25 Most Influential People in the Career College Sector

Robert L. Martin
President, Imagine America Foundation

What’s made you proudest about your involvement in the sector?
What’s made me proudest is being able to reinvigorate an organization that, at the time, had so much potential to help career college students, but was so unappreciated and under-utilized. There was the possibility to change and shape that organization around helping students of all types, from those entering high school, to adult learners and those who have been recently discharged from the military. The focal point of our work has been implementing a variety of programs that could help them all. In my mind, the heart of the Foundation has been and will continue to be assistance to students ahead of the research and leadership components.
What would you like your legacy to be?
Given the nature of the Foundation, our legacy will be tied to the successes of our students. I want to be able to look back and know they were able to attend a career college because of our assistance. Because of what we’ve done, a number of students who may not have been able to attend a career school were able to get their lives going and make the best of it.

Kimberly McWaters
President/CEO, Universal Technical Institute Inc.

In what ways have you influenced the sector?
Clearly the purpose of career colleges is to educate and train America’s workforce. To do so, we must first understand and anticipate the needs of our employers and then develop and deliver educational programs that best prepare students for careers in those fields. Hopefully, as CEO of Universal Technical Institute, I have played a small part in supporting this mission and have been able to demonstrate the value of this concept to others in the sector through our unique, industry-driven business model.
How has your own career path inspired you in executing UTI’s mission to provide an education and, thereby, new or better lives to students?
I started as the receptionist at UTI nearly 24 years ago and was hooked in the first three months. To see the difference we made in people’s lives day after day became my source of inspiration and motivation. I have spent the majority of my time at UTI in marketing, developing and implementing strategies that would enable more students to take advantage of a UTI education. I am fortunate to now lead this organization, full of people who share my passion and commitment to our purpose. The sheer power of our collective will enables us to execute our mission: to truly change people’s lives for the better.

Matthew Johnston
President, SBBCollege

In what ways have you influenced the sector?
Having respect for so many individuals that have influenced me over the years and knowing I still have so much to learn and give back for what I have received, it is hard for me to express belief that I have yet "influenced" this sector. Other than maintaining a personal commitment and expressive passion for delivering a quality education and the business practice of doing first what is right for the student, I still have many years left to contribute and reflect on ways I might continue with any influence for this sector.
Why does the career college sector have such an appeal to you and your family? How have your successes prompted you to take a more prominent role in forwarding the sector’s causes?
I can’t explain how specifically the appeal or addiction to career education got into my family, but I can tell you that it’s in our blood and going to be hard to get out. What other business can you get into where you have the opportunity to work intimately with professionals from numerous disciplines including medical, business, legal, wellness, etc.; working together helping people to change their lives for the better; and then get to celebrate everyone’s successes at a graduation year after year?
I attribute my successes to modeling after the many individuals that I have had the opportunity to gain exposure to. With an understanding that there isn’t any secret recipe to what we do and that it takes many ingredients for things to turn out right, I believe you have to participate in the planting as well as the harvesting of these ingredients. Accreditation is a common link between the Department of Education, state agencies and institutions, and their associated accountabilities are something that I have been accustomed to for years. When the opportunity presented itself to serve on the council at ACICS, I was humbled by the opportunity to plant my experience and expressive passion into finding common-sense policy solutions to the everyday issues that institutions and their students face.
Trace Urdan
Senior Research Analyst, Signal Hill

In what ways have you influenced the sector?
I feel as though, in my small way, I have helped to foster better communication in and among the providers in the sector of the most significant issues affecting the business of career education. In particular, I believe that through the newsletter I may have helped to keep smaller, privately held providers abreast of the issues impacting the larger public players and thereby helped them to be more effective and productive.
What would you like your legacy to be?
"Legacy" sounds very grand for what I do, but I would love to be thought of as someone that helped to focus the industry on continually improving the value proposition for the sector – meaning raising quality and focusing programs. I also hope that I have helped to raise the profile and reputation of the career college sector among those investors and others less familiar with the sector.

Rene Champagne
Former Chairman/CEO, ITT Educational Services Inc.

In what ways have you influenced the sector?
I entered the career college sector in 1985 and quickly recognized that a strong national membership association was necessary to contend with the highly regulated business environment. I worked closely with CCA’s two predecessor organizations – NATTS and AICS – and I supported the formation of CCA from those two organizations. I have assisted CCA by conducting many membership training seminars, particularly with a focus on school compliance programs and methodologies. I served on the CCA board of directors from 1996 to 2001, and in 2007 I rejoined the CCA board. I have testified before congressional committees and lobbied members of Congress on behalf of our sector. In addition to those items, I served as CEO of ITT Educational Services Inc. for 21 years.
What would you like your legacy to be?
I have been a passionate advocate of career colleges. Our sector of higher education is vital to the United States, as we are preparing the future middle class – those individuals who actually do most of the work in our economy and pay a significant portion of the income taxes levied in this country. Our sector provides educational opportunities to nontraditional students – those who have not done well in the traditional academic environment of universities or have chosen not to attend traditional universities. Our students seek out our schools as a means of becoming economically self-sufficient; it’s the pursuit of the American dream. I am very proud to have played an important role in assisting thousands of ITT Technical Institute students in achieving their education goals. Upon retiring from ITT Educational Services Inc., my wife and I created a charitable foundation that will award scholarships to deserving students wishing to pursue an ITT Technical Institute degree program of study.

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