PSEO Questions? Get Answers Feb. 8 at Ridgewater College

Students anAsk Admissions about PSEOd parents can have sooooo many questions about Post-Secondary Enrollment Options.

What is it? How does it work? Can I handle it? Will I miss fun times at my high school? Will I fit in? Can I still be in high school band? Can I do PSEO just part time? Will college class times conflict with my high school class times? What if I don’t know any other students? Can I take technical courses or just general education?

See? LOTS of questions. You’re not alone.

Rather than let your head keep spinning with all your questions, let Ridgewater College staff and students treat you to some answers. Visit with admissions staff who have seen all kinds of students succeed and sometimes struggle in PSEO. Discover from current PSEO students what helps them succeed and hear their stories.

If you or someone you know is thinking about a possible PSEO experience, let us help you answer the most important question of all: Is PSEO right for you?

Hutchinson and Willmar Campuses: Monday, February 8, 6:00-8:00 p.m.
Go to to learn more or to register for the campus you are interested in visiting.

Pickles’ Place at Ridgewater is hopping with fun student videos for young children


Reaching out to children in fun, educatPickles Place 12 Haleyional ways is a common goal for students in Ridgewater College’s Early Childhood Education program. How awesome that they get to put it into practice in so many hands-on ways!

Last week students hosted preschoolers for a fun day of singing songs, doing Pickles-flyer-for-TV-timesactivities, playing with puppets such as Pickles, and sharing treats.

If only they could have that much fun every day!

In fact, many of them do at their daycare centers or at home with Mom or Dad, but they can also tune in to see kid-lovin’ Ridgewater students in 24 new videos called “Pickles’ Place”. Pickles has been popular at Ridgewater since 2010 and shown on Hutchinson Community Video Network (HCVN), but it was time for new students, new stories, and new activities. And now they’re available on Ridgewater’s own website!

Videos feature readings and activities of such children’s stories as:
– “Froggy Bakes a Cake”
– “Go Away, Big Green Monster!”
– “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish”
– “Snow Dance”
– “Harry and the Bucketful of Dinosaurs”

Check them out to see what fun you could have as an Early Childhood Ed student or what fun your own children can have as they see Ridgewater students and Pickles have fun!

“People of all ages love to tell and listen to stories,” explained Ridgewater faculty Cindy Salfer. “Students in the Early Childhood Education program love to share what they know about engaging children in stories and relating them to activities to make the stories memorable. It has been so fun to watch our students grow and to hear the positive feedback from community Pickles lovers.” or HCVN Channel 10

$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.

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

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

Auto Body Collision Repair Students Use New Equipment Thanks to I-CAR Grant

Thanks to a grant from the Minnesota chapter of I-CAR, Ridgewater Auto Body students will be learning weld metal on car bodies with brand new equipment.  Ridgewater received notification of the grant award in the amount of $8,100 this summer and used the funds to help purchase 16 new welders to be used by both first- and second-year students.

The Minnesota I-CAR Volunteer Committee made grant funds available to assist select post-secondary collision repair programs, in obtaining necessary tools and equipment that will enhance the learning experience for students. Qualifying schools must continually demonstrate a high level of commitment to the collision industry and exemplify the standards supported by I-CAR.

Each year, the Ridgewater College Auto Body Collision Repair program trains approximately 70 students for careers in auto body repair in its degree, diploma, and certificate programs.  Students are trained by experienced instructors and utilize the latest technology and repair methods and tools. The program has a strong history of placing its graduates in related fields, with a placement rate averaging over 95%.

I-CAR, the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair, is an international not-for-profit organization dedicated to training the collision inter-industry. Formed by the collision repair industry in 1979, all I-CAR activities, programs, services, and resources focus on supporting the auto collision repair industry to achieve a high level of technical knowledge through access to training.

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!

Manufacturing Jobs 2.0

Careers in manufacturing are a thing of the past, right?  

You’re not alone if you believe that the era of a robust U.S. manufacturing economy – and careers in the sector – are all but dead.  And why wouldn’t one think that were the case? 

News about the great recession, government bailouts of auto manufacturing giants General Motors and Chrysler, and on a more local level, devastating layoffs at large manufacturing firms such as Hutchinson Technology, paint a bleak picture.

But hold on just a minute: despite news stories that would make you think otherwise, the manufacturing industry in the U.S. is strong and growing. 

A recent article by Peter Zelinski, senior editor for Modern Machine Shop, sites statistics published by Financial Times indicating that unfilled manufacturing job openings have more than doubled since the beginning of 2009, rising from 98,000 to 230,000.  Further illustrating this growth, Joseph Bonney’ story for the Journal of Commerce Online references  the Institute for Supply Management’s monthly purchasing managers’ index, which has indicated growth in manufacturing activity for 23 consecutive months.

So what gives? National unemployment figures remain high, yet statistics indicate that hundreds of thousands of manufacturing job openings sit unfilled. 

