and they learned just how much of an impact one person could make on the lives of others.
Our second story is about Madison Bressler ’17. She is a wonderful example of the passion for and commitment to Owens by our faculty and staff. After struggling at the start of her college career, Madison discovered that access to higher education is more than merely admission; it means having a the community and services that are vital to a college student’s success.
When she came to Owens, Madison said the faculty and staff helped her develop a work/life/college balance that helped her receive a degree from Owens and use the Transfer Pathway Program to earn a bachelor’s degree from Bowling Green State University. Now, Madison is an Owens staff member herself after accepting a position as an Academic Advisor in July.
Madison said she would not be where she is today without the help she received from the Owens faculty and staff who guide our students on a path to achieving their goals.
As you can see from these stories, Owens didn’t just make an impact on the education Kara, Zack, and Madison received, it also transformed their lives.
As you make your year-end gifts, I hope you will consider the Owens Community College Foundation. I see the work the Foundation does every day to help our students. Over the past 20 years, Foundation donors have contributed $10.3 million in gifts and grants to fund programs and student scholarships.
Through your support, the Owens Community College Foundation can continue to provide students with access to an educational experience that values excellence, innovation, service and belonging. Your contribution today can have a transformational impact on a student’s education, and more importantly, on their life.
Dione D. Somerville, Ed.D.
Posted on November 16th, 2022
As a first-generation college student and as a higher education administrator, I understand many of the challenges and burdens of being the first in your family to attend a college or university. I am the youngest of six children in a family that gratefully values education. My mother held a high school diploma and my father earned his GED after returning from Korea, having served in the Army. The mission of providing educational opportunities to all students, regardless of gender, race, or economic status, speaks directly to my values and to why I believe Owens Community College is an essential institution in our region.
A first-generation college student is defined as a student whose parents or guardians do not have a degree. In the past two academic years, 2020-21 and 2021-22, nearly 60 percent of Owens Community College graduates self-reported being first-generation college graduates when they earned their associate degrees. That’s more than 2,400 of our 4,100 graduates.
Since 2017, colleges and universities across the country have been celebrating First Generation College Student Day annually on November 8 to honor first-generation college students’ important contributions to their communities. The date is also significant because it’s the anniversary of the signing of the Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1965, which was intended to provide educational opportunity for Americans from minority and low-income backgrounds.
In addition to creating federal grants and loan programs to help students finance their educations, the HEA made key investments in institutions of higher education and ushered in programs like the federal TRIO programs that have been successful in facilitating post-secondary access, retention, and completion for low-income, first-generation college students.
I am proud to say that Owens Community College offers TRIO Student Support Services. This federally-funded program promotes academic support so students can successfully obtain their college degree, provides individualized academic advising to help individuals achieve their educational goals, and offers an environment that recognizes the diversity of backgrounds and learning styles of the individuals it serves. TRIO helps students attain either an associate degree or certificate, and, when interested, transfer to a four-year university.
At Owens Community College, we strive to meet students where they are and provide services that help them overcome some of the challenges they may encounter. Our first-generation students are no exception. Our TRIO Student Support Services staff is dedicated to helping students navigate college successfully by offering services that are tailored to each student’s unique situation and educational goals.
Last week, I was honored to participate in our First Generation College Student Celebration which was held at both campus library locations. This collaborative effort was sponsored in part by our TRIO Student Support Services as well as the TRIO Educational Opportunity Center, the Fast Track Program and the Library. This event provided an informal opportunity for first-generation students to gather and discuss the positive change they are making in their lives and the people close to them.
Part of the celebration included a panel discussion of some current Owens first-generation students as well as several employees who were the first in their families to complete higher education. The stories were moving, as they talked about the challenges of trying to navigate an environment where they felt out of place or for which they had no context. Further, they had no one at home to call with questions because they were the first in their families to even have these questions. As important as it is to understand their challenges, the panelists also represented hope, achievement, perseverance, and tenacity. They have succeeded and their lives are forever transformed by the power of higher education.
Dione D. Somerville, Ed.D.
Posted on October 19th, 2022
Amidst the ghouls and goblins we will see next week, there’s something far scarier that lurks out of sight year-round. As technology continues to evolve and become more complex, statistics show that cyber threats are an increasing risk in 2022. Since 2004, government and private industry have collaborated to mark October as Cybersecurity Awareness Month in an effort to help individuals protect themselves online as risks to technology and confidential data continue to rise.
There is, however, a silver lining: we have a growing opportunity for students and job seekers to find a career in this highly in-demand and growing field.
In 2020 and 2021 combined, the U.S. added more than 260,000 cybersecurity workers according to a report from the cybersecurity nonprofit (ISC)2. However, there are still more than 714,000 open cybersecurity job positions across the country, including more than 16,500 positions in Ohio. The top cybersecurity employees that companies are seeking include cybersecurity analysts, consultants, and managers; penetration and vulnerability testers; software developers; network and systems engineers; systems administrators; and information technology (IT) directors.
The cybersecurity field is one of the biggest projected growth areas in employment, as data shows that one in three IT positions through 2029 will have a cybersecurity focus. A recent LinkedIn search produced thousands of cybersecurity positions that are either on-site in the Toledo metropolitan area or can be done remotely.
In our ongoing effort to provide students with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in their careers, Owens Community College is focused on offering cybersecurity-related educational opportunities to students of all ages.
In June, Owens hosted 33 students in seventh through ninth grades for a cybersecurity camp, which was part of the Kids Classes and Camp series at the Dana Center. During the camp, young people learned a variety of skills, including coding and encryption, through hands-on activities. They also took part in interactive conversations and friendly competitions and took home a microcontroller known as an M5-Stack. Nine Toledo Public Schools (TPS) students attended the camp thanks to a $2,500 contribution from the TPS Foundation.
In September 2021, we announced a partnership with the University of Cincinnati’s School of Information Technology that provides students from all socioeconomic backgrounds with a pathway toward completing college and obtaining a career in IT. Through this Early IT program, students earn one year of college credit while still in high school, and then enter Owens before transferring to the University of Cincinnati to complete a bachelor’s degree. This program was made possible through a $10,000 Early Information Technology Planning & Implementation Grant. Our Information System Technology (IST) faculty revised the IST degree curriculum, including developing a new Cybersecurity Degree Program and eight IST certificates, to align with the University of Cincinnati, and identified the Early IT course alignments.
