Janet Gullickson is loving her time as the newest President of Germanna Community College.
Appointed president in April, Gullickson has been busy familiarizing herself with the area that Germanna serves and becoming enamored with the people she has met along the way.
“What I love about this college are the locations of it,” Gullickson said. “I love that we serve the growing suburban area to D.C. I love that we serve rural areas as well.”
Gullickson has presided over two community colleges previously, including as the president of Spokane Falls Community College from 2012 until this year, and as the president of Front Range Community College in Westminster, CO between 2004 and 2005. She was also the interim president and provost in Minnesota of what is now called the Northeast Higher Education District, which includes Ely, Eveleth and Virginia.
She holds a doctorate in education from the University of Minnesota, a master’s degree from South Dakota State University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Dakota.
Since joining Germanna, the community college was selected as one of 150 community colleges in the country to compete for a $1 million Community College Excellence prize from the Aspen Institute, an educational and policy studies organization.
It’s the dedication of the staff and the effort of the students that has helped keep Germanna successful, she said.
“We have wonderful faculty, we have really outstanding teachers who care about teaching and learning and care about students graduating,” Gullickson said.
One of the key efforts Germanna has been at the forefront of is workforce development. Gullickson pointed out that many people who have skilled jobs are retiring in the next five years and it’s the responsibility of the community colleges to prepare their replacements.
“We have a fabulous workforce program and a complete array of workforce career technical programs, certificates and apprenticeships,” Gullickson said.
She admits that in the past, the concept of learning hasn’t always been addressed for each individual, that it was more of a one size fits all mentality. Now, she sees a shift in that philosophy that Germanna is leading.
“The way we traditionally think of higher ed works for about a quarter of the population,” Gullickson said. “The other three quarters of us learn best by hands on and by participating. When we can offer career and technical education all the way through an associates degree with applied learning, we’re capturing the students who may not have enjoyed a purely baccalaureate education. We need them in the workplace.”
She pointed to the nursing program at Germanna’s Locust Grove campus as a testament to the hands on experience, noting that students work with simulations to recreate giving birth and medical emergencies to help prepare them for their careers.
Gullickson praised the local businesses and organizations that team with Germanna to help provide students with an experienced instructor to learn from.
“All of our faculty that have hands on clinicals or experiences, work directly with the facilities or businesses,” Gullickson said. “We use our workforce development staff and our faculty to build those relationships so that we have those experiences for our students. Without the businesses and the partnerships, we wouldn’t be able to do it.”
One of the partnerships Gullickson praised was the one with Culpeper County Public Schools and superintendent Tony Brads.
“One of the interesting conversations we’re having in Culpeper with Dr. (Tony) Brads is how we can partner with them on the career and technical high school they’re going to open,” Gullickson said. “We are moving forward on leasing them (Culpeper County) the land for $1 a month. We’re so excited about co-locating on a campus. Where we leave off, they can pick up.”
Germanna enrolls about 13,000, including workforce students. There are 2,500 students at Locust Grove and another 1,000 in Culpeper with centers in Stafford and Caroline to go along with the main campus in Fredericksburg.
Gullickson said that the college recently completed a strategic planning period, weighing its strengths and weaknesses and addressing the challenges that community colleges in general face in the future.
One of those key issues is how to educate the newer generation who have grown up with technology.
“We have to get ahead of how people will learn,” Gullickson said. “Younger children are the first generation of digital natives. They’ll never have not known a world without smart technology. How do we educate and support them?”
Breaking down barriers for students is another challenge Germanna is addressing, allowing them to work with students who may not have had opportunities in the past.
“All students will be needed to replace older workers,” Gullickson said. “We need to be creative about how we reach students in different ways, it’s all about meeting the needs of all students.”
Gullickson spoke about leaks in the educational pipeline, whether that’s through students dropping out of high school or ones who graduate and don’t go either to a four-year college or to a trade school.
“We have to strengthen getting them through high school, to us and onto their career,” Gullickson said. “What we’re doing with Dr. Brads in the Culpeper area is a great way to help students transition smoothly from high school to college in career and technical education.”
Gullickson touted the affordability of Germanna and other community colleges, pointing out that they can get just as solid an education for $5,000 a year and then transfer those credits to a four-year school if they so desire.
As part of the vision of Germanna, the community college is addressing infrastructure issues – including replacing the building at Locust Grove in the next five years and narrowing the focus of that campus to health while expanding some of the non-health related degrees to the Daniel Technology Center in Culpeper. Germanna is also opening a new center in Stafford that will focus on business, health and cyber security. Gullickson said some of those cyber security courses could be offered in Culpeper as well with video technology.
“I love Culpeper,” Gullickson said. “I feel at home there and people have been astonishing. We have appreciation to the Culpeper community and the partnerships there. The partnerships with the businesses and organizations there have been some of the best of my life.”