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SCC’s Transitions Lab reflects on the last five years

Cyndy Hermsen became a student success story, thanks to the Transitions Lab.
Geriann Rada works with Cyndy Hermsen in the Transitions Lab.
Ryan Scott
Ryan Scott takes part in the winter quarter graduation ceremonies in March.

Sixty-three-year-old Cyndy Hermsen has one thing left on her bucket list, earning a college degree. She’s on her way to achieving that goal, even though it hasn’t been easy.

“You get to an age where you start checking things off on your bucket list, and the only regret I had was that I never finished college,” Hermsen said.

After graduating from Seward High School in 1972, she attended Kearney State College, but only lasted one semester. She went straight to work and never looked back. Recently she’s had some friends who went back to school and decided she wanted to do it, too. There was only one problem.

“Math and I are like oil and water,” she said with a laugh.

She first came to Southeast Community College because it was the affordable option, she said. Since it had been awhile since she’d been in school, Hermsen had to take some course placement tests to determine her readiness. She passed reading and writing but not math. She was referred to the Transitions Lab on SCC’s Lincoln Campus, where staff would prepare her to increase math test scores through an online class, tutoring and sample tests.

“The (course) placement exam is the first step in this process, and this is what originally brings students to our office,” said Geriann Rada, director of the Transitions Lab. “We work with students whose writing, reading or math scores are too low for college admittance, too low to get into their program or scores don’t reflect their past gained knowledge.”

Rada said Hermsen was frustrated at the thought of re-learning math.

“She sat down and said, ‘I’m not going to be able to mark this off my bucket list,’ ” Rada recalled. “I told her, ‘yes, you can study with us and get you to where you need to be.’ ”

Hermsen worked with Rada and Transitions Advisor Shannon Brinkman until they felt she was ready to take the test. When she took the 90-minute exam, they both waited for her in the lab and delivered the results to a shocked Hermsen. She needed a score of 31 to pass. She got a 40.

“I think I would’ve thrown in the towel if it wasn’t for them,” she said. “Shannon taught me patience. She wrote things out and gave me tips. She simplified it for me.”

The Transitions Lab turned 5 years old in April. It started as an initiative under the U. S. Department of Labor’s Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grant program. SCC operates Transitions Labs at all three campuses in Beatrice, Lincoln and Milford. More than 2,100 students have taken advantage of the labs since 2012.

“Each student comes with their own complex situation, and we help break down those complexities into bite-size pieces,” Rada said.

Another student, 24-year-old Ryan Scott, recently graduated from SCC with a degree in welding. He waited until the very end to take his English and math courses and came to the Transitions Lab for help.

“He came to us very frustrated and wanting to drop out of school as he had three English courses and three math classes to take,” Brinkman said. “We helped him get down to taking one English course and two math courses. He came to our lab almost every day to get help.”

Scott said Brinkman and the other advisors helped him not only with math, but with his confidence as well.

“I would never have become a college graduate if it wasn’t for you (Brinkman),” Scott said. “You helped me believe I could do it and believe that I am smart at things I thought I was terrible at.”

When Scott participated in SCC’s Winter Quarter graduation ceremony in March, he looked out into the crowd and saw Brinkman, Rada and the rest of the advisors. They were proud of him and wanted to celebrate his accomplishments.

“By building these initial relationships with the students, we find they continue coming back to us for a multitude of reasons such as homework help, advice, tutoring, registering for classes, or just to visit,” Rada said. “We become their home away from home, and we also bridge students to all the different student services and resources offered at SCC.”

Following graduation, Scott moved to Colorado where he is working as a welder’s helper on the pipeline. He is working his way up to being a welder.

Meanwhile, Hermsen will continue to work as a staff assistant for the Department of Revenue while she works on her associate degree. She said getting a degree probably won’t get her promoted, but it will fulfill a dream she’s had for a long time.

“The best thing to happen to me was to flunk the math, because then I was able to come here,” Hermsen said. “It’s an awesome place with awesome people, and they want you to succeed.”

Transitions Lab Facts:


* 2,147 students registered to work with Transitions since 2012.

* 87 percent of re-testers improved their course placement scores.

* Students have bypassed 1,442 courses in writing, reading and math.

* Summer 2016 was the largest quarter with 204 students.

* 168 Transitions students have graduated from SCC. Many others have transferred to four-year schools.

* The cost is $20 to receive access to an online course, tutoring, sample tests and a free retest.


For more information contact:
Andrea Gallagher Haggar
Marketing Specialist