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By Lacy Adams, SCCC student
With her obvious Minne-soh-ta accent drifting down the hall, it’s not hard to spot a fresh face working as the new dean at Seward County Community College this year: Celeste Donovan. With her kind eyes and warm smile one can sense that she will bring positive vibes to the college and work to do what is best in the interest of the college.
She said she is excited about her new position because “I get to hang out with the students and help them figure out what they want to do with their lives. I wake up feeling lucky that I enjoy going to work and feeling great about my job. The best feeling you can have is rising from your comfortable, warm bed and feeling genuinely good about your day’s work ahead of you.”
As dean of student services, Donovan will oversee student housing, admissions, financial aid, counseling, student records and registration and student activities.
All activities within those divisions are her primary responsibilities and she assists with all aspects of SCCC operations as a member of the administrative team, said Dr. Duane Dunn, SCCC president. She provides reports to the Board of Trustees, assists with various committees, provides recommendations for policy and procedures, and represents SCCC to the public and serves on professional committees. She is accessible to students for discussion of issues related to any of the divisions within her supervision as well as providing assistance in the absence of another administrator.
Donovan grew up in a smaller community so she understands what it means to be successful and productive. She believes in the mission of community colleges. She relates to and is more familiar with an enclosed, smaller setting. By the end of the year, what she wants from the students is for them to feel comfortable enough with her to drop by her office and see her about anything they feel they need to discuss. That’s what she hopes for and hopefully what she’ll receive.
She grew up in Menno, SD, in a community of 800 people. She was involved in track and basketball. She attended South Dakota University, which was a large school for her; she really had wanted a smaller community and atmosphere similar to a high school-like experience. She was on the Ladies Field Hockey Team and received her Bachelor’s of Science Degree. She also went to Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, where she earned her Master’s of Science in 1986. In college her favorite courses were Psychology, Genetics, Abnormal Psychology, Team Building and Student Leadership activities.
Her father has always been a strong role model for her because he gave her many of her strong traits. He also gave her a love for music since he was a band director. She says that “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” sung by Judy Garland is one of her favorites. She lived on an Indian Reservation with her father and he also taught her how to acknowledge people’s strengths not their weaknesses.
Throughout college she worked at the Jefferson County Community Center as a Job Placement and Transitional Employment Specialist where she taught people with learning disabilities about how to find the right job and develop the right skills. She worked as a Career Vocational Placement Specialist at the Community College of Denver as well. She began a program that helped students with learning disabilities with their career choices and educated the others in her work force about the mentally disabled so that they could help as well.
Before coming to Seward County Community College she was the Dean of Students at Mesabi Range Community and Technical College in Minnesota. She worked with financial aid, athletics, student support services, counseling, disability services, student senate and housing.
Outside of SCCC she enjoys playing the guitar, Dixie Chicks songs mostly, hanging out in the backyard with her husband, taking relaxing walks and occasionally jogging and camping. She met her husband, Kevin Donovan, while she was working as a director in counseling and career services at Colorado Northwestern Community College in Rangely, Colo. She worked with students on team building, ethical decision-making and was the supervisor of 29 academic advisors.
Donovan said she doesn’t tend to jog as much as she used to but did finish in the top 100 women in the Pittsburgh Marathon.
Donovan thinks of herself as a “crazy” and a compassionate person and Seward County Community College should be proud to have her. She wants nothing more than for the students to feel at home, to feel comfortable and to develop a passion to succeed.
The college will benefit through her enthusiasm about student success, her experience at community colleges, her desire to have open communication with her staff, her creativity and ideas of how to continue to improve our college, and her genuine positive attitude about education and students, Dunn said.
“I knew from our first telephone conversation that I wanted to have her visit SCCC for an interview, and that was based on her positive outlook about the importance of strong student support services. After the interview I was sure that she would bring strong leadership, open communication, and creative ideas to help students.”