Here at Garden City Community College, we are engaged in the business of education and economic development. The mission of GCCC is to produce positive contributors to society and the economy, and our endeavors to that end are linked to five primary objectives set by the GCCC Board of Trustees:

* Essential skills

* Academic advancement

* Work preparedness

* Personal enrichment

* Workforce development

Garden City Community College has established a long tradition of meeting this mission, going back 93 years, and I believe we have made some tremendous progress over the past semester, and also in the year that has just gone by.

One benchmark that certainly bears reiteration is that the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program last fall named GCCC among the top 10 percent of American community colleges, for the second consecutive year. That ranking is based on:

* Graduation rates

* Degrees awarded

* Student retention rates

* Equity in student outcomes

Shortly after being honored by the Aspen Institute, as you may know, GCCC was also ranked among the top 24 community colleges in the nation for student success. That came in a listing issued by CNN Money Magazine, which is the online home of Money and Fortune Magazines. The CNN ranking was based on:

* Graduation rates

* Successful transfer rates

* Attainment of individual goals

Sharing additional accomplishments

There have been numerous additional accomplishments, too, stemming from the talent and dedication of those on our administrative team, faculty and staff. For example, we are launching a new Oil Technology Program this semester that will train people for careers in Oil Exploration and Oil Production, including an innovative new horizontal drilling component.

We have initiated a new four-day class week just this semester, which gives students a three-day weekend and allows us to adjust our scheduling across the campus. Instructors and students are spending just as much time in the lab and classroom as before, with longer periods Monday through Thursday, and this provides time on Fridays for student activities, faculty meetings and enrichment and unimpeded travel time for student activities.

G.I. Jobs Magazine, which is the leading national publication for U.S. veterans, has named GCCC to its fourth annual Military Friendly College list. Selection for this designation was competitive and more than 12,000 institutions were considered, while only the top 15 percent made the cut.

We are proceeding with GCCC's share of a $20 million Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Program Grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. Through that grant, we are launching a Food Safety Program to help industry meet new federal inspection requirements. Work to create state-of-the-art facilities for that program is under way at the south end of the John Collins Vocational Building and we are also taking delivery on a 53-foot mobile classroom.

Reaching goals today and tomorrow

The college has signed an articulation agreements over the past year enabling students to transfer their Garden City credit hours with full junior class standing to Kansas State University, Newman University, Baker University, Sterling College and National American University. In addition to guaranteed admission, these agreements offer significant advantages to our graduates and transfer students. In some cases, they also allow students to complete their university coursework through distance learning technologies without leaving Garden City, and in the case of K-State, our students can also count on a reverse transfer arrangement that lets them complete their associate degrees even after arriving in Manhattan.

Our college has also joined the Kansas Campus Compact, and in doing so we became the 13th member in a group of community colleges and universities that work to enhance service learning and civic engagement in higher education.

You are also probably already aware, of course, that the Broncbuster football team earned its first bowl game invitation in seven years. When we answered that invitation and played this past Dec. 2 in the Mississippi Bowl at Biloxi, Miss., we didn't just defeat seventh-ranked Copiah-Lincoln Community College by a score of 31-29. We also did something unprecedented, because that was the first time in the history of the bowl game that a guest team arrived from out of state and beat the Mississippi community college champion football program.

As president of this college, it has been my honor to work with the people of GCCC in reaching these goals, and others, as we have served our students, our community, our region and the great state of Kansas. I sometimes find it hard to believe that it has already been two years since I was first selected by the board of trustees in February of 2011. I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish together, and I look forward the potential and possibilities on the horizon before us.