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Zeilstra Joins OCC as Information Systems Technology Specialist for Title III Block Grant

PJ Zeilstra PhotoPJ Zeilstra has joined Olney Central College as the Information Systems Technology Specialist for the Illinois Eastern Community Colleges Title III Block Grant.

The Title III program is supported in part by a five-year grant awarded to Olney Central College from the U.S. Department of Education effective October 1, 2018. The estimated total cost for all project activities is $2,506,775 financed by the grant award of $2,249,968 (90%) and $256,807 (10%) by Olney Central College. Initiatives at OCC include implementing and redesigning the Information Systems Technology Program.

“The goal is to make this a top of the line program for our area — something that is currently lacking,” Zeilstra said. “You have to travel one or two hours away for this type of program. We are looking at creating a transfer degree, which would include electives and give students the basics of IST, a two-year degree that would incorporate more technology and enable students to enter the workforce right away and a one-year certificate for those who need to get out and get a job.”

Zeilstra, who previously worked for the Help Desk at the IECC District Office, assumed his new position on Jan. 14 and is already hard at work revamping the program’s curriculum in preparation for the first students this fall. He also is overseeing the creation of a new state-of-the-art Information Systems Technology lab at the West Richland Center in Noble. In addition, Zeilstra is working with various universities to ensure IST students can easily complete their bachelor’s degrees.

“Right now I am putting together the first semester classes,” said Zeilstra, who previously served as an adjunct instructor at OCC. “I’ve taught the classes before and some of them will have similar content. We’re just fitting the program’s classes a little differently to transfer better and making them more structured.”

Zeilstra is looking forward to working with and sharing his knowledge with students.

“I think I’ve always had an interest in teaching,” Zeilstra said. “When I was in high school, I thought about teaching math then I realized I didn’t like the higher math. I went to Parkland for the first two years and the classes I had there with the guys who worked during the day and taught at night — I got so much from those classes. It made me want to get out in the field to learn stuff and do stuff, then come back and teach. I like to help people understand things. When you explain something and you see that light go off, it’s very satisfying.”

Zeilstra completed a bachelor’s of science degree in Information Systems Technology from Southern Illinois University. While at SIU, he served an internship at the former U.S. Franchise Systems Reservation Center in Marion, which led to a full-time position with the hotel call center.

“While I was there, I traveled to 300 or 400 hotels to put in wireless networks. I then came back and developed a help desk to support guests,” he said. “This was a time when the technology was new. We had to figure out what wireless was and how to put it in.”

Zeilstra said the IST Program offers an excellent opportunity for students to explore various aspects of supporting computer hardware, software and network systems.

“The program is ideal for someone who knows they want to work with computers, but are unsure what area they want to pursue,” Zeilstra said. “It allows them to see what options are out there. I also think we have a great opportunity, for those students who don’t want to go to a four-year school, to really help them in this area. I want the program to be a smooth, great experience for the students, and depending on the course or track that they take, have students come out that can legitimately do a job.”

To learn more about the Information Systems Technology Program, contact Zeilstra at 618-393-3490 or send an email to zeilstrap@iecc.edu. IST classes will begin Aug. 15.

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