Jobs in manufacturing most certainly have not gone by the wayside, however careers in the field do look quite different today than they did even a decade ago.  Growth in the industry has been spurred by increased productivity and the manufacturing of high-tech products, both made possible by technological advancements on the shop floor. So, what many Baby-boomers and Gen X’ers envision as a manufacturing job may indeed be history.  

In fact, it is the advancement of manufacturing technology that is causing the shortage of workers.  These unfilled manufacturing jobs require workers with advanced skills in modern manufacturing, such as knowledge of how to operate computer numerical controlled (CNC) lathes, mills, and brakes, or how to program logic controllers (PLC’s) that automate manufacturing processes and tasks completed by robots. To quote Zelinski in his article, “…the skills among jobseekers fall short of the skills that are truly in demand.”

Therein lies a tremendous opportunity. Ridgewater College and other community and technical colleges in Minnesota train students in machine tool technology, automation and robotics, and other modern manufacturing skills.  Our labs contain some of the most up-to-date technology found in industry, and the curriculum is kept up to date with current procedures. 

Many people still think of “machine tool” programs as teaching students the same tired manufacturing skills of twenty years ago, which is simply false.  Zelinski mentions that “…only one group truly [knows] what job skills are in demand…That group is employers themselves.”

We at Ridgewater agree, and that is why our instructors meet annually with an advisory committee made up of industry professionals.  The feedback from this group is used to modify equipment and technology, ensuring that our students are well-trained and ready for the workforce.

And the employers recognize the skills Ridgewater graduates have.  The campus career services office has compiled dozens of positions aimed at our Machine Tool and Automation and Robotics grads, just since the beginning of 2011.  So those job openings we discussed earlier, many of them are available locally. 

And these aren’t minimum wage jobs.  Many of the CNC Operator jobs I reviewed had starting wages in the $20 per hour range.  That’s a good start for someone with two years or less of post-secondary education!

What’s your perception of a machine tool or automation program?  What’s your definition of a manufacturing facility?  You may want to think twice, and consider the opportunities that lie ahead in this dynamic field.

Now’s the Time to Register Kids for Annual Ridgewater Summer Camp

For a week each summer, kids in the Willmar and Hutchinson communities imagine, seek, and explore their opportunities and interests at the Ridgewater College Summer Camp.  This camp is four days of fun-filled adventure for youth entering fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth grades.  Registration for this year’s camps are now available.

The Hutchinson event will be Monday, July 18 through Thursday, July 21 from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. each day. The Willmar camp is set for the same times but from Monday, July 25, through Thursday, July 28. 

“The Ridgewater Summer Camp is a great place to imagine, seek, and explore a wide variety of career opportunities and interests,” explained Tari Niemeyer, camp coordinator. “The hands-on sessions can help campers decide what courses, careers or interests they would like to pursue in high school and beyond.” 

The events provide numerous fun and educational options. New sessions this year, depending on the camp location, include digital media, biology, history, movie making, food careers, the science of fireworks, various cultures, and musical drums. Back by popular demand will be sessions on car engines and custom graphics, desktop publishing, simple computer programming, health careers, various arts, fitness careers, T-shirt designing, robotics, horse care, dance, theater, culinary creations, general career exploration, and more. 

On the last day of each camp, family members and friends will be invited to join campers as they showcase their achievements. 

The cost of $99 per student (or $79 early bird special if registered by June 10) includes four days (not overnight) of hands-on supervised classes and activities, materials, lunches, a T-shirt, and other items. Early registration is encouraged because class sizes are limited and some sessions fill early. 

The camps are sponsored by the Ridgewater College Customized Training and Continuing Education, Student Success grant, and the West Central Integration Collaborative, as well as Central Minnesota Jobs and Training, and New Discoveries Montessori Academy. 

To print a registration packet or see slideshows of last year’s camps, go to For more information or have a registration packet mailed to you, contact Tari Niemeyer at or 320-234-8540. To register, contact Jone at 320-234-8592 or .

Minnesota State College Student Association Names Ridgewater’s Stone “Instructor of the Year”

Ridgewater College faculty member Gayne Stone was named the 2011 Minnesota State College Student Association (MSCSA) Instructor of the Year.  

The Instructor of the Year award is a true honor because the nominations come from students and the recipient is chosen by MSCSA student leadership. Stone was nominated for the award by Jordan Dettmann, Columba Nwosu and the Student Senate from Ridgwater’s Willmar campus to honor and recognize him as a top faculty member in the MnSCU system who has inspired and positively impacted students. 

Stone has taught math at Ridgewater College’s Willmar campus since 2000. Combine that with his many years as a high school teacher and counselor at Willmar High School, and he has over 50 years of teaching experience.

“It is unreal how Gayne is able to slow down a class. He shows more than one way to do a problem. Everything is laid out for you step by step. He does not give up on us, so we don’t give up on him,” said a Ridgewater student in the award nomination materials. 

Stone accepted the award this past Saturday, April 16, 2011 at the MSCSA Annual Awards Dinner. He was accompanied by his wife and several students from Ridgewater College-Willmar. 

The Minnesota State College Student represents students attending the state’s two-year technical, community, and comprehensive colleges on 47 campuses advocating for more than 100,000 students across the state.