Fall quarter brings fresh faces all over our campus. This year, one of those faces is the new Director of Takoda Institute, Kimberly Ben-Haim, M.Ed. Her variety of experience and depth of knowledge in higher education administration makes Kimberly a wonderful asset to Takoda Institute staff and students.
Tell us about your professional background before Takoda Institute:
I received my undergraduate and graduate degrees in education from the University of Minnesota, and after teaching kindergarten, began working in financial aid in 2005. I advanced from loan coordinator, to financial aid officer, to assistant director, and now director of Takoda Institute.
What motivates you to work at Takoda Institute?:
For higher education in general, seeing the students come in, graduate, and be successful. It takes a lot to get a degree at any institution. I just have to commend every student that comes in for taking that first step. What I like about Takoda Institute is that I get to work one on one with each student that comes in. Each face is so familiar and I’ve gotten to know the students better than I ever have at other institutions I’ve worked for. In this position I get to work closely with the registrar and career services. I enjoy working here because I get to do a bit of everything instead of being pigeon-holed into one area.
What are Takoda Institute’s strengths as opposed to the traditional post-secondary option?
The promise of debt-free education is a big deal. Our programs are the lowest cost per credit in the state and we have so many options for scholarships. Our students are not leaving here with that dark cloud of debt. None of our programs last longer than 9 months, and we even have short-term programs that run for 4 to 6 weeks. Students can get a slice of each program and know right away if it’s a good fit.
What are some of the goals you have for Takoda Institute?
The biggest thing I’ve been tasked to do is see the enrollment increase. I would like to see us increase at every quarter. I would also like to see some new programs. One new program in the works is Digital Office Professional which will start in the winter quarter. It’s great to come in when a new program is just starting because I will get to see it through its beginning stages and see how it progresses. I would like to improve connections from internal and external resources and build networks to foster young students at Takoda Prep, for example, to be exposed to higher education and get involved at Takoda Institute.
What are some common barriers you see with students?
The main thing students have come to me with is the issue of transportation to and from school. We do offer the College Pass through Metro Transit for students to get to school. Another thing is making sure students come to class and are getting everything they can out of their classes and out of the degree they are getting.
Many students are hesitant to go back to school after not being in an academic environment for a long time. What advice do you have for these students?
There’s definitely a fear of commitment because students are not quite sure if this is what they want. It’s important that students make this commitment because they want to and not because someone is pushing them to do it. It’s important for each student to be invested in the program, and if not, find the right program for them.
What is some advice do you have for students looking to enroll?
Come to class, turn in your homework, and take your test. Talk to me, your instructors and your career service representative. Utilize all of the resources that are available to you on campus and understand that there are many people who have had similar issues that you’ve had.