South Metropolitan Higher Education Consortium

South Metropolitan Higher Education Consortium

Three Decades of Higher Education Excellence Through Collaboration

  • KCC and Olivet Sponsor September 8th Accelerate 2016 Small Business Conference and Expo

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    Sign Up for Accelerate 2016 Small Business Conference and Expo


  • Successful Startup Entrepreneur Dane Christianson

    Dane at workshop       x cube

    Dane Christianson, the inventor of the X-Cube and founder of Moving Parts, LLC, wowed fellow entrepreneurs with his insights and experiences in bringing a new product to market. Over the course of less than 4 years, Dane has gone from building a prototype for his own enjoyment and posting a video on youtube that exploded in popularity to building a business that sells X-Cubes internationally.

    The informal conversation provided attendees with the opportunity to explore far-reaching issues of importance to their individual entrepreneurial undertakings. Valuable conversations occurred about intellectual property, finding manufacturing resources, marketing, raising funds, pricing, and dealing with distribution issues in both the brick and mortar and online worlds.

    Dane’s Meet the Entrepreneur conversation was hosted by Prairie State College and sponsored by SouthWorks MakerLab Park Forest. It is part of the Maker Entrepreneurship series created by the SouthWorks MakerLab Network to support local entrepreneurs developing physical products. Additional events and workshops will cover other manufacturing and entrepreneurship topics and provide additional training, including design and prototype, lean startup, navigating the manufacturing supply chain, finding funding, and online marketplaces.

    SouthWorks MakerLab Network is a collaboration of the region’s higher educational institutions, workforce development organizations, economic development entities, and other community partners to develop a network of MakerLabs across the Southland to provide improved STEM educational results, develop a strong manufacturing workforce for the future, support new creativity by artists and tinkerers, and support entrepreneurs building businesses around physical products.

    MakerLabs are spaces that provide new and traditional tools to make things, provide workshops to quickly learn new tools, and build a community of makers who share their knowledge. Currently, the MakerLabs at Park Forest, Prairie State College, and South Suburban College (Oak Forest campus) are open to the public.

  • KCC Offers Solar Power Training

    KCC Offers Solar Power Training

  • Etsy Craft Entrepreneurship Course at SouthWorks MakerLab

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  • Business Organization Workshop at USF

    The University of St. Francis College of Business and Health Administration Business Incubator, in partnership with the Fox Valley chapter of SCORE, presents the fourth workshop in their business series.
    Titled “Forms of Business Organization—Legal and Financial Considerations,” this workshop seeks to explore whether incorporating is always the answer when undertaking a business enterprise.  Read More....

  • SSC Presents Small Business Tuesdays Series


    South Suburban College Business & Career Institute

    16333 South Kilbourn Avenue

    Oak Forest, Illinois 60452

    Contact Lorrin Paun:  (708) 596-2000 x3267

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    No Fee seminars

    SCORE South Suburban "Small Business Tuesdays" Program

    September & October, 2016

    Presented by SCORE, South Suburban Small Business Association and South Suburban College Business & Career Institute

    A Series of 4 Small Business Seminars:
    • How to Really Start Your Own Business
    • Financing your Startup: The Myths and the Reality
    • Marketing 101: How to Build Demand in a Crowded Marketplace
    • Optimizing your Web Presence: Engaging with your Customers online
    Register Today! No Fee Seminars

    Features 4 Free* mini-seminars for new and existing Small Businesses in the South Chicago Suburbs.  All seminars will include tips and best practices whether your business is still a concept or has been running for years and is in need of some new thinking.

    Each seminar will run for 90 minutes and includes practical examples to reinforce learning, as well as opportunities for attendees to interact within the group. 

    SCORE Mentors will be available after the seminar for additional brief 1-to-1 discussions and to schedule FREE follow-on Counseling sessions at locations across the South Suburbs.

