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2014 December 19 - 05:31 am

Nebraska College Hires Its First Alumni Director

Newly Created Position To Focus on Building a Network of Graduates

HASTINGS, Neb. (AP) — For the first time in years, Cheri Beda has found a job she really doesn’t want to leave.

Beda has been serving since May 2013 as a case manager with Project HELP at Central Community College-Hastings. Since Sept. 2, Beda has taken on a new task serving as the college system’s first alumni director.

Beda grew up in New York state and later lived in several states before following her husband, Phil, who works for the National Weather Service. They have lived in Texas, Oklahoma, Alaska and now Nebraska, Phil’s home state.

“I was a nontraditional student,” Beda told the Hastings Tribune. “I didn’t even go to college until I was 30.”

She worked in dental assisting for 12 years before going back to school. Beda holds an associate degree in psychology from Oklahoma City Community College and a bachelor’s in interdisciplinary studies and a master’s degree in prevention science from the University of Oklahoma.

In Alaska, Beda worked as a para-educator at a school that at the time had only 12 students. Then, the family spent a short time in Williston, N.D., an oil boom town, where Beda opened an inhome day care.

“I got state-certified and everything, and then they shut the weather service (office) down, so we came to Nebraska,” Beda said. “I was happy to find my job here.”

Beda started at CCC as a case manager with Project HELP, the Health Education Laddering Program. Through this grant program, her job was to help students interested in pursuing degrees or certificates in health care to manage the higher education ropes.

While Beda loved the job, it was through a grant, meaning that it only lasted for a short time.

“I couldn’t imagine not working at CCC, because I love working here,” she said.

Since early September, Beda has been starting the groundwork on the newly created alumni director position. For years, the CCC Foundation has been in charge of alumni relations and contact. However, with the foundation’s main goal being to raise funds for the college system and student scholarships, Beda said it was difficult to also juggle the alumni aspect.

“We cover a large area and it needs a lot of attention, so I can see that this is a full-time job,” Beda said.

Beda said she knows the power of alumni and said they are some of the greatest pieces of marketing for any college.

“They really lend the credibility of the college,” she said.

“They’re out in the community and the state working and being successful.”

Beda said that 75 percent of CCC graduates who have full-time jobs live within CCC’s 25-county area. And 98 percent of CCC’s graduates who are employed full time live in Nebraska. With those statistics, Beda said, she wants to focus on connecting alumni with students and the college system to benefit everyone. She hopes to bring alums to campus to share stories and answer questions for current students, whether it is getting through a CCC program or finding a job.

Beda also hopes in the short term to host meetings at each of CCC’s campuses and centers to meet with alumni and get ideas for other networking opportunities and alumni programs.

Building an alumni database will be a huge part of Beda’s job, which, fortunately, is already in existence. The foundation had the database and has been working for some time to track down information on graduates from1969 to the 1980s so it can be added.

In addition to working with today’s alumni, Beda wants to work with today’s students to help engage them now so that when they leave they will still have that connection to CCC. She hopes to create a future alumni network or “FAN,” where students can engage in activities like community service projects.

Beda said her overall goal is to develop programs that will engage alumni, benefit current students and involve the community.

“My goal is really to engage the community members more, engage the alumni and current students,” she said. “And we’re always looking for the future students.”

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