DANVILLE – Danville Area Community College Professor Marcie Wright is the epitome of the community college success story.
Initially a high school dropout, Professor Wright actively sought to improve her circumstances through education. Through many years and with a great deal of grit and determination, she eventually climbed to the top of her field and serves as mentor for others. In recognition of her efforts and achievement, DACC has named Marcie Wright their 2023 Distinguished Alumnus and has submitted her for consideration to the Illinois Community College Trustees Association for their statewide award of the same name.
Wright dropped out of high school in the 10th grade due to life circumstances but not because she disliked school.
“I always liked school, and I was a good student,” Wright said. In 1988, she returned to school through the Adult Education program at DACC and earned her GED.
Wright was a stay-at-home mom with three small children when she decided to take her education one step further and enrolled in the Medical Office program at DACC in 1999. She was interested in becoming a registered health information technologist, but there wasn’t a local program, and she had some other obstacles to overcome first. “I didn’t know how to type and had no computer skills,” she said.
In a fortunate twist of fate, DACC was starting a Health Information Technology program in 2003, just as Marcie was completing her Medical Office degree. One of her professors, Carolyn Jensen, helped her work with the new program director to ensure she was taking the correct pre-requisites to enter the program and she was one of the first to enroll in that inaugural class and was one of the program’s first graduates.
“Professor Jensen, who taught me to type and use a computer, saw my potential and offered to help me prepare for and find an HIT program, while I was a non-traditional student with family commitments,” Wright said. “She was so excited the day she asked me to stay after class so she could tell me that the DACC Board of Trustees had approved the addition of a Health Information Technology program at the previous night’s board meeting.”
After working in the field for a couple of years, Wright began teaching part-time in the program. When the first director retired, Wright was appointed to that position, which she held for a decade while pursuing first a Bachelor’s degree and then a Master’s degree in Health Informatics.
Marcie believes in paying back and paying forward. In a nod to paying back, she began teaching in the Adult Education department’s GED program – the same that had helped her – while still working as a the HIT Program Director.
In paying it forward, Professor Wright and her husband established a scholarship for students in general studies in 2022, to help students like she had been find their way.
As the HIT program grew under Marcie’s leadership, the need for a full-time instructor prompted Professor Wright to step back from the director’s role to continue doing what she loved: teaching and helping students achieve their educational goals. Her decision to become the full-time HIT instructor significantly strengthened the program, which continues to thrive and grow. Her decision also allows her to continue teaching in the GED program, a task that is close to her heart.
The addition of a full-time instructor – along with a program director – was the final piece necessary for the HIT program to pursue and achieve accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information management Education (CAHIIM). The program received a perfect accreditation score when it was approved, and was the only Associate program in the nation to be accredited at the time.
Thanks to the additional staffing, the program is also expanding. In addition to the existing Health Data Analyst and Health Information Technology Medical Coding certificates, and Health Information Technology Applied Science Associate degree, a Cancer Registry Management certificate will become available – fully online – in Fall 2023.
In discussing her teaching philosophy, Marcie said, “I know how life can throw unexpected hurdles in your path. I see myself in the students sitting across from me and I have a heart for those students whose life circumstances have derailed them. I also know how an instructor can change your life by supporting your goals. I want to be that instructor for my students, in both HIT and GED.”
Wright’s #MyDACCStory can be viewed on DACC’s YouTube channel.