    DATES: September 13 & 27, October 11 & 25
    TIME: 6:30 - 8:00 PM
    LOCATION: South Suburban College - Oak Forest Campus


    Seminar 1: How to Really Start Your Own Business


    September 13, 2016 - 6:30 - 8:00 PM

    Do you have what it takes to start and run a successful business? If so, what are the first steps you should take? This seminar will help you assess your prospects, give you the initial direction you need, and inspire you to move forward to realize your dream.

    Seminar 1: Register Now!

    Presenter:  Geoff Eccles & Dr. Carol Collum


    Seminar 2:  Financing your Startup: The Myths and the Reality


    September 27, 2016 - 6:30 - 8:00 PM

    Understanding basic accounting principles and concepts are essential for decision making in any business. Learn to understand the correlation between sound financial management and success. This business finances seminar will also cover various ways that you might finance your small business, as well as the steps you can take to give yourself the best chances of success.

    Seminar 2: Register Now!

    Presenter:  Wilbur Pelt


    Seminar 3:  Marketing 101: How to Build Demand in a Crowded Marketplace


    October 11, 2016 - 6:30 - 8:00 PM

    Marketing is vital in a business to give direction, to help to set goals and objectives that will contribute to business success, and to ensure that everyone involved is focused on the same targets. This introduction to Marketing will touch on the importance of "The 5 P's" to give your business a competitive edge.

    Seminar 3: Register Now!

    Presenter:  Geoff Eccles


    Seminar 4:  Optimizing your Web Presence: Engaging with your Customers online

    October 25, 2016 - 6:30 - 8:00 PM

    On the web, first impressions are everything - so make your business website as professional and inviting as possible. If you need to create a website for your small business - or want to improve your existing site, this seminar will help you to work with a designer and/or web developer and understand the collaborative process that it takes to build and run a successful website

    Seminar 4: Register Now!

    Presenter:  Rhonda Henderson

  • Join SouthWorks at the Maker Faire August 27th

     Join SouthWorks MakerLab Network at the Maker Faire

    See what STEM and Maker programs in the area are doing.

    Have hands-on Maker experiences

    MakerFaire poster 2016

  • 2014 Sustainability Conference

    2014 sust conference pic


    SMHEC will hold it's fifth annual Sustainability Conference on September 26, 2014, at Joliet Junior College. This year's theme is "Strengthening Sustainable Bridges Between Colleges and Communities" and will feature a "Share Fair" and "Share Groups" to provide participants from various sectors the opportunity to discover potential collaborations.

    More information   




  • KCC North Extension Center Earns LEED Gold Certification

    Date: Aug. 8, 2014

    For release: Immediate



    Kankakee County has its first LEED Gold building.


    KCC NEC lobby 0711-8DSC 1714RT

    KCC NEC lobby: The lobby of the North Extension Center features ample natural light and radiant floor heating.


    On Aug. 1, Kankakee Community College learned that its North Extension Center at 450 N. Kinzie Ave. in Bradley has earned LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

    LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification gives a building a score based upon its environmentally-friendly attributes and looks at a facility comprehensively, considering site issues, water efficiency, energy efficiency, materials use and indoor environmental quality.

    “One of our responsibilities is to demonstrate to our community the feasibility and benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy,” said Bert Jacobson, KCC dean of environmental and institutional sustainability. “Constructing the first LEED GOLD building in Kankakee County gives our community a concrete example of what that means, and supports and encourages other similar community construction projects.”

    The two-story, 18,350 square foot building includes at least 10 features which were planned out to ensure energy efficiency. Among the ways it leans lightly on the environment, the center has a white synthetic roof, photovoltaic panels, geothermal heating and cooling, radiant floor heating, automated temperature controls, abundant natural light, light sensors and an electric vehicle charging station. The building was designed by Demonica Kemper Architects of Chicago.

