Community College Month | Technical College of the LowCountry

Community College Month


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Essay Series:

Special thanks to our guest contributors for this six-part series celebrating National Community College Month.

TCL Keeps Our Community Healthy

Russell BaxleyIf you have had an encounter with Beaufort Memorial, it is highly likely a graduate of the Technical College of the Lowcountry has helped you. It is estimated that at least 50 percent of the more than 1,300 current hospital employees have received some or all of their education through TCL or community colleges like it, and that speaks volumes about the value of TCL to the health of our community.

As a CEO charged with managing a community hospital amidst an ever-changing healthcare landscape, I know that the key to our success is a highly skilled and committed workforce. Hospitals like ours rely heavily on close partnerships with colleges and universities to educate future generations of caregivers, techs and more. In turn, those institutions rely on us to provide clinical training, internships and, occasionally, faculty members to support their students—our future employees.

From phlebotomists and certified nursing assistants to lab technicians and registered nurses, hundreds of Beaufort Memorial employees have received the education, training and skills they need to care for our patients through our community’s college. Many of them have carried on a tradition of healthcare, following parents, aunts, uncles, and siblings through TCL’s numerous health-related programs with a goal of caring for their own, right here at home.

Community colleges like TCL play a vital role in the health and well-being of local residents, local businesses and the local economy as a whole. It is not possible to overstate the importance of this symbiotic relationship, nor its contribution to the growth of Beaufort Memorial both now and in the future.

For nearly 75 years, Beaufort Memorial has served residents in Beaufort and surrounding counties by pursuing our mission to deliver superior healthcare services to our patients and improve the health of our community. Moreover, for many of those years the faculty, staff and students of TCL have made that mission possible.


Russell Baxley, MHA
Beaufort Memorial President & CEO

Russell Baxley joined Beaufort Memorial Hospital as President & Chief Executive Officer in 2016. A Johnsonville, S.C., native, Mr. Baxley received his Bachelor of Science degree in Microbiology from Clemson University and his Master of Healthcare Administration from the University of South Carolina. He and his wife, Stephanie, live in Beaufort.

What TCL Taught PSU

Most of my career was at Penn State University. I worked there for almost 20 years in recruitment and retention and in development. When I took this position at the Technical College of the Lowcountry, I did so with confidence. After all, I honed my professional skills at one of the best public institutions of higher education in the country. Instead, and to my surprise, my education in higher education was just beginning.

Lesson number one: I had a four-year bias.

We need to change our university-for-all mentality to a post-secondary-education-for-all mindset. College-educated people tend to associate with other college-educated people and to think that a four-year degree is the norm — even that is should be the universal norm. Such a degree, however, is not for everyone, nor should it be. Education is crucial to our local economy and an education beyond high school is essential, but a four-year degree is not always the best choice.

Community colleges like TCL are a career choice and for many, the right choice. Like their sister four-year institutions, community colleges open doors to success. Community colleges like TCL are locally based and career-oriented, specializing in the education and training necessary to meet the Lowcountry’s workforce needs. And, community colleges are affordable gateways to four-year schools. TCL’s University Scholars Program is a two-year college transfer program that is respected and accepted by four-year universities across the state and beyond. Tuition at TCL is generally about one-third the cost of the tuition at South Carolina’s public universities.

Lesson number two: I had a biased definition of excellence.

At schools like Penn State, excellence is often defined by (1) the high price of admission, and (2) selectivity – the number of students not admitted. TCL and other community colleges measure success in an entirely different way. Those same factors, price and selectivity, make a community college excellent for its home community. TCL is an inclusive, open access institution that welcomes all who desire to learn, regardless of wealth, heritage, or previous academic experience. TCL empowers all Lowcountry citizens to build a healthy future here in the Lowcountry, to live, work, and worship in our community, all the while taking courses and graduating with marketable, in demand skills.

Lesson number three: My respect for TCL and community colleges is past due. TCL is excellent for the Lowcountry.

-Mary L. Carns

Vice President for Advancement and External Relations and,

Executive Director, TCL Foundation

Mary Lee Carns is the former associate director for development at Penn State University. She joined the Technical College of the Lowcountry 2014. She and her husband Jim live in Beaufort.

The Foundation for Growth

Kelli BonieckiCommunity College Month provides us with the opportunity to reflect on what makes the Technical College of the Lowcountry the best investment for all who seek to better themselves as an individual and as a community member.

The Lowcountry’s community college provides students with a place to enjoy our small-town classroom size with a big-city education. We cater our efforts to recognize individual needs while challenging every student’s desire to learn at the same time.

