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posted: 9/13/2017 1:24 PM

Fall term brings new energy, new programs to COD

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By Ann Rondeau
Inside COD

It is great to be back on the pages of the Daily Herald! This newspaper provides a strong regional service and it is my privilege to be permitted a monthly column to our residents.

Autumn has so much to offer. Cooler weather, baseball playoffs and the start of school all come to mind. The energy from students during the first weeks of a new academic year bring all of our school campuses alive and remind us of the reason we exist: the noble activity of learning.

At College of DuPage, I have enjoyed walking through the hallways during these early weeks of the fall term, speaking with students about their goals as they embark on new or continued journeys toward their aspirations. I like to believe they are tapping into the energy that is already driving College of DuPage, an energy that in different ways also marked our summer. We remained as busy as ever with new initiatives, McAninch Arts Center events, summer camps and important news.

For example, we are moving forward with the establishment of Innovation DuPage, a new business incubator and accelerator that will connect small businesses with the necessary resources to thrive and stimulate job growth. The college and the village of Glen Ellyn are working together to develop the right kind of space, while College of DuPage is working closely with the Choose DuPage economic development alliance as well as other public and private partners on this exciting initiative that will help the economic engine of the region.

The potential for Innovation DuPage is tremendous. It will encourage business growth in our own backyard, demonstrating a commitment to develop local entrepreneurship while tapping into local resources. In addition, the prospective location in Glen Ellyn will reinforce a strong bond between the village and the college while providing a central hub that is easily accessible by car and public transportation.

College of DuPage has nearly four decades of experience working with local businesses through Business Solutions and the Center for Entrepreneurship. In Fiscal Year 2016 alone, the center served approximately 2,500 business clients. Innovation DuPage will build on this expertise and include a strong educational component that will link students and programming together.

Innovation DuPage is the type of forward-thinking project that will benefit all of our communities. As we look ahead to the college's 51st year, we will continue to draw upon all of our strengths and lead the way in developing initiatives that will exceed the needs of our district.

In June, we started another terrific project when our Homeland Security Training Institute launched its Unmanned Aerial System program by offering a weeklong course geared toward police officers. This was followed in August by a UAS camp for high school students. Our goal is to offer the most technically advanced UAS training in the country and be a creative leader in this field. We are partnering with Argonne National Laboratory on the UAS program as it specifically relates to first responders.

The college is also ready with programming that can meet growing workforce needs. For example, in August, College of DuPage was the site for the Illinois Landscape Contractors Association Summer Field Days, the premier annual outdoor event for landscape professionals. This occurred in part because our horticulture program maintains a strong relationship with the association.

What we discovered during this event is a growing need for landscape architects. College of DuPage is poised to fill the gaps in this profession. Our award-winning horticulture program already offers instruction that provides the necessary training and credentials to address workforce shortages. In fact, our students fared extremely well earlier this year at the annual ILCA 2017 Landscape Design Contest for college and high school students. Our horticulture students took first place in multiple categories and swept the top three spots in the 3-D Landscape Design Computer Generated Presentation category.

Horticulture is just one program that meets the demands of a changing workforce. College of DuPage is a place that listens and evolves as a result of input from our students, faculty, local businesses and community members. We welcome useful change -- we embrace it and understand that keeping up with the world is the only way to remain relevant to our students as they pursue careers and personal goals.

Whether it's health care or information technology, culinary or manufacturing, we provide the workforce development that trains students with credentials, many of which are "stackable." Simply put, this means our students who find work upon completing initial coursework can return to College of DuPage to build on what they have already learned. Many of these programs also have advisory boards that include professionals working in the field, and their feedback is always vital in making sure our curriculum is heading in the right and new directions.

This is one of the great strengths of a community college -- helping people with their next professional step -- and all of our sister community colleges contribute mightily to the districts they serve.

The future beckons us to continue on a journey that opens up a world of learning for our students. As we look forward to the upcoming year and beyond, I am confident the faculty, staff and administration at College of DuPage will continue to work together to make the learning experience meaningful and productive for our students.

Whether it is clasping hands with local businesses for future growth and success, or developing curriculum and programs that thrill and engage our students and faculty, College of DuPage remains a place of wonder and excitement.

Next month I will let readers know about what we are doing in the transfer disciplines, those areas of study that transfer to bachelor-granting schools. We are proud of our reputation as a community college with very high transfer rates, ensuring further study is affordable and academic success is more assured for our students.

The examples outlined above are just a few of the exciting initiatives that generate the energy I feel every day at College of DuPage. And from my recent interactions with our incoming and returning students, I know they are feeling it, too.

• Ann Rondeau is president of the College of DuPage. During the school year, her column runs monthly in Neighbor.

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