We are Ridgewater College and Why We’re Proud of It!

Ridgewater stories

Ridgewater College highlights students and programs

Personal experiences speak volumes, whether you are sharing vacation memories or product challenges.

If you’re selecting a college, you may not know current Ridgewater students to hear their stories, but several Warriors and alumni are happy to toot the Ridgewater horn. Testimonials are a great way to discover that Ridgewater College is a great fit for you!

“I chose Ridgewater College because it’s an affordable option compared to other schools, plus
it’s a great stepping stone from a high school to a big university.”
~ Carlos Lopez, Jr, Litchfield, Liberals Arts & Sciences – Pre-Psychology and Computer Science

“My decision to further my education at Ridgewater College was based mainly on word of
mouth from two of my cousins and a friend who had completed the NDT program. I chose to
pursue a career in Nondestructive Testing for a few reasons. One of the main reasons is job
security…. Another reason is financial security. It is very important for me to be independent
and able to support myself.”
~ Melanie Landis, Blackduck, Nondestructive Testing

“I chose Ridgewater because I have heard nothing but good about how great the professors are with their students. My confidence has just shot through the roof! They make me feel smarter than I did in high school, and they make me want to push myself further. They have helped me grow as a student and a person.”
~ Tyler Bailey, Stewart, Liberal Arts/Pre-Psychology

“Continuing my education at Ridgewater has been a wonderful experience. It has far surpassed
my expectations…. My experience at Ridgewater is one that has made a major impact on my life. It has shown me in more ways than one that I am going down the correct path career-wise. It has reaffirmed my knowledge about my passion for children and my love of watching them learn.”
~ Kelsa Fenske, Hutchinson, Early Childhood Education

Read more about students and programs in one of our spring publications. Highlighted programs include:

  • Paramedics
  • Electronics
  • Behavioral Sciences
  • New Grants for Technical Training
  • Chemical Dependency
  • Early Childhood Education
  • Healthcare Administrative Assistant
  • Nondestructive Testing
  • Practical Nursing
  • Basketball

Click here to see more!

$15,000 donated for 2016-17 Ridgewater Machine Tool students

2U5A1677csIf you’ve ever considered training for a career that’s in high demand but you weren’t sure if you could afford it, now’s a great time to explore Ridgewater College’s Machine Tool Technology. The program is the proud recipient of a $15,000 grant that will directly benefit program students through scholarships for the 2016-17 school year.

Now that’s an industry investing in its future!

“With today’s high demand for skilled CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machinists, it is always wonderful to have dollars awarded to us that we can use to recruit and retain new talent,” said Tammy Jablonski, one of Ridgewater’s Machine Tool Technology instructors.

“The scholarship donation comes from the Gene Haas Foundation in support of technical education scholarships in machining,” explained Ridgewater Machine Tool alumni Al Wessels from Productivity, Inc.  Gene Haas also owns Haas Automation, a California-based builder of CNC machine tools worldwide which is represented locally by Productivity Inc., through its Haas Factory Outlet. “Mr. Haas is dedicated to helping students across the United States get an excellent education and practical training and avoid student debt.”

“Thanks first to the Gene Haas Foundation and second to faculty member Tammy Jablonski for pursuing the grant in an effort to better serve students,” said Ridgewater College President Dr. Douglas Allen. “This is another support for students interested in pursuing careers in manufacturing.”

Top 5 Benefits to Pursuing a Career in Machine Tool

  1. Numerous job openings for traditional and nontraditional workers
  2. Excellent pay
  3. Great benefits
  4. Fast-paced environment
  5. Mentally challenging and satisfying work

To learn more about Machine Tool Technology, click here.

Planning Beats Panicking : 4 Keys to Academic Success

keytosuccessWhew!  The first two weeks of the semester are in the books… only fourteen more to go!

While the first week can be overwhelming, it is usually the easiest!  All your instructors ask of you is to show up, buy your textbooks and supplies, and get started.  It is a few weeks later when your world might feel shaky.

The fifth week of classes is usually when your first paper might be due, your first large tests take place, or when major projects might be assigned or due.  All this… AT THE SAME TIME.  We teachers see major panic starting to occur as “the rubber hits the road”.  Students who were successful before they came to college are cool, calm, and collected.  Those who struggled in the past, or are not used to being completely responsible for their own success, are freaking out!  So what can you do to keep from freaking out under the weight of tests, projects, and papers, plus possible jobs and family responsibilities?

