Student Success: Hairo Ortega

Hairo Ortega, a 2018 graduate of Ivy Tech Community College, is back at the Logansport campus in a very new role. Now the first Logansport admissions representative for Indiana Tech, Ortega is recruiting his fellow Ivy Tech grads – and other community members – to pursue four-year bachelor’s degrees through Indiana Tech right here at Ivy Tech’s state-of-the-art Logansport instructional site.

2019-11 Hairo Ortega_Ivy Tech and Indiana Tech_cropped

In this role, Ortega is busy learning about Kokomo and Peru, as well as learning much more about his hometown of Logansport. Along with meeting one-on-one with applicants to get them through the admissions process, he also serves as Indiana Tech’s representative in the three communities to meet people and talk about the many opportunities available to “develop human capital.”

“Depending on where you are in life, the Ivy Tech/Indiana Tech partnership can help you move up in your career,” Ortega said. “Whether you’re graduating from Ivy Tech ready to transfer to a four-year school or are a mid-career adult who wants to upskill for a better job, Indiana Tech offers the opportunity to pursue bachelor’s and master’s degrees and even a Ph.D.”

Ivy Tech and Fort Wayne-based Indiana Tech announced a new transfer partnership last summer that enables students to complete a four-year Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration as part of Ivy Tech Logansport’s new “University Center.” Jeri Burkhart, director of admissions for Indiana Tech’s College of Professional Studies, said the addition of Ortega to the staff is a boost toward engaging enough students to support coursework at the Logansport site.

“We are so excited to have Hairo as part of our team,” Burkhart said. “With his background growing up in Logansport and his journey to graduation at Ivy Tech, he can relate to potential students with encouragement and enthusiasm.”

Ortega’s strong academic career at Ivy Tech was important, Burkhart says, but it’s his work ethic, energy level, and communications skills that made him a natural for the admissions representative job. Being fluent in both English and Spanish allows him to work with a broad range of potential students.

Ortega says the new job is definitely challenging, offering unique experiences with a variety of people. But most important, he says, is the chance “to create new opportunities for those who may be lost.”  He loves being able to share parts of his story to encourage others.

College wasn’t really on his radar until his junior year at Logansport High School when Ortega says, he suddenly realized how important further education would be. With a new determination to earn a diploma with academic and technical honors, he retook high school classes to improve grades so he could graduate in 2017 with both. Ivy Tech was his next stop, connecting with the College’s accelerated associate degree program (ASAP) when it came to Logansport and graduating cum laude with an associate degree in General Studies in December 2018. Earning Dean’s List recognition, he was a member of Phi Theta Kappa academic honor society and the National Society of Leadership and Success. All this, he notes, while working as a customer service associate in The Home Depot’s paint department.

He credits the support he received from Ivy Tech staff members Beth Chaney, the ASAP coordinator, and Jovita Flores, an assistant admissions director. He also understands the importance of being able to go to school near home, a deciding factor for people with transportation issues and employment and family obligations. Those are all factors that make the opportunity to get an Indiana Tech bachelor’s degree without leaving the community so attractive.

Under the transfer agreement, Ivy Tech students will be able to complete associate degrees on the Logansport campus that are designed to meet first- and second-year requirements at Indiana Tech. Indiana Tech is co-locating on Ivy Tech’s Logansport campus to offer the third- and fourth-year courses needed to complete bachelor’s degrees in Business Administration in seven areas of concentration – Business Communication, Entrepreneurial Studies, Health Care Administration, Human Resources, Management, Marketing, and Sports Management. Additional programs may be added in the future.

Burkhart said Indiana Tech is forming classes now at the Logansport center based on shared interests or goals, with many different start times. The programs, a combination of face-to-face and online courses, are set up to accommodate working adults with class sessions that begin throughout the year. And, in just a few months, one of the new students seeking bachelor’s degrees will be Hairo Ortega himself.

“So many people can relate to aspects of Hairo’s story,” Burkhart said. “It’s a story of choosing to invest in yourself. You know what you’re worth. If the choice is buying a new car or going to school, invest in you. That new car, so pretty and shiny now, won’t be so pretty and shiny in two years.”

