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President Howard discusses Chemeketa’s future: Q&A

Jessica Howard poses for a photo. Photo by Taylor Wynia

Jessica Howard, Chemeketa’s newly selected president, celebrated her three-month anniversary at the college by discussing her long term goals with the Courier.

Q: How are you adjusting to your new role here at Chemeketa?

A: I think it’s going well. It’s a lot! It’s a steep learning curve. But it is a great place to be, and the people are incredible.

Q: What did you do during summer term to settle into your position?

A: You know, coming on board in summer term is practical in some ways be‐ cause there’s so many fewer people here, so I got to know the folks who were here and incrementally got more familiar with the campus. The big rev up to the fall term and seeing all the students in the fall was just mind-blowing, but I had some sense of where to go and what the functions were and who the people were.

Q: Have you gotten to meet many students yet?

A: I have tried — mostly in small groups. I try to walk around a lot and see people at the taco stand or downstairs in bldg. 2 or wherever. So, not as much as I would like, but I try.

Q: I’m glad you figured out the taco stand. That’s kind of a really well-kept secret.

A: You know, I went to the taco stand four days out of five my first week here. Somebody gave me the heads up immediately…Someone was looking out for me. I had an angel. A taco angel.

Q: What has been your favorite thing about Chemeketa so far? Besides the tacos.

A: Honestly, it’s the community. The sense of community is very strong. The people are incredibly friendly. I have not had a single negative experience. Again, once the fall term started, and the place was flooded with students, it was just intoxicating. It was so wonderful to see the students. It’s really always about students.

Q: For this following year, what do you hope to accomplish?

A: Well, I would love to have a good sense of who all the key stakeholders are internally and externally. We have a three-plus county area, so that’s a lot of folks in the community to get to know, and to join their meetings…It’s part of a strategy to try to reach out and let people know who I am and for me to learn about all the nuances out in the community…The other part is obviously internal and getting to know folks — all kinds of folks! I was able to attend a bunch of faculty meetings of different programs at the very beginning of term. It was fantastic. Sometimes, it’s hard to find faculty because they’re busy in the classroom…So, getting to know folks. That’s number one.

Q: And what are your long-term goals for the college?

A: Well, we have about three more years of our strategic planning process and accreditation process. So that’s a real arrival point, and so the real question I think is: what does it mean to kind of peak around the corner and consider the next, five, ten, fifteen years, and what do we see ourselves doing and becoming? That’s a conversation for the whole college. My hope is that we will be able to do some visioning around that question over the next year or so that can then drive academic, program and facility planning…That’s something the whole community will play a part in. It’s not just my vision. It’s us! All together.

Q: What do you think is the most important issue facing the college today?

A: I think the most important issue is how we can continue to focus and improve upon student success in the classroom. And there are a million ways to understand that, right? Is it program completion? Is it course completion? How much of it is campus climate? What does it mean to look at data to understand how we’re doing? I think, really, almost anything we do can be measured and understood in terms of student success, which is a buzz-word out there. I don’t think that term is magical, but I think it makes us look at how to be accountable, and I think that’s key.

Q: And my final question: is there anything you’d like to share with our readers?

A: Well, I was a community college student. And, while not a traditional one, because I got my associate’s degree after I got my Ph.D., I did get my associates and was very proud to get that. I believe very much in the value of the community college education and credential. I am proud to have been a community college student as well.

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