CVTC Alumni Newsletter

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CVTC PRESIDENT BARKER ANNOUNCES RETIREMENT College’s leader reflects on two decades of commitment to community impact After twenty-one years of service to the Chippewa Valley Technical College district, President Bruce Barker has announced his retirement, effective July 1, 2021. Over the past 12 years as president, Barker has been at the center of efforts to meet the region’s workforce needs, a vital part of the mission of CVTC. Barker joined CVTC in 1999 as director of human resources

Being part of the CVTC team has been a wonderful experience and privilege. - PRESIDENT BRUCE BARKER

and became vice president of operations the following year. In 2008, he was selected as the 10th president of CVTC. “Being part of the CVTC team has been a wonderful experience and privilege,” Barker said. “I will always be extremely proud and grateful for what we have accomplished. CVTC provides our students with options, hope, direction and the skills and confidence to succeed. We provide our communities with essential workers, experts in every field, entrepreneurs and leaders.” Barker counts CVTC’s increased impact on the community as his greatest accomplishment. During his tenure, the country experienced the worst recession in 60 years. In response, “CVTC was able to bring millions of grant dollars home to the Chippewa Valley to train displaced workers and get them back to work, which, in some instances, saved families’ homes,” Barker reflected.

This direct alignment with business and industry partners played a critical role in expanding programming at the College, which more than doubled during his tenure. CVTC currently offers 118 programs, 38 certificates, and 13 apprenticeships. These new programs brought on under Barker’s leadership include gas utility construction and service, culinary management, practical nurse and graphic design. Maximizing student experiences through new programming, international fairs, study abroad programs and the initiation of the Phi Theta Kappa student international honor society are some examples of progress under Barker’s leadership. “Bruce has had his steady hand on the rudder of CVTC for twelve years and has steered the college to new heights,” said Kirk Moist, vice president of finance. “Our academic programs, student outcomes, faculty and staff and facilities are all top shelf, and I have witnessed Bruce’s influence.” Barker has ensured that the learning environment for CVTC students is relevant, efficient and safe. That became more important when the COVID-19 crisis struck, forcing new instructional approaches. Working with his leadership team, Barker ensured that quality CVTC instruction would go on. Under Barker’s leadership, CVTC expanded the Manufacturing Education Center, created CVTC’s Applied Technology Center, and constructed the innovative Energy Education Center and the Fire Safety Center. With voter approval of a $48.8 million referendum in April, construction of a new Transportation Education Center, addition and remodeling of the Emergency Services Education Center, an automated fabrication addition to the Manufacturing Education Center, and property expansion at the River Falls location will also be part of Barker’s legacy. “The CVTC board will greatly miss Bruce and the tremendous difference he makes at CVTC,” said Paul Bauer, president of the CVTC Board. “His guidance and innovative perspective will be difficult to replace and we wish him all the best in this new chapter of his journey.” After retirement, Barker looks forward to enjoying more time with family and a post-pandemic Eau Claire. “The great quality of life we enjoy here in the Chippewa Valley is a direct result of the education we provide at CVTC. I am confident that the team at CVTC will deliver on this promise now and into the future!”



Former high school teacher Joe Rupslaukas comes to CVTC in search of a new career Joe Rupslauskas loves history. He came from Appleton to UW-Eau Claire to study the subject and become a high school history teacher. But after three years at Chippewa Falls Senior High School, he found himself looking for something else. He found it at Chippewa Valley Technical College. Today, Joe is a test engineer with the quality assurance division at Jamf Software in Eau Claire. His journey to his new profession brought him through the IT-Software Developer program at CVTC, ironically, back to Chippewa Falls Senior High School, and to a brief but very large appearance of his photo on the side of a building in Times Square in New York City. “The world of K-12 education is a difficult one these days,” Joe said. “I decided I wanted to give something else

Joe Rupslauskas’ photo projected onto the NASDAQ Tower in New York City along with several other Jamf employees