For more information on the Ivy Tech-Indiana Tech partnership and how to enroll, contact Ortega at or 1-800-288-1766, ext. 2610.



Student Success: José Gomez Marquez

José Gomez Marquez knows a thing or two about taking risks and starting over. He made the decision of moving him and his family from the country of Peru to Miami, Florida in 2003 for better employment opportunities.

Things were better in Miami, but only slightly. Marquez wanted more opportunities to work in manufacturing and wanted to strengthen his English. He did this as he Zoom Jose Gomez Marquez Headshot.jpgresearched for smaller cities that focused on plastics manufacturing.

Marquez made another worthwhile decision to move him and his family to Fort Wayne, Indiana to work at Mullinax. He eventually left to pursue an opportunity at D&W Finepack, where he discovered Ivy Tech and Next Level Jobs.

As he wanted to advance his career at D&W Finepack, he knew he would have to continue his education. He was able to get his tuition and fees paid for while attending Ivy Tech Fort Wayne through Next Level Jobs. Marquez earned his certificate in Supply Chain Management and Logistics in fall of 2019 and is working on his associate’s degree in spring of 2020

While attending Ivy Tech Fort Wayne, Marquez has excelled. One of his biggest accomplishments was winning first place as part of a multi-college team at the Conexus Case Competition in Oct. 2019 where he problem-solved a real-life scenario faced by the Caterpillar corporation.

“The Conexus Competition was an amazing experience! Working on a real case with students from another college was challenging, but definitely enriching,” says Marquez. “The feeling of being the winning team was so exhilarating! I was very nervous because other teams seemed so well-prepared, but thanks to the good experiences that I’ve had with my Ivy Tech instructors, I was right there with them, ready to compete at a high level.”

Marquez worked hard and moved across the country and across the world to not only improve his life, but his family’s as well. He wrote a poem (which won first place in a competition for National Distance Learning Week) that reflects his emotional and educational journey from Peru to Ivy Tech Fort Wayne:

Virtual Reality Becomes Reality
by Jose Gomez Marquez

Stuck in a dead-end job
no light at the end of the tunnel
aspirations, creativity stifled
a dump truck full of ambition
poured through a small plastic funnel.
My time and my sweat daily wrung from me
hardly a moment, a drop left for my family.
Is this why I left Perú, to live in a snowy city?
Then an ad comes my way, by heavenly algorithm sent
Level up your job with Next Level
See? Your tax dollars are well spent!
I’m nervous, I’m worried
Can I handle work, school, more stress?
My kids push me towards the goal
I say “maybe,” they chorus “yes!”
Distance learning is the key, the internet is my friend
my mind catches fire, though my posture suffers
hours with a book and a laptop I spend.
The pieces fit together, good grades come my way
my confidence rises
I can finally put all my skills into play.
One more challenge arrives
the Conexus contest in logistics and supply chain
I’ll show those punks from West Lafayette
how we do things in Fort Wayne!
My team poses for the photo as we hold the big check
fifteen minutes of fame, a new job and more
courtesy of online Ivy Tech.

Student Success: Leah Curry

Leah Curry

Leah Curry had studied chemistry at the University of Evansville and industrial electronics at Ivy Tech Community College in Evansville, Indiana. She also holds a TPC Certification in industrial electronics.

Today, Curry is president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Indiana, Inc., in Princeton, Indiana (TMMI). She is responsible for all production and administrative functions at the manufacturing facility, which produces the Toyota Highlander, Highlander Hybrid, Sienna, and Sequoia.

Previously, Curry served as president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing, West Virginia, Inc. (TMMWV), in Buffalo, West Virginia. She was responsible for all manufacturing and administrative functions of the manufacturing plant. During her 22-year career with Toyota, Curry has held several other manufacturing management positions at TMMI, including general manager of assembly and management positions in body weld, stamping, maintenance, production engineering, and new model launch. She started her career as a maintenance team leader at TMMI in 1997.

