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New Vice President addresses the importance of education

Photo of David Hallett.

Vice President of Governance and Administration David Hallett. Photo by Saul Rodriguez.

You may not know the name of Chemeketa’s new Vice President David Hallett, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t playing an important role in your life as a student. Like Andrew Bone before him, who recently retired after nearly a quarter century of service, Hallett treats his administrative work with enthusiasm and direction to make Chemeketa more than the sum of its parts.

To Hallett, the importance of community college goes further than its stereotypical place as a stepping stone to more traditional four-year programs. For some people who can’t afford to start at university, it can be invaluable.

“I went to community college for a number of different reasons. But one of the reasons, frankly, was that it was close, and it was inexpensive,” Hallett said.

Choosing a two-year program for financial reasons is an oft-told tale, and one that will be familiar to readers, but Hallett’s zeal for education began at that time.

“By the time I got to the community college, I had a couple of professors at that college who saw something in me,” Hallett said, “and really helped to foster in me this idea that I had some intelligence level that I was not even aware of. That I was a good writer, for example…They were able to bring things out in me that I didn’t necessarily even know existed. And that’s what sticks with me to this day.”

Some people may not think higher education is for them, and it is easy to fall victim to circumstance. To Hallett, however, the next potential vice president of a school like Chemeketa could be anyone from anywhere. He himself began life in a very different place.

“I grew up on a dairy farm in very rural, upstate New York, and if you were to look at that moment in time of my family…We lived in poverty…It was a pretty spartan existence,” he said.

“[My parents] were very, very adamant about ‘there’s no choice, you don’t have a choice to just stay at home and work on the farm, you’re going to college, and you better figure something out.’ They didn’t know how to get me through college, they didn’t know anything about college, but they knew that it was important.”

It is impossible to look back in time and know what could have been, but Hallett is sure that his success is not something he could have achieved alone.

“Without the support that I had from my family, from my professors at community college, I probably would not have persisted and I would have become a statistic. A dropout.”

In his new position as Vice President of Governance and Administration at Chemeketa, Hallett hopes to draw upon his own experiences in order to provide similar opportunities for the next generation of students.

“I believe that every student…has an ability to do greater things than they are even currently thinking for themselves. Because that is what happened to me. It can happen to anybody.”

This lines up with a statement on Hallett’s personal philosophy summarized in a notice of the promotion sent to employees by Chemeketa’s President Julie Huckestein, where she wrote: “David has a strong belief that education is the key to a better future for everyone. Access to a quality education should not be relegated to those of privilege; rather it must be equitably available for all.”

While instructors are on the frontlines of interacting with students on a daily basis, the administrative staff is just as crucial, working in the background to ensure everything runs smoothly so quality teaching can happen. To Hallett, a former instructor, working beneath the tip of the iceberg as Vice President is a new challenge, but it’s also a new set of possibilities.

“It’s a new role; I’ll be working in different areas, but in my mind, I think it is all related to the same principle and philosophy of making sure that Chemeketa is a strong organization so that we can support more and more students who come through the door.”

When speaking about his inspirations, Hallett cited a particular late Friday worknight wherein a tirelessly working custodian asked him, “Is there anything I can do to help you?”

Hallett refused the offer, saying he was preparing to head home. To his recollection, the custodian replied, “Okay, I just want to let you know that I’m here so that you can succeed at the things that you need to do.”

“That really struck me,” Hallett said. “That’s exactly my philosophy in general: that we are all here to support quality education. And to hear this custodian say that…it really struck me and it was a very profound moment for me.”

That core principle of service in the goal of education is a key piece of Hallett’s drive, and something he hopes to help foster in Chemeketa on an administrative level.

“There is no us versus them,” he said. “We’re all one. Whether you are a custodian, whether you are a dean, whether you are a faculty member, whether you are an I.T. person, or anything in between. We all have a responsibility to be doing the best that we can, working as one team to deliver the services that we do to students.”

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