Access and Success

About two weeks after a young, rising star in the Democratic party won election to the U.S. Senate from the state of Illinois, Bettsey Barhorst announced she was leaving Hawkeye Community College in Waterloo, Iowa, for a new job as president of Madison Area Technical College.

Almost five years to the day later, President Barack Obama is asking Congress for $12 billion to support the nation’s community colleges, and president Barhorst has MATC poised to meet the challenge of the American Graduation Initiative. In place is a new facilities master plan, the first at MATC since 1973, and a companion vision to enable the college to fulfill its role in spurring the economic recovery of the region.

For MATC and Barhorst it’s all about meeting the most critical needs for the college and the economy. “Nursing students need cutting-edge labs,” says Barhorst, “manufacturing students need sophisticated machines to learn jobs that cannot be outsourced, our information technology students must have the latest tools and our growing number of culinary students need first-rate kitchen space to maintain the college’s top chef rankings.

“In partnership with the research-rich University of Wisconsin–Madison, we know the college will prepare Madison’s growing talent pool for the global economy knocking at our door.”

The beauty of that MATC-educated talent pool is that it stays here—eighty-two percent of the 41,000 students who attend MATC each year remain in the twelve-county district.

“We put the ‘community’ in community college,” says Barhorst.

The edge MATC strives for, says Barhorst, is enriching education with pathways to meaningful work and successful lives for graduates.

“The college’s tradition of transforming lives for those who stay in our region speaks volumes to those who want to propel the Madison area as a national leader in innovation, scientific achievement and the nurturing of an international creative class.”

And Barhorst says that tradition is complementary to UW–Madison’s role as a research powerhouse, “[which] can continue only with our college’s graduates in lab technician programs, nursing and allied health professionals, administrative assistants, retail experts, and Internet-related communicators and programmers.”

MATC, she says, offers both access and success at a bargain price.

“What other easy-to-access institution besides the voting booth offers this powerful of a tool to help our fellow citizens change their lives?

Neil Heinen is editorial director of Madison Magazine.

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