Curry serves on the National Board of Directors for The Manufacturing Institute and Women in Manufacturing (WIM). She received national recognition in 2013 as a female leader in manufacturing with the Manufacturing Institute’s Step Ahead award. Curry was also named one of the Top 100 women in Automotive by Automotive News.


I Define Success: Kasey Pretty

Kasey Pretty4 -edited[3836]Kasey Pretty has wanted to be a nurse for over 13 years.

It was during a one-week stay at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center that 8-year-old Pretty decided she wanted to be like the nurses who made her feel comfortable and calm during that scary time.

Pretty, 21, graduated from Ivy Tech in May 2019 with an associate degree in nursing.

“For me, this was the fastest possible way I could become a registered nurse,” Pretty said, regarding Ivy Tech’s nursing program.

At Ivy Tech, Pretty was able to complete her prerequisite classes for the nursing program in one year. Also, because registered nurses are only required to have an associate degree, she was able to complete the entire program in two years.

“I would not have gotten that with a university,” Pretty said. “I would have been on a waiting list, and it would have taken a lot more time and money.”

During Ivy Tech’s nursing program, Pretty and her fellow classmates were taught how to administer vaccines, how to take care of patients and about the concepts of nursing from practicing or retired nurses.

Pretty said that beyond teaching them the material, the professors were always very supportive and made sure their students were taking care of themselves in addition to their schoolwork.

One of these encouraging instructors, Pretty said, was assistant professor Lori Grubbs, who was always ready to listen, help and provide words of encouragement.

“She was always telling me, ‘Wow, you’ve come so far’,” Pretty said. “I needed that. Hearing the positive reinforcement was great from her.”

Pretty said she credits professors like Grubbs and Ivy Tech itself for connecting her to her previous job as a patient care assistant at Highpoint Health.

Kasey Pretty2 - edited[3835]During her second semester of the nursing program, Pretty and her classmates completed their clinicals at Highpoint Health. During their orientation, people from the hospital said they were looking for nursing students to be PCAs, or nurses’ aides.

Pretty said she was unsure about applying, but one of her professors encouraged her to complete the application and even advocated for her to the employers.

As a PCA, Pretty’s job was to talk to patients, walk them to and from certain areas and ensure they felt comfortable.

“It was a really nice way for me to get patient care experience before I started as a real nurse, so I could have an idea of what that would be like,” Pretty said. “I would’ve probably never found that had I not went to Ivy Tech.”

After graduation, Pretty spent most of her time preparing for the NCLEX , the test used to determine if someone can be a RN. Pretty spent days reviewing information at study tables with former classmates, taking free tests through Kaplan provided by Ivy Tech and meetings with her advisors to go over material.

On June 19, Pretty passed her test and officially became an RN.

In the fall of 2019, Pretty will start work as an RN in the oncology department at St. Elizabeth Healthcare in Edgewood, Kentucky.

Pretty said she is most excited to be a nurse because she will be able to help people when they are at their worst.

“I just like making people better and making them happy,” Pretty said.

Pretty spent the majority of her life wanting and working to be a nurse. With Ivy Tech, she was able to reach that dream and start helping people two years sooner.

“Ever since I was little, all I wanted to do was be a nurse, and Ivy Tech was the perfect way for me to get out of high school and jump right into everything,” Pretty said. “I am so glad I didn’t go into any other nursing program.”

I Define Success: Sam Hockwalt

Sam Hockwalt photoSophomore Sam Hockwalt said attending Ivy Tech was the best way for him to save money and stay connected to his community.

Hockwalt, who wants to be a naturalist for the Department of Natural Resources, plans on attending Ivy Tech’s Anderson campus for two years before transferring to Ball State University to complete his bachelor’s degree in natural resources.

Hockwalt first began considering Ivy Tech his sophomore year when an Ivy Tech representative spoke to his school about the benefits of attending community college. He said he was so impressed by the presentation that when people began asking about his college plans, Ivy Tech was always a part of that conversation.

“It went from a quick answer, to an easy question, to my actual plan pretty quick,” Hockwalt said.

The main reason Hockwalt said he wanted to attend Ivy Tech was because of the financial benefits.

