Let me tell you of the amazing things that have come to pass in York, Nebraska.
Last October (2011) we submitted an application for change to our accrediting body. The approval of this request would mean York College Online would move from being limited to offering degree completion to former York College students to being free to offer a number of complete degree programs through our online campus. So, needless to say, this was a big deal.
Earlier this year a team arrived from the accrediting body to physically review our operation and interview key participants such as instructors, administrators, and students. It was a day and a half of utterly palpable anxiety. If indeed it were possible for one to sweat bullets, I believe I would have left a few shell casings on the carpet.
Then came the waiting which, by the way, truly is the hardest part. For weeks and weeks we heard nothing. I was assured the review was still underway and we would eventually hear something, though it may not be until early fall. So we kept doing what we do, working hard at giving our online students a high-quality academic experience. Every day came with the hope of news and most required strong determination to keep the anticipation at bay.
On July 20 the Academic Dean of York College walked into my office and handed me a piece of paper. I saw it was from our accrediting body and my heart began to speed up. I read the first sentence, “This is a formal notification of the action taken concerning York College…”, and I am certain my fingers, toes, and lips simultaneously went numb.
The vote of the council was to APPROVE the initiation and expansion of distance education at York College.
APPROVED! Never had I worked so hard for such an accomplishment in my career and this little piece of paper made the 80+ hours per week for several weeks on end worth every single moment. So profound was this news that every frustrated sigh and exasperated tear were instantaneously nullified. My little online operation was now 100% accredited. In that moment of realization, had someone but asked, I could have burst into flight – I just know it!
I would like to take the next several moments and thank everyone who helped make this a reality.
To my Academic Dean, who never wasted a breath saying anything except that he believed we could do it. You wouldn’t take no for an answer and I knew I had to follow.
To my President, who saw something in me that I didn’t see myself until recently. You trusted me with your vision and with helping to preserve the institution that I hold dear as an alumna.
To Thessali, Gayle, Meghan, Gail, Rose, Chrystal, Brent, Nick, Clark, Christi and all of the fabulous faculty and staff of York College. Your hugs, and shoulders, and words of encouragement meant the difference between giving up and pushing through more times than I can say.
To my student workers; Erich, Kristine, Crystal, and Morgan. To my support at Learning House; Tina, Nate, Allison, Virginia, and your teams – what could I possibly say that would be enough of a thank you? You all were in the trenches with me month after month. We churned out curriculum, marketing materials, recruiting plans, and training packages. We canvassed, we polled, we tweeted, and posted our hearts out. No way this would have happened without your help.
To my predecessor, mentor, friend, and frequent substitute mom Jackie. You laid a foundation that was rock-solid. This house is not built on sand but on the solid bedrock of your wisdom, determination, and great faith. There would be nothing to celebrate today without your efforts.
To my instructors; Monty, Winona, Jackie, Wayne, Kim, Alisa, Summer, Erin, Bobby, Jen, Patti, Kathleen, Mark, Marti, and so many more. You make this look good. You give selflessly because you believe in the mission of York College and because you all have the heart of a servant. What we have before us will be challenging and incredibly rewarding. I am so thankful to have you on my team!
To the students who have taken the bold step of completing their degrees online and choosing York College as your future alma mater. Thank you for trusting us to help you reach your academic goals. It is my great honor to assist you and I look forward to seeing each and every one of your faces on your respective graduation days.
Lastly, to my family. Mitch, Lori, Kalon, Dakota, TJ, Priscilla, Josh, and Mikah. Whether near or far; connected by email, or phone, or silly online drawing games – you all are my heart and the reason I get out of bed every day. I thank God for you constantly.
With my Academy Award acceptance speech drawing to a close I just want to pause one more moment and offer thanks and praise to my God. It’s been quite the journey you have mapped out for me to travel these past few years. Thank you for loving me and shining your light on my life.
Now! Let’s sweep away this confetti and get to work! We have some full degrees to roll out for some expectant students and for a sweet little college in Nebraska that deserves our very best. Let’s rock this puppy!
Lisa M. Menke is the Associate Dean for Online Instruction at York College of Nebraska. Lisa is an avid fan innovation in learning design and transmedia storytelling. Lisa holds a graduate degree in Curriculum and Instruction and a graduate certificate in online course development. Lisa and her family live in York, Nebraska.