The Light at the End of the Tunnel is Not the Train

Circle Art
June 1, 2021

By President Annesa Cheek

I write this column to you at the end of one of the most historic, challenging, consequential, and innovative times in St. Cloud Technical & Community College’s history. On May 14th, the College awarded degrees and certificates to over 800 students, all of whom were resilient and focused on their goal of making a better life for themselves and their families. And they did so in the midst of a global pandemic, social strife, economic uncertainty, and general anxiety. 

In fact, this year, unlike almost any other for SCTCC, has been one where we have realized more about ourselves and each other in a way that has caused us to care more, do more, give more, ask more, reflect more, and share more than we have in recent times. We have realized that ‘we are stronger together’ is not a cliché, but instead, it is our rallying cry. Because of the amazing dedication and skill of the faculty, staff, administration, and students at SCTCC, the College—and our community—can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and that light is not the train! It is a potential for hope that we all wish for ourselves, our family and friends, our College, our community, and our broader national and global society. We are getting there—together.

As this historic academic year comes to a close at SCTCC, I am mindful that the turning of this page in our history is a natural opportunity to reflect on changes that have occurred and those that we have yet to see, and to celebrate the successes of our students, faculty, and staff who have found a way or made a way to keep moving forward in the face of sometimes unimaginable odds. The end of this extraordinary year is a natural demarcation to let us transition from the past to the future, letting go of the old and embracing the new—from views and attitudes, to habits and routines, to policies and operations. All of these behaviors require periodic examination—and often deconstruction—to maximize the environments we try to create. If nothing else was evident over the last year, at least we better understood that the conditions we create—locally, societally, personally—build systems that yield the exact results we are experiencing. If we want different results, we have to intentionally create different conditions.

At SCTCC, we have created conditions that have yielded some amazing accomplishments for which we are truly proud, including: Minnesota State Board of Trustees Award of Excellence recognition given to faculty from the Medium/Heavy Truck trades area and from Nursing; student finalists in both the domestic and international Collegiate DECA competitions, with a 1st place award in the area of Sports and Entertainment Marketing; 21 regional businesses benefited from our Northway Group’s marketing and communications services; in partnership with United Way and the Initiative Foundation, the Summer launch of a new online certificate in Early Childhood Education to meet the demand for individual training and entrepreneur interests in this field; performance excellence and intern-to-employment status for our high demand health field graduates; establishment of Wellness Resource Services to meet the growing needs of non-academic support in mental health, food, and housing insecurities; enjoying the wins of our baseball team; and celebrating the work of, on average, 25 years of service from retiring staff and faculty.  

Our conditions are not yet perfect—though a work in progress. We have not perfected an environment that ensures absolute student success and engagement. We have not perfected an environment that is completely anti-racist or completely equity-minded and diverse. We have not created an environment that is totally aligned with our community to support all its needs, and those of employers for skilled workers. But we are trying. We are getting comfortable with being uncomfortable and facing our truths about the environments we create and the conditions that we need in order to turn to the next page in our College and community history, welcoming that light at the end of the tunnel as a gift, not a threat, and advancing the cause of equitable educational excellence in our region.

I want to end this column by expressing gratitude for all of the community partners who have stepped up and stepped in to support our College and students this year. The level of care and kindness has been overwhelming and appreciated. And I also want to publicly offer a hearty and rowdy SCTCC Cyclone congratulations to all of the students who graduated just a week ago! This is a year for the history books and one which we will not soon forget.

Kate Wallace