    The North Extension Center opened to the public in February 2014. On two floors, there is a computer lab, testing room, adult education and GED preparation classrooms, conference room, five classrooms for credit division courses, three instructional rooms for the new massage therapy program and staff offices. In addition to classes, the center is home to the Small Business Development Center and Workforce Services offices, offering job search assistance and other services. Financial aid information, placement testing, KCC class schedules and catalogs are also found at the center.

    In 2007, KCC signed the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment. The college also participates at the gold level in the Illinois Sustainable University Compact. As part of these commitments, all new college construction will be built to the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Silver standard or higher.

    For information on the college’s sustainability efforts, contact Jacobson at 815-802-8242 or email


    Sidebar: Energy efficiency at KCC’s North Extension Center

    • A white synthetic rubber roof helps reflect the sun and reduce the heat load. The exterior walls and roof have a high insulation value (R-26 for exterior walls and R-34 on the roof).
    • Low volatile organic compound (VOC) materials were used where applicable (paints, flooring, adhesives). “Green” cleaning solutions are being used.
    • Radiant-floor heating and cooling in the lobby means less airborne particle movement.
    • Sensors aid in the efficient use of electric lighting in the building. Skylights and windows provide 90% of the building with views of the outdoors, which reduces the need for artificial lighting.
    • Thermal controls are computer-automated so fans and temperatures can be scheduled and adjusted based on building occupancy.
    • Water systems inside and out reduce potable water consumption. Landscape choices are optimized to have low watering needs.
    • By producing 5% of the buildings electric power, solar photovoltaic panels improve the building’s energy performance beyond standards for commercial buildings in the U.S.
    • Construction materials from local and regional sources were used whenever possible. Following demolition of the previous building on the site, construction material was recycled and soils were reused when possible.
    • 13 geothermal vertical loops drilled 500 feet into the ground heat and cool the building by taking advantage of the ground’s constant temperature of 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Water circulates through the loops and cools the building in summer and heats it in winter.
    • For residents of the northern part of KCC’s district, the North Extension Center brings KCC services and classes closer to home. Regular bus service and five bike rack makes this location accessible, too.
    • The parking lot has a charging station for electric vehicles.



    Electric Vehicle Parking and Charger

    EV parking: One feature of KCC’s new North Extension Center is dedicated parking for electric vehicles and an electric vehicle charger.


    KCC NEC open house D3S 3473-small

    KCC NEC open house: A crowd gathered May 29 for an open house and ribbon cutting at the KCC North Extension Center. Gold balloons to celebrate the building’s LEED gold features were among the decorations.


    Kankakee Community College is an accredited two-year college which awards associate degrees and certificates of completion. KCC prepares students both to transfer to four-year colleges and to enter the workforce. The college also offers continuing education courses and certification training, literacy programs, English as a Second Language and GED preparation. The KCC mission is “Enhancing quality of life through learning.” The college has a Riverfront Campus in Kankakee, South Extension Center in Watseka, North Extension Center in Bradley and Manufacturing and Industrial Technology Center in Kankakee.

  • TechShop Comes to the Southland

    TechShop Comes to the Southland



    SMHEC’s partner in the creation of a Southland Manufacturing and Innovation Network of makerspaces, Chicago Southland Economic Development Corporation, hosted a presentation by Jim Newton, the founder of TechShop. TechShop is an operator of 5 member-supported makerspaces across the country and one of the catalysts of the Maker Movement. Makerspaces are co-working spaces that provide the space, tools, and community to allow nearly anyone to create. Artists, entrepreneurs, tinkerers, hobbyists, and students can use traditional tools, such as welders and sewing machines, and new, more user-friendly tools, such as 3-D printers and CNC routers, to bring their ideas to life. Existing businesses can benefit from access to new methods of productions that allow improved processes and innovative products.


    TEchShop 1



    At CSEDC’s quarterly forum, held July 25th at TF North High School in Calumet City, Newton spoke about the Maker Movement and the revolution in manufacturing with the advent of easier and cheaper tools. The barriers to manufacturing innovation and entrepreneurship have been extremely reduced- you don’t need to own a complete machine shop or pay exorbitant amounts to have a prototype made.  He also spoke about the value of the shops as a co-working space where people with different skills and interests interact and support each other, providing even more fuel to make innovation possible.