At Owens, we also offer a number of technology degrees and certificates through our Department of Computer Information Systems. The IST Security Tech certificate is for students planning to enter the IT security field or planning to continue their education beyond an associate degree. Our Networking and Information Systems Support Associate of Applied Business program is designed to provide students with a powerful combination of career and continuing education options to foster skills as IT Network professionals and for quick entry into this fast-growing profession.
We are excited to offer a new Associate Degree of Applied Science in Cyber Security next year to prepare students to be entry-level candidates in the Information and Cyber Security industry. Students will earn industry-recognized certifications and explore Cyber Security topics using state-of-the-art equipment and lab simulations. The program will introduce them to the hands-on skillsets of software and hardware security tools to aid in the designing of secure systems and protecting enterprise information and network assets. Students will be introduced to investigating computer-related crimes and identifying the resources exploited by cybercriminals and terrorists. This curriculum also will introduce students to the standards, models, and best practices used to solve real-world issues and to draft security policies to resolve risks and threats to today’s IT infrastructure.
Our conversations around cybersecurity are not limited to students and professionals in the field. We all have a responsibility to protect ourselves and our community from cyber threats. So, I’d like to close this month’s blog with a few helpful tips you can use to stay secure both on and off campus.
- If anything about an email makes you suspicious, don’t click any links!
- Don’t let scammers’ sense of urgency make you careless. Calls for “immediate action needed” or threats of dire consequences like “your account will be deleted” are dead giveaways that the sender is not legitimate.
- Watch out for misspellings. This is a common tactic scammers use. They don’t want you to notice you are clicking on a link to Microsft.com instead of Microsoft.com.
- Never click a link or download an attachment from an email that you weren’t expecting. Even if the sender appears to be part of a legitimate organization, the email address could be spoofed.
- Hover over any links and check the link address. Does it match the website for the sender exactly? Netflix.mymovies.com is not the same as Netflix.com. They are counting on you seeing the word Netflix and not noticing the website is really mymovies.com.
- Hover over the sender’s email addresses. Look carefully at the entire address. Scammers try to fool you into thinking they are legitimate. Adobe@gmail.com is one example of an official-looking email address, except Adobe would use its own email domain to send from.
Dione D. Somerville, Ed.D.
Posted on September 15th, 2022
The beginning of the academic year is always a great time to reflect on our shared vision for Owens: As the premier two-year college in Northwest Ohio, Owens Community College will be the first choice for students seeking career credentials and university transfer, and will be recognized as an indispensable partner for businesses, educational institutions and community organizations.
We will realize our vision by moving forward together!
We are starting this year with many exciting things happening, a few of which I’ll mention here. Last fall we created the Owens Findlay Task Force charged to propose academic programming for our Findlay-area Campus and we’re already implementing the recommendations.
We are launching the Physical Therapist Assistant program with two cohorts of students this fall. We’ve hired an additional faculty member and we opened a new lab. Additionally, for several programs in our School of Nursing and Health Professions, students will have expanded clinic site access to direct patient care as part of our new agreement with Blanchard Valley Health System.
Our partnership with Blanchard Valley is one of several of which we are very proud! These strategic partnerships enhance the student experience, our campuses, the communities we serve, and help move us further to realizing our shared vision.
One new partnership is with both the Employers’ Association and with the Tiffin University Center of InterculTUral. They will conduct training titled Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Building Cultural Competencies. Our trustees, executive leadership team, supervisors and organizational staff will all participate. The goals are for participants to think deeply, recognize and minimize their own respective biases, advocate for others by stepping up with courage and respect for the sake of valuing others who are different from themselves, and creating a workplace environment that celebrates, welcomes and respects differences.
This training is a recommendation of the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice Task Force, created last spring. This task force was charged with developing a DEIJ strategic plan that will dovetail into the College’s strategic planning process this fall. The team has made significant progress and has recommended this training to support our efforts.
Assuring that we’re an inclusive college is of great importance to Owens, as is our focus on our college culture. Another strategic initiative we’ve implemented is our College Forum. We created this advisory body to promote engagement, transparency and communication. We launched this group this spring with 35 members representing executive leadership, deans, chairs, faculty, professional and support staff. To model continuous improvement, we assessed the College Forum and created a small task force which recommended enhancements that we are implementing at our next meeting. Agendas include meaningful and constructive discussion and problem-solving on College-wide matters as well as addressing issues of broader concern.
And finally, I am excited to share that we have begun the process of our new strategic plan and I’ll be sharing more on that process in later communications.
In the meantime, I’m grateful that we are moving forward together. I thank you for your continued dedication to our students, and your unparalleled support of Owens and our Northwest Ohio community. I look forward to an incredible year as we continue to focus on our path together.
Dione D. Somerville, Ed.D.
Posted on August 18th, 2022
As we prepare to start the 2022-2023 academic year, I am reminded of the vision that guides our direction and decision-making: as the premier two-year college in northwest Ohio, Owens Community College will be the first choice for students seeking career credentials and university transfer, and will be recognized as an indispensable partner for businesses, educational institutions, and community organizations.
A critical component of how we will remain the premier two-year college and the first choice for students in the future will be how we provide learner-centered instruction in a way that ensures educational equity and meets the demands of a knowledge-based economy.
At Owens, we strive to meet the needs of each student where they are. In doing so we must look at both our current context and look to the future to provide an education that is meaningful, efficient, outcome-based, and even time-independent, consider individualized programming, as well as a host of certifications, credentials and micro-credentials, that best serve our students and our region.
Our leadership team thought a great deal about these opportunities after reading The Great Upheaval: Higher Education’s Past, Present, and Uncertain Future by Arthur Levine and Scott J. Van Pelt. A description on Google Books says the book aims to answer the question: How will America’s colleges and universities adapt to remarkable technological, economic, and demographic change?
The book summarizes, as the description states, how “the intersecting forces of technological innovation, globalization, and demographic change create vast new challenges, opportunities, and uncertainties.” Ultimately, Levine and Van Pelt explore how higher education has become what it is today and how it might adapt as we face an uncertain and evolving future.
The ideas in the book present us with an opportunity to reflect on how the pandemic has accelerated the transformation in higher education and determine how to apply this learning here at Owens as we work together to create our new strategic plan this academic year.
Higher education remains the most reliable means to socio-economic mobility. We need to actualize results from our evaluation of how to meet the needs of current and prospective students. What are the emerging needs and how do we become poised to meet those needs in order to remain true to our vision to be the educator of choice.
Although there are many questions that still need to be answered, Owens already has many advantages. We offer certificates and workforce micro-credentials and have the ability to pivot quickly. In addition, we are investing in infrastructure, implementing a new Enterprise Resource Platform to move ahead in the IT and “Big Data” areas that will put us in a favorable position to facilitate data-informed decision-making even more.
