INA, Ill. (Dec. 9, 2017) - The Rend Lake College mission statement ends with the proclamation, “With Rend Lake College, student journeys start here.”
It’s a fitting affirmation for an institution that works day in and day out to provide a solid footing for people to take those first steps into the real world or do a mid-life turn and start down a new path, a new journey of improvement and discovery.
And while not everyone who begins a journey at RLC is a student, every journey that begins at RLC is student-focused.
There can be no better example of that fact than the three current vice presidents of the college. Each of these talented and tenacious leaders began their adventure at RLC during different points, and each of them took different turns in the path that led them to where they are today. Yet, each of their paths, to this point, have led to providing the best possible service for the students of Rend Lake College.
“The common denominator with these three is their love and passion for the students and strengthening the college. They work tirelessly to better the institution and improve the opportunity for our students in their own way,” expressed Rend Lake College President Terry Wilkerson about his vice presidents.
Lisa Price, Vice President of Student Services, began her RLC adventure as a student in 1980. She transferred to the college after graduating Benton High School.
Initially, Price didn’t want to attend RLC. She wanted to follow her friends to farther-flung destinations. Ultimately, Price’s mother talked her into taking the more economical option of attending school in Ina, a decision that changed her life forever.
“I was fortunate enough to get a student worker job at the bookstore and worked under Mary Braden. I met many people from surrounding towns and became a wicked Spades player,” Price said.
Ultimately, the call of the wild became too strong and the future VP left Ina after a year to transfer to Eastern Illinois University. But, that didn’t pan out either, and Price found herself back home working.
“I realized that I needed to get serious about college. Came back to RLC and finished my degree. I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do… I didn’t want to be a teacher but wanted to do something with teenagers,” she explained.
To that end, Price transferred to Southern Illinois University Carbondale to get her bachelor’s degree in Health Education. In 1997, she completed a Master of Science in Education at SIUC in Workforce Education.
Following her graduation, Price worked with pregnant and parenting teens at Franklin-Williamson Human Services. It was there that she saw an advertisement for a Teen Parent Services Case Manager at RLC.
“I had watched employment ads for RLC because of my great experience and wanted to be a part of the RLC action. But, didn’t know what I could do since I couldn’t be an instructor. I was hopeful that this was my ticket. I applied, got the job and a whopping salary increase of $200. But, I knew I wanted to be at RLC so it wasn’t at all about the money,” Price said.
“I continued to work for grant-funded programs until the spring of 2003. I was sitting in my office when an administrator came in and asked me if I was interested in leading the advisement team.”
She said it was another dream come true, and it ended up being the perfect fit.
Price served as the Executive Director of Academic Counseling until 2008. She then transitioned into the Dean of Student Services and finally VP of Student Services in 2011, allowing her an even greater opportunity to help guide the students of RLC.
“It is such as joy to watch students walk across that stage, especially those who have struggled. I worked with one particular non-traditional lady who just wanted to get her associate degree. She didn’t really have a career goal in mind or know how she wanted to use the degree, she just knew she wanted to complete. She was divorced and had to work two jobs to support her and her kids. She would take a couple of classes each semester. We both celebrated when she walked across that stage. She had worked so hard,” Price expressed.
Her efforts did not go unnoticed. In 2007, she was honored by her peers with the RLC Foundation “Outstanding Staff” Award.
“She is a wonderful leader who is admired and respected by her colleagues,” the nomination letter read. “. . . She is just a great person to work with. She is a great ambassador for Rend Lake College . . . She is very involved in activities of her children and community.”
In addition to her work in advising students, she has also been recognized by the Army National Guard for her efforts on multiple Yellow Ribbon Events, an effort aimed at helping returning soldiers transition back to civilian life. Nearly 100 local soldiers and their family members were served with classes on finance management, military benefits and counseling services on marriage skills, family and drug and alcohol abuse.
