Community gets glimpse of college president applicants
Haywood County residents got their first glimpse of college president finalists as board members, faculty and the community met with five contenders for the top post at Haywood Community College.
During their campus visit, the candidates met not only with board members, but with faculty, staff and those in the community.
Bob Morris, board chairman of HCC, said the board will submit the names of three individuals to the state community college system, which will determine whether the candidates meet the qualifications. If all three do, then the board has the option of hiring any of the candidates.
The only name to finally be made public will be that of the individual with which the college negotiates a contract.
Morris said the board was hoping to have narrowed the slate of candidates to three by this week, but decided the task was too important to rush.
"We wanted to have a chance to review the feedback surveys filled out by the people at the meetings, and we videotaped the sessions, so we want a chance to see those," Morris said.
All contenders have a doctorate and have had a minimum of three years of experience in a top community college leadership position.
Here’s what the finalists had to say while on campus.
Barbara Beebe, vice president of continuing education and workforce development at Allegany College of Maryland in Cumberland, Maryland, spoke of the need to listen carefully to everyone about what they want in their community college. She listed her strengths as being open, collaborative and possessing a special ability to “see the big picture.”
“The way I operate is to do nothing at first, see the direction the community wants to go and take stock of it,” she said.
When asked about problem-solving, particularly if an action taken at the college is unpopular in the community, Beebe said the best course is to ensure that everything is vetted well in the initial stages through open conversations, which will minimize differences.
“It becomes a learning process on both ends,” she said.
Another question involved emergency services training, something Beebe said is essential to a community college. She said when the Red Cross training services closed near Allegany College, the number of classes at the college to meet emergency training and licensure needs increased from 700 to 1,400.
Beebe told community residents it is easy to get people with credentials to fill a college president post, but the larger issue is the one of finding a good fit. She said she has withdrawn from a search where she didn’t sense that was the case, but here in Haywood, it is a different story.
“I love it here and find that I am very comfortable in this community,” she said. “This feels like a very good fit to me.”
John Gossett, the vice president of student development services at Mayland Community College in Spruce Pine, said a community college president serves as the face of the college.
For a community college to succeed in its mission, which he described as basically workforce development, it is important for the community to understand what is happening on campus.
Likewise, it is important for college leaders to know what’s happening in the community by working with economic development leaders and business owners to best determine the future training needs.
In response to a legislative proposal brought up last year to consolidate the administration of some community college services in North Carolina, Gossett said consolidation needs to happen since 58 community colleges in a state is too many.
“But what college wants to volunteer?” he asked.
He said the plan looked at by the General Assembly, however, didn’t consider all the costs involved and wouldn’t likely produce significant savings as each campus would need to have onsite leadership.
Gossett, too, said he is looking for the right fit as opposed to “just any presidency.”
“I’m looking for a place where my wife and I can sink our roots,” he said, noting they are outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy biking on the parkway.
Keith Mackie, the vice president of instruction at Catawba Valley Community College in Hickory, spoke of a unique training situation there involving a simulated hospital where the fifth floor of a building was turned into a replica of a hospital where students could get hands-on training when they were videotaped treating robotic manikins. The computer systems inside the manikins simulated responses human would have to various treatments. The project was accomplished through grant funds and partnerships in the community.
Government funding for community colleges is in a downward trend, Mackie said, so it is important to think outside the box to develop new funding sources. At Catawba, book publishing and national seminars are being eyed as potential new revenue sources.
Mackie spent two years in the business world where he and his brother invented a high energy baseball game using a wiffle-type ball that moved like a real baseball. The game was picked up by the Cal Ripken Foundation.
He called the two-year project "an enriching experience" that provided many valuable lessons, ones about cash flow, production needs, storage and a host of other issues.
"Being there helped me understand that business needs to move quickly and have exactly what they need to have," he said.
Douglas Allen, president of Ridgewater College with campuses in Willmar and Hutchinson, Minnesota, emphasized the need for the local community college to be a true part of the community.
He said that HCC appears to be exactly that, adding he is impressed with the amount of endowments that have been given to the college.
If people are willing to invest so much in HCC, "it's obviously an integral part of the community," he said.
In talking with people in the community during his visit, almost everyone had some sort of connection with the college, whether they had attended themselves or they had friends or family members who had gone to school there, and Allen said it is of the utmost importance to maintain that close relationship to the educational and training needs of the community.
When asked about how he feels about the "completion agenda," which is being pushed at many colleges to make sure students finish a curriculum and earn a degree, Allen said he sees some value in it, especially when it comes to maintaining enrollment and state funding, but doesn't agree that it is right in all cases.
"I don't want to me measured wholly on completion," he said, explaining that there can be many types of success in college, even if someone doesn't choose to complete the whole curriculum.
He said some people just want to take a few classes for personal development or focus on certain courses to improve their job performance, and these cases are successes, too.
Personally, Allen said he found the area to be beautiful and the people friendly.
Teresa Smith, vice president for Administration/CFO at Tallahassee Community College in Tallahassee, Florida, noticed that many of the artisans and craftspeople she saw with work in local shops were at some time students at HCC.
"That speaks volumes," she said, adding she was excited to see the construction of a new Creative Arts Center on campus given how important the arts are to the community.
Smith was asked about her thoughts on the trend of incorporating four-year baccalaureate programs at community colleges, and she answered that she supported such programs in select curriculums, such as nursing, business and criminal justice.
She said many students don't have the option of going to larger four-year colleges and want to stay at home or work full-time while they attend school.
Smith also answered questions about the completion agenda, saying she supports it.
"We've got to get to a point where the student is completing what they've started whatever it is," she said, explaining that state funding "goes right down the tubes" when fewer students complete their college program. "It's so important to help them to complete and get a job."
Smith talked about being open with the community about the direction of the college, and when it comes to conflict, it is important to know the facts before taking a stance on any issue.