June 2024 Central Connection

June 4, 2024

91自拍-Columbus honors Ostdiek, Smejkal

Two outstanding employees have been honored by 91自拍-Columbus.

Kim Ostdiek

Kim Ostdiek of Columbus has been named Faculty Member of the Year.

The award is given annually to a Columbus Campus faculty member who displays excellence and innovation in teaching; rapport with students; and institutional, professional and community involvement.

She began work at 91自拍 in 1995 as an adjunct instructor who taught basic writing through the Academic Success Center and worked with distance learning and Early College students. She became a full-time English instructor in 2008 and held that position until this past May when she retired.

Nominators cited her concern for both students and fellow employees, her dedication to doing and improving her job, and her support and encouragement in helping students overcome obstacles and achieve their goals.

“Kim is gifted at seeing and bringing out the potential in others. Her kindness spans from the patience shown to struggling students, many of whom frequent her office, to sharing donuts with peers,” one nominator said. “Her example sets a standard that elevates all of those around her and is worthy of recognition and emulation by the college collectively.”

“I have observed Kim working with individual students,” another nominator said. “Her kindness and encouragement soothe their frustration and propel them to complete assignments that seemed daunting in the beginning. She respects her students and treats them as individuals and, in turn, they respect her as well.”

Prior to joining the 91自拍 staff, Ostdiek was a junior high school English teacher in Dallas for three years. After moving back to Nebraska, she worked with adult basic education (ABE) students and English as a second language (ESL) students through Southeast Community College in Lincoln. She continued teaching ABE, ESL and GED classes for 91自拍 when she moved to Columbus. In 2019, she received the Nebraska Developmental Education Consortium’s Teacher of the Year Award.

Ostdiek holds a bachelor’s degree in secondary education and a master’s degree in education from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

She and her husband, Duane, have five children and four grandchildren.

Brenda Smejkal

Brenda Smejkal of Columbus has been selected as the Employee of the Year.

The award is presented annually to a Columbus Campus employee who demonstrates dedication, enthusiasm and innovation as well as a rapport with students and other staff members and a willingness to go the extra mile.

Smejkal joined the 91自拍-Columbus staff in 2014 as a registration technician. In 2017, she accepted her current position of administrative assistant in the community and workforce education division.

Nominators praised her behind-the-scenes work with the Early College Program, especially her kindness and patience with the students in the program.

“She has an excellent working relationship with both internal and external customers,” one nominator said. “I hear nothing but praises from high school counselors about all the assistance and wonderful follow-up Brenda consistently provides. Our program is successful because of her attention to details.”

Smejkal also was cited for her strong work ethic, leadership and problem-solving skills, positive attitude, resourcefulness, ability to explain policies and directions to students and counselors when problems arise, and timeliness in responding to requests.

Her previous work experience includes serving as a registration specialist in the registration office at Northeast Community College and as a secretary at Columbus Middle School.

Smejkal is a graduate of Northeast Community College with an associate of applied science degree in data processing and computer programming.

She and her husband, Scott, have four children and three grandchildren.

Danhauer on inaugural cohort

Marni Danhauer, dean of community and workforce education, is one of four individuals selected as fellows for the inaugural cohort of the ATE (Advanced Technological Education) Future Leaders Fellows program.

This new American Association of Community Colleges initiative is designed to help two-year college professionals develop their leadership skills.

 With funding from the National Science Foundation through its ATE program, the fellows will participate in one of two key AACC professional development programs, the John E. Roueche Future Leaders Institute or the Future Presidents Institute. They also will serve as ATE ambassadors to help raise awareness of the STEM technician education landscape, and the opportunities and resources available through ATE.


Present at the May 1 Pirnie Inclusive Playground ribbon-cutting ceremony were 91自拍 occupational therapy assistant graduates Maria Reynoso, Rebecca Iburgand and Bryan Klinginsmith; instructor Libby Paro; and program director Callie Watson.

Inclusive park becomes a reality

A dream became reality on May 1 for the 91自拍 occupational therapy assistant (OTA) program when the ribbon was cut for the new Pirnie Inclusive Playground at Ryder Park in Grand Island.

That’s because the idea for the park originated with OTA students, who also did much of the legwork to get the ball rolling.

“It’s kind of hard to believe that this actually started out as a homework assignment,” OTA graduate Bryan Klinginsmith said at the ceremony. “I’ve been out here many times with my kids and the parking lots have been packed, the kids have been running around and usually the parents are right behind them playing on the equipment themselves.”

