SWIC-cess Stories

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Chamber AwardBUSINESS EXCELLENCE AWARD—Southwestern Illinois College received the 2011 Business Excellence award, large business division, from the Belleville Chamber of Commerce. The Business Excellence Award is given to a chamber-member organization that best meets the following criteria: evidence of success given the company’s expansion and financial accomplishments; development and/or use of innovative business methods; and contributions to the community.

Pictured are, from left, Trustee Eugene Verdu; Vice President for Student, Campus and Community Services Valerie Thaxton, Ed.D.; Board Vice Chair Kenneth R. Joseph; Belleville Chamber President Robert Graebe Jr.; Board Chair Nick J. Mance; Selsius™ Director Lynette Rienbolt; and Trustee Richard E. Roehrkasse.


CommencementTRUMAN AWARD WINNER SPEAKS AT SWIC—The college capped its 2011 graduation week in May with a capstone commencement address delivered by U.S. Under Secretary of Education Martha J. Kanter, left, pictured with SWIC President Georgia Costello, Ph.D.

In her address, Kanter shared that jobs requiring at least an associate degree are projected to grow twice as fast as jobs requiring no college experience...“We will not fill those jobs—or keep those jobs on our shores—without the training offered by community colleges,” she said.

Kanter is the 2011 recipient of The Truman Award, given periodically to that person who has had a major, positive impact on community colleges. 

  • SWIC in Top 100—Of the nearly 3,000 accredited postsecondary institutions that confer two-year degrees and one/two-year certificates, SWIC ranked in the top 100 in seven different areas during the 2009-10 academic year, according to a 2011 report by education magazine Community College Week.
    • SWIC awarded 1,338 associate degrees, fourth highest in Illinois and 99th nationally.
    • SWIC issued 1,695 one-year certificates, good for 21st in the nation and second in Illinois.
    • SWIC ranked 10th nationally and fourth in Illinois for “Multi/interdisciplinary Studies” (252 associate degrees).
    • SWIC ranked 12th nationally in the category of “Non-Minority, One-Year Certificates.”
    • SWIC tied for 34th in “General Sales, Merchandising and Marketing Operations.”
    • SWIC ranked 63rd in the “African American/One-Year Certificates” category.
    • SWIC ranked 66th in the “All Disciplines, Non-minority” category.
  • Military Reintegration—SWIC once again hosted a reintegration event for Army National Guard service members and their families. Education and job placement are two key reintegration steps, and SWIC helps with both as the largest educator of military personnel in Illinois outside Chicago.

  • Driving Student Success—More than 120 regional K-12 educators came to the Belleville Campus for a collaborative Regional Education Summit—“Driving Student Success”—to discuss improved alignment of high school and postsecondary curriculums. It focused on how to make every student’s transition from high school to college as academically seamless as possible. The summit featured a video message from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and guest speakers Dr. Christopher Koch, Illinois State Board of Education Superintendant; and Illinois Community College System Vice President Dr. Elaine Johnson. There also was a panel discussion featuring regional superintendents and Illinois Association of School Administrators Executive Director Dr. Brent Clark, who served as moderator.

  • Lt. Governor Visit—Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon credited SWIC as one of several community colleges that have built wind turbines on their campuses, using grants from state, federal and private sources.

  • Greenville Agreement—SWIC and Greenville College joined forces to offer a bachelor’s degree in elementary education taught entirely at the Belleville Campus.

  • McKendree Agreement—SWIC and McKendree University signed a formal agreement that guarantees dual enrollment for SWIC Nursing Education students seeking a bachelor’s degree at McKendree.

  • Eco-friendly Feature—SWIC, Lewis and Clark, and St. Louis Community College were featured in an article titled “ECO Education” in the July-August edition of St. Louis Commerce magazine. 

  • Server Certified—Fall 2011 was the first semester that the NETW 188 – Server I course included the Microsoft Server certification exam. SWIC has a 100 percent pass rate for all students enrolled in the two sections of the course.

  • Construction Trades Program—The final certificate ceremony for the 2010 DCEO Construction Trades Preparatory Training Program produced 42 successful program graduates – two more than the target set by the grant! The program will continue again in 2012 under a second Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunities (DCEO) grant.

  • Highway Construction Program—The Highway Construction Preparatory Training Program started with a record number of new enrollments.

  • Tech Ed Goes Green—In the January/February edition of St. Louis Commerce magazine, the SWIC Technical Education Division received significant/half-page news coverage about new sustainability course offerings. 

  • Valerie Thaxton, Ed.D., Vice President for Student, Campus and Community Services, was elected Vice President of the Greater Belleville Chamber of Commerce for 2012.

  • Christine Leja, Chief Information Officer, was presented with the Emerald Lifetime Award for continued service in the Association of Information Technology Professionals, St. Louis Chapter. Leja retired in September.

