Gateway Technical College Experience
By Brandon Hudson, ECMC Foundation Fellow
“Life is Big. Be Prepared”. The motto of Gateway Technical College encompasses students, staff, and administration. As soon as the ACTE Postsecondary Leadership Success Program (PLSP) Fellows, sponsored by the ECMC Foundation, arrived in Kenosha, WI in mid-June, the preparation that the college has taken to become a part of its community was evident. As we entered Kenosha, we saw signs, marquees, and flyers promoting the school. At first glance, we all knew that Gateway had made relationships a priority. This was made even more evident as we arrived on Gateway’s campus the following day. President Dr. Bryan Albrecht and his administration team welcomed us with open arms and openly discussed their initiatives that have made them one of the nation’s most successful higher education institutions of Career and Technical Education. While the specific projects at Gateway Technical College play a large part in its success, the overlying principles set forth by Dr. Albrecht and his team have made those projects and success possible. These principles, while seemingly perfected by Gateway, can be applied to any institution to increase success. These principles are setting a positive culture, communicating expectations, and building relationships with stakeholders.
One of the first things that the PLSP-ECMCF Fellows noticed during Dr. Albrecht’s presentation was the positivity that he exuded. His administration team stressed numerous times that they had only seen Dr. Albrecht truly upset once in his thirteen year tenure as president. It was evident that Dr. Albrecht was dedicated to the success of his team, was willing to put them in the best position to succeed, and was willing to listen to their ideas. The team was laughing and joking with each other and all had smiles on their faces when talking about the school and Dr. Albrecht. It was clear that these people enjoyed their jobs and the impact they had on students and their community, further based on the fact that most had been employed at Gateway for many years. Dr. Albrecht’s positive attitude and dedication to a positive culture clearly influenced his colleagues. As a leader, a little positivity goes a long way in organizational success.
Another principle of Gateway that can be implemented at other institutions is their commitment to setting expectations, both for students and staff. Whether it is a staff member stopping and talking to prospective students when they see them on campus with a bright green backpack or the Automotive Technology students at the Horizon Center focusing on cleanliness as part of their daily work, Gateway’s team sets expectations and holds people accountable for meeting them. As we toured the school and met with other staff members, it was clear that the positivity of the staff and cleanliness of the school were not just for show for our visit; it was evident that the expectations were set that these things were daily occurrences.
Finally, the most powerful principle that radiated from the team at Gateway was the importance placed on building relationships with stakeholders. While Snap-On Tools is Gateway’s most prominent partner, it was clear that Dr. Albrecht and his team relied on other relationships to ensure the institution’s success. Event those relationships that may not knowingly lead to a large donation to the school are important to the leadership at Gateway. It was clear that Gateway is Kenosha’s school, and Dr. Albrecht and his team make it clear that the school loves its community and its inhabitants. Through partnerships with local school systems, befriending an elderly couple in the community, or partnering with one of the largest tool makers in the world, Gateway builds and maintains strong relationships that are vital to its growth and success.
Institutions of higher education do not need an abundance of resources to model any of these three principles perfected by Gateway Technical College. However, it will take a willing leadership team and in some cases, a culture shift. While every school may not have the resources of Gateway, every leader can learn something from Dr. Albrecht and his team that can be implemented at his or her own institution. Building long-lasting relationships, setting expectations, and building a positive culture, like Gateway has done, can improve a school’s success and increase student and staff potential.