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More Than 400 Graduate With Skills To Advance Northwoods Economy


The goal of becoming a college graduate became a reality for 432 individuals as Nicolet College recently held a graduation ceremony for individuals completing this step of their education during the 2020-2021 academic year. 

“Earning a college credential always takes determination and perseverance and this year that was especially true given the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Nicolet College President Richard Nelson. 

“Those who graduated this year deserve a higher level of congratulations for their efforts to accomplish this milestone in their lives.” 

In all, the college bestowed 514 associate degrees, technical diplomas, certificates, and apprenticeship completions during the past academic year. Many students earned more than one academic credential during this time. 

Another 25 individuals earned a GED or HSED through Nicolet’s Academic Success department in the past academic year. 

Nelson also noted that Nicolet bucked the national trend of declining enrollments due to the pandemic. 

Across the country, two-year community colleges experienced an average 9.2 percent enrollment decline during the Fall Term of 2020 and another 9.2 percent decline on top of that for the most recent Spring Term of 2021. 

“We’re happy to report that decline didn’t happen at Nicolet,” Nelson said. “In fact, our enrollment has actually grown slightly over this time last year.” 

Nelson credits that dynamic to the grit Northwoods students demonstrated to earn a college education and the infrastructure Nicolet had in place to convert almost all instruction to a virtual format when the pandemic hit last year. 

Nicolet had first implemented online instruction more than a dozen years ago and since that time has continuously increased the number of courses offered virtually. 

“The blueprint was in place,” Nelson said. “We knew how to deliver a quality virtual college education through that past experience and it was just a matter of converting the in-person classes to the virtual format. It wasn’t entirely without its hiccups, but Nicolet staff stepped up to the challenge to make it as seamless as possible for students to pivot to virtual learning.” 

Nelson will retire this summer after serving as Nicolet president since 2015. 

Kate Ferrel, who serves as executive vice president of Academic and Student Affairs at Nicolet, will take over the college presidency July 1. 

“Nicolet graduates play a vital role in advancing economic development throughout the Northwoods,” Ferrel said. 

“Businesses benefit from the skilled workforce they need to be efficient, productive, and profitable and the graduates benefit by having the in-demand skills they need for careers that pay a family-supporting wage.”