May 2024 Central Connection

May 1, 2024

Ƶ to hold commencement on May 10

Ƶ will hold commencement ceremonies on May 10.

The Heartland Events Center in Grand Island will be the location for the Grand Island Campus commencement at 10 a.m. and the Hastings Campus commencement at 3 p.m. The Columbus Campus commencement will be at 7 p.m. in the Physical Education Center.

The keynote speakers will be the following 2024 Outstanding Alumni Award recipients:

Quinn Webb
Grand Island Campus

Quinn Webb of Boelus earned an associate of applied science degree in criminal justice in 2003; graduated from the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Va., in 2010; and completed a bachelor of science degree at Wayne State College in 2021.

Webb has been assistant director of the Hall County Department of Corrections since 2020 and is responsible for overseeing its 80,000-square-foot facility, which houses 321 inmates and has 88 full-time employees. Before accepting his current position, his 20-year career with the department included serving as a captain and chief deputy. Under his leadership, the department has worked with Ƶ to implement programs that promote criminal justice careers and, through its internship program, has certified several Ƶ students in corrections.

He has worked with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), County Organization for Prevention and Education (COPE) and Habitat for Humanity and served as a member of the Grand Island Substance Abuse Coalition, Central Nebraska Council on Alcohol on Addiction Board and the Crisis Center Board.

He received the 2020 MADD Outstanding Education and Awareness Award, 2016 Mr. Habitat Award and the Red Cross Lifesaving and Heroes of the Central Plains awards.

Dillon Kuehn
Hastings Campus

Dillon Kuehn of Alexandria, Va., graduated from Ƶ-Hastings with an associate of science degree in 2012 and then transferred to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where he earned a bachelor’s degree in agribusiness.

Kuehn is employed as the legislative director for Water Strategies, LLC, a government relations, publishing and marketing firm located on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., that specializes in water, power and agricultural issues.

Prior to joining Water Strategies, he served as a congressional aide for Rep. Adrian Smith. He covered issues related to appropriations, environmental protection, finance, government operations, immigration, labor, law, public lands and natural resources, science and telecommunications, transportation and public works, and water resources development.

Kuehn has an extensive background in agricultural and natural resource issues from his former employment as a sales agronomist for a cooperative and as a regional manager for a livestock system engineering and environmental compliance firm. He became aware of the importance of secure water resources and water quality while working for his father’s well drilling business, installing monitoring wells throughout Nebraska and parts of Kansas and Colorado.

Brett Olson
Columbus Campus

Brett Olson of Columbus received an associate of applied science degree in information technology from Ƶ-Columbus. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in software engineering and master’s degrees in business administration and computer information systems management. He is pursuing a doctorate in business administration at Bellevue University.

Olson is director of information and operations technology at Cornhusker Public Power District where he oversees all aspects of technology, strategy, regulatory compliance and internal auditing and works toward enhancing operational excellence and security.

He is a leader in the energy sector known for his strategic acumen and innovative contributions. With roles such as research designer at the Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory and the lead customer designer and developer for Landis+Gyr’s smart irrigation technology, Olson has driven advancements in technology integration and energy reliability. He founded Nebraska’s first IT/Cyber and Strategic Planning Community, which has enhanced collaboration across 28 wholesale public power districts.

He and his wife, Bobby, have three children.

Ƶ members of the 2024 Phi Theta Kappa Nebraska All-State Academic Team are Nevaeh Boulton, Stoney Straatmann and Niklas Thiel.

Students named to academic team

Three Ƶ students were named to the 2024 Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) Nebraska All-State Academic Team April 24 in a ceremony at the State Capitol in Lincoln.

The all-state academic team is an effort sponsored by PTK, an international honor society for two-year colleges, and the Nebraska Community College Association to honor students for academic achievement, leadership and community service.

The team included the following Ƶ students:

Nevaeh Boulton of Columbus is a business administration major at the Columbus Campus. She has been an active member of the Peace Lutheran Church Midwest Teachers for six years. After graduation from Ƶ, she plans to transfer to Wayne State College to complete a bachelor’s degree in business management.

Stoney Straatmann of Hastings is working toward an associate of arts degree at the Hastings Campus. In addition to school, she helps plan educational training for home child care providers through ESU 10 and provides a home child care setting for Ƶ practicum students. She is a member of the Early Childhood Nebraska Apprenticeship core team, Nebraska Child Care Licensing Advisory Committee and the Sixpence/Hastings Public Schools partnership. After graduation from Ƶ, she plans to transfer to the University of Nebraska-Kearney to complete an early childhood inclusive degree. She will take classes online so she can continue to run her licensed home child care business.

