The Perryville Higher Education Center is drawing closer and closer to the end of an era. After serving for seven years as the director of the higher education center, Mary Bauwens is set to retire on June 30.

Bauwens has held a variety of educational positions over her 33-year career, including teaching and directing positions at St. Mary’s School in Chester, Belleview, and Perry County School District 32. She has also spent a significant amount of time with Mineral Area College. Regardless of where she has worked, her jobs have always kept her busy.

“I began working for MAC as an adjunct professor 10 years ago, a roll I continue to hold,” Bauwens said. “I became the director of the Perryville Higher Education Center seven years ago. I wear a lot of hats at the outreach center; I schedule classes, employ professors, and take care of the building, but my most important and rewarding job is advising students [and] helping them meet their goals, which includes determining a degree path, scheduling classes, [and] helping with financial aid.”

Bauwens said that she had thought about the director’s position at the higher education center for a while, and when it became available, she knew it was right for her.

“I loved my position at Perry County District 32, but after 17 years, I felt a change was needed,” Bauwens said. “I actually started thinking about this position several years before it became available. When Sally Werner announced her retirement, I made the decision to apply for the position.”

Over the years, Bauwens said that she has seen a lot of changes, many of which revolved around technology.

“One of the biggest changes is that students prefer the online format for taking courses instead of face-to-face classes,” Bauwens said. “Our traditional students see this as a quicker way to complete course work. However, many times they will return to me realizing the best option is actually sitting in a class with someone teaching them. Another change is the increase in high school graduates. Students are utilizing their A+ funds and taking advantage of the free tuition. Another reason for the increase is that MAC has a much cheaper tuition rate than most colleges and students seem to be more conscious of this.”

Some of these changes have also been in the higher education center’s physical environment.

“During my tenure here, we have added a new computer lab, renovated office space, [and] remodeled one of our computer labs,” Bauwens said. “We try to keep the building as authentic as possible and in good shape. We repainted the library area in its original color a few years ago.”

When asked what her most memorable moment in her career was, Bauwens said, “Just seeing students succeed, especially those students who never thought they could be successful in college.”

She also said that what she views as her biggest accomplishments are basically the same as her most memorable moments: “Working for the students, helping them figure out how to be a college student, and then showing them how to be successful.”

While Bauwens did not give specific plans for what she would like to do after she retires, she said that her main goal is to enjoy more time with her family and friends.

Overall, Bauwens said that she has enjoyed her life’s work and takes pride in being able to work with and help students.

“I began my career 33 years ago in education,” Bauwens said. “I have been blessed to have enjoyed going to work everyday and doing my best to make a difference in my students' lives. It has been a rewarding career.”

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