No Rookie

New President Matheny is a Familiar Face at FVTC

by Tim Froberg

Chris Matheny laughed and replied immediately when asked what he does outside the office.

“I spend a lot of time in bleachers,” said Matheny, referring to his support of daughter, Jillian, a freshman multi-sport athlete at Neenah High School.

Work is a different matter. When it comes to Fox Valley Technical College, Matheny has never spent much time as a spectator on the sidelines.

The new FVTC president has 25 years of hands-on instructional and administrative experience in higher education, including the last 17 years at FVTC.

When he started  his new job on Aug. 1, Matheny didn’t need a tour of the campus. But he could have led one.

“It’s an honor to be chosen by the board and a great opportunity for me to continue serving an institution in a community that I consider to be home,” Matheny said. “As a school, we sit in this really great spot of helping people of all ages connect with fulfilling careers and are able to serve our business community and regional economy. We want to remain a primary choice for those who want to continue their education and improve their skill sets.” 

Fox Valley Technical College is a two-year public technical school in Grand Chute – with a second campus in Oshkosh – that offers 165-plus associate degrees, technical diplomas, and certificates. The school started as a city vocational college in 1912, and currently serves more than 2,000 undergraduate students.

What makes FVTC particularly appealing is that many class credits are easily transferable to four-year colleges. Fox Valley Technical College has a solid academic reputation with well-regarded faculty and respected programs.

“For anyone considering their next higher education move, I feel we’re almost risk free,” Matheny said. “You can complete a degree program or a short-term certificate program that will put you in place to get a really nice entry-level position in your career. Or you can take your credits here and transfer them to a four-year degree program.

“Fox Valley Tech is really the on-ramp to a wonderful career and many opportunities beyond.”

A native of Dixon, Ill., Matheny is FVTC’s seventh president, succeeding Susan May, who retired after 38 years. Matheny was the school’s executive vice president for the past two years after serving as vice president for instruction and chief academic officer for nearly nine years. Matheny began working at FVTC in 2004 following seven years as associate dean and campus director for student services at Illinois Institute of Technology. He holds degrees from DePaul University (a bachelor’s in philosophy), Illinois Institute of Technology (a master’s in business administration) and the University of Wisconsin (a PhD in educational leadership and policy analysis).

Enrollment numbers at FVTC have been stable in recent years and Matheny doesn’t plan to fix what isn’t broken. It’s no secret that most employers are battling a shortage of available workers and Matheny wants to make sure that FVTC is doing its part to solve the problem.

“Part of the challenge is to supply our workforce and meet the needs of the economy,” Matheny said. “We need to continue to expand our reach and our availability to offer continuing education that’s in line with what students want and need and what our workforce wants and needs. So, I don’t see any major 180-degree shifts in what we do here.”

The school survived what is believed to be the worst of the global pandemic, but continues to have a mask requirement for anyone entering the campus and school facilities. Virtual programs remain in place, but students have returned to in-classroom learning and laboratories, and the school considers itself back at full capacity.

“We need to be flexible,” Matheny said. “Our employers need people, and we need to continue to train students and faculty. The best way to do that is to keep them healthy.” 

Along with supporting Jillian, Matheny enjoys hiking, downhill skiing, and exploring various parks with his family.