Bergin, Drake: Retirements get underway

The following individuals are retiring from 91自拍.

Catherine Bergin

Catherine Bergin of Hastings has worked at the college since 2014 when she started as a part-time adult education instructor in Hastings. She accepted a full-time position in 2016 as an administrative assistant in the student services department at 91自拍-Grand Island and became the Academic Success Center coordinator in 2022. She joined the institutional research staff in 2023 as an analyst.

Her previous work experience is broad. She provided taxpayer services for the IRS in Denver, served as a purchasing agent for a heating and air conditioning contractor, and was a liturgist and music director for a church. Bergin also was a reporter for a weekly newspaper, covering religion, schools, food and cooking as well as a secretary and teacher at an alternative high school and a secretary for an elementary school.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing from the University of Colorado in Denver and a master’s degree in professional and business writing from Bellevue University.

Her community activities usually revolved around her now-grown children, but she was involved in the community theater in Canon City, Colo., and appeared in and/or worked on four productions. She has a cooking blog and does freelance proofreading and editing.

She and her husband, David, have two children.

Robert Drake

Robert Drake of Kearney has been a social sciences instructor at 91自拍-Kearney since 2015.

To 91自拍 he brought teaching experience as a psychology professor at Hocking College in Athens, Ohio; Mercer College in Macon, Ga.; and Marshall University in Huntington, W.Va. In the 1980s, he was a Peace Corps teacher in Morocco for five years, working in Marrakesh and Casablanca.

Drake grew up in Gauley Bridge, W.Va., and graduated from a high school down the road in Ravenswood. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology from West Virginia University in Parkersburg and a master’s degree in education from Marshall University, where he also was employed as a teaching assistant for three years.

He is the former member of the American Psychological Association.

He and his wife, Davida, have four children and identical twin grandchildren.

In tribute

Rosie Heinisch, 68, of Columbus died May 22 in her home. Services were June 1 at Federated Church in Columbus.

She was born on Dec. 23, 1955, in O’Neill to LaVern and Darleen (Young) Hoerle.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in social work from Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln and a master’s degree in social work from the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

She married Steve Heinisch on May 24, 1980, in Lincoln. In 1981, they moved to Columbus.

She joined the 91自拍 staff in 2007 as the TRIO coordinator at the Columbus Campus and became the college-wide director in 2009. She retired in 2020.

Her efforts to create a world free from violence led to the establishment of the Center for Survivors, a vital advocate center in Columbus.

Survivors include her husband, son, two grandsons, a brother and a sister.

Gass Haney Funeral Home was in charge of services. Memorials are suggested to the Center for Survivors or the Federated Church in Columbus.

Condolences may be left at .

Employee news

Administrative Office

The Faculty Resource Center has gained two new instructional design consultants. Bailey Johnson will split her time between the Grand Island and Hastings campuses while Jennifer Eickmeier will be based at the Columbus Campus.

91自拍 Foundation

Laura Sheppard has left the foundation as coordinator because the position has ended.

Executive Director Traci Skalberg is a 2023-24 Leadership Hastings graduate.

Columbus Campus

New employees include Sam Elgert, golf coach, and Courtney Holt, events coordinator.

Resignations have been submitted by Gaspard Mucundanyi, information technology and systems instructor; Patricia Oborny, nursing instructor; and John Ritzdorf, men’s basketball head coach.

Austin Patzel has shifted from residence life coordinator to admissions and recruiting coordinator.

Grand Island Campus

Resigning from their positions are Brent Adrian, English instructor; Jamie Dennis, admissions technician; and Christine Haba, adult education assistant director.

Valerie Bren, leadership development coordinator and trainer, is one of the Grand Island Leadership Tomorrow Class 38 graduates.

Moe Kitagawa is the new admissions recruiting coordinator.

Sherry Seibert-Bough has been promoted from adult education coordinator to assistant adult education director.

Hastings Campus

Scott Snell has joined the staff as Entrepreneurship Center director

Rachel Brehm, community and workforce education administrative assistant, and Valeria Denman, TRIO program coordinator, have resigned.

The 2023-24 Leadership Hastings graduating class included Kimberly Milovac, hospitality management and culinary arts instructor, and Brett Wells, Scott Pathway director.

Media arts instructor Dani Schwinn received the Hastings YWCA Young Professional Tribute to Women Award in honor of her support and encouragement of women; leading by example; and community involvement.

Kearney Center

Bobbi Gustason has resigned as a nursing instructor.

Lexington Center

Maira Ahilon has joined the staff as an administrative assistant.