Ryan Pitts Named FVCC’s 2020 Distinguished Alumnus

FVCC’s 2020 Distinguished Alumnus Ryan Pitts is pictured with his wife, Theresa Pitts, at the Alumni & Friends Luncheon on Feb. 26.

Flathead Valley Community College honored Ryan Pitts with the 2020 Distinguished Alumni Award on Feb. 26 at the FVCC Alumni & Friends Luncheon. The award is given annually to an individual whose career achievements, service to others and passion for FVCC rise above the rest.

A 2015 graduate of FVCC’s Nursing Program, Pitts also holds associate degrees in paramedicine and emergency management. He holds a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Western Governors University and is working toward a master’s degree. He is the director of FVCC’s Paramedicine Program and is also the interim chief nursing officer at Kalispell Regional Healthcare, where he has been employed since 2013.

In addition to holding down a dual-career in education and health care, Pitts is the father of nine children with his wife of 21 years.

“He exemplifies excellence in nursing and excellence in education,” FVCC Foundation Development Director Jesse Mahugh said when he introduced Pitts as the award winner. “He demonstrates how an education at FVCC can take a person to new and exciting places.”

For more information on FVCC’s Alumni & Friends program, call Ben Deremiah at the FVCC Foundation at (406)756-3632 or visit www.fvcc.edu/alumni.

FVCC Kicks off 50th Anniversary Celebration

Flathead Valley Community College recently released a commemorative publication in honor of the 50th anniversary of its founding. Complimentary copies of the book can be obtained at the Foundation office inside Blake Hall.

Flathead Valley Community College is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its founding this year with a series of commemorative events, publications and exhibits honoring the college’s earliest advocates and highlighting the achievements of the past five decades. FVCC was founded on April 1, 1967 after Flathead County voters approved a ballot initiative to create a community college in Northwest Montana.

The 50th anniversary celebration kicks off February 2 with a presentation by boxer, entrepreneur and international speaker Garret Garrels, who will discuss how ordinary people can change lives by taking action on their extraordinary ideas. Free and open to the public, Garrels’ presentation will begin at 12 p.m. in the large community room of the Arts and Technology Building on campus.

Garrels founded Pink Gloves Boxing in 2006 while he was a student and football player at Carroll College. Pink Gloves Boxing, a physical and emotional empowerment program designed for women and teenage girls, has been recognized in Entrepreneur Magazine’s “Top 100 Innovative Businesses.” Pink Gloves Boxing clubs can be found in eight states, as well as in Norway, Sweden and pending in Saudi Arabia and Dubai.  A collegiate program that started at Montana State University in 2010 has been implemented at universities and colleges across the country.

Despite struggling with a stammer all of his childhood, Garrels has finished in the semi-finals of the World Championship of Public Speaking twice.  In 2011, he finished 18th out of 35,000 contestants. He is a published author and frequently speaks at events and engagements around the world.

In addition to hearing Garrels speak, attendees of the February 2 event will receive a complimentary copy of FVCC’s 50th anniversary commemorative publication. The 40-page book includes historic photographs, testimonials from alumni and faculty, a timeline of major milestones of the past 50 years and other information. Complimentary copies of the publication can also be obtained at the FVCC Foundation office in Blake Hall.

FVCC will hold a Founder’s Day celebration for the community on April 7. Event details are forthcoming. For more information, visitwww.fvcc.edu/50.

Women’s Choral Festival Convenes in Kalispell

Kristina Ploeger, the associate director of Choral Activities at Eastern Washington University, will be the guest conductor of the Women’s Choral Festival in Kalispell February 6-7.

High school students from across Northwest Montana will convene in Kalispell February 6-7 for the biennial Women’s Choral Festival. Hosted by FVCC’s Music Department, the festival offers the opportunity for female students to work with an accomplished guest conductor and perform in a large concert hall. The festival will conclude with a free public concert at 6 p.m. on February 7 in the Flathead High School Auditorium.

Approximately 140 students from seven high schools will spend two days rehearsing under the direction of conductor Kristina Ploeger, the associate director of Choral Activities at Eastern Washington University and the artistic director of the Spokane Area Youth Choirs. Ploeger holds degrees from Edmonds Community College, Eastern Washington University and Central Washington University and is currently pursuing a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in choral conducting from the University of Kentucky. She has directed honors groups and all-state choirs in Washington, Oregon and Kentucky.