Both of Hockwalt’s parents attended Ball State for four years of college. Over 20 years later they are still paying off their student loans.

Because Hockwalt plans on working in a lower-paying job, he said he does not want to make the same mistake and go into the workforce with crippling student loan debt.

“I know that I am eventually going to get some student loan debt, but I want it to be as little as possible,” Hockwalt said.

In addition to the financial benefits, Hockwalt said he believes he is receiving a top-notch education from professors who really care for their students.

“There is no difference in what I am learning here than what I would be learning at Ball State, other than money,” Hockwalt said. “The short-term boost in notoriety that I would get from going to a four-year college for all four years, is not equivalent to the monetary expenditure that it would take to have that little boost.”

Hockwalt is currently completing general studies classes at Ivy Tech, but he said he still feels he is learning important life skills through classes such as personal finance and physical science.

“I haven’t had a single class yet that I can look back on and be like, ‘That was a waste of time,’” Hockwalt said.

One of his favorite classes this past year was earth and space science.

One of the reasons he said he enjoyed the class was because the professor was very hands-on, and their labs were more about the real-world applications and less about filling out worksheets.

“The professor was very into what he was doing, and he made it very fun for us,” Hockwalt said.

Hockwalt said there are also multiple advantages to staying close to home. Because he did not need to leave his home or move far away, he said he experienced an easy transition to college life and was able to focus more on his schooling.

“I’m getting the experience of how to do my classes without also having to juggle living with roommates and all that,” said Hockwalt.

Ivy Tech is also very active in the community, said Hockwalt. In addition to being located in Anderson, Ivy Tech has also hosted certain events in attempt to reach out and connect with the community.

“It’s nice to have some community interaction from the staff,” Hockwalt said. “That kind of stuff is just uplifting.”

One of these events is the Welcome to College Gala, which invites students from Madison County to visit and explore what Ivy Tech has to offer. Hockwalt himself attended the event last year.

Hockwalt said that all things considered, Ivy Tech was the best place for him, and he is very happy with the results.

“No matter how you look at it, the positives outweigh the negatives in every way,” Hockwalt said.

I Define Success: Breanne Morgan

Breanne Morgan photoOn May 17, 2019, Breanne Morgan walked across the stage wearing a black cap and gown to receive her associate degree in general studies from Ivy Tech Community College. About a month later, she graduated from Blackford High School.

During her junior year of high school, Morgan said she noticed that although she was not pursuing a college degree in high school, she had completed many college credits through dual-credit courses.

When she approached her guidance counselor, she found she was about 15 credits away from completing her associate degree. So, even though it meant taking a few summer courses, she said she decided to go for it.

“To me that made sense,” Morgan said. “Why not just go all the way?”

Some of the classes Morgan had to take from Ivy Tech to complete her degree were music appreciation, psychology and a computer class. Her favorite class was psychology.

“I had already taken psychology in high school and I really enjoyed it,” Morgan said. “It kind of reignited the love I had for the subject.”

Morgan said she plans on majoring in psychology when she attends Indiana Wesleyan University in the fall. She said she is excited to take more classes that immediately relate to her major because she has already completed her general studies courses.

“It is kind of a head start,” Morgan said. “I can get my bachelor’s two years sooner which means I can go to grad school sooner and get started in my career sooner.”

Her senior year, Morgan was a member of Key Club, a member of a local archery club, the treasurer for National Honors Society and student body president.

In the course of navigating her busy schedule and adjusting to the caliber of college courses, Morgan learned how to be a more efficient student, she said.

“Instead of figuring it all out my first year at college, I have figured out an effective system for me and how I need to manage my work and my assignments,” Morgan said.

For Morgan, this system includes using a lot of to-do lists and completing school work in different locations, such as a coffee shop or library.

Morgan said although her classes were online and she was juggling many different activities while completing them, her professors at Ivy Tech were always attentive. Every time she emailed them a question, they would respond quickly and make sure her questions were answered, said Morgan.

“Even though it was online and not face-to-face, they were always willing to help and make sure you understood,” Morgan said.