    TEchShop 2

    Newton and TechShop continue to collaborate in the development of the Southland Manufacturing and Innovation Network. Ten community colleges and universities in the Southland have pledged to create makerspaces, and a hub manufacturing center will coordinate them, provide additional services to business and inventors, and deliver workforce training so that the Southland is prepared for the next industrial revolution.

    Keep watching this site for updates as the Southland's makerspace network rolls out.


  • Navigating Change: Master Keys to Unlock Doors for Leaders Conference

    Master Keys to Unlock Doors for Leaders is an ongoing professional development initiative to reveal, explore, and strengthen definitions and descriptions for performance-driven leadership. Quarterly gatherings offer an opportunity to ignite and sustain awareness of issues critical to our region, as well as opportunities to learn, develop, and implement best practices for all levels of leadership. 

    More information and registration

    Date: September 19, 2014

    Time: 8:30am to Noon

    Location: Governors State University, Sherman Hall

  • JJC's 9/11 Memorial Tribute

    The public is welcome to the JJC Annual 9/11 Memorial Tribute followed by a very special author and guest speaker on September 12. Michael Hingson is a 9/11 survivor who will be speaking at JJC and signing his book Thunder Dog. Admission is free

  • SSC's Business & Career Institute Receives ETIP Grant

    Business & Career Institute receives ETIP grant

    BCI also preparing to offer new certifications this fall.


    Oak Forest, IL– The South Suburban College Business & Career Institute recently received a $150,000 Employer Training Investment Program (ETIP) grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) that will be utilized to supplement up to $300,000 worth of employee training.  BCI submitted their application to the Illinois Department of Economic Opportunity to facilitate upgrading the skills of workers at Illinois based manufacturers and service companies in order to remain current in new technologies and business practices. 


    ETIP grants may reimburse Illinois companies for up to 50 percent of the eligible cost of training their employees.  Participation in the program enables companies to remain competitive, expand into new markets and introduce more efficient technologies into their operations. 


    “We are extremely pleased to receive these additional funds from DCEO,” said Becky Admave, Dean of Extension Services.  “This program has been very beneficial to manufacturers in the south suburban region in the past, and we look forward to putting it to good use.”


    BCI has partnered with local manufacturers such as Gelita-USA’s Calumet City facility in recent years.  BCI assisted Gelita with employee training in quality and 5S in the continuous improvement of housekeeping and organization standards at the site through ETIP.  Completion of this training has been crucial in the site’s ability to improve gelatin quality and output since 2011. 


    SSC’s Business & Career Institute serves as a regional headquarters for workforce preparation, employee training, business development and technology deployment.  BCI provides training, consulting, and economic and business development resources for the Chicago Southland.  For their efforts, BCI has been recognized as a High Performance Business & Industry Center by the Center for Adult and Experiential Learning, among other accolades. 


    BCI will also be expanding its services this fall to include a new 4-hour Consumer Wellness Advocate (CWA) Certification workshop, along with three new “green” certification programs titled Green Entrepreneur, Green Construction, and Industrial/Brownfield Safety, Land Reuse and Public Health. 


    Additionally, STAR Truck Driving School and BCI will be celebrating their five-year partnership with an Open House for their fast-track truck driver training program on Monday, September 9th from 3:30-7:30 p.m. at the Main Campus in South Holland.  This collaboration has now prepared 392 students for rewarding careers since 2008.


    For more information about BCI services and programs, please call (708) 596-2000, ext. 2522.  The University & College Center is located at 16333 S. Kilbourn, Oak Forest, Illinois.


