Sandy Duckett believes in the importance of a good and affordable education. So much, in fact, that she left her own job in higher education in order to make it possible for more people.
An entrepreneur at heart, Sandy started her first business at 22. She went on to work in economic development before moving into higher education, becoming COO and Vice President of Advancement for a college foundation. In 2009, she started her doctoral studies and in 2010 turned down a college presidency. “Some life changing things had happened at home, and Wisconsin’s economy and political culture were changing.” Disillusioned by the increasing trend toward running higher education as a business rather than doing what was best for students, she decided it was time to leave education and resign from her job as VP of Advancement at a Wisconsin Technical College. It was then that someone gave her a copy of the book, Halftime. “I was in a place of uncertainty. I had a wonderful career, helping people fulfill their educational needs. I wasn’t sure where to go from there. So I read the book, contacted them through the email in the back of the book, and in half an hour got a call from someone at the Halftime Institute.” When they invited her to come to Dallas to attend a Halftime Launch Event, she went.
The Launch Event helped her clarify what was important to her. “They asked me what my passion was, and I realized ‘I’m driven by helping others see how the rising cost of a college education and college debt is impacting our future generations.” At that revelation, her Halftime facilitators challenged her
to follow her passion. For Sandy, this meant taking a position with a small nonprofit in Sturgeon Bay, WI, where she became the CEO of We are HOPE, Inc., an organization that provides employment services including skill development and search assistance.
When she first came to HOPE, which stands for Helping Others Prosper and Excel, the organization was in trouble. But her leadership has turned them around, and a few months ago she began to see her dream take shape with the launch of Be Smart About Education, an initiative of We are HOPE that guides potential students in making the right choices about college. The program helps save students time and money, coming out with skills and knowledge that will set them up to be successful in life.
“Education is complicated,” she says, “and it’s too expensive today to make poor decisions that will impact the rest of your life.” Be Smart About Education is designed to draw out long term goals, interests and affinities in order to give students guidance as they make those decisions. Instead of ending up in oversaturated degree programs that may very well lead to an inability to find a job, students can make smarter decisions that lower their costs and raise their marketability. Sandy now gets the joy of seeing people come into the office in desperate need, and leave with some hope and direction towards a better life.
“The Halftime Institute put things in perspective as to what’s really important.” For Sandy, that means changing the education system. Be Smart About Education is doing that on an individual level. But her dreams don’t stop there. “We need to change things at the national level; but one step at a time.”