The Great Upheaval discusses how higher education is more important than ever. The book facilitated meaningful dialogue on how Owens – and higher education as a whole – has operated in the past and what the future can hold. I can’t think of a better way to spend some time in the summer, especially leading up to strategic planning this fall. Together we can continue to build a bright future for our students and our region.
Dione D. Somerville, Ed.D.
Posted on July 21st, 2022
As the daughter of an Army veteran from the Korean War era, I often think of our veterans and active duty military in July as we celebrate our country’s independence. I am so grateful to those who have and continue to sacrifice for our freedoms, and I am proud to lead Owens Community College, which has a deep commitment to our veterans, our military and their families.
Owens has ties to the military dating back to before our opening. The Rossford Army Ordnance Depot once occupied a site on our Toledo-area Campus. From 1942 until 1945, the Depot served as a distribution center for military vehicles during World War II. Following the War, the Depot remained a major site for military vehicles and expanded its mission to include tool storage and distribution. An Ohio Historical Society marker commemorates the location.
Our outreach to the people who serve or have served our great nation started when we opened in 1965, and we have continued to refine and advance our services for veterans and their families ever since. Today Owens serves more than 500 military-affiliated students each year.
Owens was recognized as a state leader in veterans’ services when in May the State of Ohio announced its inaugural class of Collegiate Purple Star Campuses, and included Owens Community College. Ohio is home to more than 848,000 veterans – the sixth largest population of veterans in the United States, and was the first state to recognize Purple Star Campuses.
Also in May, we were honored to partner with AMVETS Post 21 to host The Wall That Heals, a three-quarter scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial along with a mobile Education Center at our Findlay-area Campus. The Wall That Heals honors the more than three million Americans who served in the U.S. Armed forces in the Vietnam War and it bears the names of the 58,281 men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam.
Our dedicated Office of Veterans Services is located in Veterans Hall and services are available at both of our campus locations to provide services to military-affiliated students. Navy veteran Sharron Pappas leads our Veterans office, where she and her staff help veterans transition to higher education, achieve personal goals and acclimate to civilian life. Out of respect for their service, we provide several exclusive benefits for student veterans, including waived fees, priority registration and more.
Our military-affiliated students also have an opportunity to get involved in the Owens Student Veterans Organization (SVO), which is registered with the national Student Veterans of America. Student veterans have the option to apply for scholarships through the SVO.
Our support extends beyond our campuses. Since 2013, Owens has proudly sponsored community events tied to veterans’ initiatives, such as the Toledo Walleye and the Toledo Mud Hens military appreciation events. In addition, we’ve created robust online communities through our Facebook and Instagram pages.
I hope you’ll join us in saluting our veterans, active military and their families. To learn more about our veteran services, visit our Veterans Services page on the Owens website.
Dione D. Somerville, Ed.D.
Posted on June 15th, 2022
It was most exciting to celebrate our new graduates, including our first Hope Toledo Scholar, during our commencement ceremonies here at Owens last month. Commencement is truly one of my favorite times of year — it represents so much of what we work toward as an institution of higher education. The ceremonies also inspired me to look back and take the opportunity to reflect on the conclusion of my own first year as president.
I could not be prouder of the progress we’ve made together this year and of all the plans we have for the years ahead. The following points of pride from the 2021-22 academic year only begin to tell our story, knowing that Owens has a meaningful impact on its faculty, staff, students and all of northwest Ohio.
We’ve strengthened our partnerships with Toledo Public Schools and other K-12 systems, ensuring younger students have clear pathways toward the postsecondary goals they want to achieve. Owens is committed to making the transition from high school to college as seamless as possible for all those who aspire to earn a college degree, certificate or workforce training.
When students get to Owens, we want to make sure they experience an immediate sense of belonging, no matter their background or affiliation. That holds true for our faculty and staff as well. The launch of the landmark Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Task Force marked a formalized commitment for the Owens community and emphasizes our ongoing commitment to ensuring everyone has a place on our campuses and in our programs.
Last month, we were also honored to be named among the state’s inaugural Collegiate Purple Star Campuses. Ohio is the first to recognize leaders for military-affiliated students and veterans in this fashion. I am deeply proud of this testament to the commitment Owens has offered for years in support of these communities.
Now that more faculty and students are back to in-person instruction and learning, they are able to more fully take advantage of our state-of-the-art training facilities. Many of these facilities have received outstanding support from our surrounding communities. We celebrated the naming of the Frankel Dentistry Dental Lab at the Toledo-area Campus, with honoree Dr. Jonathan Frankel and his family in attendance, back in March.
Owens continues to make a name for itself in the field of advanced manufacturing education. The $9.6 million, 59,000-square-foot Dana Center opened in October at our Toledo-area Campus and offers technical training in advanced manufacturing and other skilled trades. The long-awaited dedication of the Gene Haas Computer Numeric Control (CNC) Machining Lab at the Dana Center was held in May of this year. The lab features specialized, hands-on training tools for students pursuing various degrees and certificates, including Applied Engineering Technology, CAD Technology, Skilled Trades Mechanical, Tool & Die/Mold Making, Welding and more.
Another big accomplishment was the formal initiation of planning for the Center for Advanced Manufacturing and Logistics, a first-of-its-kind intercollegiate partnership with our partners at Bowling Green State University and the University of Findlay. Our three very different institutions have come together to establish a unified entity so students can pursue the degrees and certificates that best align with their career goals and connect with regional employers in need of their skills.
Alongside leaders from both universities, I had the opportunity to present on all of the collaboration that is going into the Center’s creation at this year’s American Association of Community Colleges Annual Conference in a session entitled “How Intercollegiate Partners Align Higher Ed & Workforce Training.”
Also at the AACC Annual, we celebrated Professor of English Jen Hazel’s selection for the 2022 Dale P. Parnell Faculty Distinction Recognition, a highly competitive and well-deserved national award for her commitment to students in and beyond the classroom. Professor Hazel’s work is also emblematic of so many faculty and staff at Owens who have dedicated their careers to the pursuit of excellence, all to benefit our students and the communities we serve. With this foundation, we will dig deeper, innovate and meet challenges head-on.
All of these new beginnings benefit greatly from our many community partnerships, especially those with regional employers like Amazon and those employers who participate in the Regional Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (RAMP). The results speak for themselves: Owens graduates are more prepared than ever to secure good jobs with career-ready skillsets, and employers have access to a strong pipeline of local talent.
