CVTC Information Technology graduates Carey Kuehl, (L) of Glenwood City, and Janet Zimmer, originally from Elmwood, WI now living in Menomonie, line up before the fall commencement ceremony Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2016. Submitted photo
CVTC Information Technology graduates Carey Kuehl, (L) of Glenwood City, and Janet Zimmer, originally from Elmwood, WI now living in Menomonie, line up before the fall commencement ceremony Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2016. Submitted photo

Submitted by Mark Gunderman, CVTC

EAU CLAIRE, WI – Many students enroll at Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) in search of a career after becoming victim of a layoff. But sometimes people sense hard times coming and get proactive about acquiring new skills.

That was the strategy for Janet Zimmer, an Elmwood native now living in Menomonie who graduated from CVTC’s Information Technology-Software Developer program Tuesday, December 20, 2016.

Zimmer was one of 365 graduates in 38 programs from both the Eau Claire and River Falls campuses honored at the CVTC fall commencement ceremony held at UW-Eau Claire’s Zorn Arena. The most popular programs were Nursing-Associate Degree with 72 graduates, Practical Nursing with 37, Business Management with 30 and Truck Driving with 26.

Zimmer, a 1994 Elmwood High School graduate, had been doing grant administration work for Cedar Corporation in Menomonie.

"I came back to school because funding at the state is drying up and I was afraid I was going to lose my job,” Zimmer said. “Software Developer sounded like a secure future.”

Zimmer noted that CVTC gave her the flexibility to continue working, taking program classes at her own pace. She completed the normally two-year program in four years.

“It was challenging for me because I’m not a techie by nature,” Zimmer said. “But I like the possibilities for the future.”

One of her friends in the program was Carey Kuehl, a 1989 Glenwood City High School graduate who moved back to her hometown after a military career.

“I served 15 years in the Navy as an aircraft mechanic, then moved back to Glenwood City to raise my boys,” Kuehl said. “I like the small-town environment and it’s close to my family.”

There not being much call for aircraft mechanics in St. Croix County, Kuehl had been working in customer service management when she decided to make a switch.

“I decided I was tired of the management world, so I went into information technology,” Kuehl said.

Kuehl completed both the Information Technology-Software Developer and Information Technology-Mobile Developer programs.

The guest speaker for the commencement was Chris Conard, president of PMI LLC, a metal products manufacturer in Bloomer. He praised the graduates for making the “right choice” to attend CVTC and challenged them as well.

“As you continue your life journey make the right choice to share your gifts and talents and give back,” Conard said. “Some of my most rewarding memories have come from my work with Junior Achievement and serving in various volunteer activities. Make yourself available to volunteer time to a local food shelf, the Red Cross or any other organization in need.”

Student speaker Miranda Hutchinson of Chippewa Falls offered some words of encouragement in concluding her graduation speech. “Remember to take pride in what you do,” she said. “Treat everyone with kindness, compassion, and be humble.  And while you might not receive this in return, you are paving the road for a better future.”

Faculty speaker Kasondra Mero, an EMS instructor, used a baseball analogy to encourage the graduates.

“Remember this day and how you feel right now in this moment, remember what it feels like to knock one out of the park because after today more curve balls will come to you,” Mero said. “However, now you know that if you keep swinging you will have this moment of triumph again; you will knock another one out of the park.”

Chippewa Valley Technical College delivers superior, progressive technical education that improves the lives of students, meets the workforce needs of the region, and strengthens the larger community. Campuses are located in Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire, Menomonie, Neillsville and River Falls. CVTC serves an 11-county area in west central Wisconsin. CVTC is part of the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) and is one of 16 WTCS colleges located throughout the state.