Back to Top Faculty

Culinary Arts news conference with Sen. DurbinSEN. DURBIN PRESS CONFERENCE—SWIC Culinary Arts students/faculty hosted a news conference at the Sam Wolf Granite City Campus for U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin. Durbin, center, is pictured with Culinary Arts and Food Management Instructor Chef Tom Noonan and Program Coordinator Leisa Brockman.

After a kitchen-classroom tour, where students demonstrated Food Service Sanitation practices, Durbin saluted the educational value offered by America’s community colleges. He also criticized “proposed funding cuts that would hinder the most comprehensive federal food-safety reforms in 70 years.”

The event attracted reporters from throughout the region.


  • Keven Hansen was the 2011-12 faculty member of the year. As the Mathematics Department chair, Hansen leads and mentors 18 full-time and more than 40 adjunct faculty members in addition to his teaching duties.

  • Beth Burns was the 2011-12 part-time faculty member of the year. Burns teaches in the Computer Information Systems program.

  • Faith Christiansen, Professor of Reading, and Judith Quimby, Professor of English, were commissioned by Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company to write a "Reading Manual" that will be published for use in college developmental reading programs nationwide. 

  • Dan Cross, Professor of Film, published a book, “Dive #1,” detailing four true stories about dumpster diving.

  • Tina Dierkes, Associate Professor/Coordinator of Office Administration and Technology, planned and attended the Illinois Business Education Association conference. She was elected president of the organization for 2012.

  • Karyn Houston, Coordinator, Sign Language Studies, achieved a Superior Rating of the Sign Language Proficiency Interview in November 2011.

  • Garry Ladd, Professor of Health & Exercise Science, coordinated the collection of donations of over 1,000 pounds of food and personal hygiene items in May for the Freeburg Food & Clothing Pantry. The Belleville Campus Fitness Center students, under the leadership of Ladd, have participated in this community service activity for 24 consecutive semesters.

  • Fred Lewis, Adjunct Chemistry Instructor, received the prestigious Master Editor Award from the Antique Automobile Club of America in Philadelphia. Lewis writes a 24-page bimonthly newsletter, “Vintage Voice.”

  • Joe McDonnell, Adjunct Instructor, was recognized by the Illinois State Bar Association for 50 years of membership with the organization. McDonnell teaches Court Law and Business Law at SWIC.

  • Scott Penny, Adjunct Faculty, Administration of Justice, was appointed to the 113th Illinois House seat by the St. Clair County Democratic Central Committee in December 2011. Penny will serve the remainder of Tom Holbrook’s unexpired term, which ends January 2013.

  • Van Plexico, Associate Professor of History, was nominated for Writer of the Year by Pulp Ark and for Story of the Year by the Pulp Factory, and his work was praised by Kirkus Reviews. He is best known for his popular "Sentinels" series of superhero novels and for the "Assembled!" books, examining the history of Marvel’s Avengers comics. "Season of Our Dreams," the book collecting his football columns, hit Amazon.com’s Top Twenty Bestsellers in Sports.

  • Lisa Stejskal, Senior Adjunct Instructor, Physical Therapist Assistant program, was named the 2011 Physical Therapist Assistant of the Year by the Illinois Physical Therapy Association.

  • Matt Swinford, Associate Professor/Coordinator of Network Design and Administration and the Regional Cisco Academy, attended the Cisco Academy Conference at the Cisco headquarters campus in San Jose, CA. Swinford was one of approximately 400 other academy instructors from the U.S. and Canada in attendance.

  • The Precision Machining program, part of the Industrial Technology department, received the 2011 Clips and Clamps Industries Educational Institution Award from the Precision Metalforming Association Educational Foundation. The program was also featured at a PMA display in the FABTECH tradeshow in Chicago.

  • Nursing Education faculty members and students held a car wash to help the tornado victims in Joplin, Mo. The group raised $3,046, all of which was donated to the American Red Cross for Joplin.

  • The Biology Department worked with the Sustainability Center and Physical Plant to host a successful Invasive Species Awareness Day on Nov. 5, 2011. More than 155 volunteers, including students, faculty, staff and AmeriCorps volunteers, spent 273 person-hours of effort removing invasive bush honeysuckle from the woods along the Dr. Tom Amlung nature trail on the Belleville Campus.

Back to Top Administrators and Staff

Financial Aid DriveFINANCIAL AID INCENTIVE—The Financial Aid office spearheaded a new initiative to encourage students to enroll and complete their financial aid packages early. When students met the July 15 deadline for enrollment or aid completion, they were entered to win a NOOK Color, a $50 Barnes & Noble gift card or a deluxe backpack.

