Celebrating Dr. Susan May: Q and A

Celebrating Dr. Susan May: Q and A

Dr. May set to retire July 31

| By: Daley-Hinkens, Carmelyn M

With President Dr. Susan May set to retire on July 31, we’re taking some time to celebrate her distinguished leadership at Fox Valley Technical College.

Recently, Dr. May took a moment to reflect on her 38 years with FVTC. In this Q&A, she shares some defining moments of her career, what she views as successes, joys and disappointments, and thoughts about what’s next for her and for the college.

Read on, and then enjoy the historical photo gallery below.

What have been some of your key accomplishments?

Dr. May: During my time in executive level roles, I’m proud of the launch of hundreds of new programs and strategic investment proposals for the college. We also saw the growth and development of the college’s customized training for businesses and other organizations, consistently delivering more than 20% of this service within the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS).

When I started, our District regional centers were located in old store fronts, at best. Now they are modern, well-equipped educational facilities that serve as gateways to the communities of Chilton, Clintonville, Waupaca and Wautoma.

We have developed a wide range of partnerships and significant collaboration with a wide range of organizations over the years – Fabick Cat, Service Motor Company, GM, Kubota, Miller Electric, ATW, APICS, Junior Achievement, school districts and many others.

It’s been so exciting to develop several major regional and national training centers: the Public Safety Training Center, FabTech Education Center, Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center, the Health Simulation Training Center and the ATW Airport Rescue and Firefighting Training Center.  The successful capital referendum of 2012 was key to supporting several of these facilities and transformational for the college.

I’m also very proud of the national reach and important impact of our National Criminal Justice Training Center.  Since its inception in 1993, federal grant funding has allowed us to serve hundreds of thousands of professionals in law enforcement and criminal justice with specialized training in areas such as missing and abducted children, internet crimes against children, sex trafficking, community policing, and tribal policing. 

What have been some of your greatest challenges?

Dr. May: As mentioned in my announcement, the impact of the Great Recession that began about three months into my presidency in 2008, the organizational implications of Act 10 state legislation in 2011 and certainly the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020.

The continuous need to build the college’s reputation and combat outdated stereotypes has also been challenging, as has meeting employer needs for skilled employment candidates when demographics and student choices don’t always align with these opportunities.

What have been some of your greatest joys and disappointments?

Dr. May: Our student and graduate stories—and the impact of education on their careers and their families—have always been a great joy, as well as having the opportunity to recognize our great employees for their wonderful accomplishments; and regularly seeing the innovative and creative technical developments by our faculty and staff to enhance learning, such as digital learning modules, use of simulation technology and virtual reality.

My disappointments largely center around the forces that have been working against technical college enrollment in recent years, especially when there are so many local skilled workforce needs. Obtaining any increases in state funding has been a constant battle, even when the ROI of our System is so strong for Wisconsin. And while we have made great strides over the last two decades to build student transfer opportunities with the UW institutions, it is disappointing this isn’t further advanced in the year 2021.

What’s next for Dr. Susan May? And what’s next for FVTC?

Dr. May: I’m looking forward to having some time to actually think about what my next chapter could hold. I don’t have any concrete plans just yet and look forward to the freedom to “smell a few roses” for a moment. I do have some catching up to do with our almost 2-year-old granddaughter, our son and daughter-in-law, my 88-year-old mom and many other family members.  My husband Tim and I are looking forward to spending a good share of the winters in the warmth of Florida. 

I’ve also thought about, at some point, developing and producing a short documentary on the history of FVTC for the benefit of current and new employees in the years ahead.  Since I’ve experienced almost four decades of that history, I think I could bring some value to such a project.

As for FVTC, the college has a strong, innovative and collaborative culture made up of people who are very responsive to needs and opportunities. Effectively addressing our communities’ needs will continue to be an important focus well into the future. We have an exceptional Executive Team I’m confident will continue to be community-oriented servant leaders.

I’m very grateful to everyone who has made my leadership journey such a pleasure and so fulfilling.  It’s been an honor and privilege to serve the people of this region, as well as the many agencies and individuals we’ve served nationally and internationally over the years. 

I’m delighted to turn over the reins of this exceptional organization to my long-time colleague, Dr. Chris Matheny.  Both he and the college are well-positioned and ready to successfully take on the challenges and opportunities in the years ahead.