President's Blog

Giving Thanks

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.

Dione D. Somerville, Ed.D.

Making College Affordable

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.

Dione D. Somerville, Ed.D.

Fall Reflections on the First 100 Days

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.

Dione D. Somerville, Ed.D.

Welcome Back to Owens!

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.

Dione D. Somerville, Ed.D.

One Month In: Excited for the Future

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.

Dione D. Somerville, Ed.D.


A Personal Message as I Start My Tenure

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.