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Grant helps CVTC students learn what they need to learn

Graduates and current students in Chippewa Valley Technical College's administrative assistant program met in December to share experiences and advice. Pictured in the back row, left to right, are Janell Norman, Chris Stedman, Shawn Schell, Linda Carlson and Melanie Nowak. In front, left to right, are Jodi Wooding, Pat Olafson and Chris Schwalen.

A $2,000 Culture of Excellence Award is being used to help students in Chippewa Valley Technical College's administrative assistant program make connections and focus on skills that lead to jobs.

In December the grant from the CVTC Foundation was used for a luncheon that brought together graduates and current students.

Other past events include an orientation to the program and courses; a pizza luncheon with speakers who presented information about the importance of professional organizations, student organizations and professional certifications; and a tour of the RCU Corporate Center in Eau Claire.

"Our department is trying to make the administrative assistant program the best it can be," said Ann Kiefer, the program's instructor on the River Falls campus.

"We are tentatively planning a business etiquette luncheon, business makeover and resume workshop," said Jennifer Larrabee, the Eau Claire campus instructor who applied for the grant. "In addition, we hope to have speakers on the topics of organization and skills an administrative assistant needs in the workplace."

The purposes of the grant are to promote student retention and success, "build a community of learners," help students form relationships with one another outside the classroom and provide extra learning opportunities.

The administrative assistant two-year associate degree program prepares students for jobs as office managers, secretaries, administrative assistants, information processing specialists, receptionists and transcriptionists.

"It can be a broad area," said Kiefer, explaining that it's helpful for students to visit businesses or talk with graduates to get their insights.

"(The field) is constantly changing, software especially," said Kiefer. "You have to really be up on technology and software as an administrative assistant."

Thirteen people, including four program graduates, attended the luncheon at Mariachi Loco in River Falls.

"There was positive feedback after the gathering from both sides and good networking," said Kiefer.

The graduates talked about the skills they gained through CVTC and their current positions. Two former students reported internship openings at their businesses.

The current students asked for advice on selecting courses and about the skills they will need most, said Kiefer.

She is the only business technology instructor at the River Falls campus, but will have an intern in the business lab this semester.

The River Falls program also uses instructors from the Eau Claire campus through Internet classes. River Falls students can take part in special programs when they are offered in Eau Claire.

"My classes are filling," said Kiefer. "We opened up more sections."

The current maximum is 50 students.