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Ivy Tech convocation focuses on hard work, perseverance

As a young single mother, Urban League of Northwest Indiana President Vanessa Allen-McCloud often did her college homework next to her two daughters at the table.

For nearly three decades while pursuing advanced degrees, there were struggles familiar to working adults: juggling full-time jobs, family emergencies, childcare.

But, she persevered — rising from a college freshman in her mid-20s at Purdue UniversityCalumet in 1986 to doctoral degree recipient at another university in 2013.

What helped were a cadre of professors, mentors and advisers that extended the kindness and encouragement she needed to overcome challenges, she said.

At Ivy Tech’s initial employee convocation held Thursday at Indiana UniversityNorthwest’s new joint Arts and Sciences Building in Gary, she encouraged a few hundred employees there to do the same for their own students.

“Your mentor comes in all shapes and sizes,” Allen-McCloud said. “Get to know who is coming into your presence, because, you never know how you may mold and shape them.”

As she earned more degrees, Allen-McCloud went on to work as an administrator at Purdue Calumet, South Suburban College and Gary Community School Corp., she said.

“Now, I’m in the position to say, ‘I see something in you (to students),’” she said.

While seeking her first associate’s degree at Purdue Calumet in the 1980s, “my children grew up on the campus,” she said. “They were running around at the student library.”

Her oldest daughter graduated from West Side High School in 1999 and attended Indiana University in Bloomington, where she now works for the university, Allen-McCloud said. Her younger daughter eventually earned a degree in electrical engineering, she said.

She fondly recalled officials during those years that encouraged her to apply to college and keep going.

One professor encouraged her to bring her daughters to class when she had no baby sitter, she said. When she showed up and tried to sit quietly near the back of the class, he welcomed her to move closer to the front, she said.

“That’s the spirit of compassion that I want you to have,” she said. “When they set foot on your campus, take a moment to get to know that person. You never know what they will become.”

The event also included appearances from Indiana University Northwest Chancelor William Lowe, updates from Ivy Tech Vice Chancelors Margaret Semmer, Mo Vincic and Keisha White.

Ivy Tech Lake County President Louie Gonzalez also gave a speech on the Lake County campus’ plans before employees ended the day in Crown Point with a picnic and other activities.

Earlier this year, Ivy Tech announced it would close its Gary campus at 1440 E. 35th Ave. and relocate students to the new Broadway building to help cut a $2 million budget deficit. It plans to shift its trades program to the Gary Area Career Center.

Gonzalez said previously he signed a $17 million long-term lease with IUN for 38 percent of the space in the new $45 million Arts and Sciences building that opened in August at 35th Avenue and Broadway.

When the new Arts and Sciences building opened last year, Ivy Tech already had about 900 students there taking courses. Originally, officials said the building would be shared by both schools, with Ivy Tech using about 30 percent of the new building for classes.

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