The Parkland College Blog

CTE Career Exploration Night, Sept. 5

High school, Parkland students can chat with employers, get info on hands-on tech careers

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Parkland College will host a night for students to explore hands-on technical careers Sept. 5.

Career Exploration Night, sponsored by the school's Career and Technical Education division, will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Parkhill Applied Technology Center on the main campus.

High school students and their families as well as current Parkland students are invited to meet employers, get expert advice on a career path, learn how to make a great first impression, and tour high-tech learning labs. Career opportunities in horticulture, automotive, collision repair, diesel power, construction management, industrial technology, and electronics programs will be discussed. Participants can chat with employers about internship opportunities and career tracks in their industries.

To RSVP for this event, visit

New Show, Digital System to Debut in Planetarium Opener

"Experience the Aurora" to feature dramatic fulldome images from new Digistar 6

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After a month's closure, the William M. Staerkel Planetarium will reopen to public audiences on the Sept. 7-8 weekend with a new operating system and a new fulldome show.

"Experience the Aurora," featuring fulldome, time-lapse imagery of the Northern Lights, will premiere Sept. 7 and 8 at 8 p.m. and run every Friday and Saturday night through October. The show will be presented on Staerkel's Digistar 6 operating system, an upgrade from the Digistar 4 system installed eight years ago. The planetarium has been closed since Aug. 8 to install the new system. 

Winner of two Telly Awards for video production,"Experience the Aurora" shares the science behind the aurora and tells the story of the quest to find and photograph the aurora. Its dramatic images involve high-resolution digital cameras outfitted with fisheye lenses. For the first time, the aurora has been captured as it was meant to be experienced, an immersive display covering the entire sky, according to Dave Leake, director of the planetarium.  

"Though computer visualizations are quite wonderful these days, we were intrigued that this show includes fisheye photography of this beautiful phenomenon," Leake remarked. "We hope audiences will be as amazed as we were!"

Leake explained that the Digistar 6 system contains new features that will be both visible and "under the hood." Tools such as auto-align and auto-blend will drastically reduce maintenance time by aligning projectors with the push of a button. Other D6 benefits for planetarium staff include a cloud-sourced STEAM library, a new NOAA Earth database, and a revised user interface. Audiences will be able to view various terrains including Earth and Mars as well as a volumetric Milky Way (i.e., shown more as a physical model than as a flat image).  

“We have a lot to learn before we reopen; our show producer, Waylena McCully, is busy converting many of our older shows to the new format," Leake said. "We're exited about having a new star field and other features to show off this season.”  

Funding for the upgrade comes from the Parkland Foundation, the Planetarium Revolving Fund and the Campus Master Plan. For a full schedule of fall 2018 planetarium programs, visit or call the show hotline at 217/351-2446. 

Parkland Athletics Announces Softball Coaching Staff Transition

Chuck Clutts' to see last season as head coach

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – The upcoming 2018-19 Parkland softball season will serve as the conclusion to Head Coach Chuck Clutts’ 19-year tenure with the Cobras, Coach Clutts and Parkland Vice President for Student Services Mike Trame announced on Wednesday. Tallying over 700 wins through last season, Clutts will be joined this upcoming season by new assistant coaches Dan Paulson, Kristi Paulson and Shelli Nolte. The three new coaches will serve as the 2019-2020 softball coaching staff, led by the Paulsons.

“We cannot thank coach Clutts enough for his service to Parkland College and Cobra Softball,” Trame said. “His teams in the first decade of the 2000’s were the gold standard of NJCAA softball.  He has also coached with integrity and recruited some fantastic athletes on the field and in the classroom to Parkland. It will be exciting to see what the team accomplishes in his last season.”

Entering his final campaign with a .704 winning percentage (737-308-2), Coach Clutts molded Parkland into a national softball powerhouse at the Conference, Region and National levels. Since taking over in 2001, Clutts has guided the Cobras to eight NJCAA Nationals appearances, reaching the title game three times (2002, 2005 and 2006) in five years. From 2002 through 2009, Parkland placed in the top-10 seven times, including five top-five finishes. In 2012, Clutts and the Cobras returned to Nationals to take third place. Overall, Clutts owns a 30-16 record at Nationals.

