Guiding Others Through Their Journey

Tracy Rockwell, the current director of the Houlton higher education center, is one of those people who is welcoming and strives to work hard for the students. She takes pride in being an open ear for the them. She teaches classes for UMPI as well. Rockwell currently teaches first year seminar and business communication. She has also taught a human resource management class in the past. Rockwell has taught for UMPI since 2011.

Rockwell was attracted to higher education early on. “I worked in the student activities office on the University of Southern Maine Gorham campus while working on my undergraduate degree, and discovered I really enjoyed the higher education arena. While stationed with my husband in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, I worked for the community college that was located on the naval base. I really enjoyed helping others find their educational path and have worked in higher education in some way since.”

It took a while before Rockwell found her way to teaching. “I had worked on the administrative side of higher education for many years. I had facilitated many trainings in that time in several different areas. The director of academic affairs for the university I was working with talked me into teaching a class. I began with an online Human Resource Management course and the rest is history.”

Rockwell really likes teaching for UMPI. “Even though UMPI strives to reach many outside Aroostook County, it also looks to meet the needs of individuals within our vast county. Providing educational opportunities to many who desire or need to stay in this region helps us all grow in the long run, as individuals and as a community.”

Rockwell sees that the Houlton center fills an important niche. “Coming from Aroostook County, and having been a first-generation college student, I really could have used some guidance and feedback as I made my way through my educational journey. It wasn’t easy. I look at what HHEC does to support students to help them achieve their educational goals, providing access to classes and degree programs an individual may not otherwise have if the Center was not here, and providing a community atmosphere for those individuals to feel comfortable in.”

What led Rockwell to the position of center director was that she was asked to step in as the Interim director temporarily. When the position became permanently available, she decided she really wanted to continue to contribute to others education, so she applied and was then offered the position.

Rockwell particularly likes “Encouraging students to take that first step, motivating them to continue, and, most of all, seeing them reach their goals during the graduation celebrations.”

Rockwell has been able to implement some changes at the center. “I try to employ an open-door policy for the majority of the hours that I am at the center. I hope this invites students, faculty and staff to come in with questions, concerns or good news. It’s a great way to build relationships and connections.” And she has more ideas: “Many things come to mind: new programs, motivational activities, building community connections. I would also like to see the center better utilized during the summer months, maybe with a program exposing kids at an earlier age to the center, so they know what is here when it comes time for them to pursue college options.” For Rockwell the center is all about community “I think the center is, and will continue to be, an integral part of this community. Continuing to provide an access point for community members to their educational pathway. All involved at the center strive to see this strong connection continue.”

Ivy Neher, a student and a work study of the Houlton center has seen changes under Rockwell “I like Tracy and I think that she has added some sincerity to the position. She is kind but makes a stand when things need to get done. She is sensitive to other’s problems but is not a pushover. She has given a

lot of direction to the center and I have seen a big improvement in the center since she took over. Neher says. “Before she was there, when a complaint was made to the director, there was very little follow-through. Now when a complaint is made, she makes sure to bring you in ask lots of questions to you and anyone involved in the complaint and appropriate changes are made if needed. She has shown a drive to be active in what is going on with the work study and making sure that hours are put in on time as well as making sure that there is more communication between staff as much as is possible at the outreach, ha ha”

Jean Henderson says this about Rockwell : “ I have the pleasure of working for Tracy Rockwell, director, Houlton Higher Education Center as the center’s professional advisor/student services coordinator. Tracy is an outstanding leader, she exemplifies customer excellence in serving students and the greater southern Aroostook community. She is a well-respected and admired community member. Tracy is supportive of student endeavors and the day-to-day activities at the center.” Amanda Cosme, a volunteer worker at the center, says, “She is such a great and understanding person. She understands things happen. She is not only a boss but a friend.”

Rockwell has advice for students: “Be an advocate for yourself. Know when to speak up and ask questions or ask for help! Know where to go to find out answers to questions or to resolve concerns. You can start by going to anyone of the dedicated staff members at the center: they will lead you in the right direction.”

At her core Rockwell is someone who loves her job. “Although my position may call for a major case of multi-tasking, or long hours, or sometimes having to have difficult conversations, this is my passion. Going back to my comment earlier about being a first generation student, I look back now and wonder how I was fortunate enough to make it through. I really want others to not have such difficulties. Being here when a new student comes in and guiding them through their journey is what I enjoy. Seeing that same student accept their diploma reinforces why I love this job.”