Newlywed professors leaving OCCC to take on new challenges

April 29, 2016 Latest, News Print Print
Nate Vanden Brook and Darby Johnsen

Nate Vanden Brook and Darby Johnsen

Two long-time professors at OCCC will not be returning this fall.

Political science Professor Nate Vanden Brook and Success in College and Life Professor Darby Johnsen married last year. They will be moving to Chicago this summer.

Both professors said that the move is based around Johnsen being hired as an associate dean of instruction at Kennedy-King College, a branch of the Chicago City Colleges.

Johnsen, who has been at OCCC since 2003, said she is taking the position to be closer to family in Michigan. But Johnsen is also looking forward to a new challenge.

“This is a school that is in a very impoverished area of Chicago, a very dangerous area, and I like a challenge. I  wanted something that is going to push me —hard—and take me out of my comfort zone, and this will.”

Born and raised in Tulsa, Johnsen said the move is going to be very big for her.

“I look forward to the challenge of it. I’ve always been a risk-taker so, here we go.

“When I saw this position, it just spoke to me on a lot of levels.”

Johnsen said her goal was always to be a dean, and at Kennedy-King, Johnsen will oversee instruction at the entire college, not just a division.

“I like having that global perspective and this will allow me to advance and to do that,” she said.

Vandenbrook, who has been at OCCC for six years, said he will be going back to graduate school in Chicago. Vandenbrook is currently working on a doctoral degree at the University of Oklahoma part-time and said he will study adult and higher education full-time in Chicago.

Johnsen said their departure is bittersweet.

“Part of me feels bad that I am leaving at this time,” Johnsen said, commenting on the budgetary crisis that Oklahoma colleges and universities are in.

“Since I was 24, I have been teaching in a community college in Oklahoma, so I feel like I’ve done my duty,” Johnsen said.

Johnsen may be leaving OCCC, but she will not be leaving the mindset of a community college professor.

“I believe in the mission of the community college. I know people say that all the time, but I truly do. This is a choice that I made. I want to serve students whose pathway is not so clear,” Johnsen said.

She said that community college students can face roadblocks that other students do not face, and she wants to be there to guide them around such barricades.

“I want to give them anything that I can to help them push forward because not only does it change their lives, it changes their families’ lives, it changes our communities’ lives,” Johnsen said.  “That’s been my life’s work and it will continue to be. I have no interest in doing any other sort of job. I will always be in a community college.”

Johnsen said she will be enjoying the new city, where she looks forward to visiting the Art Institute of Chicago, which houses over 300,000 works.

But Johnsen is also looking forward to the different varieties of cuisine available in Chicago. She said the windy city is really a foodie town.

“I’m a huge foodie. I love to read about food, I love to write about food, I love to cook food, and I certainly love to eat food,” Johnsen said.

And Kennedy-King happens to be the culinary hub of the city colleges in Chicago, Johnsen said. The school has a pastry chef program and a student run restaurant.

“It is amazing, just a coalescence of a lot of things,” Johnsen said.

“I’ll be very sad to leave here. I love this place.”


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