On the way to routine Nationals appearances last decade, Clutts made Parkland a constant presence atop the Mid-West Athletic Conference (M-WAC) and Region 24 with eight conference and regional titles. Maintaining a .801 winning percentage (403-100) in conference, Parkland is the only school to post undefeated conference records, doing so in 2003 (32-0) and 2005 (24-0). Regionally, Clutts has led the Cobras to 11 Region 24 championship games in 18 seasons with a 43-22 overall record at the regional tournament. 

Among the 18 teams and countless players Clutts has mentored, three of his teams have been inducted into the Parkland Athletics Hall of Fame and 73 athletes have gone on to compete at the four-year college level. 18 times Clutts has had a player honored as an NFCA All-American and 20 times as an NJCAA All-American. The success of Clutts’ teams also extends into the classroom with16 teams achieving NJCAA All-Academic team status. 

In honor of the individual and team success, Coach Clutts has been named Region 24 Coach of the Year and District Coach of the Year eight times, while also being named the M-WAC Coach of the Year three times. In 2007, Clutts and his coaching staff were named the NFCA Region Coaching Staff of the Year.

To ensure that the Parkland Softball program remains in great hands and the leadership transition is very smooth, the future coaching staff for Parkland Softball will join Coach Clutts this season before taking over at the end of the year. 

Dan Paulson discussed their future with Parkland Softball in saying, “Kristi and I are grateful for the opportunity to coach at Parkland and serve the Champaign community. We are extremely excited to help young student athletes further their education while playing the game they love.”

According to Trame, “Parkland is incredibly fortunate to have great coaches like Dan, Kristi, and Shelli take over the Parkland Softball program. Their reputation in the softball community is one of incredible passion and knowledge to go along with an intense focus on both the personal and athletic development of their players. I have no doubt they will continue Parkland Softball’s great success in the classroom while returning Parkland to national prominence on the field.”

To help ease the transition, the Paulsons will be in charge of all recruiting for the 2019-2020 and subsequent teams. When asked about beginning their recruiting duties, Kristi Paulson said “Dan and I have built relationships with college coaches, high school coaches, and travel coaches while handling the recruiting aspects for our travel players. Now, we are looking forward to working with athletes and coaches on the flip side of the recruiting process.”

A husband-wife coaching duo, Dan and Kristi Paulson created Premier Fastpitch in 2011, and has seen the program develop into a routine competitor on the national stage. Placing in the top-10 at numerous national tournaments, the Paulsons most recently coached the 2018 Premier Fastpitch Under-16 team to a ninth-place finish at nationals in Huntington Beach, California. In addition to contending at the national level, the program has also dominated at the state level, winning eight Illinois State ‘A’ Championships. Overall, the Premier Fastpitch has maintained a .738 winning percentage (389-138) since its inception.  

Individually, the Paulsons’ Premier program has mentored over 50 players that have gone on to play in college, including many at the Division I level. This is rooted in the philosophy that they will bring to the Cobra program.  “Our philosophy is to coach athletes to be the very best they can be both on and off the field, to do everything they do in life with a purpose, and to make themselves one percent better every single day. These traits will carry on with our athletes long after their time playing the game of softball and help guide them to success in life” says Dan Paulson.

Off the field, Dan Paulson is the President and CEO of the Premier Print Group and Wave Graphics, managing over 100 employees, and is also a partner and CEO of the Perfect Storm software company.

Kristi Paulson played softball collegiately at Lake Land College, helping the Lakers its first NJCAA Division I National Tournament in 2005-06. Kristi went on to complete her Bachelor’s degree at Eastern Illinois University, earning her teaching certificate in K-12 physical education, while also serving as a volunteer assistant at Lake Land. Kristi has since served as the Junior High softball coach at Casey-Westfield and as Head Cross Country Coach and Assistant Softball Coach at Tuscola High School.

Both hailing from Mattoon, Illinois, Dan and Kristi are the parents of four-year-old Andi and two-year-old Jax, and are expecting a third child in November 2018. Dan’s grandfather, Mike Witwicki, played professional baseball in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, while Kristi’s father, Bert Bradley, has served as both a pitching coach and national scout in the San Francisco Giants organization.

Joining Clutts and the Paulsons on this year’s staff, Shelli Nolte owns 20-plus years of experience in coaching fastpitch softball and owns a career head coaching record of 484-235. Along the way, Nolte as coached multiple travel teams to top-five finishes at ASA and NSA, USSSA Illinois ‘A’ State Tournaments, two top-five finishes, multiple top-10 finishes at PGF, USA, NSA and USFA national tournaments.

