A brief history of LCCC academics

First Trustees

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In the half century since the establishment of Laramie County Community College, the landscape of academics at the college has experienced impressive evolution.  

Initially dubbed the Laramie County Community College Vocational and Technical Trade Center, in the beginning LCCC’s primary focus was vocational education.  

According to Dave Zwonitzer, former LCCC student and full-time instructor since 1978, “I would guess LCCC would have never been approved by Cheyenne if we didn’t emphasize the tech side of it.” Additionally, Cheyenne’s proximity to the University of Wyoming led to the belief that students interested in a more academic education would prefer to attend UW.    

In the fall of 1969, administrators at LCCC were expecting enrollment of between 200-500 students.  However, 1,223 students enrolled for that first fall semester, making LCCC the second most attended community college in Wyoming, according to Rosalind Schliske,  former mass media instructor/multimedia coordinator at LCCC.

Fast forward fifty years and LCCC is now the highest-attended community college in Wyoming with an annual enrollment of 4,780 students. The first classes offered through LCCC were not college-level classes.  In April of 1969, the college offered a high-school equivalency program akin to a G.E.D program.  The following month a welding program was established. In July of that year an adult basic education program was offered.  Then in August, LCCC began offering an automotive body repair class.

At this point in time, there were no buildings yet comprising the LCCC campus.  These initial classes were offered at First United Methodist Church in downtown Cheyenne.  According to Schliske, the classroom portion of auto mechanics was taught on the third floor of the church.

Schliske said former Dean of Instruction Robert Schliske would say, “We asked our first students in the fall of that year to go to church every day and think college.”

The first three buildings constructed on campus were what are now known as the Administration building, the Training Center, and the Center for Conferences and Institutes .  The vocational courses were offered on the east side and academic courses on the west side of the campus.

“Also on the west side is where the ‘cafeteria’ was, which was a vending machine,” Schliske said.

In 1979, the campus doubled following a bond issue, allowing for a great expansion of academic programs, Schliske said.  While many programs have been added in the course of LCCC’s history, some have also been eliminated.

A decade ago, the building and construction trades program was phased out.

“What the students would do is they would actually build a home from the ground up.  So they would learn all parts of building a home,” Schliske said. “So it seems odd that we got rid of that one.”

  LCCC also used to offer a Food Services program.  The program was designed to train people to work in food services.  The program had its own kitchen that was located adjacent to the cafeteria’s kitchen.  Part of the program included a certificate program for waiters and waitresses. In a section of the cafeteria was a sit-down area where students could order selections from the wait staff trainees.  The food services kitchen lab also was used for non-credit cooking offerings.

“I took a Chinese cooking class one fall, that was kind of fun,” Schliske said.  

The welding program has come full circle in the last 50 years.  Welding was the second program LCCC offered after its establishment.  The program was at one point eliminated and in recent years was reintroduced as Welding Technology, according to Schliske.

Some programs have been around since the early days of the  College. The X-Ray program, which is now the radiography program, has deep roots at LCCC.  According to Schliske, in the beginning of the program, the campus had one dark room, so the X-Ray students and photography students would share that space.  

Limited space and resources were a common theme on LCCC’s campus in the early days.  When Schliske began teaching at LCCC in 1976, the journalism program had no typewriters.

“I thought, I have to teach Reporting and Newswriting without typewriters?” Schliske said.

To gain access to typewriters for her courses, Schliske began holding class in the Office Occupations lab in the business building after that program had finished for the day.  Later, the Office Occupations program got computers, so the journalism program inherited the typewriters.

Ultimately, the establishment and success of many programs at LCCC depended on whether there was a need within the community.  

“In a way, what you had to do was you had to prove that there was viability, that students would come,” Schliske said.  “We were able to respond so quickly to the needs of the community.”

Sometimes, an industry would come to LCCC and request courses or programs for training in their field.  At one point Burlington Northern Railroad officials requested a program to prepare students for a role in their company.  

Other times, courses were offered prior to the community recognizing the demand.  Schliske remembers when LCCC began offering the desktop publishing course and was the first college in the Rocky Mountain region to do so.  

“People didn’t know where it should go.  Should it go in business? Should it go in art?  Should it go in journalism?” Schliske said. “The local businesses and industry didn’t know they needed it.  That was part of our jobs as faculty to be on the cutting edge of things.”

As the campus grew, some programs were able to grow with it.  With the construction of the Health Sciences building, the nursing program has flourished.  

“There are other programs in the state, that once we had these facilities we became much more competitive,” Zwonitzer said.  

Different features of LCCC have evolved since the early days.  In the 1980s a writing center was established. The writing center assisted students who needed help with their writing.  What used to be a campus game room with pool tables, pinball machines, and ping-pong tables got taken over by the tutoring center, which then got taken over by other campus resources, according to Schliske.  LCCC’s current tutoring center, the Learning Commons, has become a center for students to get help in almost all subjects.

Schliske indicated that non-credit adult education course offerings were more robust in the past.  She said “the idea of community and being a part of it,” led many of the offerings, such as knitting, to be popular with the Cheyenne public.  

LCCC began as a place for members of the community to gain technical and vocational training.  The college has evolved into a thriving academic hub in Cheyenne over the last 50 years.

Today, LCCC’s 271-acre campus hosts 22 buildings, many with state-of-the-art facilities and equipment.

In the fall of 1969, Laramie County Community College’s first semester, the college offered credit courses in 19 academic and vocational areas.  LCCC now offers 78 credit programs and concentrations leading to associate degrees and an additional 27 credit programs leading to certificates of completion.  

“The mission of Laramie County Community College is to transform our students’ lives through the power of inspired learning,” according to LCCC’s strategic plan.  Through the course of the last 50 years at LCCC, the evolution of the college has contributed to that goal.

 

About Carolyn Tomanek (3 Articles)
Carolyn Tomanek is majoring in Multimedia at Laramie County Community College. Tomanek enjoys world travel and has recently become interested in photography. She looks forward to contributing socially significant features and photos to Wingspan. Tomanek has a bachelor’s degree in International Studies from the University of Wyoming. Her passions include traveling and international social issues. She is a mother to a wonderful 3-year-old son who keeps her on her toes. To contact Tomanek, e-mail her at carolyn.tomanek@gmail.com or follow her on Twitter at @cktomanek.

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