The students are pictured with Vice President for Student Development Staci Clayborne, back left, Financial Aid and Student Employment Director Marsha Garner, front left, Barnes & Noble SWIC Bookstore Manager Damon Mitchell, back right, and SWIC President Georgia Costello, Ph.D., front right. Twenty-two students in all won one of the donated prizes.


  • The Career Activities and Employment Center hosted its annual Veterans Job Fair at the Belleville Campus. The job fair attracted more than 650 job seekers to visit with almost 100 companies. The Veterans Job Fair also was the host to some national media coverage thanks to a film crew from Walmart and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Through their television and radio media tour, they reached an audience of more than 3.75 million, garnering placements in 11 of the top 50 markets as well as a number of key military base markets and national outlets.

  • Information Technology, with help from various departments, laid the groundwork for the merger of iSTORM into eSTORM. The project was completed in January 2012.

  • SWIC promotional materials were honored by Service Industry Advertising Awards, an organization that recognizes the creativity and communication accomplishments of the service industry. A postcard for the Sign Language department and the Schmidt Art Center’s Ubjects collection both won merit awards, while the Success Center’s day planner received a bronze award.

  • Community Education and the Physical Plant coordinated efforts to aid tornado victims in Joplin, Mo. Items collected for pickup by July 1 included 850 pounds of hygiene products, miscellaneous canned goods, gloves, towels, and toiletries, along with jugs of water, 26 cases of bottled water, numerous packages of diapers and towels.

  • Lynette Rienbolt, Director of Selsius™, and Valerie Thaxton, Ed.D., Vice President for Student, Campus and Community Services, were mentors at the 2011 Leadership Program sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce of Southwestern Madison County.

  • Susan Barker, Director of Green Jobs/Green Economy Initiatives, helped structure a clean energy education framework for the National Science Foundation. Barker received the invitation from the University of Illinois task force.

  • Rick Gregory, Site Supervisor at the East St. Louis Community College Center, helped students start a lasagna garden during the East St. Louis Sesquicentennial Summer Celebration. Gregory used the event to promote the ESL Community Garden and the benefits of lasagna gardening, a low-cost, no-till style of gardening.

  • Larry Petri, Men’s Soccer Head Coach, reached his 300th career win and was formally recognized for his 2010 induction into the National Junior College Athletic Association Hall of Fame. Petri has coached numerous All-Region and All-American players and has an award named in his honor, given annually to the sophomore player on both the men’s and women’s teams who has demonstrated maturity and outstanding dedication to their sport, their college and their team.

Back to Top Foundation

Carol BartleACTIVE IN THE COMMUNITY—Foundation Board Chair Carol Bartle, left, was one of 20 volunteers recognized by Family Hospice during its 20th anniversary celebration.

The SWIC Foundation offers privately funded scholarships from local businesses, service organizations and individuals, and it secures financial support for educational and cultural activities, which are not part of the college budget.


  • Chuck Unger, Foundation Board Vice Chair, was honored by the Southwestern Madison County Chamber of Commerce as the 2011 Citizen of the Year.

  • Dana Howard, Foundation Board member, was honored by the NAACP East St. Louis Chapter as one of several individuals 40 and under who have had great accomplishments in their field. Howard is a former University of Illinois and NFL football player.

  • The 2011 Employee Giving Campaign raised $41,350 thanks to 155 donors.

Back to Top Students

TECHNICALLY SOUNDSkills USA winnersTechnical Education student Jerry Bonifield placed third in the nation in his category at the Skills USA National Championship. Bonifield ranked third in precision machining technology. In addition, Alex Deatherage placed fifth in computerized numerical control milling. SWIC is the only college with a technical school in the St. Louis region that brought representatives to the national competition.

At the state challenge, five students earned four gold medals, one silver and a bronze. Pictured, from left, are Welding Instructor Kevin Corgan, Edgar McClary, Board Chair Nick Mance, SWIC President Georgia Costello, Ph.D., Mitch McFarland, Deatherage, Technical Education Dean Brad Sparks, Bonifield and Industrial Technology Coordinator Mark Bosworth


  • Five SWIC student athletes were selected by the National Junior College Athletic Association for the 2010-11 NJCAA Academic Student-Athlete Awards. Kelsie Coop of Walsh, women’s volleyball, won the Pinnacle Award for Academic Excellence (4.00 GPA on a 4.00 scale). Hilary Bell of Granite City, women’s soccer, won the Award for Superior Academic Achievement (3.80 to 3.99 on a 4.00 scale). Ajdin Dedic of St. Louis, men’s soccer; Hilary Johnson of Flora, women’s basketball; and Ian Sikes of Edwardsville, baseball, won the Award for Exemplary Academic Achievement (3.60 to 3.79 on a 4.00 scale).

  • Conor Knox, men’s soccer, and Alexis Trybrinski, women’s soccer, were All American award winners.

