Karen Onderdonk

Karen Onderdonk, who earned a bachelor’s degree in leadership and management in May, works as the chief branding officer at St. Vincent Hospital. Onderdonk also gave the student address for CMC Leadville and Salida’s 2020 virtual commencement.

For Karen Onderdonk, completing her Bachelor of Applied Science in leadership and management at CMC Leadville was a natural extension of her position at St. Vincent Hospital. As chief branding officer at the hospital, she’s a member of the senior leadership team, involved in community outreach, public information and development.

“My degree is about what I’m doing all day, every day,” she said.

Onderdonk received an associate degree in media arts in 1986. For 25 years she worked in video production in New York and Colorado, and moved to Colorado permanently in 1991.

“At the time, I didn’t need a bachelor’s degree to work in video production,” she said. “I was never turned down for a job for not having it.”

When the recession hit in 2008, changes in the job market caused Onderdonk to value a college education like never before.

“I saw how important it is to have a degree in order to initially get in the door to be considered for the type of positions I wanted,” she said. “It didn’t feel personal. It felt like it came down to a button on a website. If I clicked “no” on a bachelor’s degree, my application was not considered.”

Onderdonk leaned away from working solely in video production when she became the outreach and development director at St. Vincent Hospital and Foundation in 2012. Since then, her job responsibilities have increased, so Colorado Mountain College became a viable venue to earn a bachelor’s degree.

“Getting a bachelor’s at CMC Leadville is so attainable,” she said. “The faculty is so reachable. I’ve taken two classes a semester since 2015, and they’re mostly online. It’s a personable experience. It’s great to go to school in Colorado at a college that’s part of my community.”

Onderdonk was selected as the student speaker in CMC’s virtual commencement ceremony for Leadville and Salida. Due to efforts to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus, like most colleges in the country Colorado Mountain College decided to hold a virtual commencement this year. Launched on May 15, the website (http://commencement2020.coloradomtn.edu) is on view throughout at least the summer.

The site contains videos for seven different commencement ceremonies and information about the nearly 1,200 students invited to participate. Each online ceremony features recorded speeches from the college president and Dr. Angie Paccione, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education.

Each campus’s ceremony also includes a keynote speech from one of seven trailblazing Colorado women (in honor of the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage), well as speeches from a student speaker and campus representatives.

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