Participating high schools are Glacier, Polson, Shelby, Eureka, Bigfork, Columbia Falls and Ronan.

In addition to the Women’s Choral Festival concert, the public is invited to a free concert on February 3 featuring performances by FVCC Music Program faculty members. The concert will begin at 7 p.m. in the large community room in the Arts and Technology Building.

For more information about either concert or FVCC’s Music Program, contact Sanford at 756- or nsanford@fvcc.edu.

FVCC Foundation Awards Nearly $50,000 for 2016 Innovative Projects and Student Travel

Foundation Awards
FVCC Associate Professor of Biology Ruth Wrightsman accepts Enhancement Grant award from FVCC Foundation Board member Diane Morton.

The Foundation at Flathead Valley Community College recently announced awards totaling $48,520 to FVCC faculty and staff for innovative projects that shift learning experiences and for student travel to national and regional conferences for competitions and to present research.

Thanks to one of these grants, students from the electrical technology, agriculture and heavy equipment operator programs will collaborate on a solar energy installation project this spring that will ultimately reduce the college’s electricity bill.

Electrical technology students will design and install a photovoltaic system that captures solar energy and converts it to electricity for the Agriculture building on campus. Heavy equipment operator students will perform the project’s excavation services, and agriculture students will assist with laying conduit pipe for the wiring.

“This project will allow all students involved to gain valuable hands-on experience,” said FVCC Director of Career and Technical Education Pete Wade. “Photovoltaics is a growing industry in Montana, and this project will better prepare our students to work with the latest technology in this field.”

Now in its 11th year, the Foundation’s Enhancement Grant program has provided seed money for successful programs including The Culinary Institute of Montana’s Chef’s Table program and The Scholars program at FVCC.  It continues to provide resources for new and entrepreneurial initiatives through proceeds from Festival of Flavors fundraising events.  All the grants are made possible by the generosity of the businesses, organizations and individuals who support Foundation events and make donations to programs.

Enhancement Grants were also awarded for the following projects:

“Project Sandbox – Exploring Topography through Augmented Reality”
Under the direction of FVCC Associate Professor of Natural Resources Tim Eichner, students will build an augmented reality sandbox that will allow students and the public to interact with a miniature landscape and create topographical models to be scanned into a computer. This technology will improve students’ knowledge about digital elevation models and geomorphological processes.

“Cyanobacteria in the Glaciers of Glacier National Park”
Under the direction of FVCC Associate Professor of Biology Ruth Wrightsman, biotechnology students will conduct original research using molecular methods to characterize blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) from Glacier National Park. Students will report the results of their findings to Glacier National Park biologists.  Results will also be entered into a searchable database for research projects conducted in national parks.

“MCTM Regional Math Contest”
Under the direction of FVCC Associate Professor of Math Laura VanDeKop, the college will host the regional MCTM Math Contest for local high school students this spring, providing the facility and coordinating test proctoring for students.

“Outdoor Salt”
Under the direction of FVCC Associate Professor of Art David Regan, ceramics students will build an outdoor kiln utilizing special bricks that allow for salt firing, a process that produces beautiful atmospheric results.  Occupational trades students will construct the frame of the kiln.

“Makerspace Kit”
Makerspace kits are being used to engage K-12 students in critical thinking exercises while feeding the inner spirit of those who enjoy making and learning. Under the direction of FVCC Associate Professor of Computer Applications Dawn Rauscher, instructional technology students will learn how to use this emerging technology, create lesson plans centered on the kit’s tools and implement the lessons in local K-12 classrooms around the Flathead Valley.

The Center for Manufacturing Advancement at FVCC will subscribe to the online educational resource EduFactor and share relevant curriculum and materials with occupational trades instructors at local high schools.

“Tablet Computers for Paramedic Students”
Under the direction of FVCC Associate Professor of Paramedicine and Emergency Management Kris Long, paramedicine students will have access to iPad Air tablets to document their skills and patient contacts in real time at the clinical site.

“Strange Snow”
The FVCC Theatre Department will produce “Strange Snow” by Stephan Metcalf in February, a three-person cast featuring well-known local actors Nick and Rebecca Spear. Proceeds from the production will be dedicated to providing scholarships to students.

In addition to grants for innovative projects, travel grants were approved for students in early childhood education, biology, biotechnology, chemistry and Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.

For more information on Enhancement Grants or the FVCC Foundation, contact Colleen Unterreiner at colleenu@fvcc.edu or 756-3914.