  • PSC Dental Hygiene Students and Faculty Volunteer Their Services

    Desiree Kirsch student -small

    On a typical Friday in August you would expect most college age students to be headed to the beach or the mall. But on Friday morning, Aug. 2, 10 Prairie State College (PSC) dental hygiene students and two of their professors and a supervising dentist were volunteering at the PSC Dental Hygiene Clinic. The clinic is located at the college’s main campus at 202 S. Halsted Street, Chicago Heights, IL. The patients were seven children visiting the United States from two Ukraine orphanages. Most of the children, ranging in age from 6 to 15, had never received any type of dental care before.

    The college had received a request to provide dental services to the seven children who were staying with area families connected to several local churches.  Dental hygiene Professors Barb Kelly-Gorbitz and Dolores Ickis, Dental Hygiene Program chair, decided it would be a great community service effort for the dental hygiene students. They requested volunteers and 10 students agreed to assist. Dr. Susan Biegel, the program’s supervising dentist, volunteered her services. The children received x-rays, cleaning, dental exams, and sealants if necessary. The services were all free of charge.  The dental records and medical information will be sent with the children when they return to the Ukraine.

    “Had the faculty and students in the Dental Hygiene Program not volunteered their time and service, the expenses incurred would have been covered by the host families. This burden would be in addition to numerous other expenses and the dental check-ups might not have been possible,” said PSC Board of Trustees Chair Jacqueline Agee.

    The students who volunteered included Jessica Fitzgerald, Pavielle Escobedo, Kat Marcus, Katherine Fawkes, Stephanie Stellete, Nina Degan-Lentz, Jessica Fitsgerald,  Maria Vega, Jessica Moziewicz and Desiree Kirsch.

    The children’s visit was sponsored by Love Cradle International, who worked with four area churches and several host families. The children are visiting for about four weeks and one condition of their visit was to make sure they received dental care. Since many of the children will require additional dental services, area dentists were being contacted to see if they could provide follow up care for the children.

    “Our goal was to do as much as we could during the screening at the clinic, and then see if we could get them into area dentists so they can receive follow-up care. We will make sure to package their dental records and send them with them when they return to the orphanage,” Professor Kelly-Gorbitz said.

    When asked if it was difficult to find students to volunteer during the summer for this special clinic day, she responded it was not hard at all. “We had no trouble at all finding willing students to come in on a Friday in the summer. They were all very responsive,” Kelly-Gorbitz said.

    The Dental Hygiene Program at PSC leads to an Associate in Applied Science degree. The program prepares graduates to provide services that assist patients in the prevention of oral diseases and maintenance of optimal oral health. The program is accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation and the American Dental Association and meets State of Illinois Board of Dentistry guidelines for the dental hygiene education.

    Jennifer Stoner (708) 709-3949

    Andrea Small (708) 709-2948

  • SXU President Wiseman appointed to IBHE Board

    Christine Wiseman, J.D., President of Saint Xavier University, has been named by Governor Quinn to the Illinois Board of Higher Education, the state's coordinating agency that oversees Illinois colleges and universities. Read the full news release.

  • Invent With MIT's “Fab Lab” at JJC Aug. 12-14

    Congressman Bill Foster Bringing Mobile “Fab Lab” to JJC Aug. 12-14

    The public is invited to Joliet Junior College Aug. 12-14 to visit the Fab Lab, a state-of-the-art fabrication laboratory developed at MIT where children and adults can invent, design and manufacture products. The equipment can be used to design anything from tools to motors to data networks to artwork. This event is sponsored by Congressman Bill Foster.

    The Fab Lab will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. all three days and will be located in South Lot 1, southeast of the Campus Center (A-Building) on Main Campus, 1215 Houbolt Road in Joliet (See a map of Main Campus).

    There is no cost to visit the Fab Lab, but groups who wish to visit and get a tour are asked to make a reservation in advance. To schedule your group, contact Congressman Foster’s office at or 630-585-7672.

