by jamesc 2/18/2014 4:47:16 PM --
NORFOLK – Ken Echtenkamp’s name is synonymous with education in Northeast Nebraska. In addition to being a teacher, an administrator, and superintendent of two school districts, the West Point man served as business manager of one of the predecessor institutions to Northeast Community College and was a longtime member of the College’s board of governors. On Tuesday, Northeast named its new information technology (IT) building after Echtenkamp, whose tenure with the College spanned over 35-years. The Northeast Board of Governors approved the $1.1 renovation of the former Broadcasting/Electronics building into its new IT showcase facility in 2012.
“We are most grateful for Mr. Echtenkamp’s over three decades of service to the College,” said Dr. Michael Chipps, president of Northeast Community College. “He was there as Northeast grew from a small technical college to the top echelon of rural community colleges in America. It is the visionary leadership of many outstanding individuals who preceded us, such as Mr. Echtenkamp, who have led Northeast Community College to grow and to continue to provide more programs and course offerings to meet the needs of our students and constituents.”
The Broadcasting/Electronics building was originally constructed in 1974 at a cost of $199,000, and measured 10,000 square feet. At the time, the building was labeled the “E” building as the naming convention of buildings at that time was an alphabetic designation. In the early 2000s, the broadcasting program moved to new space in the Cox Activity Center. The vacating of the broadcasting program provided space for a much needed English as a Second Language program. In 2007, the electronics program was discontinued and that space became home to a second year drafting computer lab and a Cisco networking and computer repair lab, in addition to the ESL program, a distance delivery classroom and a general purpose classroom.
“When the building was approved for renovation, it was decided that the information technology program would be the primary program of study in the renovated facility,” said John Blaylock, vice president of educational services at Northeast, at Tuesday’s dedication. “I challenged the faculty and administration of the program to reinvent the information technology programs offered to align with the new facility design, technology and the workplace needs of today. They have accepted that challenge, and beginning in the fall 2014 semester, will offer five new certificates and a customized associate degree program based on student’s career goals of working in information technology.”
“For many people including incoming students, information technology simply means ‘computers.’ Information technology is that and much more,” said Richard Chrisman, IT instructor. “The industry has many specialties such as application development, security, networking, and end user support. In conjunction with the remodeling project; the (Northeast) IT faculty was tasked with revising our program to better fit the needs of a diverse group of information technology students.”
Chrisman was grateful that he and his fellow IT instructors had the opportunity to have a hand in creating the state-of-the-art facility. “In the short time we have been in the building, we have been able to present materials and skills in a manner that was only a dream two years ago. Thanks to people like Mr. Echtenkamp, the board of governors and the Northeast administration, we will train students for the best jobs in America for many years to come.”
Northeast Community College has expanded from two concentrations in information technology (programming & PC repair and networking) to five concentrations where students can earn certificates (Cisco networking, information security, IBMi application development, web and visual application development, and technical services support). In addition, the associate of applied science (AAS) degree is now made up of a core of 23 IT credits, 15 general education credits and any two of the certificate offerings.
In 2012, the median base salary for information technology workers was $96,000. By 2020, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics is predicting 1.4 million new jobs in IT. The Bureau is further predicting, based on current higher education enrollment figures; up to 1 million IT jobs may go unfilled due to the lack of qualified applicants. This combination has led both Forbes and US News and World Report to list application development and systems analysts as the top two most desirable occupations in America for 2014. The new program at Northeast teaches the skills necessary for those two occupations, as well as five of the top fifteen occupations on the list.
Each lab in the Echtenkamp building was designed to meet the needs of a specific group or type of student or learning environment. One lab is designed to allow computers to be taken and left apart for more than one class period. Another has two computers for each student, one of which can be networked on a private network to allow networking students the ability to multi-task within a given lecture or lab period. The third is a traditional lecture/lab environment, but has dual monitors which allow for enhanced learning opportunities. Another lab is wireless with laptops. The tables can be easily moved into any configuration, allowing students the opportunity to collaborate in areas such as systems design and analysis. The last lab is configured in a U-shape, giving space to a permanent robotics playing field to serve Northeast robotics students. The room has excellent visual presentation capabilities. This permits the instructor to display one image to three overhead projectors and a second image to a monitor on the student’s desk while it allows the student to work on a second monitor.
Meanwhile, Echtenkamp said he is amazed at the changes in information technology. “I am pleased to see Northeast continue to expand offerings in this curriculum. I always believed in putting students first, and I still do.”
Echtenkamp said he was appreciative of the distinction of having the building named after him. “I am very pleased with the honor of naming this facility in my name. Being in the company of so many pioneers in the formation of the fantastic growth of Northeast Community College such as F. Don Maclay, the Weller family, Robert Cox, Arlo Wirth, Michael Paradise, J. Paul and Eleanor McIntosh, and others, is very humbling.”
“During my 40 plus years in education and being involved with many boards of education, I can honestly say that the 32 years I spent on the Northeast Board of Governors were the most pleasant and valuable,” Echtenkamp said. “All during our time together, the college board consistently held to their number one priority that buildings and facilities were important and necessary, but only to the extent of being part of providing the best possible education experience for the students enrolled on our campus.”
Echtenkamp began his educational career in 1952 in Bancroft where he was a teacher. It was there, he later became principal and then superintendent. In 1970, he accepted the business manager’s position for Northeastern Nebraska College. In 1971, he served one year as acting president of Northeast Nebraska College after the death of the incoming president, F. Don Maclay.
In 1974, Echtenkamp accepted the job of superintendent of the West Point Public Schools, a position he held until his retirement in 1989. He was first elected to the Northeast Technical Community College Board of Governors in 1979, representing District Four, which includes Burt, Cuming, Stanton and Thurston counties, and a portion of Madison County. Echtenkamp served as chairman three times – 1990, 1997, and 2005. He also held the positions of vice chair and secretary. He stepped down in 2010.
Prior to unveiling a plaque that bears Echtenkamp’s name and likeness; Dr. Chipps said he is pleased the newest building on campus is named after the former board member. “Mr. Echtenkamp has given so much of his time and talents to Northeast Community College over the years. During his tenure, a number construction projects were completed and several ribbons were cut all across this campus and our extended campuses, including one in his hometown of West Point. It is only fitting that we are here today to name this building transformation after Ken Echtenkamp.”
Ken Echtenkamp (left) watches Dr. Michael Chipps, president of Northeast Community College, unveil a plaque Tuesday morning during a ceremony to name the College’s new information technology building on its Norfolk campus after Echtenkamp. Echtenkamp, of West Point, has a long history with Northeast – serving as business manager, acting president and a longtime board member over a 35 year period.