High school dropout receives college degree 31 years later

May 16, 2014

From leadertelegram.com: “High school dropout receives college diploma 31 years later” — By Emily Miels – Until recently, Jim Voss didn’t consider himself a scholarly person.

The former high school dropout didn’t know if he could even pass the G.E.D. test — a test designed to determine whether the test-taker has a high school graduate’s level of knowledge — let alone obtain a college diploma.

On Friday, Voss, who will be 50 in June, will graduate from Chippewa Valley Technical College with a degree in business management and near perfect grades.

After receiving failing grades in high school, Voss dropped out in 1983 to pursue employment.

“Back then it wasn’t uncommon for somebody to leave school to go to work,” Voss said. “I actually hitchhiked to Portage after I dropped out.”

Voss got a job in the newspaper industry. He started as a “paper stuffer” and eventually worked up to various management positions, following job opportunities across the state and Midwest.

“I started at the bottom of the newspaper business, and I rose and rose,” Voss said. “About every four years I was promoted, usually to another company that would see my talents.”

After a series of unforeseen events, including the moving of print operations at the Chippewa Herald — where Voss was working as pressroom manager — to La Crosse, Voss found himself out of a job and searching for new opportunities.

“It scared the bejeebers out of me walking in here,” Voss said about his first day at CVTC in 2012.

Voss didn’t know what to expect when he decided to return to school, but he felt at home at CVTC right away.

“When I walked in here, you know, the students and the instructors all treated me as an equal,” he said.

One of Voss’ main goals was to succeed academically at CVTC. Though he said it wasn’t always easy, he did just that. He is president of Phi Theta Kappa, an honor society for two-year schools that provides members with grants and networking opportunities.

Valuable experience

CVTC’s business management program helped Voss grow the skills he’d learned during his years in the newspaper industry.

“It helped me expand some of my management knowledge, but it also well-rounded it to more than just one business as well as bringing me up on some of the technology,” he said.

Tom Huffcut, CVTC’s vice president of operations, said students in that program are required to have an internship. Voss was interested in something more advanced, focusing on mid- to senior-level management.

“He approached our president for that reason, who put him in touch with me, and from there I kind of matched him up,” Huffcut said, noting Voss was eager to help and make an impact.

Voss worked on a combined project with human resources and college professional development as an intern. He created surveys, developed spreadsheets, revised outdated policies and participated in leadership programs.

“I learned a lot of things in my classes here, but those people are the trainers of the trainers,” he said. “They train the people that are instructing, and it shows.”

Voss was the department’s first intern. Karen Callaway, his supervisor and professional development specialist at CVTC, said his work continues to be beneficial in developing and customizing training programs.

“He fit right in and everything,” she said. “We were glad to have the help.”

Voss said he hopes to work toward managing operations and feels more confident and prepared than ever.

“I can use my knowledge, my expertise and the things I’ve learned here, and I can apply them to any business,” he said.

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