For her dedication to students and tireless service in improving the lives of those around her, Price was presented with the iconic Agriculture Program Doug Leeck Service Award in 2015-16.
She is currently “very close” to completing her dissertation for a Doctor of Education Degree in Educational Leadership from Oakland City University.
Outside of RLC, Price has served in elected positions on both the Ewing Grade School Board of Education and the Benton High School District 103 Board (on which she still serves). She also has been voted Franklin County Northern Township Clerk through 2017.
Vice President of Finance and Administration Angie Kistner also began her journey at RLC as a student, class of 1989.
Growing up on the family farm in Scheller, Kistner is no stranger to hard work, spending her youth working diligently to complete whatever needed done around the farm. She said many of those core values instilled by that upbringing help drive her still today.
It didn’t take long for Kistner to transition from RLC student to employee either. Like Price, Kistner took a student worker position in the Business Office for both years she was a student.
After graduating, she stayed on part-time over the summer to help cover a maternity leave before heading off to Eastern Illinois University to finish her undergraduate degree.
Following her EIU graduation in 1991, there was another fortuitous case of timing. Kistner’s old RLC Business Office haunt was undergoing a major computer conversion. She was the perfect candidate to work through the transition, having experienced the previous system with the ability to quickly adapt to the new system being put in place. It was meant to be a temporary carryover that ended up being anything but.
“They approached me to work on a temporary part-time basis (six weeks at most) to do work in the old system while the office learned how to use the new system. I haven’t ever left,” she joked.
“I went from part-time temp to part-time in the Business Office. I worked with accounts receivable, accounts payable and payroll mostly. I then was hired to do part-time split between the Business Office and the Student Records Office. I did basic registration, transcript evaluation, etc. At some point, I was offered full-time within the Business Office as the Business Office Financial Affairs Coordinator.”
Kistner spent most of her days working alongside former VP of Finance Bob Carlock and Controller Andrea Boucher. She also began teaching as an adjunct professor within the college’s Business Department, putting her years of financial experience into helping others find their path.
Following the untimely death of Boucher, Kistner took on the controller’s responsibilities, taking on the oversight of all functions within the Business Office.
Kistner and Carlock spent years working side-by-side to make sure that the college’s finances were in the best possible shape and that the lights stayed on.
“I learned so much from Bob. He was the very best mentor that I could have ever asked for. I worked as the Controller after his first retirement and during his return to campus. Following his last retirement, I felt that I was ready to tackle the responsibilities of the Vice President,” she explained.
“I knew that a lot of tough decisions were going to need to be made in the very near future and I thought that my knowledge base and my dedication to RLC could help the college continue to be the source of quality education and opportunities.”
Kistner officially took the position of VP of Finance and Administration in March of 2013.
“I do what I do because I think it is important. I tackle each job with 100 percent effort. I take pride in everything that I put my name to and help with. I love the numbers because I feel like my understanding of what those numbers on a page mean allows others to make informed decisions about important issues,” she expressed.
“I can help others understand why the rule is important and what should be done not for the sake of the rule but to protect everyone’s best interests. At the end of the day, I want to feel like I have helped someone be in a better position.”
For her years of dedication, she was presented with the RLC Foundation “Outstanding Staff” Award in 2011.
She was nominated by staff from the RLCF Children’s Center who said Kistner “daily exceeds expectations and . . . continuously strives to help us brainstorm ideas to improve (the center’s) budget and manage (its) finances.”
The letter of nomination went on to say Kistner goes out of her way to assist the Children’s Center, where both of her children spent time. From helping with grant writing to catering lunch, and bringing in chocolate to arranging for vehicles for Big Truck Day, “Kistner daily brings joy into our building.”
Bringing joy and positivity to her place or work is something that’s always on Kistner’s mind, and the impact of her actions on her co-workers, the institution and its students are a major motivating factor for the VP.
