Number of employees you oversee: The college employs approximately 700 regular employees, not including adjuncts, part-time hourly and student workers.
Brief background about your college: Columbia Basin College is a public community college serving the Tri-Cities and surrounding communities since 1955. Our mission is to inspire, educate and support all students in an environment of academic excellence leading to the completion of degrees, certifications and educational transfers, while fostering meaningful employment, engaged citizenship and a lifelong joy of learning. CBC offers both two- and four-year degrees, one-year certificates, as well as many short-term certificates. We offer seven different four-year programs: a bachelor of applied science (BAS) in applied management—with optional concentrations in agriculture or health care administration; cybersecurity; dental hygiene; information technology; project management with an optional concentration in construction; teacher education; and a bachelor of science in nursing.
How did you land your current role? How long have you been in it? I was looking for a college that would be a good fit with my experience and skill set as well as a board of trustees with whom I could share a vision for the college. I believed I found that when I saw the position posting and began researching CBC. That was confirmed when I visited the campus and community in August 2017 to interview for the position and continues to be confirmed every day since I began on Nov. 1, 2017.
What are your professional goals for the coming school year? This year we will develop our next strategic plan. The current plan continues through the end of 2020. We will continue to review our academic programs to be responsive to the needs of the Tri-Cities. We are in the final steps of proposing new or additional programs in agriculture, culinary, health physics, as well as many trade areas. We are implementing several essential elements of a guided pathways framework for community colleges such as a case management model of advising for students. This includes hiring new completion coaches who will work individually with their specific case load of students. They will support their students from their first day on campus until their last day on campus when they have successfully completed their goals. We are also developing a new Career Center on campus. This was one of the first things I heard from the community. When employers had jobs to advertise or were looking for an intern or part-time employee, they did not know who to contact. I heard similar concerns from students—that there was no centralized location to receive support in job searches, internships, help with résumés, mock interviews, etc. We currently have a new director position posted and are identifying the right location on campus in which to house the new center.
On the importance of community colleges: Community colleges are the gateway to the American dream. We provide open access to a low-cost, high-quality education for the entire community, helping our students prepare for jobs in high-demand fields with family-sustaining wages. Community colleges are designed to be responsive to their communities, which means we intentionally minimize the internal bureaucracy so we can move quickly to add new or modified programs and services based on the needs of our area businesses and employers.
What do you wish more people knew about CBC? That we are a comprehensive community college offering everything from trade programs to transfer degrees. We serve more than 11,000 students each year preparing them to step directly into a career or to transfer to a four-year university. As a comprehensive community college we offer everything from learning English, completing a high school credential, pursuing a trade or professional technical program, or preparing to successfully transfer on to a four-year university. I’ve heard more than once that we need a trade school in the Tri-Cities, but CBC, among other things, is the trade school of the Tri-Cities.
What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess? All leaders need to possess a vision for their organization, courage to make the hard decisions and humility.
Advice for someone going into a leadership position for the first time? Listen and learn. Take time to get to know the organization, learn its culture and meet the people. Assume nothing. And at the end of the day, be yourself.
The biggest challenge facing business owners/managers today? Balance. I don’t necessarily mean work-life balance, although that is always a challenge. I mean balance between where to spend your time—internally to the organization or externally with the community. How to balance between moving fast enough to keep your organization relevant in today’s fast-paced society, yet slow enough to ensure change is authentic and sustainable.
Who are your role models or mentors? I’ve been fortunate to have had many mentors in my professional journey. Dr. Dan Phelan, the president of Jackson College in Michigan, committed to mentoring me in 2009 and continues to this day. He gave me experiences and responsibilities during my eight years at Jackson College that had nothing to do with my job description. I remain grateful to him for his trust in me. Dr. DeRionne Pollard, the president of Montgomery College in Maryland, has also been a tremendous mentor and support for me. No matter what she has going on, she drops everything and makes you feel like you are the only thing that matters. She gives selflessly to so many leaders.
How do you keep your employees motivated? By keeping our students—their stories, their challenges, their successes—front and center. We love what we do because of the students we have the privilege to serve every day.
How did you decide to pursue the career that you are working in today? I was practicing law in Virginia and contacted my law school’s Career Services office because I was looking for my next step. They told me their office was looking for a new director and asked if I would be interested. I started working there one month later in 1997 and fell in love with working in higher education. I began studying community colleges in 1998 while I was working on my doctorate and began working at my first community college in 2004. My heart and my values align well with the mission of a community college. We provide opportunities to individuals who might not otherwise have them.
Measuring success in your workplace: If our students are successful, then we are successful. We define the outcomes and metrics that define student success at CBC. If those metrics are moving in the right direction, then we are succeeding and fulfilling our mission.
What is your leadership style? Collaborative. Team-oriented. I focus on bringing the right people around the table and listen to them. I don’t hesitate to ask hard questions and challenge others. I do what is necessary to support the right decision moving forward.
How do you balance work/family life? Not well. I could spend 24/7 on work and there would still be more to do. I try to focus on the important and not get consumed with the urgent. I also intentionally surround myself with an amazing team of leaders and continually remind myself of the line between my job and their jobs.
What do you like to do when you are not at work? Spend time with my husband, Robert, and our four rescued fur-babies. My husband and I are also foodies so we enjoy cooking, eating and watching the Food Network.
Best time management strategy? I live by my calendar. I schedule everything—meetings, phone calls, walking around time, office time, think and reflect.
Best tip to relieve stress? I’m obsessed with my workouts. I’m a different person after my workout. A lot of that has to do with being an “I” on the Myers Briggs and needing time alone to refuel. But at the end of the day, it’s about mindset. Keep everything in perspective.
What’s your favorite podcast? I rarely listen to podcasts, but I will take the opportunity to give a shout-out to Paul Casey’s Tri-Cities Influencer podcast. His podcasts have been a great way for me to get to know more about some of the leaders within the Tri-Cities. I meet so many people in the community and oftentimes don’t know more than their name, title and organization. These podcasts have given me the opportunity to learn more about different people I’ve met as well as receive some great insights on leadership.
Most-used app? Or favorite website? I use the YouVersion Bible app a lot, especially when I travel. I also really like the GLSNext app which is a product of the Global Leadership Summit. It includes two-to three-minute encouragements, lessons and inspirational quotes from leaders all over the world who have spoken at the summit.
Favorite book? I usually read books that help me grow in my knowledge of student success, leadership and my faith. I enjoy all of Patrick Lencioni’s books. They’re wise reads with practical application. Currently, I am reading “Whistling Vivaldi” by Claude M. Steele, about how stereotypes affect us. I also recently finished “The Making of an Ordinary Saint” by Nathan Foster.
Favorite TV show? My favorite show of all times is “MASH.” It was way ahead of its time and is still relevant today. My husband and I own all 11 seasons. Of those on right now, I enjoy “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and my husband and I currently are working our way through “Downton Abbey”—it’s addictive.
Favorite movie? Without question, “Pride & Prejudice.” I certainly enjoyed the 2005 version with Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen, but my favorite is the six-episode miniseries produced by BBC in 1995 with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. Six hours flies by.
Do you have a personal mantra, phrase or quote you like to use? “It is what it is.” To me that means we don’t let ourselves get caught up in the emotion or drama of a situation. We approach the situation objectively and work the problem.
Daily and Monthly NewsSign up now!