As a native of Beaufort, S.C., the college is dear to my heart as it serves as the foundation for growth for all who live here. No matter what, we are here to support and guide students each and every step of the way while helping facilitate opportunities after they complete their education at TCL.

One could possibly call us the “mother’s apron to life.” We pride ourselves in mentoring success, not only at TCL, but even past the four walls of our college. Each student is accepted, appreciated and seen as an asset in our eyes.

As a faculty member at TCL, I am blessed to have a workplace where I can constantly foster creative opportunities in helping educate students around me. I am blessed to have a workplace where I can serve as a mentor and as a friend in times of need. I am blessed to have a workplace where I can help guide my students in giving back just as we have given to them.

I am blessed to be a part of TCL, the Lowcountry’s best investment.


Kelli Boniecki

Dean, Business & Industrial Technologies

Kelli Boniecki is Dean of the Business and Industrial Technology Divisions and Program Director/Instructor of the Early Care and Education Program at The Technical College of the Lowcountry. She joined TCL as an adjunct in 2004 and came on full-time as an instructor in 2014. She and her husband Dennis reside in Ridgeland, S.C., with their two dogs Annie and Macey.

Valuing Every Student

Regina E. SillettiI heartily support the vital mission of the Technical College of the Lowcountry. It is a welcoming place of learning for students from 16 to 60 and beyond who seek knowledge and skills for employment and life opportunities.

As a college faculty member in Ohio where I taught classes in cultural anthropology, I saw firsthand the positive impact of a community college. Like the Technical College of the Lowcountry, the community college where I taught was a place where small classes and a student-focused environment enabled success in completing coursework.

Whether enrolled in a single class, a certificate program, or a two-year associate degree, students realized their academic and career goals at affordable costs. My classroom was an amazing mix of students including recent high school graduates, those with military service, and young mothers returning to college. I was also pleased to see those students who were getting a jump start on their degree by completing high school requirements while enrolled in college classes. It was a joy for me to teach in such a dynamic learning environment where every student was valued.

When I moved to Beaufort County in 2015, I wanted to continue my educational involvement by supporting local students as a donor to the Technical College of the Lowcountry. Scholarships enable deserving students to access post-secondary studies, often as the first member of their family to attend college. On a personal note, I know how critical scholarships were in helping my brother and sister attain their college degrees.

Today, I am honored to serve on the Foundation Board of the Technical College of the Lowcountry as an advocate for students of all ages and backgrounds. I see enrollment at the Technical College as an important first step towards a brighter future for local students and their families.


Regina E. Silletti
TCL Foundation Board

Regina Silletti is a former professor of anthropology at Owens Community College in Toledo Ohio. She and her husband Harry established the Regina and Harry Silletti Scholarship at the Technical College of the Lowcountry, the college’s first full-ride scholarship. The Silletti’s reside on Hilton Head Island.

Let’s Celebrate Community Colleges Like TCL

Grad with Gough 2018April is Community College Month, a time to recognize and spread awareness of the hard work and achievement happening every day on community college campuses like the Technical College of the Lowcountry.

According to the American Association of Community Colleges, there are more than 12 million students enrolled at community colleges across the country, more than 4,000 at TCL.

Community colleges serve an incredibly diverse student population and put millions of people’s educational and career goals within reach. Open door access, low tuition, and flexible learning environments make college possible for traditional and non-traditional students. Community college graduates are prepared for the workplace or to further their education. Community college alumni fortify the local workforce, bolstering a more productive and competitive economy at all levels.

Throughout this month, we’ll be sharing facts and statistics that demonstrate the real impact of community colleges. In addition, faculty, alumni and community members will share their personal perspectives on TCL and community colleges. Please take the time to read and share with friends and family. Spread awareness of your community college, the Technical College of the Lowcountry.

No Matter What. That’s our motto here at the Technical College of the Lowcountry. The saying perfectly embodies the grit and dedication that thrive among TCL’s students, alumni, faculty and staff. I think it reflects the mission of community colleges across the nation.

If you’d like an up-close look at what community colleges like TCL offer, please join us for one of our upcoming Open Houses.


Richard Gough, Ed.D.

Dr. Richard Gough assumed the Presidency at the Technical College of the Lowcountry in January of 2014. Prior to joining TCL, Gough served as the executive vice president at Sandhills Community College in Pinehurst, N.C.  Before beginning his academic career, Gough served 25 years in the United States Marine Corps.


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