Last but hardly least — and possibly most fun — has been the launch of my “Conversations” podcast, a monthly in-depth interview with engaging local and state voices on the intersections of college and community across northwest Ohio. We’ve already released three episodes with more on the way, produced by Owens Student Media Center Station Manager Herbey Atkinson ’17 and with original music by Josh Jump ’21.
As we look toward the 2022 Fall Semester and the new strategic planning process, we have a lot to inspire us in the year ahead! Enjoy your summer, and thank you for an unforgettable first year at Owens Community College.
Dione D. Somerville, Ed.D.
Posted on May 18th, 2022
One of the hallmarks of my first year as Owens Community College president was a series of listening sessions with employees and community partners designed to help me learn more about Owens and to shape our plans for the future.
We received positive feedback in these sessions that the College has much to celebrate, starting with offering quality, affordable education and career training options aligned with regional economic needs. And while this list could go on, it’s clear we can do so much more to serve our community and our students. We cannot – we must not – remain stagnant.
We have listened, and we will pursue these focused changes that will impact the broader community and move Owens forward:
- Streamlining our processes;
- Reaching underserved populations; and
- Beginning steps to establish a Lucas County presence.
One thing that came up during the listening sessions was the need to make our services more straightforward and accessible for students. While we cannot compromise our attention to specific standards or compliance requirements, we are continuing to evaluate processes.
We want to be an indispensable partner in serving all the students who need us, and this is an area where we will continue to strive for streamlined experiences.
Visibility to More Potential Students
Completing postsecondary education often involves overcoming many barriers, especially for those who need socioeconomic mobility the most. Over the years, it has become more, not less, complicated for our students. Affording college is no longer just a matter of qualifying for a Pell Grant or other funding, as it might have been in earlier generations. Many Owens students are already coming from situations where enrollment and tuition are only the first hurdles to clear in their journeys. We envision a future where issues like housing security, childcare and other basic needs don’t stop someone from getting the education they want and need and that the regional economy demands.
To achieve that, we have to be sure our courses and programs fit seamlessly into complicated lives. It also means working with community organizations that can ensure students have options for shelter, healthcare and support beyond what our institution is able to provide. These types of relationships are essential as we advance our mission to provide not only a quality education but also one that is ever more accessible, affordable and relevant in today’s changing job market.
We have a responsibility to seek out potential students, especially those for whom a degree or new credential would offer real financial and career opportunity. The mission of community colleges is rooted in the principle of economic inclusion. We are a ladder to family-sustaining wages for so many who would otherwise live in or near poverty.
Forty-one percent of our students are from Lucas County, part of which constitutes one of the poorest congressional districts in the country. Across our service district, which encompasses Lucas, Wood and Hancock counties as well as parts of Ottawa and Sandusky counties, higher educational attainment is relatively low in areas where it’s needed most.
We have a history of satellite locations in Lucas County with various levels of success. More recently, we’ve heard from a lot of stakeholders that we should consider a new Lucas County presence. Let me assure you that we are giving careful attention to this feedback. Moving forward with this plan allows us to further live our mission by reaching potential students in a location that eliminates barriers to their enrollment and increasing the numbers of trained and educated individuals needed to fuel the growing economy in our region and state.
A data-informed approach is required to maximize opportunities for all involved. We plan to hire a consultant later this year to conduct a feasibility study and help guide the process. Before we can acquire space, hire professors or fill classrooms, we need to understand how we can best serve the specific needs of Lucas County and of Toledo as a city. We want to fill a critical gap by choosing the right location or locations; we want to ensure a strategic approach and will do so enthusiastically and with intention.
A Strategic Vision
As we launch the strategic planning process this fall, you’ll see these themes and others that emerged from this year’s listening sessions take shape. Please continue to engage with my office and our leadership. We’ll be conducting outreach as part of the planning process, including community visits and more listening sessions.
It took many community partners to help identify these themes, including our incredibly supportive Board of Trustees and Foundation Board of Directors. They could not be stronger advocates for our mission. I’m proud to say our biggest strength is our people. As I approach my one-year anniversary as president, I look forward to all we’ll continue to achieve together.
Dione D. Somerville, Ed.D.
Posted on April 27th, 2022
This and every April, we’re honored to recognize not only Owens but all the nation’s community colleges. As institutions of opportunity, we have the power to help transform the economic trajectory of millions of students across the country. We contribute to vibrant regional economies and thriving communities.
Ohio Department of Higher Education Chancellor Randy Gardner has a bird’s-eye view of what our state’s community colleges are accomplishing for our students and regions as a whole. A former schoolteacher, Chancellor Gardner was appointed by Governor Mike DeWine in January 2019 after a long career as a legislator whose districts always included Owens. Beyond that, he also has some personal ties to the Express community — both his wife, Sandy, and his son, Brooks, are Owens graduates.
That makes Chancellor Gardner the perfect first guest for my new podcast. Our in-depth conversation started with his Owens connections, not only personally but also as a leader who oversees Ohio’s 23 community colleges, as well as 112 other campuses and institutions across the Buckeye State.
The Chancellor shared his son’s experience as an example of the value of community college. Brooks Gardner finished high school knowing he wanted to earn a bachelor’s degree in finance, so he first completed an associate degree at Owens before transferring to Bowling Green State University and graduating into a career in Toledo.
“The credits matched up perfectly,” Chancellor Gardner recalled, “As a state rep and state senator, I always viewed Owens as an important economic development and education leader in the region.” It’s no wonder, as his own family is proof of that!
From there, our discussion turned to the economic power of community colleges — most notably, our role in the recent decision by Intel to locate its new semiconductor production facility in central Ohio. “It’s really an exciting time in Ohio,” he said. “Any CEO who’s thinking about expanding in the greater Midwest has to at least make the phone call to Ohio.”
Chancellor Gardner pointed to how Ohio educational institutions’ shared commitment to partnerships uplift the state and its diverse regions. “We work together to utilize each other’s strengths,” he explained, noting that Owens has been a leader on that front, with our numerous transfer articulation agreements and the new Center for Advanced Manufacturing and Logistics currently being explored. “We have community colleges and adult career centers and even private training centers that are all a part of making sure that we meet that workforce need,” so major companies like Intel can find exactly the workers they need locally.
We also talked about a number of new programs the state has launched to help students, especially those returning learners, come back to campus in ways that make sense for their particular finances, families and career goals. “Our businesses will not be as strong if we don’t have that kind of continual upskilling of our workforce, and community colleges are right in the forefront of that,” Chancellor Gardner said.
