Mar 16, 2009
Survivors and Heroes Among Them
FVTC’s Speaker Series brings inspiring and entertaining speakers, and powerful life lessons, to students and the community.
Even the most successful programs can use a bit of tweaking. For Fox Valley Technical College’s Speaker Series, established in the late 1980s, that has meant giving students and faculty more influence in selecting speakers who enhance course content and student life.
After surveying students about topics that interest them, the college’s Student Life staff and Student Activities Committee identify 10 to 15 high-level speakers annually. The student body narrows the list via surveys, and faculty members consult about tying the speakers’ subjects to their coursework.
The Spring 2009 lineup is typical. Drummer, producer, and songwriter Phil Varone shared his story of drug addiction, in hopes of keeping today’s youth out of those traps. Teri Jendusa Nicolai, who related her harrowing ordeal of spousal abuse on ABC’s 20/20, discussed domestic abuse warning signs. The college also welcomed Henry Boone in 2008, the real-life figure played by Denzel Washington in the movie Remember the Titans.
When Paul Rusesabagina, the real-life hero portrayed in the film Hotel Rwanda, spoke in January, among the thousand people packed into FVTC’s Appleton campus commons was Henry Golde. A Holocaust survivor, Golde’s own annual Speaker Series appearance fills to capacity.
For all sessions, attendance is free and student fees fund the speakers.
Help at Hand
Once a volunteer project, FVTC’s student-run IT Helpdesk now provides an exceptional hands-on learning experience.
A few years ago, Beth Calder lost her job in the automotive industry and found herself “sick of going from $10 jobs to $10 jobs.” After considering her options, she decided to return to school, and chose Fox Valley Technical College.
“It was close to home, and I could get a hands-on education,” Calder says, adding that IT was at the top of her list. “I have always enjoyed working with computers, and was told that I was good with them, so I thought, ‘Why not?’ I took five skills tests that tell you what career path to take. IT networking was in the top two on all five.”
So she took the plunge and began working toward an associate degree in the IT Network Specialist
program. It was a big challenge—Calder is married with children. Still, she was so motivated to pursue the challenge that she took on an ambitious volunteer project during the Fall 2007 semester: launching and operating FVTC’s Student IT Helpdesk.
The project addressed two needs: providing additional assistance for students experiencing computer problems, and creating a convenient, hands-on work experience for IT students. She was joined on the project by fellow student Jon Smith, a pairing that turned out to be ideal. “He tended to handle more of the technical side of the project,” says Calder. “I primarily handled the administrative side.”
The pair had to contend with a host of challenges, including finding a physical space on campus, determining what services to provide, recruiting volunteers to staff the Helpdesk, and more. But they persevered and opened the service during the Spring 2008 semester.
Today, it addresses a range of common problems, including slow-running computers, viruses, network connection issues, and basic maintenance. The services are free and the word has spread. In addition, working at the Student Helpdesk is now integrated into the Help Desk Concepts and Customer Service Skills for Help Desk Professionals courses.
“Some students have sent us thank you notes,” Calder says. “They were glad there was a place to go that would not charge a ton of money to fix something they might not otherwise be able to afford.”
For Calder, who is now pursuing a bachelor’s degree online, the experience will fuel her future. “It confirmed that I want to be in a network of computers and people,” she says. “I learned that I can take an idea, put it together with resources, implement it, and problem-solve. There are obstacles, and you have to determine how to get around them.”