When he was teaching math at Cowley College, Greg Nichols saw the difference technical education could make in people’s lives.
Now, as the second President of Salina Area Technical College, he wants the college to reach a growing number of people throughout north-central Kansas, helping them become not only skilled workers — but also skilled citizens.
Nichols took over as president of the college on July 1, succeeding Greg Goode, who had been president since 2009. He came to Salina Tech from Colby Community College, where he had been vice president of academic affairs.
“We are excited to have Greg Nichols as our next President of Salina Tech,” said Larry Pankratz, Chairman of the college’s Board of Trustees. “He brings a lot of higher education and business and industry experience to the college. It is very important for Salina Area Technical College to provide educated graduates to meet the numerous business and industry needs in the Salina area. We feel Greg’s leadership will take our college to that next level.”
Nichols said it took him years — and a process of elimination — to find his career in post-secondary education.
“In high school, I wanted to be a lawyer,” he said. “‘L.A. Law’ was a popular TV show then, and everyone wanted to be a lawyer. So I shadowed the Cleveland County (Oklahoma) Attorney for a day; at the end, I asked him if that’s what every day was like. He said it was, and I decided I didn’t want to be a lawyer.”
A cousin who was a high school counselor advised him against majoring in math and becoming a math teacher because “math teachers never make any money.”
So instead he earned a degree in finance from the University of Oklahoma.
“I tried selling insurance for a while, but soon figured out that wasn’t for me,” he said, so he returned to Southwest Oklahoma State University and got his teacher certification.
He has also earned a master’s in mathematics from Emporia State University and is finishing his dissertation to earn an Ed.D. in organizational leadership from Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona.
He taught high school math at various places around Kansas, including Ness City and El Dorado, where he also started teaching part-time at Butler Community College.
“That’s where I really found my niche,” he said. “In college, you can hold students to a higher standard, and help them grow as a person and a citizen. I found I was teaching a lot more than math. Students would tell me ‘we learned a lot more than math in your class — we learned about life.'”
“Seeing people succeed, seeing people you’ve spent time with succeed, is important,” Nichols said. “A lot of my students have become like family — I have a big family tree.”
Nichols said he came to appreciate technical education while at Cowley College.
“I saw the immediate impact these programs can have on students in terms of opportunity, opportunity to earn more money, opportunity to advance,” he said.
And because technical colleges such as Salina Tech offer not only technical training but general education classes leading to an associate’s degree, Nichols said. “We’re helping make good citizens, with written and oral communication skills, who understand learning is a continual process.”
“We have the potential to make a huge difference in north-central Kansas,” he said. “We’re accessible to anybody and can help people achieve what they want to achieve. The two-year model is a good one for many people. A two-year degree can double your lifetime earnings, compared to a high school diploma.”
Story by: Mike Strand / Salina Area Technical College