All in all, our conversation has something of interest for everyone — and I hope you’ll take a listen.
Share your thoughts with me at firstname.lastname@example.org and stay tuned for our next episode.
Dione D. Somerville, Ed.D.
Posted on March 23rd, 2022
It’s the month of March and most of the sports world wants to talk about basketball. When I was in high school, I loved being a student-athlete who ran cross-country and track. It allowed me to go outdoors and connect with nature in a peaceful and rejuvenating way.
My running led in part to why I chose Ohio Northern University for my own undergraduate education. I was able to run cross-country and track while still concentrating on my academics. Being a student-athlete was a transformational experience. I met new people and traveled the region, which enabled me to see the world from different perspectives. Those views taught me so much and helped shape the person I am today. I got to run, which I loved, and I learned flexibility from my coaches, who encouraged me to run longer distances as a way to help my team win. Even an individual sport like running challenges you to make choices for the good of the team.
The skills that I learned as a student-athlete still serve me every day here at Owens, and I’m so proud to see our own student-athletes carrying that legacy forward in their lives. Being a student-athlete means learning how to excel both in the classroom and on the court or field. These young people develop discipline, dedication and commitment. They emerge with stronger time management, leadership qualities, universal skills, and other strengths valued by professors and employers alike. They intimately understand the link between effort and excellence.
Through the decades, our Owens Express teams have enjoyed a rich history of winning championships, including six national championships and four since the 2018-19 season. The women’s volleyball team won its third straight national championship in November and the women’s basketball team won its first national title two weeks ago. We also see these student-athletes excel where it matters most — in the classroom. They enjoy a special connection to our institution because of their commitment. They make an impact in northwest Ohio as well, cultivating a beautiful “we over me” mentality.
Similar to what you see on other college campuses, just like my days at Ohio Northern, student-athletes provide their fellow students, faculty and staff with a sense of school spirit and pride. They invigorate the community and add benefit to the collective Owens education. With our baseball and softball teams in season, I invite you to attend a game and watch our student-athletes in action! To learn more and find team schedules, visit www.owensexpress.com.
Dione D. Somerville, Ed.D.
Posted on February 21st, 2022
At Owens Community College, it is our responsibility to ensure our diverse student body can complete their education in an environment where everyone can be successful. The recent Zoombombing that occurred during a reception for the Big Read demonstrates why we must continue our work to create a more inclusive community. The goal of the event is to bring awareness of different perspectives and cultures. Four individuals accessed the virtual portion and interrupted it with profanity and racial slurs. We cannot stay silent, particularly when such blatant incidents occur. This is not who we are. The Owens community has long prized equity, and we’ve worked hard to turn that passion into action.
Meaningful steps toward assuring inclusion include our Board of Trustees-approved equity statement and an audit commissioned by my predecessor, Interim President Dr. William K. Balzer, which engaged Bowling Green State University’s equity consulting team. This work led to a series of recommendations for what Owens could do to better incorporate justice, equity, diversity and inclusion (JEDI) considerations into the student experience, facilities access, human resources, fundraising and more.
In response to the consulting team’s feedback, we have created a JEDI task force to develop a strategic plan for equity and inclusion. This plan will help ensure we can fully serve everyone in our community, including potential students who might not find the way to an Owens education on their own. We have a great foundation of past efforts to build upon.
As part of our mission, Owens exists to foster student and community success by providing a high quality and affordable education. That is important, but that is not all. The entirety of our mission statement must not be overlooked. We want our students’ postsecondary experiences to lead to rewarding careers, personal growth, and regional economic strength. Our success must be more than open enrollment and flexible scheduling.
Outcomes matter, on campus and beyond. We will fail our community and its economy if all we can do is offer classes to students, some of whom may ultimately never complete their postsecondary goals. We must build an environment where every member of our service district can feel like they belong and thrive.
Wood County has less than 3 percent unemployment right now. That means people can find jobs, but without the right educational credentials it will be more difficult for them to secure positions that pay family-sustaining wages or create the socioeconomic mobility that community colleges were founded to provide.
Our forthcoming JEDI strategic plan will help change that, starting with tying our success to student outcomes and touching every area of the institution along the way.
To learn more and join us in this journey, visit our JEDI page on the Owens website.
Dione D. Somerville, Ed.D.
Posted on January 26th, 2022
When I joined Owens as president last June, one of my first priorities was to learn what our students, faculty, staff and partners need most from this institution. Since then, every day has been a joy and a privilege working to address our collective needs, exceed expectations, and together, make this College a hub of education, training and opportunity for northwest Ohio.
In our conversations, the values of the Owens community came through loud and clear. Our strengths and opportunities remain – and will continue to be – rooted in our people. From student and faculty connections to the transfer agreements and employer partnerships we maintain with local institutions, relationships are at the heart of what makes Owens a driver of student success and economic growth.
And for our faculty and staff, we continue to seek ways to expand communication and engagement and demonstrate appreciation for all you do to support our students. We recognize your dedication and see your commitment.
Above all, these listening sessions affirmed, reinforced and amplified the points that participants raised – both college-wide concerns and shared praise. People across the board remain incredibly passionate about our mission and our community, and it’s clear that the Owens experience is an overwhelmingly positive one.
At some of the listening sessions, we discussed the concept of a College Forum, a monthly opportunity to assure communication, engagement and inclusion among the College’s senior leadership, faculty and staff. Agendas will include substantive college matters – like strategic enrollment management, planning and capital requests – as well as informational items to help assure transparency and involvement throughout our institution. After additional vetting last semester, we are launching the College Forum in February. I encourage all members of the College community to look for more information in future editions of ONews.
Equity and Inclusion
Following the development and adoption of our Equity Statement by the Board of Trustees on February 2, 2021, Owens engaged the Bowling Green State University Equity Consulting Team to conduct an Equity Audit of our college. The report stated key recommendations to engender a more inclusive college environment for both students and employees. From human resources strategies to updated fundraising, sustainability and communications models to a more accessible campus, the actions we take based on these findings will help make Owens a more inclusive place for all. To assure continued progress, we are creating the Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Task Force, an ad hoc team charged with developing an Inclusion Strategic Plan for Owens. The Task Force’s work will begin this semester and continue to align with and help guide the College’s overall strategic planning efforts to begin in Fall Semester 2022.
Community Outreach and Partnerships
Our 2021 Fall Semester was perhaps defined more than anything by our community outreach and the partnerships we strengthened along the way. The launch of the new Dana Incorporated Advanced Manufacturing Training Center generated many of these, as did our MOU with the University of Findlay and Bowling Green State University to explore the creation of the Center for Advanced Manufacturing and Logistics.
