Sheree Utash, vice president of academic and student affairs, received the International Exemplary Leadership Award at the Chair Academy’s 14th Annual International Leadership Conference on March 4. Utash, who has served Cowley as a vice president since 1999, received the award during the second general session of the conference in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. When Utash received a letter in December from the Chair Academy informing her of the award, she “thought it was a mistake.” “I read the letter a couple of times, and I was absolutely shocked,” Utash said. “I didn’t know what to think. I’m extremely humbled, speechless. There is no greater recognition or compliment of the work you do than to be recognized by your peers.” Dejon Ewing, Cowley’s Humanities Department chair, nominated Utash. Ewing solicited the help of a handful of other Cowley employees to complete the nomination.
The Chair Academy sought nominations of people who had displayed exemplary leadership qualities at their schools. The Academy looked for individuals who had developed a program to enhance the learning community at the college, had created programs to enhance diverse offerings and meet the needs of the ever-changing college population, had created an environment in which others are empowered and is looked upon as an exemplary leader, and persons who had modeled commitment, honesty, acceptance, and open communication to move their department or area to the forefront in the college.
Dr. Pat McAtee, Cowley president, praised Utash for her vision and leadership. “I’m not surprised the organization would honor her in this way,” McAtee said. “She is a very dynamic, effective leader, and we’re very fortunate to have her at the college.” Utash has built an impressive resume since joining Cowley in 1996 as director of north campuses. She has helped build partnerships with Boeing Wichita, Wichita State University, and Wichita Area Technical College, providing much-needed higher education and training opportunities to citizens in southern Sedgwick County. Through her leadership, the college opened the Aviation Tech Center in Wichita, providing certified training in Aviation Maintenance Technology (Airframe and Powerplant). She has guided the development of the college’s Online course offerings in which enrollment has skyrocketed. Under her leadership, the Southside Center’s enrollment has grown to 1,300 full-time students since opening in fall 1995.