a try. I was still at an appropriate age to try something new.” Already holding a four-year bachelor’s degree, Joe decided CVTC was the place to seek training for a new career. “As a non-traditional student, I had a house to pay for and I had to keep working full time,” said Joe, 30. “I just wasn’t able to go back to a four-year school. But CVTC was not a compromise, as I was able to get what I needed at a greater value.” Joe chose IT-Software Developer, on the advice of a friend who works in the field who thought he would be good at it. “He said I was smart and able to break down complex problems and make them simple,” Joe said. “I could have taught history somewhere else, but I decided to give my friend’s idea a try.” Joe started at CVTC in 2017. He had general classes under his belt because of his existing degree. His friend’s advice turned out to be sound. Joe excelled at the program. After his first year, and with teaching experience, Keith Stearns, CVTC high school academy specialist, recruited him to teach the first-year classes he had just completed at – of all places – Chippewa Falls Senior High School. “I came back to Chi-Hi, teaching again, but in a whole different subject,” Joe said. When he finished his second year in May 2019, Joe was hired at Jamf Software, a prized position for a CVTC IT program graduate. “I enjoy the corporate culture,” Joe said about the firm with a reputation for hard work, but with a laid-back attitude. “The support people give each other is incredible. Everybody works hard and takes care of each other.” Joe’s work there led to a unique opportunity. Jamf had gone public, meaning its stock was available for sale on the NASDAQ exchange. When that happens, what is called an IPO, for Initial Public Offering, is held. “There was a message that went out to the whole company to send a picture of yourself because we were given access to the NASDAQ Tower as part of the IPO,” Joe said. That included a video screen on the side of the building, not uncommon in Times Square. The plan was to rotate Jamf employee photos to help promote the IPO. “Mine was up there for about three seconds, but there was a camera set up to get a photo of it. They sent us our photos being displayed at Times Square.” OK, it’s not even 15 seconds of fame, but not many people in Eau Claire – besides Jamf employees – can lay claim to having their faces part of the lights of the big city, even briefly. “I am very happy at Jamf,” Joe said. “I don’t see any reason to leave a company that takes steps to help out its employees.” Joe urges anyone who finds themselves in the position he was in, looking to change careers, to give CVTC a try. CVTC set his life on a new course, and at a reasonable price.


Zach Schimmel succeeds in two careers Zach Schimmel has a lot of responsibility riding on his 30-year-old shoulders. As an associate financial advisor at Fries Financial Group in Chippewa Falls, he keeps careful track of his clients’ portfolios. But he also closely monitors his business, Pro-Form Solutions, a concrete, excavating and landscaping business in Bloomer. At home, he and his wife, Carly, raise two boys, ages 3 and 6 months. In handling his professional responsibilities, Zach credits the Business Management program at Chippewa Valley Technical College for providing a solid foundation of skills he relies on daily. “Right after graduating from Bloomer High School in 2009, I went to WITC in Rice Lake for a semester, and I did one semester at UW-Stout,” Zach recalls. “I wanted to get an education, but I was just taking general classes.” Zach Schimmel, seated, confers with Fries Financial Group Zach took time off from school while he considered owner Tim Fries at the Chippewa Falls office what direction he wanted to go. He worked for a local paving company, then for Chippewa Sand Company, one of several frac sand mining operations in the area. “I was a but wanted to go into business for himself. In January heavy equipment operator for 18 months, then became a 2019, he and his brother, Sawyer, and friend Trent Arendt, purchasing manager, then operations manager,” Zach said. started Pro-Form Solutions as a concrete edging business. “That was a big step. We had 50 to 75 employees at two One of their early jobs was helping with the replacement of different sites working two shifts.” drive-through equipment at McDonald’s restaurants. But the industry had a significant downturn around 2015. Zach and his partners worked nights and weekends, Zach continued to work there while he started in the Business around the hours of their other jobs. But on June 1, Management program at CVTC. It was a double load, but he 2019, business had picked up enough that all were able did well, joining the Phi Beta Kappa honors society. to leave their day jobs Zach already had and concentrate on their business experience The thing I loved about CVTC is I had the business. But Zach didn’t when he started. “It was a little different flexibility to go at night or have some time plan to spend the rest of his life doing manual labor being a non-traditional off if I was really busy with everything. working with concrete. student,” he said. “But I “The financial services really connected with - ZACH SCHIMMEL industry piqued my interest, the teachers.” and I was able to get an His prior business opportunity to talk with Tim Fries in 2018,” Zach said. experience allowed him to earn some Credit for Prior Fries, one of the leading financial advisors in the Learning, which turns life experience into college credits. Chippewa Falls area, was interested in Zach, but did Zach says he liked the hands-on approach of CVTC. “It not have a position for him at the time. That changed in was very applicable to daily business life,” he said. “They September 2019 when he contacted Zach to see if he was would teach me, and I would go back as an operations still interested. Zach started with the firm in March 2020. manager and the lessons would just click. Pro-Form is still going strong, but Zach isn’t doing the “The thing I loved about CVTC is I had the flexibility to hands-on labor anymore. “My role is administrative now,” go at night or have some time off if I was really busy with he said. “We have become less of an edging business and everything,” Zach added. do more things like paving sidewalks.” And it was a busy time for him, which included marrying And something else has changed for Zach and Carley. Carly and welcoming their first child in 2017, before Zach’s Their second child, another son, arrived in July. The family CVTC graduation that year. still lives in Bloomer, where the couple grew up. Zach was still working for Chippewa Sand after graduation

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