  • The Theta Epsilon Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society received special commendation during the Illinois Regional Convention for fulfilling all requirements to be named a 3 Star Chapter. The chapter was also recognized at the society’s annual convention.

  • Sally Ayoob and Craig Wilson, Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society members, were honored for their place on the 2011 Phi Theta Kappa All Illinois All Academic Team.

  • Phi Beta Lambda students won the Gold Seal Chapter Award at the organization's 2011 National Leadership Conference. Other awards:
    • 1st place, Professional Division Membership, North Central Region, Southwestern Illinois College
    • 8th place, Lauren Peterson and Aaron Nickson, Southwestern Illinois College, Business Presentation
    • 8th place, Sarah DeAntoni, Southwestern Illinois College, Job Interview

    At the state conference, SWIC students won four 1st place awards, five 2nd place awards and four 3rd place awards.

  • Belleville AmeriCorps received the Bill Porzukowiak Character Award from Belleville District 118. The district praised AmeriCorps members, who serve as tutors, mentors and coaches, for their lasting impact upon children and their achievements.

  • Eighty-five Belleville AmeriCorps program members earned $170,932 to help pay for college after completing 55,800 hours of community service in 2010-11.

Back to Top Alumni

SWIC Alumni Night at the Grizzlies gameALL IS WELLS—At the Gateway Grizzlies SWIC Alumni Night, the first 1,000 fans received a Randy Wells bobblehead.

Wells is a Chicago Cubs pitcher and former SWIC baseball player. Wells was a catcher at SWIC in 2001-2002. He was drafted by the Cubs in 2002 and made his Major League debut in 2008.

Pictured, from left, are Board Chair Nick Mance, Wells, Foundation Board Chair Carol Bartle and Baseball Coach Neil Fiala.


  • Former SWIC student Sandra Magnus was onboard for the 135th and last space shuttle flight for NASA.

  • Former SWIC basketball player Josh Harrellson was selected in the second round of the NBA Draft. He plays for the New York Knicks. Harrellson, who most recently played for the University of Kentucky in the Final Four, is the first SWIC player to be drafted into the NBA.

Back to Top Sustainability

Sustainability CompactSUSTAINABILITY COMPACT—SWIC President Georgia Costello, Ph.D., left, and Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon signed an Illinois Campus Sustainability Compact during one of Simon’s visits to the Belleville Campus.

The compact states that SWIC has achieved the bronze level and accepts the challenge to strive for the silver level. The goal of the Sustainability Compact is to encourage universities and colleges to incorporate sustainability into their campus operations, academics, research programs, student activities and community outreach.

Visit the Sustainability Center home page to see how SWIC is going green.


  • Green Jobs Grant—Including SWIC, 17 collaborating IGEN-member Illinois community colleges received a $19.37 million U.S. Department of Labor grant as part of a $500 million commitment from the DOL and the U.S. Department of Education to help fund job training and workforce development for economically dislocated workers.

  • Sustained Efforts—The green initiative at SWIC received a number of awards in 2011:
    • SWIC received the Governor’s Sustainability Award for being energy efficient and environmentally friendly. SWIC was one of only four community colleges, and among 25 state organizations, to receive the award.
    • SWIC received two awards from St. Clair County at the county’s annual Earth Day awards program. SWIC received an award for partnering with Illinois American Water, the St. Clair County Health Department and the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department for the establishment of a prescription drop box program. SWIC also received an Environmental Excellence Award for the college’s sustainability efforts.
    • SWIC was honored by the St. Clair County Health Department with an Environmental Excellence Award for the college’s sustainability efforts.
    • The St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association honored SWIC for successfully completing the first year of the RCGA’s St. Louis Green Business Challenge.

  • Fill 'Er Up—The three water refill stations located on the ground floor of Belleville Campus were used 18,977 times in fall 2011, the first semester they were in use.

Back to Top PSOP

Vicky Rose Retirement AnnouncementRETIREMENT ANNOUNCEMENT—Programs and Services for Older Persons Executive Director Vicki Rose, after 18 years of dedicated service, announced her retirement effective March 31, 2012.

PSOP, located in downtown Belleville, provides services to seniors and their families designed to maximize their health and independence and enjoy a rewarding lifestyle.


  • Plus 50 Completion Strategy—SWIC was selected to participate in the Lumina Foundation for Education Plus 50 Completion Strategy. This American Association of Community Colleges initiative will provide opportunities for SWIC to expand programs and services for the 50-plus population.

  • The RSVP program and VFW Post 1739 of Belleville received the Corporation for National and Community Service 2011 Service Impact Award for Environmental Sustainability/Veterans and Military Families at the National Conference on Volunteering and Service in New Orleans.

  • RSVP volunteer Bea Stenitzer earned a Presidential Service Award for putting in 4,000 hours of service. Stenitzer passed away a few weeks before the RSVP luncheon, so her children accepted the award in her honor.