Morgan said she had to work hard and sometimes give up fun experiences in order to complete her school work. However earning an associate degree during high school was an attainable goal that was well worth her time.

“It was definitely worth it,” Morgan said. “It’s very satisfying knowing that I have been able to obtain this at such a young age.”

I Define Success: Jordan Wolfe

jordan-wolfe-1.jpgJordan Wolfe was only 14 years old when he enrolled in Ivy Tech Community College. Although he was a freshman in high school, Jordan was able to register at the Anderson and Muncie locations due to his home-schooling. Determined to “knock out as many college credits” as he could, Jordan completed an Associate Degree in General Studies before graduating high school.

“When I started at Ivy Tech… I really wasn’t very outgoing but being at Ivy Tech helped introduce me to communicating with people of different ages, races, and backgrounds,” he said. “A lot of the learning that I experienced wasn’t actually in the classroom but was a side effect of being in a diverse college environment.”

Currently studying Meteorology at Ball State University, Jordan hopes to go on to work for a local news station or the National Weather Service. His goal is to one day “be on the news in radio or TV.” Although Jordan is an excellent example of how students can utilize Ivy Tech’s Dual Credit and Transfer as a Junior program to get a head start on their education, his experience went beyond earning credits.

“Even though my primary focus at Ivy Tech was the education, it was very beneficial for me to get to know a lot of people, build relationships with them, and I continue to visit with them even though I’ve continued on to Ball State,” he said.

Jordan Wolfe

Ivy Tech Community College is proud to celebrate Jordan’s success and achievements with the Distinguished Alumni Award. This annual award honors alumni for their commitment to the College and to their communities. The awardees are leaders in their professions who make significant contributions benefiting their community, state, or college.

The alumni recognized with this award represent the very best of what an Ivy Tech education makes possible. Alumni, faculty, staff, and friends are all encouraged to submit nominations online.

I Define Success: Jessica Strunk

Jessica Strunk knows the value of education. Currently the Vice Chancellor of Enrollment Services at Ivy Tech Community College Bloomington, Jessica began her journey with Ivy Tech almost 13 while working on her Associate Degree in Office Administration.

“While working on my degree at Ivy Tech, I started working as a work-study student in the Registrar’s Office. This experience opened my eyes to what is involved in higher education,” said Jessica, “I didn’t ever think that I’d be a Vice-Chancellor, but my coworkers pushed me to achieve my bachelor’s and master’s degrees.”

Jessica Strunk2

When Jessica began the Office Administration program in 2004, she was sure she wanted to be a secretary her entire career, but as Jessica says, “education is a gateway to success.” Through her studies and position in the Registrar’s Office, Jessica’s eyes opened to the many opportunities in education. As Vice-Chancellor, Jessica’s mission is to “show students the capability of education and how it can be accessed.” She helps students understand what education can do for them and break through the barriers holding them back. Jessica’s dedication to higher education, work ethic, and compassion are just a few reasons why her colleague, Trudy Weddle, chose to nominate her for the Distinguished Alumni Award.

In her nomination Trudy said:

“[Jessica] is focused, dedicated, and brings integrity to every commitment she makes in her life. She has a spirit about her that is contagious… always putting everyone above herself, always going above and beyond for her colleagues and our students – If anyone ever needs anything on our campus, she is our go to and never skips a beat!”

In addition to being Vice-Chancellor, Jessica plays an active role in the Lawrence County community. She is part of the Circle of Ivy women’s philanthropy group, where she also involves her 9-year-old daughter in raising funds to support Ivy Tech students.

“I’m excited to get her involved in philanthropy and to take her to Circle of Ivy events,” Jessica said, “She is in training to become a ‘mini ambassador’ for Ivy Tech!”

Jessica’s career is a fantastic example of how hard work and education can better a persons’ life. She wants students to know that “they can build a better tomorrow starting now” and that Ivy Tech is a great place to start.

Ivy Tech Community College is proud to celebrate Jessica’s success and achievements with the Distinguished Alumni Award. This annual award honors alumni for their commitment to the College and to their communities. The awardees are leaders in their professions who make significant contributions benefiting their community, state, or college.

