In a day-long series of meetings with regents and university Chancellor Dan Klaich, local officials, students, professors and businessmen emphasized the importance of protecting and restoring Western Nevada College — and the important role the new president of that institution will have in that process.
Klaich was joined by Regents Rich Trachok, Kevin Page and Ron Knecht along with legal counsel Scott Wasserman in what they termed a “listening tour” to get community and college input on who should replace Carol Lucey, who retired.
The Board of Regents will name an interim president at its December 5-6 meetings in Las Vegas as well as the six-member regents panel that will review applicants for the job and a citizens advisory committee of up to 20 representing all of WNC’s service areas.
But Klaich cautioned that actually selecting and bringing a new president on board will take time.
Throughout the meetings at WNC’s Reynolds technology building, parties — especially from the rural Fallon campus — argued for a new president who understands and supports the value of rural campus offerings.
“We’d like to see somebody who believes in the community college mission, not somebody who wants to make it into a junior college,” said Bob Clifford, who chairs Fallon’s Restore Our Community College Campus.
Rural representatives urged the administration to fund some way to keep and restore those rural operations, which have been sharply reduced by budget cuts implemented since 2009.
Clifford and others including Carson Mayor Bob Crowell said the vocational education training provided at WNC is vital to the region’s economic development and success of particularly industrial and manufacturing businesses.
“We need a trained workforce,” he told the panel saying that the collaboration of WNC and business is vital to prepare people for those jobs.
Crowell also urged the system to “search long and wide” for a new president.
Former State Senator Maurice Washington, representing the Northern Nevada Development Authority, said the college is an integral part of marketing efforts to bring new industry to western Nevada because one of the first questions is always “is there a viable workforce.” The college, he said, provides that trained workforce.
But WNC professor Stephanie Arrigotti urged the system not to shutter liberal arts offerings in favor of vocational education programs.
“It’s tremendously important to fund the liberal arts education as well as vocational education,” she said pointing out that many WNC students take their first two years there in order to move to the University of Nevada Reno.
She was joined by Nancy Stewart of Fallon who said in many cases, families can’t afford to send their child directly to the university — “They want to start out here.”
All emphasized that WNC isn’t just the Carson campus but a regional college that serves seven different counties from the most rural to the urban capital.
“I cannot stress the importance of this college in this city and the region,” said Crowell.
WNC’s main campus is in Carson City but the college has satellite campuses in Fallon, Fernley and Minden as well as offering some classes in Yerington and, in the past, all the way to Hawthorne in Mineral County. In recent years, more and more of those rural classes have been offered through the Internet or by teleconference.
WNC’s Anne Hansen said the “elephant in the room” is whether there will be people teaching rural classes or they will all become electronic.
“Face to face classes are very important,” said Giny Duggan, a retired WNC teacher in Fallon.
But the list of skills and characteristics the different groups want in Lucey’s replacement was long and varied from someone with a business and industry background to experience with rural campus operations, a hands-on manager willing to work with all elements of the different campuses to someone who, him or herself, is a first time college graduate in their family.
Crowell also asked the panel whether there is any truth to rumors Great Basin College or Truckee Meadows Community College will absorb WNC. Klaich assured him there is no truth to those rumors.
Klaich concluded the meeting by promising to hold a similar session in Fallon to give that community’s representatives and residents a larger voice in WNC’s future.