No doubt about it: Sauk Valley really is a college

Monday morning was the beginning of Sauk Valley Community College’s Spring 2017 semester. Yes, it is crazy to describe anything as spring on such a frigid and gray day, especially when spring is 10 weeks away, but seeing Sauk’s students, faculty and staff eagerly beginning the semester warmed me more than a sunny day on a Florida beach.

The hallways were filled with students of all ages taking classes ranging from accounting to computers and sociology, in programs ranging from art to nursing and welding. I see these students, knowing many more are still in their pajamas taking Sauk’s online classes, and I feel great pride to be a part of the local college serving the Sauk Valley communities.

But is my pride deserved? Some may doubt whether Sauk really is a college. College, some believe, is a place adults ship their recent high school graduates to for 4 years. It has ivy-covered buildings, marching bands, and weekend parties. It is a bit like Harry Potter’s Hogwarts: a mysterious place far away where students magically grow up under the tutelage of Professors McGonagal and Snape.

No, Sauk does not have ivy-covered buildings (ivy is really bad for a building’s exterior).

No, we do not have a marching band (we do have a great concert band, pep band, and concert choir).

No, we do not have weekend parties on campus (I cannot vouch for what our students do off campus Friday and Saturday nights).

No, we are not a far-off shrouded place (we are just down the road and an open book in everything we do).

And, yes, like at Hogwarts, our faculty work magic with most of our students.

Indeed, Sauk really is a college.

Sauk has the same accreditation as the University of Illinois, Northern Illinois University and Drake University. Under Dr. Steve Nunez’s leadership, Sauk recently got a clean bill of health from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and was commended for the “sound argument” made to assure the regional accrediting agency and the general public that Sauk meets or exceeds all standards of quality required of a college.

The HLC also noted the college has been praised by the Illinois Community College Board for its initiatives.

Sauk’s faculty meet the same high standards as faculty at the most prestigious colleges in the state. All of Sauk’s faculty are experts in their fields. The general education faculty have at least a master’s degree – several have doctorates; the technical faculty have training and real-life experience in their fields.

Just as important, Sauk’s faculty are here because they love to teach. Take, for example, Dr. Amy Jacobson, Sauk’s reigning Outstanding Faculty Award winner. With her doctorate of psychology from Northern Illinois University in hand, Amy’s first goal is to make certain her students learn. She is willing to do whatever is necessary to help students master course materials. She meets with students and is always trying new teaching methods to serve her students better. Teaching is her passion.

Sauk’s general education courses (and many technical courses) transfer to Illinois’ public colleges and most public and private colleges across the country. The state’s General Education Core Curriculum (GECC) guarantees the general education courses at Sauk transfer to 97 Illinois colleges, including all state universities, and they transfer to most colleges throughout the country.

At a fraction of the cost, students can complete the 38-credit GECC and be ready for their junior year of college.

Finally, Sauk’s graduates are successful after they transfer, they are successful at getting gainful employment, and they are successful on the job after becoming employed.

Students transferring from Sauk earn a cumulative grade-point average at 4-year institutions higher than a “B” (3.08). Nearly 70 percent of our graduates are employed in a related field to their program of study, and employers routinely find these graduates to be great employees.

As much as I enjoyed Monday morning, I will enjoy even more the spring evening of May 12 when at Sauk’s commencement, students from throughout the Sauk Valley will be awarded their hard-earned college degrees.

Note to readers: David Hellmich is president of Sauk Valley Community College.

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No doubt about it: Sauk Valley really is a college

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