It was nearly a full room at the Plex inside Western Nebraska Community College’s Harms Center Wednesday afternoon as students, staff, educators and the public had the chance to question the two finalists for the President’s post.
Dr. Timothy Alvarez and Dr. Carmen Simone spent about 50 minutes each describing their backgrounds and experience governing their respective institutions in Colorado and South Dakota, and how they might approach issues facing WNCC.
Dr. Alvarez went first, and among his questions was how he would be involved in the upcoming accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission, to which he replied his style is that of ‘consulting management’, meaning he would be asking staff a lot of questions on the status and steps taken in preparation of the accreditation team visit, with plenty of follow up.
When asked about community engagement, Alvarez said it was very important for the college to be involved throughout the college area. “You never know when you’re out in the community, you’re on a board, you’re talking to somebody and something comes up. So, it’s really, in my mind, critical. if this community is going to thrive, we need to be involve in it,” said Alvarez.
Once Dr. Simone took the stage, she was asked many of the same questions, and a few different ones. When it came to overseeing a school with more than one campus, Simone said she would seek to foster collaboration and cooperation among locations, drawing from her experience at Trinidad Junior College in Colorado. “It was a lot of hard, hard work together , but from the starting point I had where there was almost a mutual mistrust and hatred, we ended as I left that institution with a very strong college and two campuses that supported and trusted each other, because we had spent time together and were invested in each other.”
Simone said she likes to work cooperatively with faculty on governance, as being able to sit in during faculty meetings allows better cooperation with the ability to provide instantaneous feedback.
Both candidates mentioned that it would be a positive for WNCC to meet the qualifications as a Hispanic-serving institution, which would open up opportunities for funding and cooperative efforts with schools already holding that designation. WNCC is close to meeting the criteria of needing 25 percent of the student body identified as Hispanic, with the current percentage sitting at 24 percent.
Dr. Alvarez is president of Otero Junior College, La Junta, Colorado, while Dr. Carmen Simone is vice president and dean at the University of South Dakota Community College for Sioux Falls, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Thursday, each will be interviewed by the Western Community College Area Board of Governors, with a successful candidate scheduled to be announced by the end of the month.
A third candidate, Dr. Denise King, vice president for academic affairs at Cleveland State Community College, in Cleveland, Tennessee, withdrew from consideration prior to Wednesday’s campus visits.