4 Tips for Success All Semester Long!

  1. DO YOUR HOMEWORK. That’s right.  Sometimes simply doing the work assigned can help you be more successful!  Think about something: we instructors love our subject matter and want to share our knowledge, but first, you need some background information.  If you read the chapters you are assigned, the class will be more interesting because you will not simply be reviewing the book material, but you will be going deeper into the subject matter with an instructor who has extensive knowledge and experience in his or her field!
  2. SHOW UP. Not only in class, but also in your instructors’ offices.  I know.  It seems crazy, but coming to class can go a long way to being successful.  When you skip class, you miss important information and activities.  When you come to class, but you still don’t understand the material, show up in our offices.  We are here to help.  We want to help.  We are cheering for you.  Let us help you.  Come in and talk.  See us when you are confused about an assignment, a lecture, a reading, or a class discussion.
  3. PARTICIPATE. Be a part of the class discussion.  Actually, those who participate wholly in the class activities or discussions usually fare better on their assignments and tests.  Why?  Because they are interacting with the material, and they begin to feel more comfortable working with that material.  They are sharing ideas with each other and with their instructors.  These students are more likely to ask questions when they are confused, and to having conversations with the material.  That is right.  Students who participate are figuring out how they connect to the class material to predict where it is leading them, and to translate the material to their other classes.  That is a WIN, WIN for everyone!!
  4. KNOW YOUR RESOURCES. I know, I know.  I just said to show up in our offices, but where else can you show up?  Easy peasy lemon squeezy!  There are many services at Ridgewater dedicated to helping students who “show up.”

Continue reading

Earn a Business Degree at Ridgewater – What Are You Waiting For?

business partnership graphic
You could be among the first to earn a Bachelor of Arts Business degree at Ridgewater College, thanks a new partnership with Concordia University, St. Paul. (Did I read that right? A bachelor’s degree at Ridgewater College in Willmar and Hutchinson?)

That’s right. Get your four-year Business degree at Ridgewater College. How’s that for convenient? But how do you know if it’s for you? If you connect with one of these scenarios, take advantage of this new partnership and degree:

  1. You’re a Ridgewater student or alumni with credits you’d like to work for you as you build upon your two-year liberal arts OR technical degree – $2,000 scholarships are available for you!
  2. You’re an employed worker who wasn’t ready for the academic challenges of a bachelor’s degree when you were younger, but the strings to your dream of earning a BA degree cling to you daily – opportunity is knocking at the RIGHT time this time for you!
  3. You’re a parent with children at home so you don’t see commuting to a university as feasible, but you could commit to one night a week at nearby Ridgewater College – the door to your future is just outside your back door!
  4. You’re a high school senior and you have academic dreams that involve more than two years of college – great things come in small packages, you just have to open them!
  5. You’re simply someone who is curious – lucky you, because information open houses are set for 4:30-7:00 p.m. June 10 on the Willmar campus and June 11 on the Hutchinson campus.

Ready to launch your future with a business degree at Ridgewater College? Let’s find out!

For more info: www.ridgewater.edu/liberalarts


4 Steps to Apply for College Financial Aid – Without Pulling Out Your Hair!

FAFSANights2015Yay! You’ve decided to go to college! Now it’s time to figure out how to pay for it without eating just cheesy noodles day and night. Maybe your mom or dad saved some money for you. Maybe you worked summer jobs and saved just enough for the newest phone. Or maybe you’re working…a lot… but all your money goes for grownup bills for you and your family.

Regardless of your age or situation, the majority of college students could benefit from financial aid for college. Four simple tips can get on the right track without losing all your hair!

  1. Regardless of what college you plan to attend, come to Ridgewater’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) workshop. Pick your session! Both help sessions will be from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. (come-and-go format).
    1. Willmar on Wed., April 22
    2. Hutchinson on Thurs., April 23
  2. Then register for that free help session by contacting Megan Field at
    320-222-5264 or megan.field@ridgewater.edu .
  3. Bring the following with you:
    Note: Students will need their parents’ information unless they are 24 years or older OR married OR have been legally emancipated from their guardians.
    I. Parents’ and student’s W2 forms
    II. Parents’ and student’s 2014 tax returns
    III. Social Security cards or Alien ID#
    IV. Student that are reapplying should bring their and their parents’ 4-digit FAFSA PIN
  4. Show up and let us help you complete – then click submit!

“Colleges have many students who wait until the last minute to complete their FAFSA, causing additional struggles when it’s time to pay tuition and buy textbooks,” said Megan Field, Ridgewater Student Success Coordinator and FAFSA event organizer. A late FAFSA submission may also cause students to miss out on opportunities to work on campus through the Federal Work-Study program. Campus supervisors can be so flexible and the jobs provide great work experience. “It is my hope that we can help students (and/or parents) by getting FAFSAs done with them ASAP.”