The alumni recognized with this award represent the very best of what an Ivy Tech education makes possible. Alumni, faculty, staff, and friends are all encouraged to submit nominations online.

I Define Success: Allison Newell Risch

allison newell risch photoAllison Newell Risch graduated from Ivy Tech Community College Columbus in 2002 with an associate degree in nursing. Allison’s nursing career exemplifies her commitment to her community, excellence in patient care and an ability to educate those in her field. When asked why she chose to study at Ivy Tech, Allison, who had previously graduated from Purdue, knew she didn’t want to waste time repeating general education credits she had already received. That’s when her mother, an Ivy Tech Columbus faculty member, really encouraged her to attend.

“…the ASN program is very intense. Once you get in, you dive right in. That full immersion that I was exposed to, really helped me to seal that decision that I really wanted to be a nurse,” Allison said.

Allison’s experience at Ivy Tech was challenging at times. “We were pushed hard,” Allison said, “and that helped me to gain confidence in myself.” Those challenges proved to push Allison toward success, graduating Cum Laude for the program and going on to receive multiple awards in nursing. Currently, Allison is a Case Management Manager at Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield.

“What I learned at Ivy Tech was the different avenues that nursing can take you. The nursing curriculum helps you to learn the diverse field of nursing, and it really helps you to see that nursing is something that can change lives.”

She is a shining example to future and current nursing students of what they can accomplish in the medical field. Allison continues to be involved with Ivy Tech through her family’s creation of the Pitt Family Endowment, a scholarship created to support nursing students.

Allison Risch2

“We’re big Ivy Tech supporters. I’ve encouraged so many people to go,” she said. “It is ideal for adult learners and people with families who want to go back to school.”

Ivy Tech Community College is proud to celebrate Allison’s success and achievements with the Distinguished Alumni Award. This annual award honors alumni for their commitment to the College and to their communities. The awardees are leaders in their professions who make significant contributions benefiting their community, state, or college.

The alumni recognized with this award represent the very best of what an Ivy Tech education makes possible. Alumni, faculty, staff, and friends are all encouraged to submit nominations online.

I Define Success: Amanda Crowe

Amanda Crowe graduated from Ivy Tech Community College Evansville in 2008 with an Associate Degree in Human Services. Crowe has worked at the Evansville Rescue Mission for the past 12 years, holding almost every position in the organization. Currently serving as the Vice President of Human Resources at the mission, Amanda was nominated for the Distinguished Alumni Award by a previous client, who said: “Miss Amanda is the director of the shelter I stayed in. She makes sure 100+ men have all the help they need when they are homeless.”

Amanda chose to attend Ivy Tech because of its affordability and the accessibility it offered her as a mother and adult student. Amanda feels that her time at Ivy Tech completely prepared her for the workforce, saying she retained much from her education and still uses that knowledge today. Amanda continues to support Ivy Tech students by hiring interns from the human services program.

“You can see the difference that an Ivy Tech quality education has on people coming into the workforce,” said Amanda.

Amanda Crowe2

Amanda’s story exemplifies the hard work and dedication it takes to succeed. Her experience at Ivy Tech gave her the chance to invest in herself, set an example for her children and take pride in completing her degree. When asked what advice she would give students interested in Ivy Tech, Amanda said they shouldn’t hesitate.

“Further your education, better yourself, and move forward with a rewarding and fulfilling career,” she said, “I honestly never thought I would finish college. I had a job I hated, but one day I said, ‘I’m not going to do this anymore,’ and I just did it. I went to school, and I finished. Ivy Tech provided the support that I needed.”

Ivy Tech Community College is proud to celebrate Amanda’s success and achievements with the Distinguished Alumni Award. This annual award honors alumni for their commitment to the College and to their communities. The awardees are leaders in their professions who make significant contributions benefiting their community, state, or college.

The alumni recognized with this award represent the very best of what an Ivy Tech education makes possible. Alumni, faculty, staff, and friends are all encouraged to submit nominations online.