Gunderson outlines key concepts for college growth
LIBERAL, Kan. — The Seward County Community College Board of Trustees meeting Dec. 6 represented a beginning and end, as the last official meeting of the year and the first to welcome Dr. Greg Gunderson to the post of college president.
“I understand you’ve had a little bit to do the last few days,” said board president Ron Oliver, referring to Gunderson’s whirlwind first week in Liberal.
“I have been in a parade, a chamber of commerce event, visited Rotary and Lions club meetings … so we’ve hit the ground running,” agreed Gunderson.
In his report to the board, Gunderson outlined four concepts that will drive his leadership:
- Student success, “which I define as getting more students to graduation faster with less debt and higher pay two years out,” he said.
- Economic growth in Liberal and Seward County, which, he said, “is in our interest to help develop more sources of prosperity and industry.”
- State and federal infrastructure, with the opportunity for funding from the Biden administration’s Build Back Better initiatives. “I would like to look at a significant proposal,” he said, listing corrosion technology and the trades as potential points of focus.
- Inclusion and diversity. “This community has done a great job of welcoming people, and we can bank the good will that’s been developed,” he noted. In order to develop reason, logic, and empathy, students must learn to engage in conversations. “Too often, we have arguments, not dialogues,” he said.
With an update to the college’s strategic plan slated for 2022, Gunderson said he intends to craft a tactical roadmap to energize and encourage SCCC faculty, staff, and stakeholders.
The board moved swiftly through a light agenda that focused on end-of semester events and a quick look forward. Because four applicants for the vacant trustee position, the board postponed candidate interviews until January owing to time constraints. A special meeting was scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Jan. 10, in the Hobble Building board room, prior to the board’s regular meeting at 7:30 p.m. The vacancy occurred as the result of the resignation of Trustee Sharon Hobble on July 20, 2021. Appointment of a replacement was postponed due to the presidential search that began in August.
During his report to the board, Vice President of academic affairs Luke Dowell announced the college has secured a grant from the Kansas Board of Regents to boost the fledgling grain elevator operator program.
“This is an innovation grant and enables us to construct a small-scale grain storage training structure,” he said. “Our industry partner Skyland Grains donated the ‘leg’ component and helped arrange donation of the dirt work. We are hoping to finish by May.”
In action items, the board:
- Approved the personnel report, which including the employment of assistant tennis coach Hunter Clark and resignations from Lisa Redburn, Brandie Winter, and Lois Magner.
- Established the dates for summer hours of operation, designed to conserve energy and cut costs. Campus will operate with 10-hour, four-day work weeks and remain closed on Fridays from May 13 through July 29. Hours of operation will be 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- As part of the annual review of policies, appointed Gunderson as clerk of the board of trustees, and noted the removal of former trustee Sharon Hobble’s name from policy 201.
- Reviewed and approved continuance of the early retirement policy (606). Three people currently continue with early retirement benefits, one person is slated to come off the roster, and 11 employees currently qualify for early retirement.
- Reviewed and discussed board policy series 100. Only one item required updates — policy 101 Affirmative Action, which dates to 1974. In discussion, board members expressed interest in conducting an annual review of the college’s employee demographics.
- Approved the review of policy series 801 with no changes. This policy lists the requirements for degrees granted by SCCC in compliance with the Kansas Board of Regents. Vice President of Academic Affairs Luke Dowell noted that “changes are on the horizon” in the next year as KBOR promotes a block approach to gen-ed requirements for all community colleges across the state.
Reports to the board included:
- Introduction of Jenae Zachary, program director for respiratory therapy, who will step in as Professional Employees Association representative moving forward. Current PEA representative Jared Nobles is stepping down as of January 2022.
- Assistant athletic director for communications Kenny Hernandez reported about basketball season and holiday plans for student athletes who will return home during holiday break. Basketball teams will continue practice and travel to Florida for tournament competition.
- Chief development officer Kyle Woodrow reported the Dec. 13 meeting of the SCCC Foundation will review blueprints for the Sharp Family Champions Center.
- Chief information officer Louie Lemert’s report focused on a student satisfaction survey about wireless connection on campus. “It revealed they are not satisfied with the wifi,” he noted. The IT department is waiting on new fiber, switches and access points, much of which is delayed due to shipping delays from China. “Hopefully the survey in May will show improvement,” he said.
- Vice President of student services Celeste Donovan noted that two SCCC colleagues will be featured on the Chamber of Commerce “People of Distinction” calendar for 2022: board counsel Kerry McQueen and dean of enrollment and student success Annette Hackbarth Onson. She also provided an overview of student life events as the semester winds down, and recruiting efforts by the admissions department.
- Vice President of academic affairs Luke Dowell noted the college plans to return to full-capacity classrooms in the spring semester, with the caution that the COVID team is keeping a close eye on local health conditions. “SCCC is prepared to return to remote learning if needed, but students do better in person, and we’re going to make that happen as much as we can,” he said.
- Dowell updated the board about accreditation matters, pointing out that Gunderson’s seat on the governing board of the Higher Learning Commission provides reassurance and expertise. “We’re excited to have his clout in our corner,” he said.
- An upcoming needs assessment report for the college’s Perkins funding requires a pre-emptive list of possible program expansion. Dowell noted the list is based on needs in the region and research about availability of resources. Areas under consideration include wind turbine tech, criminal justice, EMT, fire science, cybersecurity, and plumbing,
- Vice President of finance and operations Dennis Sander reviewed routine process including budget and capital needs assessment, snow removal arrangements, and the acquisition of two new trucks for the Industrial Technology division. New Human Resources director Charlotte Peterson has tackled several long-overdue projects, including onboarding processes for new employees .
- Finally, Sander noted food service will be closed over the holiday break, Dec. 11 -Jan. 3, with two-meal service Jan. 4- 9 (12 p.m.-1:30, 5-7 p.m.). Normal hours and service at Louie’s Place resume Jan. 10.