Meet the Columbia College Nationwide directors

Rebecca Gordon-Bocklage, director of Columbia College–Jefferson City, Mo., and Debra Hartman, director of Columbia College–Crystal Lake, Ill.: the importance of community

Columbia College has 35 Nationwide campuses from northern New York state to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and San Francisco Bay to Charleston, S.C. Each campus serves a unique educational community and is led by a director who knows that community and their students.

These directors are also people, with their own stories and interests.

Here are two: Rebecca Gordon-Bocklage, director of Columbia College–Jefferson City, Mo., and Debra Hartman, director of Columbia College–Crystal Lake, Ill. On the surface, these two capable women have dissimilar interests but both are committed to their community.

Watch this space for more director profiles.

Rebecca Gordon-Bocklage, director, Columbia College–Jefferson City: cleaning up cemeteries
Several years ago Rebecca Gordon-Bocklage, director of Columbia College–Jefferson City, traveled with her family to a rural family cemetery to pay respects to those who came before them. That trip sparked an interest in genealogy and cemeteries.

According to Gordon-Bocklage, these two subjects are not nearly as dark as they seem. In fact, she believes the two “go hand-in-hand and are tied directly to our history.” It’s her way to stay connected with her family roots.

Her family’s longtime presence in the Jefferson City area – her own family has a cemetery -- strengthened her desire to learn more about and stay connected with community. Though the initial visit to that first cemetery revealed dismal conditions -- “dark, gray and overgrown,” she says -- it motivated Gordon-Bocklage. Today, she volunteers to help maintain the Gordon Family Cemetery for future generations.

Though cleaning up cemeteries and doing genealogical research takes up quite a bit of time, Gordon-Bocklage says it doesn’t detract from her ability to keep projects moving forward.

Rebecca Gordon-Bocklage

“When I’m busy and under pressure I am able to produce my best work,” she says.

Through extensive genealogical research, Gordon-Bocklage discovered details about her family dating back to the early 1800s. During one of those searches, she came across the deed to a piece of property in downtown Jefferson City. Oddly enough, her family owns that same piece of property today – though not because it was passed down through generations. The deed revealed that her great-uncle had owned the property nearly 200 years ago. That property now houses her family-owned and operated home décor business, Accents.

This keen entrepreneurial spirit and leadership are manifested through her many roles in the community.

“My business has allowed me to establish important relationships with community members that have assisted my roles both on and off campus,” Gordon-Bocklage says. “As a business owner and leader in the community, my business has established a good foundation and preparative training for my role as director of the Jefferson City campus.”

When asked why others should learn more about cemeteries and genealogy, Gordon-Bocklage says, “Knowledge of my family history is an anchoring feeling. By discovering where we came from, we are better able to establish who we are and the importance of our role in the community.”

Gordon-Bocklage has served the Jefferson City campus since 1999 when she began as an adjunct instructor. Nine years later she became assistant director and in 2010 was promoted to director. She earned her MBA and her Bachelor of Science in Marketing and Management from Missouri State University, Springfield, Mo.

Debra Hartman, director, Columbia College–Crystal Lake: preparing students for the future
For the past 15 years Debra Hartman, director of Columbia College–Crystal Lake, has taken great pleasure in helping others prepare for their future. She guides them on both personal and professional levels, arming them with the tools and skills needed to achieve academic and personal success.

Hartman says success is determined individually: “I am fascinated by the multitude of ways that people make a living in this world and the variety of paths that get them there,” she says. She explains that her passion and interest in helping others has grown stronger as she has traveled through academia as an in-seat and online instructor, course designer and programmer, career counselor, associate dean and director at four educational institutions.

Debra Hartman

Helping others has been an ongoing thread throughout this career. In her current position, Hartman has innumerable and unlimited responsibilities but says, “I make it a hobby to help others with résumé writing, networking and setting achievable career goals, whether they ask for help or not … after my guidance of what could or should be tweaked, new opportunities and doors have opened for individuals.”

But rewarding as it is to prepare students for their future careers, she expresses no deeper satisfaction than guiding her own children to achieve their life goals.

One way her children are gaining important life experience is through musical theater, “an invaluable life lesson that encourages hard work, goal setting and ultimately allows them to experience the rewards associated with taking something big from start to finish,” she says. Hartman adds the challenges and tools theater provides her children will “guide them in the future by increasing their communication skills, an important skill for any endeavor they will face in years to come.” Hartman volunteers regularly with the community youth theater group her daughter’s perform with.

Hartman joined Columbia College as director of the Crystal Lake campus in 2009. Hartman earned both a master’s degree and a bachelor’s degree in speech communication, public relations and journalism at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Ill.