I Define Success: Desiree Polk-Bland

Desiree Polk-Bland

Desiree Polk-Bland had already received a bachelor’s and two master’s degrees before earning her associate’s in general studies from Ivy Tech Community College Richmond while working there as a full-time employee.

“Ivy Tech is a place where you can create a supportive community to help you to achieve your goals. That was my experience,” she said. “I took classes to round myself out in areas that I did not have a background in, such as culinary arts, physics, and Spanish.”

Currently, the Executive Dean of Student Affairs at Columbus State Community College in Ohio, Desiree’s time at Ivy Tech gave her perspective on her career goals and enhanced her professional abilities in the field of higher education. Working on courses also gave her an opportunity to spend time with the students she was serving while working as a dedicated Ivy Tech employee. Desiree continues to support the College and its students through her recent endowment scholarship, the Polk-Bland Endowed Emergency Fund.

“It was important to me to give back to Ivy Tech for everything that they gave me. I want the scholarship to be there when people need it. I want it to be used to help others have access to education, overcome nonacademic barriers, such as food and housing insecurity, and to successfully achieve their educational goals.”

Desiree’s advice to those interested in enrolling at Ivy Tech is simple: “Just start and understand that assistance is available. As you have questions, get the assistance that you need. There is nothing holding you back from education, you just have to open the door and start.”


Ivy Tech Community College is proud to celebrate Desiree’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: Grace Gilbert

Student loan debt has become a nationwide epidemic, with graduates in the legal field being among those hardest hit. Many Ivy Tech students, however, are completing degrees without any debt—including December Paralegal Studies graduate Grace Gilbert.

Grace, who will earn an associate degree this month, worked hard to pay her tuition while still in college. However, she says Ivy Tech helped make it possible—and she encourages other prospective college students to make the same decision.

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I Define Success: Berdina Gamble

If you ever think it’s too late to pursue your dreams, or you ever feel like you can’t go on, Berdina Gamble’s story will likely change your mind.

When she first enrolled at Ivy Tech Community College, Berdina was a lot like many of her classmates. But Berdina had one advantage: she was fortunate to have enough free time to make college a priority. As a result, she excelled, earning induction into the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.

Soon, however, things changed dramatically. As Berdina says, “it came in like a flood.” Continue reading

I Define Success: Aaron Thomas

Robotics professionals are known for their technical knowledge, but every now and then, you’re reminded that they are also decidedly human.

Take Aaron Thomas, for example. The Ivy Tech Community College student has very practical reasons for entering his chosen field. He’s looking to move up in his career, and he sees a “vast need in Indiana for skilled workers.”

But when you ask him why he’s been successful in Ivy Tech’s Advanced Automation and Robotics Technology (AART) program, he credits something—or someone, more appropriately—closer to his heart. Continue reading

I Define Success: Laura Ernst-Davies

It’s often said that our biggest setbacks can lead to our greatest opportunities—if we work through them. That’s certainly been the case for Laura Ernst-Davies, who graduated this month with a Nursing degree from Ivy Tech Community College.

In 2014, Laura’s world was shaken by the death of her husband. A stay-at-home mom with five children, she knew her life would never be the same. And while she had previously earned a bachelor’s degree, she chose to pursue a career path that would provide for her family in the long run: nursing. Continue reading

I Define Success: Rebecca Winkle

If you ask Rebecca Winkle what it takes to succeed as a college student, she’ll tell you it’s simultaneously very simple and very challenging.

The simple part? “You get what you put in,” she says. In other words, you have a lot of control over your own destiny.

The challenging part? Well, consider this: Rebecca starts her day at 1 a.m. so she can complete some homework before heading to her full-time job.

rebecca-winkle Continue reading

Student Success: Joyce Mabbitt, Design Technology

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At the age of ten, Joyce Mabbitt took a class in which she developed a floor plan for her dream home. While taking this class, she got the opportunity to study building codes, dimensions, and furnishings. Later, she took a computer modeling class in high school that reaffirmed her passion for design. She enjoyed it so much that years later, she pursued a degree in design technology.

Finding a college that meets all your needs as a student can be difficult. Joyce was looking for a program with an affordable tuition, flexible class schedules, and staying local in Lafayette.

Ivy Tech offered Joyce that, and so much more. Continue reading

Student Success: Matthew Burbrink, Design Technology

matthew-burbrinkMeet Matthew Burbrink, a 2014 Ivy Tech Lafayette graduate. He took an unconventional route to achieve his Design Technology degree with Ivy Tech.

Matthew took time off after graduating high school, working in and out of factories for three years before deciding to make a change.

“Ivy Tech was more willing to take me in,” Matthew said, after being away from school for years. He choose Ivy Tech for the “affordable rates, the ability to transfer credits, individualized attention from instructors and career focused courses.” Continue reading

Student Success: Matt Sondgeroth, Design Technology

matt-sondergothMatt Sondgeroth is a 2003 Lafayette graduate. He choose Ivy Tech Community College because he wanted an affordable education, the ability to enter the workforce quicker than a typical four year degree would allow and the flexibility to work full-time while also attending courses.

Matt had a passion for drafting and completed his degree in Design Technology. He currently is a Project Manager for a company that provides technology solutions to Home Builders in numerous ways. Continue reading