30 | CITISCAPES | DECEMBER 2018 PROFILE She began working for a group called the Arkansas Crime Commission and says this is where her passion for education really kicked in. “They gave money for their employees to go to college, as long as they studied criminal justice, and I wanted a master’s degree, so I did it.” She then got a job with the Arkansas Department of Corrections in Pine Bluff working as the personnel director. She says, “This is where I really cut my teeth working in a man’s world. There was only one other woman working there at the time.” After a move to Colorado, Becky found a position teaching a criminal justice class at a community college in Pueblo. “By this time, I was a single mom, working full-time with two kids,” she says. But, despite the challenges, Becky still had plans to continue to grow and thrive. She first became a department chair at the college, then a dean. She knew she wanted to eventually be a college president, and that would require a post-graduate degree. She found a Ph.D. program that was 150 miles away and signed up. She exclaims, “I still have no idea how I did that for two years, but somehow I did and graduated with my doctorate in philosophy in vocational education from Colorado State University.” Becky then made a move to Kansas to be the dean of instruction at a community college. While she was there, a friend talked her into going on a blind date. She resisted in the beginning because she knew the job in Kansas was only a three-year commitment. But she finally caved in and from that blind date she met her second husband, Dave. Becky had stayed in contact with the president of the college in Colorado who had hired her there. He had since moved on to a community college in Charlotte, N.C. “He contacted me and told me that he’d like me to apply to be his vice dean of instruction there. I got the job and we made the move to Charlotte.” By this time, Becky knew her dream of becoming a president of a community college was close. After a little over four years at the college in Charlotte, the president of the college there told her about a position that would be opening up at NorthWest Arkansas Community College in Bentonville. “I had always said I would never go back to Arkansas,” she says. “But I hadn’t been to Bentonville in many years. I didn’t know how much it had grown. They were looking for someone to take the college to the next level, build out and expand the opportunities for students.” Becky talked it over with her husband, and together they decided that it was the perfect fit. “My husband retired from his job and said he wanted to help me make my dreams come true. So, in 2003, I returned to Arkansas to serve as the president of NorthWest Arkansas Community College in Bentonville. I told them at the time that I interviewed that I could probably give them 10 years. “All that time I had spent working with mostly men had served me well. There were only two other women community college presidents in Arkansas at the time. I realized that I was in a position where I could particularly influence women. Fifty to 60 percent of the population at a community college are women. I had the opportunity to be a role model to women.” Becky took this opportunity very seriously. She hoped that her experiences could help other women to achieve their dreams. She was asked to speak to the recipients of the Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Benton County at the beginning of one school year. “I shared with them how I had worked for my degrees,” she says. “I shared the hardships that I went through and how I was still able to achieve. I wanted them to see that, although my journey wasn’t easy, I realized my dream. That was when I realized more than ever before that I was and could continue to be a role model for women.” In 2009, Becky’s husband was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s at 59 years old. Then, she lost her mother in 2011. In April 2012, she announced that she would retire in 2013. “It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made,” she says. “I announced a year early to allow time for the search for a new president. I was only 61, and nothing really prepares you for the way it feels to go from a very public persona to just me. But, in a way, I didn’t really have a chance to mourn that I was no longer president, because I was caring for my husband.” Her husband passed away in 2016 and she began to think about what the future held. She had formed a company called Inseitz Group while she was still with NWACC, but wasn’t quite sure exactly what the focus would be. “I wanted to find out what my talents and passions were,” she says. “I went out and talked to people to find out what was on their mind. It turned out to be women, education and leadership. I knew I wanted to do something along those lines. I knew there were a lot of opportunities for women to network, but there weren’t a lot of opportunities for women to learn about the ways to navigate through life. I didn’t know exactly what empowerment for women looked like, but I knew I wanted women who went through the program to have a life plan at the end.” Becky Paneitz Speaking at Personal Leadership Effectiveness Commencement