Women2Women - Spring 2018 - 7
n 1969, Anna Weitz was about to graduate
from Boston University with a degree in
American Studies. Unlike many of her
peers, the young educator found her true
calling early, but it was not in the classroom.
Having served as a resident assistant in her dormitory at BU, she learned that she was a good
counselor to her fellow students. Right after
graduation, she decided to pursue a Master's
Degree in Guidance and Student Personnel
Services at the State University of New York
at Albany. She then served as Associate Dean
of Student Affairs at Lycoming College in
Williamsport, PA. In 1976, Weitz accepted a
job at Williamsport Area Community College
as a career counselor for adult students. From
that point on, she never looked back.
"I never wanted to work anywhere else,"
Weitz confided, speaking of the community
college setting. "I love the scope of what
community colleges do - the broad range of
students, the open door policy, the community
connection. These students are amazing."
This June, after 49 years in education, Dr.
Anna D. Weitz will retire from Reading Area
Community College, having spent 11 years
as the school's first woman president. She
prepared for that job with five years as President
of Pennsylvania Highlands Community
College in Johnstown, PA, and as a high-level
administrator in several other community
college settings. She says it's been a labor of
love all along the way.
Though RACC serves students going into
professions that require four-year degrees
and more, the school also has a very active
workforce development program that has
become the portal to economic security for
many Berks County families. By choosing
college, children from these families are
taking a big step ahead while they push back
against other realities in their lives that may
keep them from succeeding.
Not all RACC students are young people.
Many are in the middle stages of their careers,
trying to construct new frames of reference that
will be built on today's technologies. Sixty years
ago, Reading was a manufacturing center for
everything from cigars to hosiery. It was once
known as the pretzel capital of the world, and
anyone who has played Monopoly has heard of
the Reading Railroad. But those industries are
gone, and in their place are new businesses that
require learning new skills. And while work is a
"I never wanted to work anywhere
else. I love the scope of what
community colleges do - the broad
range of students, the open door
policy, the community connection.
These students are amazing."
necessity for self-reliance, Weitz knows it is more
than just putting bread on the table. Jobs build
self-esteem and add purpose to people's lives.
"I've always been fascinated with the role
of work in people's lives," Weitz testified. As a
research assistant at Penn State University when
she was getting her doctorate, her specialty was
career development theory within the broader
field of vocational psychology. Last year Weitz
won the Reading Eagle's Education Newsmaker
of the Year Award for her work in widening
the range of RACC's community partnerships
within the extensive number of regional
industries. Through its Schmidt Training and
Technology Center, the college works with
local businesses to create training programs for
advanced manufacturing and highly technical
jobs that are available right now in the Berks
County area. Weitz has been instrumental
in getting students in non-credit advanced
workforce training programs the chance to
earn associate degrees that will enhance their
educational and financial outcomes.
Despite the fact that these companies will
continue to need workers and students will
need living-wage jobs, Weitz said her greatest
challenge, like that of most other community
colleges today, has been to keep student
enrollment and retention high. "Students will
do better in every aspect of their lives if they
graduate," she stated. But most students on
commuter campuses work at least part-time
and many have families. Sudden loss of income
or a family emergency can disrupt someone's
education at any time. "Our enrollment has
increased in the past two years," Weitz said, but
keeping it up takes a "boots-on-the-ground"
effort to make the college visible. "You need
to get as many people on campus as you can,"
she noted. This means everyone - from
high school guidance counselors, parents,
business and government representatives, and
the students themselves. Weitz meets with
them all, many times at events off campus.
"I am out in the community as often as I can
be," she said.