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Press Release



February 1, 2005

Cowley VP to receive leadership award in March


Sheree Utash, vice president of academic and student affairs at Cowley College, will receive the International Exemplary Leadership Award at the Chair Academy’s 14th Annual International Leadership Conference in March.

Utash, who has served Cowley as a vice president since 1999, will receive the award March 4 during the second general session of the conference in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The conference runs March 2-5.

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.

The Chair Academy’s vision is to advance organizational leadership globally, and its mission is to design and promote leading-edge training programs to advance organizational leadership in an era of change.

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. She has been instrumental in helping the college move into a more efficient building in Mulvane, which will take place in fall 2005. And she was the driving force to expand the college’s Automotive and Welding technology programs from the main campus to Mulvane.

“I’ve never known anyone more effective at leading by example than Sheree,” Ewing said in her nomination letter. “Her work ethic, her vision, her support, and her ability to have fun and enjoy life positively impact Cowley College and its service area in more ways than she’ll ever know.”

This will be Utash’s third year to accompany Cowley department chairs to the conference. The conference was held in Anaheim, Calif., two years ago and Washington, D.C., last year.

“It’s a great conference because it mixes leadership and innovative partnering in addition to ideas to improve an academic department,” Utash said. “It’s more of an experience to expose them to administration and leading.”

Utash and Cowley’s five department chairs—Ewing; Todd Shepherd, Social Science; Michelle Schoon, Natural Science; Beverly Grunder, Business and Service Technology; and Bruce Crouse, Industrial Technology—are scheduled to attend.

Utash will be featured in the winter 2005 edition of the Chair Academy journal titled Academic Leadership, and her photograph will be featured on the Chair Academy web page for one year.

Utash praised her co-workers, and said she felt “blessed and fortunate to work with people who are goal-oriented, hard-working and dedicated.”

“I’m just part of that cog to make that happen,” she said. “I’m just a piece that helps make it work. There’s no way you could get the work we’ve done without quality people.”

Utash is in her final semester of coursework toward a doctorate at Colorado State University. She has completed her written and oral comprehensive exams and will take her research comprehensive exam in June. She is in CSU’s Community College Leadership program and will begin her dissertation in late summer.

“I’ve learned a lot, and I use a lot of what I’ve learned at Cowley,” Utash said. “The program is a good mix of theory and practice.”

Utash said her family has made significant sacrifices in order for her to complete her doctorate.

“My family will have earned this degree, too,” Utash said. Utash and husband David have five children: Danielle Utash 23, Megan O’Dell 22, J.D. Utash 21, Mallory O’Dell 20, and Michelle O’Dell 15.

Leadership, Utash said, includes many qualities.

“When I think of leadership, I think of serving others and assisting in leading a group of people to both common and attainable goals,” she said. “I believe that we are doing great work together because we have the capacity to see with an appreciative eye the true and the good, the better and the possible.”