In addition, we are now officially part of the Amazon Career Choice program, meaning that Owens is now a sanctioned educational provider for full-time associates and staff taking our courses for credit. Additionally, Owens has placed significant effort to engage business and industry independently and through partners such as JobsOhio. We’re excited to create more career pathways for our students going forward.
We have also been actively engaging our K-12 partners by meeting with several area superintendents. As part of deepening our partnership with Toledo Public Schools, we’ve continued to expand our relationship with the Toledo Technology Academy to offer certificates and even an associate degree in design and technical studies. We have also been meeting with the Toledo Pre-Medical and Health Science Academy and are working to align our avionics program. Many of these offerings are made possible through College Credit Plus, assuring that high school students are able to earn college credit for college coursework while in high school, putting them on a quicker – and more affordable – path to higher education, career and the workforce.
All of our efforts outlined above speak directly to Owens’ commitment to support and help drive economic development throughout our region and the state, providing opportunities and streamlined pathways for individuals to launch their careers and for employers to hire and retain talent.
Fundraising, Gifts, Grants and Capital Planning
Earlier this month, we welcomed Dr. Melissa Starace as the Interim Executive Director of the Owens Community College Foundation. Dr. Starace’s expertise and background will be instrumental as we assess our needs in advancement and chart our path forward. We celebrated a strong year in annual giving, with alumni contributing a record $290,875. Employee giving also increased to 34 percent in 2021, and our employees gave $55,775. Our signature fundraising event, the Owens Community College Foundation Golf Classic raised $71,509 and the Dana Center capital campaign reached $1.8 million. To end the calendar year, we were honored to accept an $80,000 gift from Frankel Dentistry to name our Dental Hygiene Lab.
In addition to our philanthropic efforts, Owens is the proud recipient of several major grants:
- A $232,050 TRIO EOC grant will provide services for low-income students.
- A $102,839 RAPIDS grant will be used for equipment to train in CNC machining, process controls and welding technology.
- A $102,800 campus safety grant will be used to install a remote locking system on the Center for Performing Arts.
- A $95,000 Gates Foundation grant will be used for our Fast Track program.
- A $186,966 Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE) grant will allow students to complete short-term certificates in business, health, skilled trades, manufacturing and pre-apprenticeships.
- $278,100 in Choose Ohio First scholarships will go to first-year students enrolled in STEM programs.
- $100,000 from ODHE will support advanced manufacturing on the Findlay campus.
Looking ahead, our capital requests have taken shape into a six-year proposal to support renovations, notably for the School of Nursing and Health Professions, Alumni Hall, and the Findlay-area campus, as well as in the health and transportation technologies departments and the Center for Emergency Preparedness (CEP).
Strategic Enrollment Management Plan
We are proud to have completed Owens’ first Strategic Enrollment Management Plan this summer and presented to the Board of Trustees at the meeting on October 5, 2021. Strategies and tactics from this plan began being implemented in Spring Semester 2021 and will continue through 2023. The plan will be shared with the broader College community at the College Forum in February and at the Center for Teaching Innovation in March. The Plan focuses on the 3 Rs – recruitment, retention and revenue – and aims to increase our targeted student population while improving retention and completion.
There’s no question our Findlay-area campus has deserved greater attention, and my 2021 listening sessions reinforced that knowledge. That’s why we launched the Owens-Findlay Task Force, charged with submitting a proposal for the Findlay-area Campus that includes a discussion of recommended academic programs, enrollment projections, a cost-benefit analysis and a discussion of relevant data and other supporting information. The task force submitted their report prior to the holiday break and their recommendations are being analyzed. We look forward to sharing next steps with the College and community.
Looking ahead to the rest of 2022 and beyond, I remain excited about where Owens is heading. From continued engagement with partners and the community to seeing the completion of several meaningful College-wide task forces, we as an institution are thriving. I am honored to have been appointed to area boards including the Regional Growth Partnership, Raise the Bar Hancock County and the Toledo Museum of Art. I look forward to my continued participation with these organizations! As we begin to look to finalize the work we began in this academic year, we also must look ahead to the next where we will begin our new strategic planning process and continue to strengthen and grow our partnerships. We will also launch the Owens-Toledo Task Force to recommend a physical presence in the City of Toledo, meeting the needs of students and strengthening our presence in Lucas County.
As always, we value your input! Like I said, our biggest strength as a college is the people who make Owens a community.
Happy New Year!
Dione D. Somerville, Ed.D.
Posted on December 16th, 2021
This Friday, it will be my privilege to host the 41st Owens Community College Fall Commencement. This will be my first Commencement as president of the College, and I am so excited to celebrate our newly minted graduates.
Congratulations to all! Though we’re deeply proud of every class, the last two years have required perseverance through uniquely challenging circumstances. Making it to the finish line today in the face of a global pandemic and all that has wrought is a particularly tremendous achievement, and we salute each and every graduate.
Commencement is one of my favorite parts of a semester along with the first day of classes. Together, these dates connect access to completion, symbolizing the most important things we do as a community college. We ensure that students can capitalize on the opportunity for quality, affordable, flexible higher education, and seeing so many succeed is truly a gift that comes with working in higher education.
An Owens degree is a milestone achievement. It exists as an opportunity for anyone motivated to earn it – regardless of age, educational background, financial or housing status, or family situation – and our Fall 2021 alumni prove how beautifully Owens provides a path for so many people from all walks of life.
Success comes in many forms and for many reasons at Owens. I want to congratulate our NJCAA Division III Volleyball National Champions – including National Coach of the Year Sonny Lewis, National Tournament MVP Maddie White, and First Team All-Americans McKenna Babcock and White – on their stellar achievements.
Looking ahead to the new year, we want to continue these inseparable traditions of excellence and access. We are working with an engaging program called ReUp to help more students who have paused their education to come back to campus on their own terms. Whether individuals need study tips, financial assistance or a clearer path toward their degree, everyone in the Owens family wants to help them succeed. To learn more about the ReUp program and how its coaching programs work, click here.
Along with our peers in the Ohio Association of Community Colleges, we are also keeping a close eye on legislation pending before Ohio’s legislature, House Bill 368. If passed, this bill would pave the way for school districts to weight high school Advanced Placement (AP) courses differently than College Credit Plus (CCP) courses. CCP courses are high quality, accredited and rigorous. Completion of a CCP course means that a high school student has earned college credit. CCP courses provide high school students with a faster, more affordable route to higher education.