If you have more questions or want more information regarding financial aid, contact the Financial Aid Office at financialaid@ridgewater.edu .

College Visits 101: Plan Ahead


Deciding what college to attend can be the most important decision a person will make that can affect an entire life. It can determine potential majors, professional connections, BFFs, and perspectives on education, careers and life.

It’s not just about whether you’ll be a Warrior, Dragon, Gopher or other spirited fan –     this is a BIG, exciting decision about cool, life-changing experiences ahead!

Web sites make it easy for prospective students to research colleges, but many will agree: setting foot on a campus is the best way to determine a good fit.

So what makes a college visit SUCCESSFUL? “Plan ahead,” says Jill Traut, Ridgewater College admissions representative. “Start thinking about college before you are a senior.”
– Research possibilities.
– Visit with college representatives who visit your high school.
– Visit with your school counselor.
– Narrow the list of colleges you will visit.

Or if you are an adult, think about college months in advance of reinvesting in yourself. Many colleges have special event days for group visits. Knowing dates early for your top college choices helps families schedule visits around school or work days off and activities. Like this Wednesday, March 25, the Hutchinson campus will host a Discover Ridgewater visit day. Then on Thursday, March 26, the Willmar campus will do that same.
– Meet faculty and students
– See program areas
– Learn about financial aid and the admissions process
– Experience student life with lunch and a comedian

A great experience can create pitter-pats of excitement for a more directed future!

Want a more informal experience? Call the college admissions office about two weeks prior to your anticipated visit day. Share your visit goals and interests. Then staff can make arrangements with faculty, coaches or activity advisors.

Tips for Students
+ Visit more than one college. It’s about perspective.
+ Avoid scheduling two visits in the same day. Can you say information overload?
+ Decide who will join you. Parents? Great. Friends? Possibly distracting.
+ If you bring friends truly interested in the college, consider scheduling separate tours if your majors differ.
+ Ask lots of questions – tuition, housing, activities, part-time jobs and placement.
+ Explore the community –  your potential new “home”. Continue reading

Seeing is Believing: Discover Ridgewater College

Not many people go to a movie without first seeing a movie trailer. Actors, action and scripts tantalize the potential audience to take the plunge and enjoy the whole movie experience.

Discover Ridgewater is a chance for potential students of all ages to visit our campus “sets” in Hutchinson and Willmar to check out the leading faculty and students, witness intriguing career actions, and ponder life-changing scripts to help future audiences take the plunge and enjoy the whole Ridgewater experience.

Registration is now open online for Wed., March 25 in Hutchinson and Thurs., March 26 in Willmar at www.ridgewater.edu/discover .

Each “showing” will run 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Plot components will include:

  • Campus tours
  • Interaction with faculty and students
  • Technical program visits
  • Explanation of general education/liberal arts and the transfer process to four-year universities
  • Exploration of Post-Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO)
  • Financial aid and scholarships nuts, bolts and upcoming deadlines

That’s right – it’s a 3-D show and goodies on us – with no special glasses to wear!

You might not smell popcorn, but if you love the smell of automotive shops, sawdust or hair salons, you’re going to want to be in Willmar!

You might not see Hunger Game challenges, but if you are fascinated with 3-D animation, sound effects or working with children, you’re going to want to be in Hutchinson!

If you’re intrigued by the writing of movies or their reviews, marketing that sells movies or accounting that calculates the blockbuster success, you can take in Discover Ridgewater at either campus! There’s lots more, but you get the idea.

Register today for your free spring showing of Discover Ridgewater and bring a friend and/or parent!

Learn more at www.ridgewater.edu .IMG_4039


Online Courses Prepare This Student for the Next Stage of Her Journey

Nicole Melchert-Breitkreutz isn’t very different than many Ridgewater students.  She is a non-traditional student, returning to college later in life to complete her college studies.  She is taking liberal arts courses en route to an AA degree and a planned transfer to SMSU to complete her bachelor’s degree – just like hundreds of other Ridgewater students.

What might make Nicole a little different is that she is working to complete her degree almost entirely online.  I know, many students take online classes, and it’s not uncommon that students would complete an entire degree online.  Nicole’s story, however, is a great example of how online courses at Ridgewater can provide the flexibility necessary to make pursuit of a college degree possible.

You see, Nicole is taking a full-time course load, working full-time, and raising a family.  So is her husband. Busy family, huh? Listen in as Nicole discusses with Ben Taylor from Q102 how e-learning at Ridgewater is creating opportunities for her and her family, and start thinking about how it might be right for you or someone you know!

