Campus Closeup: John Centko
John Centko said his recent appointment as head of Technology and Occupational Sciences was like a “homecoming.” In fact, this marks his second return to the area after pursuing professional and academic opportunities elsewhere. Centko grew up in Marquette. He left after high school for a job in the airline industry, rising to customer service supervisor at 21 in Memphis before he was impacted by industry-wide workforce reductions. He returned north to earn his associate and bachelor’s degrees at NMU, then departed for graduate school and subsequent employment in manufacturing and academia. Now Centko is back where he says he belongs.
“It’s intrinsically rewarding to have an opportunity to return home and work at an institution you are proud to have graduated from and know you can contribute positively,” Centko said. “Career and Technical education is in my blood. The choice careers that exist in these fields are like the engines that build our region, keep it moving and keep it powered. They have a major economic impact. They also contribute on a social and practical level, whether it’s installing the air-handling systems that allow us to live and work in comfort, maintaining our vehicles to get us from point A to point B, preparing the meals we eat in restaurants or keeping planes in the air so we can travel.”
Since Centko started his position in July, he has been building relationships within the community. He would also like to expand the focus regionally and nationally through industry-sponsored partnerships that focus on providing opportunity for our student. Centko had success with that as an academic dean at a technical college in Moorhead, Minn. The diesel tech industry had an attrition problem with young, prospective employees leaving the area.
Centko established such an industry partnership program that successfully recruited students from as far away as New York.
“We helped the dealership to identify and recruit local students while they were still in high school,” he said. “The dealership supported the students’ training away from home at our technical college, offering the student a professional mentor to keep in contact and jobs at home during school breaks. They even branded the students while they were away, providing them uniforms with the companies’ names and logos. After they completed their education, the students would return home and become full-time employees of those dealerships.”
Prior to Moorhead, Centko was an operations manager at Pettibone Traverse Lift in Baraga, which produces material handling equipment for construction, mining and other industries. After Moorhead, he spent two years as provost and vice president at Northwest Technical College in Bemidji before applying for the NMU post. It may be early in his tenure, but Centko has a clear vision for the department aside from industry partnerships.
“I want to lay out a master academic plan for the programs I oversee, help them grow their enrollments, continuously upgrade the tools and technology that are part of the teaching and learning environment at the Jacobetti Complex and increase the level of skill acquisition for students who graduate from our programs.”Centko is working on his doctorate focusing on risk management in higher education through North Dakota State University. His wife, Jenny, is an chief executive assistant at Marquette General Hospital. They enjoy cross-country skiing and live only minutes from the Forestville trail head. Jenny hails from Minnesota, but was fondly familiar with Marquette. The couple married here and vacationed in the area over the past 10 years before making it their home.