Alumni Spotlight: Kathie Brier
Major at Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College: Medical Assisting, Medical Office Mid-Management, & Medical Transcription.
If attended another College(s), major(s) and degree(s) received: Certifications: Centralia Community College - Medical Billing & Coding, CNA, and Phlebotomy
Current role: Administrative Assistant / Help Desk & Proctor, LCO Community College. All things administrative. It is pretty extensive, different days bring different duties. If anyone needs help with anything, I am willing to help if I am able. I am very proficient with the Microsoft programs so I can assist in many things regarding the computer. I can create graphics and proctor on Tuesday and Thursdays for Pearson Vue.
About you: I am a non-traditional student.
Why did you decide to pursue a college degree with Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College?
This is my story.
On June 2011, my father died, leaving my mother alone in Hayward. I was living in Centralia, Washington and my mother came out for 6 months to spend time with my brother and myself. He was living in Oregon City, OR, about 1.5 hours away from me. So mom would go back and forth. My brother had initially driven her van and her out here and he was going to drive her back in the spring. During this time I was working as a professional caregiver- I had my own clients. I was quite happy and I loved, loved, loved, the Pacific Northwest. It truly is one of the most beautiful places on earth. However, when March approached my mother asked if I would consider moving back with her as she didn’t want to be alone. She was also 76 years old.
For me, almost my whole life, I felt like I was waiting for the boat to dock at the airport. I was always felt like I just missed a chance.
So when my mother asked me this, she said I could go back to school if I wanted. When she said this, I felt like the boat found the pier. It just felt right. Now see, here is an important message as this is still happening.
I grew up on Lake Namakagon. My family had a home there from 1976-1994 at which time they moved to Hayward. During all this time I never knew LCOOCC existed. When mom asked me if I wanted to go to school, I was thinking WITC in Ashland or Rice Lake. It wasn’t until I started searching for Medical Assisting online that I saw LCOOCC. I asked my mom if she knew about this school and she said no. I have come to find out that even now, people are still unaware of our college.
As soon as I saw this, I called right up and talked to Laurie in the nursing department. I told her that I would be traveling back with my mother and she said as soon as I got in to come see her. She was wonderful! We arrived the first week of April and I immediately came to the college with my mother. We were both oohing and ahhing at the beauty of the school and at how small and intimate it was. Laurie was fabulous. She took us through the whole school and described the mission and a bit of history. I signed up for full-time classes for the fall 2012 right then. When the fall came, I was SO nervous. Here I was, a 54 year-old student in a very unfamiliar place. However, it only took one day for me to feel at home. I loved all of my instructors, and enjoyed every class, except Pharmacology. Back then it was blended with the student RNs and was only an 8 week class! It didn’t matter. The instructors we so wonderful and we had lots of personalized attention. I never felt I was in anyone’s way, ever. It wasn’t easy though. I was going for 2 degrees and a certification. Since I had several credits I could transfer (I also obtained a CNA certification and a phlebotomy certification in Washington), I could accomplish this with a full load of credits and graduate in the spring of 2014. I was taking about 16-18 credits each semester. But I made it. Part of my success was definitely the faculty and staff at the college. I remember getting grants when I had not applied for anything. Jill was the Financial Aid director at the time and I think she made sure the students were getting everything they could. Edie did the same thing for me in TRiO. So it was a total shock and a blessing to be able to graduate debt-free and even has some money to pay debt!
This was amazing.
I cannot think of one person that I interacted with that didn’t touch my life in some significant and positive way. It all paid off. I graduated with a 4.0 and was one of two valedictorians. It was such an honor.
What does it mean to you to attend college in our local community? I hadn’t really thought of that but it is different as you are going to school with people that you are also shopping at the same places with, or going out to dinner, it becomes more than just here, it becomes everywhere, and that is cool. I also like the fact that the monies we are spending are circulating within our communities, and helping our communities stay sustainable.
What does it mean to you to attend a Tribal College? I remember the first time I was walking through the Culture Center. I felt like I was in church and
I had to be very, very, quiet. It was a quiet place and I could see so many stories there.
I also remember very well some of the stories David Bisonette told in the Introduction to Ojibwe Culture class.
I felt after that class and after some of the research I did, how ignorant I had been all of my life. I felt ashamed and horrified. All of my life I had been taught something different than what the truth was when it came to the Native people. I did a report on the boarding schools and as I was writing about it I was so distraught that any human being could treat another in such a way. I learned some of the language and what it meant, and I learned a new culture with traditions. As I mentioned before about not knowing that the college existed, we also have a large community, country that is also ignorant to the truth and so much prejudice is still around. We see this every day, on Facebook, TV, in the news, everywhere. So for me, attending a tribal college was an enlightening and deep experience. I felt that not only did I get an excellent education, meet outstanding people, make friends for life, but I also got an education that changed my life and my perspective. In doing so, I have been able to educated family and friends as well. I have heard so many “I did not know that” during the past 7 years it amazes me. I was blessed. I was blessed with life altering educations on many levels, and I do believe it was because of attending this Tribal school.
How did attending Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College affect your career and/or next College success?
I did my externship (both of them) at the LCO Health Clinic and primarily worked in the Elder’s section. By having the knowledge of the culture and knowing some of the language, it helped me do my job with more ease and made the population that I cared for more at ease as well. I wanted people to know that I did care. This also helped when I became a CMA in a medical office, which was a very fulfilling job. I did this for about a year before I was asked to join the LCOOCC family, and I have loved every second of it. My education continues daily and I meet new people, create new relationships, teach interns, and do whatever is needed to help others succeed. I feel like I work with family, and it’s one of the best places ever.
What advice would you give someone who is undecided on starting college?
Whenever I am proctoring, especially when I am proctoring GED students, I try and recruit. I tell them about my amazing experience at this college and what it did for me. I tell them I was 54 years old, so age should never be a factor and to not fear as this place has the most wonderful advisors and people that are here to help them succeed. Unlike some of the other colleges I have attended, this place is small and intimate, and you get a lot of personal attention. And never is anyone too busy to help. You don’t have to stand in long lines or make appointments that will take a long time to see someone. We try very hard to get you to the right person as soon as possible.
I tell them that they will get a unique and excellent education that can lead them to a career of choice or to another 4-year college and that we are partnered with many other colleges, and that we will help them transition as well.
I tell them I have never been to a college where I ended up with a degree and did not have a balance owed, and if there is a balance here, our college will work with them in any way they can. I tell them that even though this is a Native college, they are open to everyone. I tell them to believe me. Everything I say is true. They couldn’t find a better college. Which I really do believe myself.
My life here as an employee has given me so much. It is not often in life that you can work with a bunch of people where you like everyone, and where everyone cares about each other – not just as an employee, but as a person. The LCO family is just that – a family, and they know and value not just our jobs and what we need to accomplish here, but also our lives outside of the office. I am not a number, and I am remem
bered. How wonderful.