EVANSTON – Outreach centers are essential to the successful realization of Western Wyoming Community College’s educational mission, and, during the past 23 years, no employee has been more essential to the success of Western’s Evanston Outreach than Outreach Coordinator Al Calmes. Calmes retires this year after 23 years spent serving and advising Western’s Evanston students.
At Western’s retirement reception earlier this month, Calmes said that he has always kept one rule clearly in mind throughout the years, one that was emphasized for him by his very first advisee.
“I actually started advising for Western on Aug. 11, 1992,” he recalled. “My first advisee was a guy who still lives in the community. I couldn’t tell you his…name because it would be a FERPA violation! He walks into my office and sits down, I say, ‘Can I help you,’ and he says, ‘Yeah, I’m scheduled to graduate this year, so don’t mess this up.’ So I’ve spent the past 23 years trying not to mess anybody’s graduation plans up.”
Calmes has maintained a heavy advising load over the years; he had 98 advisees during the year just concluded. During that time, he said, the changes and automation to the advising process have been most welcome.
“When I started advising, when a student came in or we had a student scheduled, I would call the registrar’s office and they would fax over a copy of the transcripts, and we had a worksheet to fill out. That’s how we did advising back then. All the automation and everything has been great.”
Calmes also appreciates the significant expansion in degree and certificate options that have become available to outreach students during his two-plus decades with Western.
“When I started advising, the Evanston Outreach was a fairly good-sized outreach,” he said. “We had a fair number of adjunct faculty and we were one of the few outreaches that could offer a general degree. Because there weren’t any distance classes, everything had to be done there. So students could actually finish an Associate of Arts/general ed degree at Evanston.
“Now, with everything that’s gone on with technology, students at every outreach site have an opportunity to complete 18 degrees and certificates, whether they live in Evanston, Big Piney, or wherever. So I think that’s a great credit to the college; I think we certainly have adapted to this technology and used it to create a wonderful situation for the students at our outreach sites. And we appreciate that.”
Technological advances notwithstanding, Calmes said that Evanston and the other outreach centers still share the same sense of purpose that they did when he first joined Western.
“Probably the most important thing is the way they haven’t changed,” he said. “You can go into not just Evanston but any of them and still find that warm, friendly environment that is conducive to learning, and people who are dedicated to seeing the students succeed.”
Calmes has been one of those people for 23 years, and it is likely that he will miss Western and his outreach colleagues almost as much as they will miss him.
“I really love this school. It’s hard to say good-bye,” he said. “It’s been a privilege.”