In this file photo, Dixie Applied Technology College President Kelle Stephens celebrates a milestone in the construction of the college’s new campus at the Ridge Top Complex in St. George, Utah December 7, 2016 | Photo by Julie Applegate, St. George News
ST. GEORGE – After three decades of vocational training and working to improve vocational education in southern Utah, President Kelle Stephens of Dixie Technical College has announced plans to retire following the spring graduation ceremony on the 30th. April.
Stephens met with the board of trustees at a regular board meeting on Wednesday and then shared his announcement with faculty and college staff. Dixie Tech shared the news in a press release that included words of appreciation from current and former chairmen of the board.
To explain why she made the difficult decision to retire, Stephens told St. George News about her yes-no philosophy.
“Over the past 10 years, I’ve made a global commitment and said ‘Yes, yes, yes’ to Dixie Tech,” Stephens said, “which meant I said no to my husband. I said no to my kids and I said no to my grandkids I love college honestly I love everything but I have to put it down and let someone else take it to the next level It’s time for me to start saying yes to my family and some of the other things I want to do.
Passionate about family history, Stephens said she had previously planned a vacation with her husband to visit her grandparents’ homeland, Yugoslavia. When she returns to the United States, she looks forward to finally being able to attend her grandchildren’s lacrosse games and visit her children and grandchildren more often.
Talking about what he will miss the most, Stephens focused on the lost opportunities to make change in the community.
“I’m going to miss being in the inner circle,” Stephens said. “I’m going to be bored of sitting down and talking about challenges and problem solving and being in the know. I wish I didn’t have to let go of this wonderful circle of people in our community that I rub shoulders with on a daily basis – I will truly miss that.
A new direction
Stephens moved to St. George from Price, Utah just over 30 years ago. After earning a BA from Brigham Young University and an MA in Social Sciences from Utah State University, she began her career at Dixie College in 1992.
Her first 18 years in vocational education were spent as a tailor-made training manager, working with local businesses to provide training in many sectors. In 2006, the position moved to Dixie Applied Technology College – what would later become Dixie Tech – where Stephens continued her work until she was appointed vice president of education in 2010.
It was in this position that Stephens became aware of a problem with the registration process and the structure of the study program. Much like many of its peer institutions, Dixie Tech previously operated under an open-entry-exit model where students could join classes almost anytime and work at their own pace.
Jordan Rushton, current vice president of education, explained the challenges of the old model and described the change in the student experience that has occurred under Stephens’ leadership.
“Essentially, students come in and work at their own pace, but end up having to learn on their own,” Rushton said. “They were sort of on their own when it came to how deep to go or how quickly they could work through the process. President Stephens had the idea that students would do much better in groups, in a cohort setting, although that was not necessarily the popular thing to do at the time. She has gone to great lengths to make this happen in all of our programs, and it has been very, very successful.
Stephens began to move programs to the new model and was selected as college president in 2012.
Since then, graduation rates have increased by more than 20%, Rushton said. Today, Dixie Tech has 26 accredited programs offering professional training and certification in areas such as nursing, diesel and automotive technology, culinary arts and more.
Changing instruction was one of Stephens’ proudest career achievements, she said, and it had the added benefit of improving the quality of instructors and the use of limited teaching spaces. available at the time.
A legacy of growth
The second feature of Stephen’s tenure as president was to secure a state-of-the-art campus for Dixie Tech to permanently reside.
“It’s really hard to convince students and parents that their child will get a good education in substandard schools,” Stephens said. “I went to work begging, asking for and playing all the games that needed to be played to get funding for our permanent campus. In 2015, we finally got the funding to build what we have now.
Despite the challenges of zoning, designing and constructing a building that would house such diverse industrial workspaces, the new campus and its several buildings were completed and inaugurated in March 2018.
“We now have this fantastic facility that legitimizes technical education in Washington County,” Stephens said. “It tells parents that their children will thrive here. He tells students that if they choose a technical college education, it can serve them their whole life. Now we’re packed and my successor will have to get to work immediately to secure funds for additional space.
As well as leaving behind a legacy of growth and a pressing need for expansion, Stephens colleagues said she has left her mark not only in the school, but in their lives as well.
“I joke with her that she’s probably the only president of the state university to return home after a long day at work to prepare a dinner to bring to a member of our faculty or staff who has. struggling with one thing or another, ”Rushton said. “She’s just constantly at the service of the people she presides over. We will miss her terribly, and she will leave huge, huge shoes to fill.
Mari Krashowetz, executive director of the Southern Utah Home Builders Association and board member, said her community outreach efforts and her personality combined to put Dixie Tech and its graduates in a position to be successful.
“She is an exceptional leader who genuinely cares about our students and wants to provide them with the best career opportunities,” said Krashowetz. “She had the vision and overcame great obstacles to make the Dixie Technical College campus a reality on Tech Ridge. I have known Kelle for over 20 years and am very grateful that we have been able to work together for so long.
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