New Western Nevada College president visits Fallon campus | NevadaAppeal.com

New Western Nevada College president visits Fallon campus

Steve Ranson
LVN Editor Emeritus

The Vincent Solis era has begun at Western Nevada College, and the new president attended his first Restore our College Campus Committee meeting in Fallon on Thursday to learn more about the area and its people.

Solis, who has more than 25 years experience in higher education, most recently served as the senior vice president of Academic and Student Services at Laredo Community College in Laredo, Texas.

Before meeting with the community at the Churchill County Commission chambers, Solis and some of his staff met with the community for discussion on the college and a light lunch at the WNC art gallery.

Later in the day, ROCCC President Bob Clifford welcomed Solis to the quarterly meeting of the college committee and thanked a number of people for attending.

"I'm pleased to have him on board and to look after the Fallon campus," said Clifford, one of the founding members of ROCCC.

The committee was formed in 2012 when budget cuts were shifting many of the services from Fallon to Carson City, WNC's main campus. It's taken years to make the Fallon campus stable again although not to the pre-2012 levels.

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"This is a special community," Solis told more than 100 people who attended the 90-minute evening meeting.

Solis said he has been meeting with school superintendents within the college's service area and noted he has met with newly appointed Churchill County School District Superintendent Summer Stephens. He said he wants WNC and the school districts to be better partners and help students prepare their labor skills for the region's future industries.

In addition to meeting with Stephens, Solis also met with Fallon Mayor Ken Tedford, a big proponent of the college, and visited a church as part of his outreach. He has also visited the Paiute Shoshone Tribe's reservation and met with key people in the employment and education areas.

Only on the job for a month, Solis gave a quick update said he's keeping the WNC staff update on the college's events and news. Solis also said he will be having office hours in Fallon on two Fridays each month.

Solis said he wants to develop an Honors College at WNC that would attract the top gifted and talented students. Another area of concern is the number of students who have earned more than 60 credits but have no degree.

"We want to ensure they receive a degree," Solis said.

The nursing program, which returned to Fallon two years ago, continues to increase its enrollment. Solis said he understands how valuable the program is to the area and wants to reinvest money in Fallon's nursing program.

Holly O'Toole, who hosted the afternoon gathering with Solis, gave her first update as WNC's recently appointed Fallon campus and rural outreach director. A former high school and WNC science teacher, O'Toole had been teaching at the Fallon campus for a decade.

She echoed Solis with the importance of having a nursing program and said the first group of students recently graduated. In addition to promoting the nursing program, O'Toole said the administration and outreach team have sponsored and attended many community events and will participate in the Labor Day parade.

"I want to thank our community partners," she said. "I hope we can grow this campus so local needs can be served."

Regent Carol Del Carlo, who represents nine counties within District 9, said WNC is the only college in her district. She expressed her appreciation for Solis' selection, calling "how the cream rose to the top over 100 applicants."

"This is an exciting time for higher education in Nevada," Del Carlo said.

Del Carlo emphasized how important it is for the state's community colleges in developing a workforce for the future. She said it's huge in Nevada for people to become educated and find employment.

A native of Reno, Del Carlo praised the efforts of ROCCC during the past six years.

"I'm so proud of this group and the way it hung in during the bad times and good times," she said.

Georgia White, director of WNC's Career and Technical Education Department, informed the group about the college's strategic plan and the need for community input. She said the five goals represented by the Nevada State Higher Education include access, success, close the achievement gap, workforce and research.

Solis, though, said he's concerned about rural campuses because the number of community colleges has diminished with facilities either merging or closing their doors.

White reviewed WNC's overall mission statement, which drew some questions about it not being specific for the individual campuses. Several retired deans from the Fallon campus, Bus Scharmann and Michelle Dondero, said the college must meet the needs of the students. Since the Fallon campus caters to many working students, Scharmann said the college should deliver the courses in such a way the student feels comfortable, while Dondero said scheduling must match the students' needs.

White said one of the core themes is taking the mission and becoming more specific when developing objectives. She said an avenue for a student to transfer to a four-year college must be in place, and workforce development should also be at the top of the list.