    In March, Congressman Foster introduced the National Fab Lab Network Act of 2013 to promote advanced manufacturing in the U.S. and invest in the next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators. The legislation, which has received bipartisan support, would create a nonprofit entity to establish a National Fab Lab network throughout the United States. This chartered status would be similar to the status enjoyed by the VFW and Little League Baseball.

    For more information about the Fab Lab, visit

  • SMHEC presents at LiveText national conference

    SMHEC executive director, Genny Boesen, and Laura White, English faculty from Governors State University, presented “Toward Accountability: Writing Across the Institutions” at the LiveText Assessment & Collaboration Conference July 22 -24 in Chicago. The conference brings together faculty and administrators to learn from peers how they have created high-impact learning and high-impact assessment.

    Genny and Laura’s interactive session described SMHEC’s Writing Across the Institutions project and included a mock norming session. They provided insight into addressing institutional and faculty issues, the use of rubrics, and how the process fits with accrediting bodies’ assessment standards. 

  • JJC faculty member named one of America's top 10 pastry chefs

    JJC faculty member named one of America's top 10 pastry chefs

    Andy Chlebana teaches at Joliet Junior College

    By Geoff Ziezulewicz, Chicago Tribune reporter

    July 30, 2013

    For Andy Chlebana, there's just something about pastries and desserts in general that led him to make a career in that particular culinary field.

    "I like the science side of it," said the Joliet Junior College culinary instructor, chef and Plainfield resident. "You throw a steak on a grill and you're done. It's a steak. With us, you mix a bunch of different ingredients together. There's a balance in the recipe and a formula and a way that ingredients interact that excites me."

    Chlebana's passion paid off earlier this year when he was named one of America's top 10 pastry chefs by Dessert Professional magazine.

    Chlebana, who worked in a variety of professional kitchens across the country and helped open the Ritz-Carlton in Washington, D.C., said he was honored to receive the magazine's accolade.

    It is one of only two pastry magazines in the country, he said.

    When he was in culinary school, Chlebana said the chefs who made that list were the ones he idolized.

    "Those were the kinds of chefs you look up to," he said. "You'd look at this list and think, what are the odds of me ever getting on that list?"

    For a reception held in June in New York City, Chlebana concocted an elaborate chocolate and raspberry mousse cake with amaretto ice cream.

    "As an instructor, I don't get to cook for the public," he said. "My students cook everything. It's not my hands making it. This gave me the opportunity to try something that was mine."

    Chlebana also built a big chocolate sculpture for the event.

    "It was a lot of work," he said.

    Chlebana has been a pastry chef for more than 20 years. In January, he was part of the U.S. team that represented the homeland at the World Pastry Cup in France.

    Despite his clout in the dessert world, the Oak Forest native said he enjoys showing students the tricks of the trade.

    Chlebana said he stays busy in other ways and is currently writing a textbook on his passion.

    "It's an awakening," he said. "There's so much more to write. I need more pages."

    He said he is currently obsessed with making his own ice creams and sorbets.

    "I'm kind of a snob; I don't buy ice cream at the store," he said. "It's such a balance to create a good ice cream formula. The students are kind of my guinea pigs, trying all my recipes."

    For those aspiring chefs, Chlebana said, the tiniest misstep in a well-followed recipe can result in a sub-par dish.

    Process is vital, Chlebana said.

    "The process is just as important as the recipe," he said of small tweaks that turn a random recipe into someone's specialty. "It's kind of like grandma's recipe. It works for her but not for anyone else. She doesn't even know she's doing it."

    Twitter @JournoGeoffZ

Student Success

graduate Cornell Jones

Student success is the fundamental goal of SMHEC institutions. We provide programs to support our students and local K-12 districts, and we provide support for effective pedagogy.


Resource Optimization

Resource Optimization

SMHEC institutions seek to optimize their effectiveness by collaborating on purchases and sharing resources.


Regional Development

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Chicago's Southland is our home. A vast majority of our students come from this region, and they stay in our region. We must contribute to the vibrance and strength of the region to provide for our shared future.


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