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Chemeketa hosts Zoom forum for VP of Student Affairs finalists

Vice President of Student Affairs candidates Bruce Clemetsen (left) and Kristi Wellington-Baker (right).

Chemeketa is one step closer to filling the newly created Vice President of Student Affairs position.

A dedicated VP of Student Affairs is a position that exists at many other colleges, but until now the role has been handled at Chemeketa by the Vice President of Instruction and Student Services. That may not sound like a particularly exciting change, but it’s actually an important one for students. This new administrator will be responsible for overseeing nearly everything that students depend on, from enrollment and financial aid to advising and Student Life.

The search for a VP of Student Affairs began in Winter term of 2020. In that time, college officials have narrowed their list of potential candidates down to two names: Kristi Wellington-Baker and Bruce Clemetsen.

The two candidates recently had the opportunity to introduce themselves to the community and answer student questions via two separate Zoom meetings that all students were invited to join. One was held on Oct. 28 with Wellington-Baker, the other on Oct. 29 with Clemetsen.

About two dozen people attended each forum.

Wellington-Baker said that she started out as a social worker in the healthcare system, but changed career paths and began working in higher education.

“I had an opportunity to go work at the local community college and fell in love with the work,” she said. “I love it, I find it to be meaningful. I love the students.”

Clemetsen said he originally intended to become a forest ranger, but came to working in higher education through student advocacy while attending Willamette University.

“I found myself as a Student Leader in the Dean of Students office every week complaining about all the policy changes they were making and the negative effects they were having on students,” he said. “I had a great relationship with the dean and after working on policy changes and advocating for students he invited me to take a job working for him when I graduated. That’s how I found this work.”

Wellington-Baker’s qualifications for the position come from serving students and experience with Guided Pathways.

“I started off in TRIO as a Student Support Services Retention Specialist and then moved into a variety of roles, to a Dean of Student Services, overseeing advising and access programs and TRIO and a myriad of other emergent funding strategy roles,” she said. “I did that for almost 20 years.

“Most recently, my last three years I’ve spent at Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges leading their Guided Pathways work and Strategic Initiatives.”

Clemetsen’s qualifications for the position stem from his decades of experience in numerous student-needs focused roles.

“I’ve been doing this work for 36 years in Student Affairs,” he said. “I love it, that’s why I’ve stayed with it. It’s been a dynamic place. I spent the last 22 years working in community colleges… I’ve been a Vice President now for 12 years with Student Affairs at three different institutions, 10 years of that was Linn-Benton.”

Chemeketa officials hope to make a decision soon, with the candidate they select expected to be in place by Winter term 2021.

Full audio of the public forums can be found below.

Vice President of Student Affairs candidate Bruce Clemetsen, Oct. 29 2020.
Vice President of Student Affairs candidate Kristi Wellington-Baker, Oct. 28 2020.

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