Kate Brock, NPRC Board of Trustees Chairperson
Celebrating Women in the Workplace at NPRC
As Women’s History Month continues the celebration of the contributions of women, so does Northern Pennsylvania Regional College (NPRC) in highlighting their leaders and their work in higher education and their careers.
Kate Brock, NPRC’s Board of Trustees Chairperson, has been the Executive Director of the Community Education Center of Elk and Cameron Counties since 2013. Prior to relocating to Elk County, Kate worked with a local Workforce Development Board in central Pennsylvania. She began as a research assistant for a community college needs assessment study and progressed through positions that coordinated job training programs for the working poor and youth. During her time with the Workforce Development board, though the vision of the work hasn’t yet come to fruition, Kate studied the model of Elk County’s and other rural Community Education Centers (CEC) with the hope that a CEC could be developed in central PA that provided affordable, accessible, in-demand programs from various institutions to meet the needs of more non-traditional learners.
Kate’s early work was especially important in informing some of her later decisions as the Executive Director at the CEC of Elk and Cameron Counties. Kate joined the CEC as the Director of Education Services just as the earlier initiative that founded NPRC, the Educational Consortium of the Upper Allegheny (ECUA), was taking shape. This came on the heels of a shift in long-standing relationships with other universities and partners where degree programs were being pulled back to the campuses due to decreasing budgets and declining populations. The CEC recognized this new ECUA/Gannon partnership that was evolving would be extremely important to the region in light of other degree program discontinuation. Kate joined the ECUA Board in 2013, provided testimony to the Senate and House Education Committees in support of NPRC’s legislation in 2014, and began as a member of NPRC’s original 15-person Board of Trustees in 2015.
Having the opportunity to help shepherd the NPRC from infancy to now is cited as one of Kate’s greatest achievements. She acknowledges that this growth has not been without challenges, but the board and staff make a great team to accomplish milestones and celebrate successes together. She expresses, “It is very rewarding when I get to interact with students, hear their stories, and see them succeed after graduation.” Another accomplishment Kate touts is the establishment of the CEC DISCOVER partnership that helps students discover what the region has to offer and creates thousands of connections each year between students, parents, teachers, and local companies through job shadows, company visits, educator-in-the-workplace, guest speakers, and career-related curriculum.
It’s clear that through Kate’s work, she values education and training and she often says that higher education rarely is one-size fits all. She approaches her work by asking, where have we been? Where are we now? and where might we be going? In this same vein, she believes that NPRC is a strong economic driver for our more rural students by serving those who are place-bound or those who truly love our region and want to stay here. Our communities need to maintain jobs, a workforce, a strong tax base, and remain attractive to new residents. Our region is not alone in suffering the rural brain drain, but we stand proudly alone in creating something as unique as NPRC to be a part of the solution.
Her work doesn’t end here, though. In Kate’s world of non-profits, community and economic development, and higher education, serving together means serving better. A good leader is only as good as the team that surrounds them. This passion for mission-driven work was instilled through her roots in volunteer service with AmeriCorps. Through these experiences, she saw how the team she served on constantly reassembled and reassessed itself with each new project through learning who had which skillsets to apply in each diverse environment. This empowers her to value diverse perspectives and experiences and work to apply them through NPRC board and committee work because at the end of the day, the NPRC team is at the table because we want to be there for our communities. “We serve with heart and soul,” says Kate.
Kate’s message to all women is to have self-confidence and be able to appreciate yourself before you can truly appreciate others. She shares, “Having confidence in your skills and abilities will help you weather challenging professional or personal storms. It will help you help others be their best. And when you are able to help others be their best, you’ve got a great start of a team. Whether it’s a team of colleagues, a team of family members, or a team of friends, you be able to be mission-focused and driven for success.”