Reflecting on 7 years at Kish

Dr. Laurie S. Borowicz

On Jan. 11, I celebrated seven years of leading Kishwaukee College.

In January 2016, when my family moved to the area and I started in this role, my son was in fifth grade. In May, he will graduate from high school. Time goes by quickly. 

During the past seven years, Kishwaukee College has changed in many ways:

For the first time since 2011, we have experienced an increase in student enrollment. The college continues to serve nearly 4,000 students a year. They come to us from multiple starting points in their learning journey. We are proud to serve everyone wanting an education. 

Where our students are educated has shifted significantly, with more than half of current students taking online classes. Fewer than 20 percent of students were taking online classes in 2016. The additional flexibility has made it easier for people to attend college. 

The number of degrees and certificates awarded by the college has increased over the last seven years. The college has developed more options for students to earn a college credential in addition to the traditional two-year degree. We have enhanced our support services, which have helped students complete their programs.

The diversity of our student body continues to increase each year, especially in the number of Hispanic/LatinX students the college serves. Our student population is nearing 50 percent diverse. We are proud to be the recipient of the 2022 Equity and Diversity award from the Illinois Community College Trustees Association for our work to eliminate the college achievement gap for students of color.

Increasingly more businesses have been served by the college. In 2018, we served 62 businesses. Last year, it was 297. 

The number of high school students earning college credit from Kish before graduating from high school has increased. We continue to focus on helping our young people be college and career ready when they leave high school, and we will launch a new “Early College” program in 2023 in partnership with our local high schools. This work is incredibly important, as earning college credit while in high school has demonstrated results for students in college completion.

Successful organizations recognize that partnerships are the key to success, and Kish is no exception. We have expanded our external partnerships with educators, businesses, and area services, such as the Kishwaukee Water Reclamation District/Village of Malta sewer project launched in 2022. When we work together, we all rise together. 

Our internal partnerships are also critical to the success of our organization. The Board of Trustees and their ability to work together and make decisions in the best interest of the College is impressive. Thank you, Bob Johnson, Dr. Bob Hammon, Kathy Spears, Linda Mason, Kathy Watkins, Kathy Countryman and Geri Dee-Hayden for your commitment to Kish and leading together. 

We have worked over the years on employee relationships, recognizing the constant change we have faced with the multiple forces upon us, including a two-year state budget impasse, a pandemic and enrollment decline. These challenges all required transformative changes in our organization and how we do the business of serving our students. I am proud of how we have worked through issues. Thank you to everyone who has chosen to work at Kish and dedicate themselves to improving the lives of others. 

Thank you to the students who have attended Kish. We recognize there are many higher education options. Our students have shared thoughts and ideas over the years on how we continue to evolve as a college and meet their needs. At the end of the day, it is all about our students. They are the future of our communities.

I look forward to continuing this important work, embracing together the future and what comes next.

Dr. Laurie S. Borowicz is the president of Kishwaukee College.