Nicole’s Story – Online Courses at Ridgewater

Excellent Employees Make an Excellent College!

Several Ridgewater staff and faculty have recently been recognized by the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system (MnSCU) Board of Trustees for excelling in their job duties.

Two Faculty Honored as Outstanding Educators

Two members of Ridgewater’s faculty have been named by the Board of Trustees as Outstanding Educators for 2012. Dr. Allen Balay, chair of the Veterinary Technology department, and Shawn Mueske, Biology instructor, have both been bestowed with this honor.

Nominations for Outstanding Educator were made by students, faculty peers or staff, and were evaluated by a campus review committee before being submitted to the MnSCU Senior Vice Chancellor as Outstanding Educators by Ridgewater President Dr. Douglas Allen.  At the System level, a committee used detailed criteria in assessing Outstanding Educator portfolios and will make final recommendation of four Educator of the Year recipients, who are reviewed and approved by the Board of Trustees.

The Board of Trustees Educator of the Year Award for Excellence in Teaching program evaluates each nominee in the following areas:

  • Teaching strategies and materials
  • Content expertise and professional growth
  • Service to students, profession, institution, and system
  • Assessment of student learning and performance

Ridgewater Finance Team Receives Award

The Ridgewater College Finance team, led by Dan Holtz, Vice President of Finance and Operations and Cheryl Norlien, Director of Business Services, has been named as recipients of the 2011 Excellence in Financial Management Award in recognition of Ridgewater’s leadership and efforts in financial management.

This award is part of an awards program that was put in place in 1997 to recognize leadership and team effort for excellence in financial management and facilities management.  It also recognizes significant contributions and outstanding efforts of special employees at MnSCU colleges and universities.

Other members of the Finance team at Ridgewater include Teren Novotny, Karen Stulen, Shannon Mittag, Christine Gerding, Deb Wiprud, Audrey Harper, Jennifer Loeschen, and JoLynn Kosek.

Student Services Leaders Recognized

MnSCU leadership has also presented a Certificate of Appreciation to Ridgewater College and several key student services leaders for outstanding contributions to the system-wide Students First project, which has been instrumental in improving the student experience in the areas of admissions, financial aid, payment, and registration.

Recipients of this recognition include Kelli Kienitz, Registrar; Sally Kerfeld, Director of Admissions; Cheryl Norlien, Director of Business Services; and Jim Rice, Director of Financial Aid.

Congratulations to all of the recipients of these honors, and THANK YOU!  It’s because of your tremendous effort that our region is home to such a great college!

Celebrating 50 Years

This year marks Ridgewater College’s 50th Anniversary of providing higher education in central Minnesota.  The institution, which has seen several name changes, mission changes, and mergers over the past five decades originally opened its doors in 1961 as Willmar Community College.  A few years later, it split into two institutions, one offering general education or transfer courses and the other offering technical programs.  In 1967, Hutchinson Area Vocational Technical Institute was founded.  It merged with the Willmar campuses in the mid-1990’s.

Fifty years is indeed a long time, certainly enough to build a strong reputation and a rich history.  The milestone is most certainly cause for celebration. To that end, we’ve been busy planning parties on each of our two campuses – Willmar on Saturday, September 24, and Hutchinson on Saturday, October 15.

Make no mistake, this is not just a class reunion – although several departments on campus will be hosting their alumni.  We believe that the college is an integral part of the region, and want all in the community to come out to campus and see where we’ve come from over the past fifty years, and where we’re headed as we move into the years to come.

Even if you never attended Ridgewater – or any of is predecessor institutions – it’s likely that you have a relative or fried who has.  Given the fact that we know of over 12,000 alumni living in a 7-county region of central Minnesota, it is highly realistic to believe that you have interactions with Ridgewater alumni every day.

The on-campus celebrations will include something for everyone, so be sure to bring out the whole family.  The little kids will enjoy the bounce house and other inflatables, and the whole family can grab lunch from one of our food vendors on campus and take in some live music! The National Guard will be on hand as well with their climbing wall for those who like a challenge.

When you’re here, be sure to take a look around campus.  There will be campus maps available that indicate department activities and the locations of guestbooks – which is how attendees will register for our many great prizes, including an iPad 2!  For those liking a tour guide, we’ll have our admissions reps giving campus tours leaving at the top and bottom of each hour from noon through 2:30 p.m.

And about those department reunions…Watch for additional blog posts throughout the coming days detailing some department reunion activities.  Some of the departments hosting alumni are Auto Body and Auto Service Technology, Agriculture, Veterinary Technology, Photography, Administrative Support/Business, Cosmetology, Occupational Skills, Electronics, and more!