Various parties emphasized the importance of protecting and restoring Western Nevada College — and the important role the new president will have in that process — during a daylong series of meetings with regents and university Chancellor Dan Klaich.
Klaich was joined Thursday by regents Rich Trachok, Kevin Page and Ron Knecht along with legal counsel Scott Wasserman in what the 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 Dec. 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 people representing all of WNC’s service areas.
Klaich cautioned that 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, chairman of Restore Our Fallon Campus.
Rural representatives urged the administration to find 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 City Mayor Robert Crowell, said the vocational education training provided at WNC is vital to the region’s economic development and the success of industrial and manufacturing businesses in particular.
“We need a trained work force,” he told the panel, saying the collaboration between WNC and businesses is vital to prepare people for those jobs.
Crowell also urged the system to “search long and wide” for a new president.
Former State Sen. 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 out-of-town businesses ask is, “is there a viable work force?” The college, he said, provides that trained work force.
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 spend their first two years of college there in order to move on to the University of Nevada, Reno.
She was joined by Nancy Stewart of Fallon, who said that in many cases, families can’t afford to send their child directly to the university.
“They want to start out here,” she said.
All emphasized that WNC isn’t just the Carson campus; it’s a regional college that serves seven counties, from the most rural to the urban capital.
“I cannot stress the importance of this college in this city and the region,” Crowell said.
WNC’s main campus is in Carson City, but it has satellite campuses in Fallon, Fernley and Minden and offers some classes in Yerington. 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 people will teach rural classes or they will all become electronic.
“Face-to-face classes are very important,” said Giny Duggan, a retired WNC teacher in Fallon.
The list of skills and characteristics the various 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 is a first-time college graduate in his or her family.
Crowell asked the panel whether there is any truth to rumors that 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.