A local family has been connected to Asnuntuck Community College for more than 40 years. A husband, wife, children, and in-laws have all either continued their education and/or shared their expertise with the college and its students.
Richard Kulas was a pioneer participant for the college’s acclaimed Advanced Manufacturing Technology program. He participated in one of the first machinist programs offered by Asnuntuck in 1979-1980. “I came to Asnuntuck for a couple of reasons. It was a program where I felt I could be successful learning a trade. It was associated with several companies in the area. It allowed me to get college and hands-on experience while in high-school, it was close by and the tuition was something I could afford.” Kulas said he earned an associate degree at Asnuntuck which helped propel him into a career in machining for the past 42 years.
The method of delivery for the coursework appealed to Kulas who admitted he was not enthusiastic about traditional high school. The hands-on approach to learning was a more appealing way for him to learn a trade. “I learned hands-on about machining, gauges, tools, and measurements. I was lucky enough to be selected and to be part of a small group of individuals as part of the joint program with Suffield High School.” He added, “Asnuntuck provided me with a great hands-on education and allowed me to support myself and my family.”
Richard’s wife Gail has a different connection to the college. Asnuntuck Professor Jim Wilkinson was Gail’s professor at Bay Path University. He heard that Asnuntuck was looking for someone to teach Quality Management, to incarcerated students participating in the college’s incarcerated Second Chance Pell program, and he introduced her to the Dean. She has taught the course at two of the prisons for the college. The program is currently paused due to COVID precautions. She talked about her experience. “At the beginning it was a bit scary, however the guards were great and very friendly.” Gail added, “The students were on-time, attentive, and usually had all of the work done.”
Gail is looking forward to teaching in the program again and hoping to have an opportunity to teach on Asnuntuck’s campus as well.
Gail and Richard’s daughters have attended the college. “For my daughters, they applied to different schools and when we got their tuition bills, we did a cost comparison for the first two years versus the course offerings.” She explained, “Since I believe they should have skin in the game (meaning I wasn’t footing the entire bill) it was a good exercise for them to compare cost versus outcome/value. They came to their own decision by being more informed.”
One of their daughters, Kendle Taylor explained what helped her make her decision. “My Mom went to ACC when I was younger, and she was completing her degree.” She admitted, “ACC was not my first choice. I attended a four-year college out of state and quickly found that I missed home, and that I wasn’t ready to head off on my own.” She added, “When I returned home, I enrolled in classes at ACC. I ended up achieving my associates from ACC and later moving on to University of Hartford.”
She was enrolled in the General Studies program at ACC. “I was happy I made that choice because it opened up opportunities for me when I transferred to UHart after graduation.”
A sociology professor at Asnuntuck, who is also a lawyer, provided insight about her career which helped Kendle determine a field she would be interested in. “She was amazing and really got me interested in the legal profession. I ended up pursuing a degree in university studies with a concentration in paralegal studies.” She continued, “I graduated with my bachelors and paralegal certificate from UHart based on her guidance and recommendation for the program.”
Kendle is currently employed as an Experience Leader at KeyBank. “While I’m not in the legal field, I utilize my education almost every day. I am able to review legal documents and confidently guide my branches and their clients through legal process and procedures.” She added, “I hope to transition into Human Resources or even into our legal team now that we are seeing the ability to support different lines of business remotely with the changes from the pandemic.”
Kendle’s sister Christyn Kulas was very active and involved in clubs at the college. She started at Asnuntuck in 2015 as a criminal justice student and selected the college in part so she could remain close to her home. She is currently taking a hiatus from college and is working. She is hoping to continue with her education at ACC in the future.
Christyn’s sister Elizabeth Kulas, the youngest sister, started at Asnuntuck immediately following her high school graduation. “I chose to go to Asnuntuck to save money. I knew that the level of education that I would receive at Asnuntuck would be the same as other institutions and that I would be able to earn a degree worth the same value for way less.”
Working full-time, she took her classes at night, and she earned an associate degree in General Studies. Graduating in 2019, the alumna said her experience at Asnuntuck, which included induction into the college’s chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, and the earning of a degree, boosted her confidence. She decided to continue her education at a four-year institution. “I am at Penn State University where I am currently working on my bachelor’s degree in Health Policy and Administration.”
Karen Richard is Gail’s youngest sister and has had her own experiences at the college. “I first became connected with Asnuntuck as a student taking some business classes. I became involved with the manufacturing board when I had reached out to the Asnuntuck Advanced Manufacturing Technology department, while at my previous employer Country Pure Foods to inquire about sponsoring an electro-mechanical intern.” She said, “There was an opening on the board, and I was invited to join.” She has served on the board for more than six years. She is currently employed as a Senior Human Resources Business Partner with TTM Technologies (a printed circuit board manufacturing company for aerospace and defense industry, located in Stafford & Stafford Springs, CT).
Karen values the programs offered at ACC. “Finding knowledgeable and skilled maintenance technicians is one of the most difficult positions to fill in a manufacturing environment. The programs Asnuntuck offers are critical in providing a means to develop the knowledge and skills needed to fulfill an ever-growing need for skilled labor.”
The board member added, “I feel these programs are vital and I hope TTM will be able to continue to provide future opportunities for students to grow and learn or obtain future employment opportunities.”
To learn more about ACC visit Asnuntuck.edu.