When Terry Williams decided to attend Blackhawk Technical College for training as an IT-Network Specialist last fall, he went "all in" and registered as a full time student. Terry wanted a change both personally and professionally, and looked forward to the options and opportunities available in IT. While taking courses such as Information Security Principles and Desktop & Server Hardware, he soon faced challenges both academic and personal that made him reconsider his plan to graduate in two years with an associate degree.
Fortunately, the INTERFACE project at Blackhawk Technical College employs IT Lab Assistants who provide instructional assistance during and outside of class, and an IT Outreach Specialist who helps current and potential students navigate the services available to them on campus and in the community.
Terry, a U.S. Navy veteran who previously worked in construction, contacted Carissa Johnson, the IT Outreach Specialist. She had visited each class in the fall to introduce herself, and Terry met with her regularly over the semester to plan his next steps. This was Terry's first educational experience in 25 years, and he decided to follow the IT program's three-year plan instead of graduating in two years, in part because of family and scheduling issues. Carissa also connected him with a number of veterans' services in the area.
Terry also worked with the IT Lab Assistant in his classes, Scott Wallace. Scott is a current IT student at Blackhawk Technical College and will graduate in the spring. He understands the difficulties of juggling home, family, work and school that many technical college students face. Scott and his fellow lab assistants are present in the classroom during instruction, and they hold open labs outside of class time that students attend as needed. Regarding the lab assistants, Terry says, "With a lab assistant, I didn't have to wait to have my questions answered. And the open labs aren't just equipment sitting in a room; there is a person there to help us with assignments. Students have lots of questions." Scott also helped him with assignments when Terry missed class, which he found very helpful.
Terry says, "I could have bailed, but I got past the matter of pride and the extra help was great. It was good to have someone to go to."
The INTERFACE project employs seven part-time IT Lab Assistants in four programs: IT-Network Specialist, IT-Web Software Developer, Computer Service Technician andManufacturing Information Technology Specialist. The IT Outreach Specialist is a full-time position that assists students in all IT programs, and also recruits potential students. These eight staff members are available to assist all students who participate in the INTERFACE grant project at Blackhawk Technical College.