“I can’t imagine all the people that I have been in contact with during my 25 years here. I think about how I may have impacted other’s lives and the lives of those surrounding them. I look back and think of the tidal waves that I have somehow helped to create. I think about how generations may be changed because of some little thing that I was a part of. It follows my general belief that a person changes the world each and every time they help someone. A person never knows the impact of his/her efforts but should do them anyway,” Kistner expressed.
“When I leave here, I am going to be very proud of the fact that a farm girl from Scheller worked herself up from a student worker to the Vice President of Finance,” she said.
It took the third and final RLC vice president a little longer to get to Ina than her compatriots.
Lori Ragland, Vice President of Instruction, is a DuQuoin native, graduating from DuQuoin High School in 1989.
It was apparent from the onset that Ragland was going to be a go-getter, being involved in Future Business Leaders of America. She even took home the State FBLA Typing/Document Formatting Contest, earning her a spot in the national competition in Florida, where she took home the top prize out of 45 competitors.
Following high school, Ragland spent a year at John A. Logan College working on generals before transferring to SIUC’s Court Reporting Program, earning her AAS in 1992. She utilized her skill at typing and her education to work as a freelance court reporter all over Southern Illinois for 8 years.
However, due to downturn in the court reporting industry, Ragland was eventually forced to consider other career prospects. In 2000, she applied for the Administrative Assistant position with the Rend Lake College Foundation and was quickly hired on in April.
One of her very first tasks with the college was to be the campaign captain for the RLC Staff Clock Tower Project, no small feat considering the tower now stands as the major focal point of the entire campus.
“That fall I began my studies in Organizational Leadership at Greenville College and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in 2002. I was then promoted to Assistant Director of RLCF and took the lead of the Institute for Learning in Retirement program,” Ragland explained.
She spent two years in that position and earned her own RLCF Outstanding Staff Award in 2003 for her trouble.
“She is very organized and takes great pride in her work. In her position, Lori occasionally has to work after hours and on weekends,” her recommendation noted.
“Lori is always willing to help in any situation she can. Lori is a good representative for Rend Lake College... She has a professional appearance and a demeanor that is pleasing to everyone.”
In 2004, she made the leap to Assistant Director of Community Education. During that time, the Institute for Learning in Retirement program was also transferred to Community Education and later named the Institute of Lifelong Learning. Four years later, she got the Director nod, succeeding the retiring Dawn Gibson.
“In 2010, Community Education and the Center for Business merged into one, Community & Corporate Education. The division expanded to include credit programming, and in 2013 I became Dean of Community & Corporate Education. I also received my Master of Arts in Education degree in 2013, specializing in Higher Education Administration. In 2015 I was promoted to Vice President of Career & Technical Instruction. In 2017 that was expanded to Vice President of Instruction to include both academic instruction and career technical education,” Ragland said.
There is no doubt that she has made an impact on her co-workers and the institution. In 2011, she was presented with the CTE Rock Star “Assess for Success” Award and received President Wilkerson’s Crazy Eight Award in 2014.
She also practices what she preaches, continuing her education not only through additional academic degrees, but also in professional development. In 2015, she successfully completed the Academy for Leadership and Development.
“As a first generation student, education has always been a top priority for me. Education is rewarding; it’s something a person earns and can never be taken away. It has molded me into who I am today. I have a passion to help others obtain a quality education and find their path to success,” she expressed.
“I have really enjoyed the opportunities for personal and professional growth that Rend Lake College has provided me with. The college has such a positive atmosphere, and is full of great people who work hard to support our students.”
While Ragland has accomplished some remarkable things during her time at RLC, her involvement with Illinois Council for Continuing Education and Training (ICCET), a commission of the Illinois Community College Board, has been equally as impressive.
Since 2004, Ragland has been a member of the commission. She has served as an officer from 2005-2011, acting as the membership chair for two years, treasurer for two years, vice president for a year and president for a year.
For her service to the commission, she was awarded with their Exemplary Leadership Award in 2016.
She has also served on the ICCB Training and Resources Information Network (weTRaIN) Commission from 2009-16.