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Mordan Poised to Lead Career and Technical Center
Ben Mordan once helped Afghan farmers raise crops. Now, he has his sights set on growing the Career and Technical Center at State College Area High School.
Mordan, the new CTC director, takes over a popular program that intends to keep rising. This year, 1,331 students in grades 9-12 are enrolled in a CTC or technology education class, representing 56 percent of the State High population. Students interested in focusing on a particular field can choose from among 14 occupational programs aimed at preparing for post-secondary and workforce opportunities.
Having been a CTC student himself, Mordan comes to the job from six years as the assistant CTC director in Franklin County — a stint that reinforced his belief in the value of career and technical courses.
“I really feel it’s the perfect way to teach students,” he says. “It’s the technical skills but also the soft skills: organization, problem-solving. In my mind, it’s the perfect way to bring education to life.”
Mordan’s path to leading a CTC has included Penn State degrees in agricultural and extension education and turfgrass science, a doctorate in workforce education development from the university, and two intense years halfway across the globe.
As an agricultural advisor, he served in Afghanistan on U.S. Department of Agriculture teams developing irrigation systems and other improvements. “A lot of it was education, helping to educate farmers like an agricultural extension office,” he says. “We were trying to help them get into international markets and raise products that they could sell.”
Back home, he continued his own development in Franklin County before happily returning to State College. In his new position, he hopes to build on the CTC’s core strengths — demonstrated in 2019 when over 75 percent of its students earned advanced scores on national assessment exams — while helping “rebrand” the center as a more cohesive entity. To that end, he wants to foster stronger “feeder pathways” from technical education courses to CTC programs and a “more unified vision” for the programs.
“We are a career and technical center and to me, the center is very important,” he says. “I think we need to be a center of excellence and we need to maintain the image of one unified center. If we’re recruiting eighth-graders, in my mind, I see us going in with shirts with one logo that represents the entire center.”
As Mordan learned overseas, partnerships are crucial for success, so maintaining the center’s relationships with local employers will be another priority for him. Those ties provide invaluable experience through internships, clinical placements and co-operative education programs, giving students opportunities for college credit, industry credentials, scholarships, and awards. Additionally, advisory committees with industry and business representatives help the CTC adjust programs to meet local and national needs.
Despite starting in a challenging time, the longtime agriculture expert looks forward to seeing another crop flourish in the year ahead.
“If we can get students in here through exploratory classes, we can help them finetune their interests, see what abilities and skills they have that align with their goals and then help them continually progress,” Mordan says. “Upon graduation, not only do they have a better idea of what they want to do, but they also have the knowledge and the experience they need.”
By Chris Rosenblum
Photo by Nabil K. Mark