Allowing these courses to be designated as quantitatively “lesser than” AP courses would stigmatize more than 77,000 students annually, undermine their $155.7 million in tuition savings, and reduce opportunities for low-income students across the state – including here at Owens.
We are proud to accept CCP courses as the foundation for an associate degree from Owens and an economical path to quality higher education. This program as is allows for more commencements to happen. Owens will continue to work with our partners to not only protect, but to expand CCP so that more members of our community can get a head start on higher education.
Looking ahead to 2022 and beyond, I’m eager to see what our new alumni will do next. Their Owens credential is a marker of their determination and expertise, and it opens so many doors. As our more than 40,000 alumni in northwest Ohio can attest, Owens is a big part of what makes our region vibrant – and we are always here for our graduates as they take that education out into the world.
Congratulations again, and see you the new year!
Dione D. Somerville, Ed.D.
Posted on November 18th, 2021
As we approach Thanksgiving and the many reasons to celebrate this holiday season, I want to express my own gratitude for the meaningful gestures of welcome and collaboration I have experienced since returning to Ohio.
First and foremost, I want to thank the dedicated faculty and staff at Owens who so selflessly serve our community each day, working to fulfill our mission to provide a high quality and affordable education that leads to rewarding careers, personal growth and regional economic strength. Whether you are in the classroom, running our facilities or providing direct student support, we could not be who we are without you. I’m sure many Owens employees have gratitude for their co-workers. To recognize a fellow employee or even an entire department, click here to submit a “Giving Thanks” message through our Human Resources department. My thanks to Human Resources for organizing this effort.
One of the best parts of Owens is our students. It can be challenging to build a sense of belonging at a community college when so many of our students have busy lives and are juggling multiple responsibilities. But Owens is different. My interactions with students are the bright spots of my day, and I was particularly impressed with our students’ Halloween costume contest and the open forum with the administration. These student-led events show our students’ leadership skills, creativity and commitment to the College.
November is also a month when we honor our veterans and military families who have made great sacrifices for our country. I was excited to attend the Walleye’s Military Appreciation Night last week and am eager to learn more about the new Student Veterans Organization that is forming here at the College. On behalf of all of us at Owens, we thank our veterans for their service. If you’re a veteran and missed this month’s Student Veterans newsletter, please take a look here.
Outside the immediate Owens community and across northwest Ohio, I am energized to see our peer institutions as well as K-12, business and civic leaders embrace opportunities to partner for the good of the region. Owens has most recently engaged with Bowling Green State University and the University of Findlay in a historic partnership to explore the development of a new Center for Advanced Manufacturing and Logistics. Operating from our Findlay-area Campus, the Center will be designed to support northwest Ohio’s economic growth by producing skilled workers to fill in-demand jobs in the advanced manufacturing and logistics sectors. In addition to offering a solution to workforce shortages, we envision that the Center will serve as a model for institutions across the state and beyond to emulate.
Indeed, as president of Owens Community College there is much to be thankful for as I look back on these last five months and ahead to 2022. However you experience Owens — whether you are current or former faculty, staff, one of our students, or one of our partners — please know that you bring immense value to the College and are deeply appreciated.
Dione D. Somerville, Ed.D.
Posted on October 20th, 2021
October is the month traditionally set aside for students to begin completing their financial aid forms for the upcoming year and I find myself thinking about the growing economic concerns many community college students grapple with today.
The Community College Research Center at Columbia University reports that according to a November 2020 U.S. Census Bureau survey, compared to households with four-year college students, households with community college students more frequently reported that “affordability/financial aid changed” as a reason for altering postsecondary plans. What is so concerning about this situation is that there are several resources available to assist students who need financial help, especially here at Owens, yet these resources often go untapped.
For example, Owens offers a wide range of scholarships to help students complete a degree program without having to take on significant debt. These scholarships may be based on financial need, academic merit, or even a specific area of interest.
Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) is essential to obtaining money that often does not have to be repaid (think Pell Grants). Yet a significant proportion of our students who may otherwise qualify do not apply as early as possible to receive as much aid as they can. That’s if they apply at all. According to our Fall Enrollment Trend Dashboard, nearly half (47%) of our students have no FAFSA on file.
I believe many students simply don’t know how to address the challenge of finding financial support for school or they assume it is not available for them. Fortunately, Owens offers free workshops led by Student Financial Services Advisors ready to help with completing the FAFSA. In fact, there are workshops still available this month for those who would like to register.
The Pell Grant and scholarships are just a couple of resources available to make college more affordable. The College Credit Plus program is another excellent way to reduce the cost of attending Owens. By participating in Ohio’s dual enrollment program, students in grades 7-12 can earn college and high school credits at the same time. For students already in the workforce, many employers offer tuition remission or will pay for training in some of the technical programs we offer.
To Owens students I say this: The process of filling out forms can be daunting. But there is funding available. You may find out that you qualify for enough to cover the cost of tuition and fees. Sometimes it may not be enough. However, even if you don’t believe you’re eligible for anything at all, then the most you’ve sacrificed is about an hour of your time. Once you fill out the first FAFSA, the hard work is done, and you only need to update it for subsequent years. Why wouldn’t you when you stand so much to gain? And you know that caring people here at Owens can assist you if you have questions.
Dispel the myth that the only way through school is to take on substantial debt, especially here at Owens. Remember: Those who engage in post-secondary education will earn more and are less likely to be unemployed. The difference is thousands per year and exponentially more over your lifetime. This opportunity is too large to leave unaddressed.
Owens is here to help. As always, I believe in your success. I am rooting for you.
Dione D. Somerville, Ed.D.
Posted on September 23rd, 2021
As the College marks its annual transition into fall, I am reflecting on my first 100 days as president. It is clear that Owens has a deep commitment to the region it serves, and the pride of the many stakeholders whom I’ve met is on full display, as brilliant as Ohio’s annual autumn colors.
Owens is fortunate to have so many supporters who actively promote its mission to provide students with an education that is both high quality and affordable. I think about the comments I’ve heard from people in passing as well as the deep conversations I’ve had about Owens’ standing in the community and feel the tremendous meaning this institution has to the future of northwest Ohio. It is refreshing to know a region and its people are united in the belief that providing access to rewarding careers and personal growth benefits us all.
As we continue to adapt, we must evaluate priorities to better serve our students, business and industry, and our community partners. Vital input during my first 100 days and beyond is spotlighting a path to a shared vision for the future upon which we will rely to take advantage of opportunities.
