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MERRILLVILLE — In a cozy setting in the lobby of Ivy Tech Community College’s Crown Point-Merrillville Center, incoming President Sue Ellspermann talked about her plans to improve the graduation rate, “right-size” the college and the importance of dual credit for high school students.

Ellspermann is visiting the regional campuses across the state prior to officially assuming the position July 1.

The first woman ever to serve as president, Ellspermann stepped down as lieutenant governor in March to pursue the position after she was approached last fall.

“My two focuses are student success, which includes on-time graduation,” she said Thursday.

Ellspermann was accompanied by Thomas Coley, chancellor for Ivy Tech Community College Northwest and North Central, along with other staff members.

“The other piece is aligning the needs of our employers. We will have data from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, statewide and regionally,” she said.

“We’ll begin to look regionally at our programs and how many seats we need to fill to meet the demands whether that’s in health care, manufacturing or other industries.

“In some cases, we’ll start recruiting to fill those slots. In other cases, we will shrink programs depending on the demand. The alignment will take several years to complete, getting the right programs at the right campuses,” Ellspermann said.

Ellspermann also said she would be meeting with members of the faculty, staff and legislators to discuss their vision for the college.

“I’ll spend this fall aligning my executive team and preparing for the legislative session, which begins in January,” she said.

Ellspermann said enrollment is up on some campuses and down on others.

Coley said he’s encouraged regarding the state’s goal for graduation, and everyone in higher education has to “redouble” their efforts.

The state has a goal of having 60 percent of Hoosiers holding a degree by 2025.

A state report released last year said Ivy Tech had fewer than 30 percent of its students earn a certificate or associate degree within six years.

Ellspermann and Coley also are pleased about the progress of the new Indiana University Northwest building under construction at 35th Avenue and Broadway that Ivy Tech will share with the university.

To those who say Ellspermann was appointed because of her position in government and relationship with the Legislature, she said her credentials earned her the position.

She said as lieutenant governor, she served as chairwoman of the career council for the last three years and was among those drafting the strategic direction for the state.

“I was immersed in that process,” she said.

“When I was approached last fall by the board of trustees to consider applying I begin giving it some thought, because I understand how important Ivy Tech is to our state.”

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Southlake County Reporter

Carmen is an award-winning journalist who has worked at The Times newspaper for 20 years. Before that she also had stints at The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., The Post-Tribune and The News Dispatch in Michigan City.