Kopischke looks back at 10 years of leading Alex Tech
Kevin Kopischke, president of Alexandria Technical and Community College (ATCC), still remembers the wise words of advice that former president and founder of the college, Vern Maack, gave him when he first started: “Don’t screw this up.” Kopischke didn’t.
In fact, during his 10 years as president, he helped maintain the college’s reputation as one of the premier technical colleges in the country – with a job placement rate that is consistently more than 90 percent, a new transfer program that allows students the opportunity to pursue non-technical careers, and firmly established partnerships with the school district and local manufacturers that start training students for careers before they graduate from high school.
Last Tuesday, Kopischke took a look back at his time with ATCC, a career that began 39 years ago and wrapped up June 30 with his retirement.
AN EDUCATIONAL CAREER
Kopischke was hired as a student-teacher for the college’s marketing program in 1975. After earning his degree at St. Cloud State University, he came back to the college a year later, landing an instructor job in hotel/restaurant management.
He taught here 10 years before earning a master’s degree in administration through St. Cloud State University. Three weeks later, he was named vice president of student services and customized training in Brainerd.
Five years later, in 1991, Kopischke returned to Alexandria and was hired to lead the college’s customized training program. He earned his doctorate from the University of Minnesota in 1995 and was named president in 2004.
In the last decade, Kopischke said the biggest change at the college was expanding its mission in 2010 to offer four-year transfer degrees and the financial aid that goes along with it.
The college’s name was changed, adding the word “community” to reflect additional opportunities for students.
“We realized that there were a lot of undecided students out there, those who were looking for something other than a technical degree, for us to attract,” Kopischke said. “This put us on equal footing with other colleges in the state.”
Even with the change, the college held true to its original mission of providing technical degrees, he added.
A RESPECTED LEADER
What will Kopischke miss the most after he steps down as president?
“The action,” he said. “I tried to instill the need that we should always be at the table when conversations are occurring in the community. If we’re not involved in what’s happening now, we won’t be involved tomorrow. I’ll miss that interaction and the people.”
“Involved” sums up Kopischke’s leadership style. He’s involved in the Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission, foundation groups, Douglas County Hospital Board, Minnesota Lakes Maritime Museum, and School District 206’s educational mission, a mission that’s no longer “K-12” (kindergarten through 12th grade), but “P-14” (pre-kindergarten through first two years of post-secondary education).
Kopischke’s involvement won’t come to a halt with his retirement. He plans to work with a Regional Economic Development (RED) group that seeks to revitalize rural Minnesota, and plans to continue working for the “P-14” model on a statewide basis, breaking down the wall that stops some students from furthering education beyond high school.
And he’ll have time left over for a little fun, too. He plans to fish and golf more and looks forward to spending time with his seven grandchildren.
Kopischke feels comfortable about turning the reins over to new president, Laura Urban. “Our enrollment is solid, the faculty and staff have earned the reputation as being one of the best two-year colleges in the country,” he said. “We’re in a good place.”