During these initial days, you have reinforced within me the responsibility we have to continue to listen to one another. It is powerful to hear from faculty and staff who have helped so many achieve their full potential. We will need to work together to facilitate our students becoming the best version of themselves on their journey through higher education.
Thank you for making me feel so welcome over these past few months. You inspire me to do my best to preserve Owens’ legacy for future generations. I’m grateful for your participation in our fall listening sessions and value your feedback concerning your experiences at Owens so far.
Dione D. Somerville, Ed.D.
Posted on August 10th, 2021
Summer is winding down and we are busily transitioning to an exciting Fall Semester here at Owens. I want to welcome each and every one of you to what I’m sure will be an extraordinary year at both our campuses. It will mark my first full academic term at Owens, and I am truly excited about what the year holds.
I especially want to recognize the newest members of our community. Whether you are a new student or employee, we are so glad you are here! I know you will quickly feel as welcome as I have during your first few weeks at the College.
As we look with anticipation to the new semester, I’ve been hearing from many of you about the things you are most looking forward to, especially the ability to reconnect at upcoming events. It is clear you have great pride in what we offer at Owens and are eager to share these traditions and programs with others.
It was refreshing, for example, to be able to host an event for our first Artist in Residence, Beth Genson, whose beautiful work, “The Heavens and Earth,” is showing in the Terhune Art Gallery. I know how proud our Department of Fine and Performing Arts is to have such an accomplished artist interact with students this year.
In other areas of our campus, new academic programs are renewing passion and enthusiasm for what an education at Owens really means for our students. Did you know that Owens now offers a new Craft Beverage Certificate? This unique program delivers necessary training for those interested in a career in the brewing and wine industry, with hands-on learning into the step-by-step process. Of course, you must be over 21 to enroll.
In addition, we are focused on improving the student experience through interdisciplinary collaboration. In the School of Nursing and Health Professions, our allied programs produce graduates who are trained to maneuver nimbly across disciplines, from surgical technology to radiology to medical assisting. Through training in quality, patient-centered care as a team, our students are acquiring needed skills for high-demand and high-paying jobs in the region.
Owens offers more than 70 majors and certificate programs and no matter which program you choose to pursue, you will find dedicated faculty and staff who bring to the classroom their industry knowledge, passion for education and commitment to excellence. We are here to support you on your way to a successful career from the moment you graduate. All of us are rooting for you! As always, I’m eager to receive your ongoing feedback and hope you will participate in our fall listening sessions. I cannot wait for this new semester to begin!
Dione D. Somerville, Ed.D.
Posted on July 15th, 2021
I’m only a month into my tenure as president, but my appreciation for just how beloved this institution really is has only grown since my blog post at the start of my first week at Owens.
Numerous community partners and leaders in education, philanthropy, government, and other sectors have provided excellent feedback as I have sought to better understand the needs of the community and how Owens can meet them. Owens pride became quickly evident as I began meeting with those who expressed their interest in seeing the College continue to succeed.
In fact, I recently remarked to long-time foundation board members and trustees how impressed I was with the positivity surrounding Owens. There appears to be a genuine embrace of the school as a partner with whom stakeholders are ready to engage for the good of the region.
Several conversations have focused on partnering for student success. There are clearly many people who believe in the mission of community colleges and, more specifically, the mission of Owens and how it benefits our region. Among the most exciting developments is new grant funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which will allow Owens and Stark State Community College, in partnership with the Ohio Association of Community Colleges, to continue important initiatives to facilitate our students’ pathways to and through higher education.
It reinforces that there exists an enormous opportunity for Owens and other community colleges across the country as we slowly begin to transition into what we hope is our post-pandemic world. If there is a silver lining to come out of the pandemic, it may be that it forced many of us to rethink what was truly important. For some, it raised awareness that higher salaries and more attention to work-life balance were not only possible, but critical.
There are those who ventured forth to discover new paths in the wake of the pandemic, but not everyone was that fortunate. Many Americans were, and still are, stuck in low-wage jobs with few benefits that barely meet the rising costs of food and housing. Potential exposure to the virus and the challenges of mentoring children no longer able to attend in-person classes provided nearly continuous sources of stress for many.
Community colleges still present an incredible option for people of all ages and backgrounds seeking to embark on a new career path. Regardless of whether a student chooses short-term training, courses to transfer, an associate’s degree from a community college or chooses to go straight into a four-year university, there is room for all of us at the table. As a matter of fact, I believe we are all essential given the different strengths we all bring. Educational opportunities, no matter how they may manifest, always boost the region. There’s a lot of energy and momentum around the I-75 corridor, and the innovation and collaboration make me eager to see what the future will bring. As always, I’m open to your ongoing feedback about the trajectory we are on, and I am so appreciative of your support!
Dione D. Somerville, Ed.D.
Posted on June 14th, 2021
It is my distinct pleasure to mark this first week at Owens Community College with the first of what I anticipate will be many entries into the President’s Blog.
My goal is simple: To share my perspective and a shared vision for Owens, as well as the progress we are marking toward that vision.
But first, a heartfelt thank you to the Owens Board of Trustees for selecting me as the eighth president of this remarkable institution, and also to the members of the college community who have gone out of their way to make me feel so welcome. Thanks also to interim president Dr. Balzer for his willingness to aid in a smooth presidential transition.
I would be remiss not to also mention my gratitude to the students, faculty and staff for working so diligently throughout the challenges of this past year. Although I was not yet on this campus, as a 27-year veteran of higher education, I am certain you confronted some of the same demands to adapt and develop resilience as the rest of us did. I applaud Owens’ students for their commitment during trying times, and to the faculty and staff who helped them get through.
Even as the immediate threats of the pandemic subside, we must practice due diligence and take care of one another. Campus life is slowly becoming more vibrant. Let’s now look hopefully toward the future, bringing the many lessons we learned forward. I will be looking for creative ways to connect with you and welcome your input. If you’d like, you may choose to follow me on the official President’s Twitter account; my handle is @OwensPresident.
For me, coming to Owens is like a return home. I have so many fond memories of my time in northwestern Ohio as an undergrad at Ohio Northern University, as a grad student at Bowling Green State University, and during my assistantship at the University of Findlay.
I’m excited to engage with you in the weeks and months ahead as I listen, learn and acclimate to new surroundings. During this time of transition, I ask for your patience and encourage your feedback. Finally, I am delighted to partner with you as we help create the future our students envision for themselves and live up to our promise: Your Success Starts Here at Owens Community College.
Dione D. Somerville, Ed.D.