Niklas Thiel of Enger, Germany, is a business administration major at the Columbus Campus where he is a member of the soccer team, a tutor in math and business, and a library worker. He has been named an All-Athletic Rookie of the Year, was an All-Region 9 selection, and has been named to the President’s and Dean’s honors lists. After his graduation from Ƶ, he plans to transfer to Wayland Baptist University in Plainview, Texas, to complete his bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Esports team member Jackson Peabody, head coach Lucas Lumbra and team member Ayden Veik.

Athletics department has reasons to cheer

Ƶ athletic director and head volleyball coach Mary Young has received the 2024 George E. Killian Award of Excellence from the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA).

She shared the award with Tommy Stewart, athletic director at Holyoke Community College in Massachusetts.

The award is presented annually to individuals in recognition of their volunteerism, achievement, service, leadership and excellence.

Young serves as NJCAA’s senior women’s administrator and as a member of its championship events, sports governance and eligibility committees. She is past president of the NJCAA Volleyball Coaches Association, Region 9 director and assistant director and was an inaugural NJCAA Board of Regents member. She was instrumental in adding beach volleyball as an NJCAA sport and in negotiating the dual membership between the NJCAA and American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) for volleyball coaches.

In 2019, Young relinquished her role as Ƶ head volleyball coach after 24 years and assumed the role of athletic director. She returned to coaching in 2021 while retaining her athletic director title. She is a 14-time Nebraska Community College Athletic Conference (NCCAC) Coach of the Year, 13-time Region 9 Coach of the Year and three-time AVCA West Region Coach of the Year.

She has led the Raiders to 13 Region 9 championships, 17 NCCAC championships and 10 NJCAA national tournaments, finishing top 10 in nine of those. She has coached 97 All-Conference players, 90 All-Region performers, 25 NJCAA All-Americans and three AVCA All-Americans.

Esports team

The Ƶ esports team has won its first national championships.

The first came on April 23 when the Call of Duty: 4x4 squad defeated Blinn (Texas) College, 3-1.

Team members were Ethan Bryant of Grand Island, Jackson Peabody of Columbus, Caleb Smith of Creighton and Ayden Veik of Humphrey.

Peabody and Veik also made up the esports team that won a second national championship for the Call of Duty: Cold War Gunfight (2x2) when it defeated Iowa Western Community College, 3-1.

“It was a great week for us,” esports head coach Lucas Lumbra said. “We’ve had multiple runner ups in previous seasons, but this group of athletes continued to learn and grow. These wins represented all the work that has been put in over the last two years. We hope that this standard of success will persist for many seasons to come.”

Clay target-shooting

The Ƶ athletics department has added clay target-shooting sports at the Hastings Campus.

The sport is sanctioned by the NJCAA and will begin competition in the 2024-25 academic year with plans for a 10-member squad divided into two teams.

A coach will be hired later this spring or summer.

Employee news

Administrative Office

Beth Anson has resigned as an instructional design consultant.

Emily Klimek is shifting positions from graphic design specialist in the college communications office to marketing events coordinator at the Ƶ Foundation.

Columbus Campus

Alyssa Nickolite has shifted positions from admissions and recruiting coordinator to career and employment services specialist.

Doug Hann is retiring as events coordinator.

He joined the staff as a part-time employee in the media department at the Grand Island Campus and worked in that capacity for two years. In 1997, he was promoted to a full-time media technician position at the Columbus Campus. He served as an information technology systems specialist from 2016 until 2022 when he shifted into his current position.

Prior to Ƶ, he worked for 21 years as an USDA-licensed grain inspector for a private agency.

Hann is a graduate of Grand Island Senior High School who went on to earn an associate of applied science degree in business administration from Ƶ and a bachelor’s degree in business management from Wayne State College.

He is a member of the Federated Church in Columbus, a part-time lifeguard at the YMCA and a certified pool operator.

Grand Island Campus

New employees include Deanna Montañez Mendoza, pre-nursing admissions technician, and Meredith Smith, nursing instructor.

Allie Remm has shifted from recruiting coordinator to career and employment services specialist.

Diane Smith, nursing assistant and medication aide trainer, and Mallory Swantek, counseling and prevention education coordinator, have resigned from their positions.

Hastings Campus

Resigning from their positions are Jonal Broekemier, assistant facilities director; Haiwei Lu, biological science instructor; and Wyatt Wiedel, information technology services specialist.

Mason Ramirez has been promoted from custodian to custodial supervisor.

Kearney Center

Russ Cowan has resigned as an information technology services specialist.