Grow Wabash County president and CEO Keith Gillenwater, left, speaks with new Ivy Tech Community College Fort Wayne and Warsaw chancellor Dr. Kim Barnett-Johnson, right, on Monday at the Heartland Career Center.

After over a decade of leading the Ivy Tech Community College Fort Wayne and Warsaw locations, Dr. Jerrilee K. Mosier retired from her position as chancellor on Sept. 10.

Her successor, Dr. Kim Barnett-Johnson, has been meeting with community leaders on Oct. 5, 14, 19, 20, 25, and 27 in Kosciusko, Whitley, Adams, Noble, Wabash, and Huntington counties respectively.

On Monday at the Heartland Career Center, Barnett-Johnson said she has been in higher education for a little over 27 years. Barnett-Johnson said in her two decades at Ivy Tech she had held a number of roles, starting with the degree completion program, then throughout academics as the dean, then the vice-chancellor of academic affairs and now, chancellor.

“I’m looking at it from a little different lens right now. Whereas before it was all about academics because I was in academics. But now I’m looking at it from a different perspective of looking at every aspect of what Ivy Tech has to offer. And then seeing what our communities need so that we can partner in whatever way we find possible to partner with them. Just to make sure that our communities have the educational resources that they need,” said Barnett-Johnson.

Barnett-Johnson said the COVID-19 pandemic had caused several changes in the way they conduct business, some of which will remain.

“At the very beginning, we had no idea how we were going to get through it. But we’ve made a lot of adjustments in all aspects of our services, some of which we will keep,” said Barnett-Johnson. “We realize that students in the community really like the virtual services. It’s more convenient for people depending on their work schedules and things of that nature. So there’s going to be many aspects of it that we hold on to. But our ultimate desire is to get back to as much face to faface-to-facesibly can.”

Barnett-Johnson said Ivy Tech was extremely focused on helping businesses fill open positions as the economy begins to re-open.

“We’re constantly in conversation with our community partners, our business partners, trying to find out again specifically what they need and then seeing if there’s a way that we can make programming happen or whatever the case may be on our campus to try to provide the business community the workforce that they need. So that’s part of the constant conversation that we’re having because the needs are always changing,” said Barnett-Johnson. “We may get over this one hump where we finally get manufacturing to where they need to be and then we’ll have another need coming from another area.”

Barnett-Johnson said Ivy Tech goes out of their way to partner with kindergarten through 12th grade schools, long before students might even think about a college.

“We’re trying to do is we’re trying to insert ourselves in programming that starts at those levels so that the kids can start to see and understand what the community needs actually are and then by the time they get to that place where it’s time to go to college or whatever we’re actually offering those exact courses that they need to stay and give back to the community. We’re trying to get involved at every level and not just wait until a student graduates from high school,” said Barnett-Johnson.

Barnett-Johnson said students who choose Ivy Tech can transfer to other universities across the state with which they have articulation agreements.

“Those would transfer wherever they want to go,” said Barnett-Johnson.

Barnett-Johnson said she was inspired by students who chose to finish degrees later in life and showed a lifelong passion for learning.

“Honestly that’s one of the things that sold me when I first started working at Ivy Tech 20 years ago,” said Barnett-Johnson. “I remember my first graduation as dean and we had a student that was 70-plus years old. And I was fascinated by that. I asked, ‘Why now?’ He said, ‘It was something I always wanted to do and I just figured I’d come to Ivy Tech and do it.’ And so to me that’s what makes me love the place because we really truly are a college for any and everybody. Not just what you see at the traditional level. For any person who wants to skill up or get a degree or go on for their doctorate or whatever the case may be, we’re a great place to start.”

Rob Burgess, Wabash Plain Dealer editor, may be reached by email at rburgess@wabashplain dealer.com.