Name: Dave Selzer
Lifelong Learner at HCC
Interviewer: Colleen Reynolds, Director of Alumni Relations and Outreach
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Colleen: The Alumni Spotlight this month focuses on a graduate who helped start one of Heartland’s first student activity groups and who found himself deeply rooted in McLean County politics before eventually becoming a C.E.O. of a Chicago-based non-profit organization.
Dave: Hi. My name is Dave Selzer and I'm a Heartland alum. I've taken many classes here over the years that allowed me to be prepared to go on to get my Bachelor's degree and finish my Master's.
Colleen: Tell us about your time here at Heartland. How did it begin? What led you hear?
Dave: The flexibility of the hours and the great schedule. I started classes here when Heartland was originally located up in the old Towanda Plaza and then finished my coursework at Heartland here on this beautiful campus.
Colleen: Did you get involved in extra-curricular activities?
Dave: I did. I was working at the time so I also was involved locally here in the community in the Rotary Club. I was one of the guys that helped originally when they founded the Rotaract here at Heartland and was involved in a number of the different organizations where time allowed.
Colleen: What made you think of connecting Heartland students with the activities of the Rotary?
Dave: Rotaract is a college level club for the Rotary Clubs. I am a big proponent of being involved in the community that you live in and the community you work in. It's just natural to bring that to the students here at Heartland so they can already have an introduction into community service and have something more than just their time here for education to put on their resumes.
Colleen: Tell me about the types of classes you took here and what you thought of the instruction and quality of education.
Dave: I believe that the instruction here is better than you'd find at a four-year program because I believe the students at Heartland are here because they want to be here. They really want to get that education. They do at other schools also, but the teachers have a different relationship with the students here. They really, really work with you. Great class ratio sizes. It was just a wonderful experience.
Colleen: You've always been involved in two areas, healthcare and community service. What drew you to both of those areas?
Dave: I think first of all my father always told us as kids to leave the world a little better than the way you found it. So community service was always a really big thing for our family. In this community, McLean County, there's so many opportunities to do that and one of which was through government service. I actually got introduced to some people here at Heartland that eventually led to my election to the County Board here in McLean County. There's a great tie back to Heartland and back to the community.
Colleen: Tell me a little bit more about that.
Dave: At the time Heartland was being formed, there was a number of people involved with the county who were promoting Heartland Community College. As it started to grow, there was a need for additional funding. I saw that our leaders in the county get really involved. Nancy Froelich was the board chair at the time and was also involved with all of the people supporting the additional tax levies and things that were needed to form Heartland. That is how I first got involved during that period of time just as a citizen supporting a cause.
Colleen: Your time on the county board, did anything you learn on this campus help you as a county board member?
Dave: You know what, absolutely. What you learn here from other students, the other people that are working, it's phenomenal. I always thought that there were people that were out that were struggling. I was struggling because I had a job and this and that. Then you'd talk to a single mother who was here going to night school and working I don't even know the number of hours that they would work and then go to school. I felt my struggle was always a lot less. I think the majority of the students that put themselves through school here, if you don't learn from them then you're not trying.
Colleen: What about practical knowledge? Did you learn anything here that you found yourself using in your regular job, if you will, the paid position that you found yourself in?
Dave: I was just at a conference in Washington D.C. and I was asked to talk and I didn't know what to say. I remembered literally my speech class here where you're supposed to start with the attention getter, tell them what you're going to tell them, tell them and then tell them what you told them. I remember what I did here I turned the lights off in the classroom so it was black that was my attention getter. That's exactly what I did in the meeting in Washington D.C. last week because then I could laugh and act stupid because I didn't know what to say and everyone was so impressed with the attention getter. That was something I learned here Heartland.
Colleen: Amazing. You've made your way to Chicago now. I want to ask a little bit about the change in living there versus Bloomington and what you miss about being here and being around a campus like Heartland.
Dave: Let's see from where we lived here in Bloomington-Normal to Heartland it took me about seven minutes. Last night when I was driving home from work after two hours I got to the house finally and it is exactly eleven miles from my office in downtown Chicago to my house up north of the city. It's a little bit different with the commute. I really miss the traffic jams of Bloomington-Normal because they were much better compared to Chicago. You know I think the work is the same no matter where people do it. It's what you put into it is what you're going to get out of it. You just have to have the right attitude about where you're at and a spirit of service.
Colleen: Tell us a little bit more about what you're doing today.
Dave: We moved to Chicago a little over a year ago when I accepted a position as the President/C.E.O. of Community Health Charities. Community Health Charities is a federation of non-profit organizations, all health related, that raise funds through employee giving programs that support those charities, charities like St. Judes Children's Research Hospital, Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, American Diabetes, Susan G. Komen, a lot of the nation's most trusted charities.
Colleen: Sounds like it's really fulfilling work.
Dave: It's incredibly awesome. Colleen, this morning I was in St. Louis at an AIDS house and it was just phenomenal for the men that were living there and the work that is being done. It ties back to when I first started here as a young father and a young student. It's all about service. It's all about leaving this place a little better than you found it.
Colleen: This is the first time you've probably been back on this campus in at least a little while. Tell me about your impressions you've seen some of the new additions.
Dave: I was really impressed with the size of the campus, just the cafe. The bookstore when I first started I think was a counter with two t-shirts. I really want to go down and get myself a new Heartland sweatshirt. It's really an impressive campus for people to come see.
Colleen: The President of Heartland who has been here just a year now has started an initiative called G.P.S., Guides Path to Success, where he is trying to provide more resources to K-12 schools and connect those schools with Heartland in trying to plan and get students thinking sooner about what they really want to do with the rest of their lives. What do you think about that effort and initiative?
Dave: In the business world, people talk about strategic planning. I tend to like to use the word deliberate. It sounds like this program is a deliberate, specific attempt, not strategic even though they are strategic in nature, but it's a deliberate plan to work with a set of students at a certain age to help guide them. Having raised four children and going through four-year universities, some opting to be here at Heartland also, I think coming through Heartland you save a lot of money, you learn just as much if not more than in a four-year school, the experience you have and the friends you make is there. I think it's great. I think having that deliberate relationship with the K-12 programs and letting them know to remove any stigma of a community college. I think it's a phenomenal program and we should all get behind it.
Colleen: Lastly, let me ask you if you have any advice for current Heartland students who might happen to listen to this or read your words of wisdom?
Dave: If you're thinking of quitting, don't. Go down on Monday night to the shelter at the Salvation Army and feed some of the people that are out there. There are really, really people in need and people wanting for stuff. Realize no matter how hard it is, no matter how tough it's going to be that what a blessing it's going to be and how beneficial it's going to be at the end. Don't be afraid, there's no dumb question. Don't be afraid to ask. Ask an alumni, ask the staff, reach out to somebody for help, guidance or assistance. You'll be surprised to realize how many people who will be there to support you.
Colleen: Dave Selzer, thank you for sharing your story with us.
Dave: Thank you, Colleen. I look forward to seeing the rest of the campus.
Colleen: Heartland alumni will be participating this month in the McLean County Relay for Life and we’ll be learning about Removing Doubt in a Job Interview from expert and author Eric Hoss in our free seminar on the 15th. Then we’re taking a bit of a break until August when we gear up for Heartland Night at the CornBelters Sunday, August 28th and mark your calendars for Community Day. It's Saturday, September 17 on the Heartland campus with free food and entertainment on the quad and free samples of interesting classes.