Most recently, Nolte has served as the head coach at Neoga High School from 2015-2018, leading the Indians to the IHSA Regional Final two years in a row.

Adding to her softball expertise, Nolte also has experience as a softball umpire, including three years as a licensed Illinois High School Association (IHSA) umpire, and as the Executive Director of Mattoon Girls Softball Association for 10 years. In 2017, Nolte was elected the Travel Ball Representative to the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Board of Directors.

Lettering in both volleyball and softball at Mattoon High School, Nolte went on to graduate from Lake Land College and Eastern Illinois University with a degree in journalism. Nolte currently works at Wave Graphics, Inc. in Mattoon and is married to Keith Nolte with three children – Allyson, Dack and Kord – and two grandchildren, Ivy Jane and Jude. Nolte’s daughter, Allyson, played softball collegiately, playing third base and catcher for Lake Land College and Eastern Illinois University.


[Article by Chad Beyler]

Cobras Volleyball Sweeps Four Matches in Straight Sets

Cobras win 24 of 25 sets at Waubonsee Invite

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SUGAR GROVE, Ill. – The Parkland women’s volleyball team went undefeated in 12 sets at the Waubonsee Invitational with a 4-0 record on the day and an 8-0 record in its season-opening tournament this weekend. The Cobras won 24 of 25 sets over the two-day tournament.

After winning its final 11 sets on Saturday, Parkland swept through its competition on Sunday with four straight-set sweeps. Outscoring opponents 300-167, and never winning a set by fewer than seven points, Parkland earned wins over Oakton (IL), South Suburban (IL), Sauk Valley (IL) and Waubonsee (IL). The Cobras hit at a .413 clip in its four matches on Sunday, while totaling 35.5 blocks and 34 aces across the four wins.

Picking up where they left off on Saturday night, Parkland opened Sunday with a dominating offensive display against Oakton. Hitting above .400 in all three sets, Parkland only committed five attack errors on 78 swings. Leading the offense was freshman Amanda Greening with 16 kills on 21 errorless swings (.762). Sophomore Ashley King tallied 23 assists to pace the offense, while the Parkland defense was spearheaded by Maddie Allen’s six blocks.

Following Greening’s hitting spree in game one, Parkland spread the ball around in its second match, a sweep (25-13, 25-12, 25-10) of South Suburban, with three players tallying double-digit kills. Abby Burnett led all attackers with 13 kills on just 16 swings (.812), while Greening and Sidney Heck each pitched in 10 kills of their own. The Cobra defense was guided by Ellie Stone’s 13 digs and five blocks from both Allen and Burnett.

In Parkland’s sweep (25-14, 25-16, 25-17) of Sauk Valley on Sunday afternoon, Ryleigh Warfel led the way with Parkland’s first double-double of the day, killing 16 attacks to go along with 18 digs, both of which were a single-match high for Parkland on Sunday. Middle blocker Shelby Nunamker made her first appearance of the day as well, scoring 10 kills on 16 swings without an error and chipped in four blocks. Setting up Warfel and Nunamker was Rachel Verdun with a season-best 43 assists. Gabby Wessels and Brooke Norder joined Warfel in double-digit dig outputs, each registering 17 apiece.

The Cobras closed out the weekend with a 25-18, 25-14, 25-13 sweep of tournament host Waubonsee. Parkland leaned on freshmen Gabby Wessels and Ryleigh Warfel in the final victory of the weekend, as Wessels tallied 15 kills and 10 digs, while Warfel recorded 11 kills and 14 digs. Dakota Harmon and Nunamker led the Parkland defense’s 9.5 team blocks with both middle blockers earning five stuffs.

[Article by Chad Beyler]

Lecture to Feature Congolese Diplomat

National Assembly's Zacharie Bababaswe on "The Future of the DRC and Its Electoral Process"

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A noted politician from the Democratic Republic of the Congo will provide a talk at Parkland College early next month. 

The Hon. Zacharie Bababaswe will present "The Future of the DRC and Its Electoral Process" Sept. 7, from noon to 1 p.m. in Room U140 (Student Union). 

Mr. Bababaswe is a social historian and a member of the National Assembly of DR Congo for the Lukunga district in Kinshasa since 2011. He will discuss the current crisis in the DRC over the presidential election. He will then offer an open dialogue with the audience. 

The event is being cosponsored by Parkland's International Students Association and the Congolese Community of Illinois. For more information, contact Amber Landis, ISA faculty advisor and Humanities professor, at