Colleen A. Smith, Ph.D, the new permanent president of Coconino Community College, begins her tenure this month. Dr. Smith recently took the opportunity to answer a few questions about her new position in Flagstaff.
What attracted you to the presidency of CCC?
“Stories online about CCC students and the values expressed by the college and the community were the first things that attracted me to CCC. The word ‘compassion’ was used in the description of the president’s profile – I don’t think I have ever seen it used in that way before and I found that intriguing. With ‘a commitment to student success’ listed right up front on the web, along with an emphasis on the importance of compassion – working at CCC sounded like the best job in the world to me! A service-oriented community, diversity of thought, and respect for the contribution of each ‘unique individual’ are all very important to me. I found descriptions that reinforce these ideas on the college website and throughout various organizations in Northern Arizona.”
How do you envision your first month as Coconino Community College president?
“I expect my first month to go something like this:
- I plan to listen – a lot.
- I plan to ask questions – a lot.
- I plan to learn – a lot.
- I plan to work hard and share my energy and passion in service to our students and communities – and yes, I plan to work hard – a lot.
As a matter of fact, I think that pretty much describes my second month, my third month and so on – my entire tenure at Coconino Community College. I will be out in our communities getting to know folks as soon as possible. I can’t wait, and I am ready to go!”
What do you believe are CCC’s greatest strengths?
“The people. I think that is the greatest strength of any organization. The ‘people’ includes: our students, our colleagues working in all areas of the college, and our extended community members who support us and partner with us to help make great things happen for students and for Northern Arizona.”
What experiences will you draw upon to lead the college’s commitment to student success?
“I will utilize my experience in community college advocacy with many different constituencies and my experience in teaching and learning, along with my experience serving students, faculty and staff in leading student success initiatives. This includes, but is not limited to, my experience with the following: legislative advocacy, community involvement, learning assessment, student success programs with best practices, accessibility for outlying areas, fundraising, articulation and partnership agreements, and new program development. The commitment to student success as a national priority is exciting. Those of us who have devoted our careers to the mission of the community college know that, for us, it always has been and always will be about putting students first.”
What do you foresee as the benefits of a collaborative relationship with NAU?
“The CCC2NAU collaboration demonstrates that both institutions are committed to serving students and our county. Collaborations of this nature make all entities stronger and empower students to succeed. I have worked to develop dual admissions community college/university partnerships as well as statewide undergraduate education outcomes with curriculum alignment, and I have seen the benefit to students. Our students are very fortunate to have access to this program.”
How do you engage the business community with CCC’s mission?
“By asking for their input concerning how CCC can better serve their training needs, whether it is through creating new programs or enhancing and expanding existing partnerships. I would like to meet with members of the business community—listen, ask questions, learn and work hard to gain their trust and support while meeting their educational needs.”
What role do you think the college can play in economic development for the county?
“Our role can and should be integral to bringing new opportunities and partnerships to our county and to help develop the economic infrastructure. Service to non-profit organizations and to business and industry helps all of us build a stronger community. I cannot say enough about being a part of the Coconino County communities – we are proud to be a community college!”
Dr. Smith, who served as district senior vice president of academic affairs for Collin College in McKinney, Texas, has served as a college president, a vice president of instruction, an associate dean and a division chair.
She replaces Dr. Leah L. Bornstein, who left the position July 1, after accepting a position as president of Aims Community College in Greeley, Colorado. In the interim, Veronica Hipolito, CCC dean of student services, served as interim president. FBN
CCC Focusing on Strategic Plan
The Coconino Community College District Governing Board approved a new five-year strategic plan for the college in November.
The 2016-2020 Strategic Plan outlines four goals that focus on student success. CCC plans to adopt more than 100 initiatives during the five-year plan and track the success of the initiatives.
Goal 1: CCC will provide learners educational opportunities that are accessible and affordable, while also being economically feasible for the college.
Goal 2: CCC will promote a learner-centered environment that incorporates innovative strategies and support structures intended to reduce student attrition and increase retention.
Goal 3: CCC will empower students to achieve their individual learning goals and implement strategies to increase certificate and degree completion rates.
Goal 4: CCC will strengthen the college’s working environment by maximizing college resources, expanding community outreach, and implementing effective personnel management and employee development strategies.
“The 2016-2020 Strategic Plan will focus our efforts as a college community to enhance the student experience at CCC and improve student performance outcomes,” said CCC Interim President Veronica Hipolito. “The college was successful with the implementation of the previous strategic plan, and we’re excited to continue our efforts in student access to higher education, workforce development and increased completion of degree attainment in Coconino County.” FBN
For more information on the Coconino Community College 2016-2020 Strategic Plan, visit https://www.coconino.edu/ccc-president-office/strategic-planning-process.
By Larry Hendricks, CCC