Q&A with President Julie Huckestein
The 2017-18 school year marks Julie Huckestein’s third year as president of Chemeketa Community College. In this coming year, she aspires to continue her work, which strives to ensure the success of the students.
Q: What accomplishments best define your goals as president, and what do you wish to accomplish this following year?
A: The college, a couple years ago, started an initiative on affordability for students, and part of that has been the Chemeketa Press. We started [the press] because we were so concerned about students and affordability. We knew that students were choosing not to buy the books, or waiting and getting behind, because they were so expensive. We started down this path, and so far the books that we’ve produced have either been free or they are low cost. I think almost every book that we’ve produced is under $30.
I’ve been really proud of our faculty and our Chemeketa Press department for doing this and continuing to work on this. They add usually five or six books a year, and our focus is trying to produce books in the courses that have the highest volume of textbooks that are used because that’s going to save students the most money.
The other thing with affordability: the college continues to have the lowest tuition rate in the state, and so when you look at the annual tuition of the 17 community colleges, we have the lowest tuition. Our board takes that very seriously. I think we went four years with no increase at all.
I think the other things that we’re working on are our partnerships: trying to create as many partnerships as possible with industry to create new programs for the workforce. For example, last year we did robotics; a few years ago we did bilingual education and that’s really a growing program right now.
Another focus is our student retention. We believe it’s important that, once students start, we want them to finish, because we know that students that graduate from college or graduate from Chemeketa, or graduate and then transfer to the university are more likely to get higher paying jobs. We want people to have family-wage jobs when they leave the college.
Another exciting thing is that we’re beginning to start planning for the agricultural complex. There’s going to be a building out by the Marion-Polk Food Share youth farm…It’ll be a couple years until it’s actually built, but we’re really looking forward to that because we believe it’ll be a really good partnership building. We’re hoping to have an OSU extension out there and a few others. We were also nominated from an external entity to apply for the Aspen Prize. If we were the finalist we would get $1 million. I’m really proud of our college because it means that we’ve really been focusing on students success.
I look forward to sharing our message to the community: about how Chemeketa is here, why we’re here, which is to serve the community and to provide educational opportunities to students.
Q: What are some of your favorite things about Chemeketa, and how do we stand out among the rest?
A: I was at Linn-Benton prior to coming to Chemeketa, so I’ve been in three colleges [for] over 30 years now. I do love the diversity of our students at Chemeketa. We have one of the most diverse student bodies in the state, more diverse than many of the other colleges. It is a special place to me because of that. We have the highest number of Hispanic and Latino students in the state here at Chemeketa. I think that that’s what makes us special, and I love that. I also strongly believe that we have a wonderful dedicated faculty and staff who really care about the students and their success.
Q: What are some changes coming this year, and in what ways are you hoping they benefit [the college]?
A: Chemeketa’s new website is here this year. We were hoping for the new website to really look different and be easier to navigate. Our goal with the website is for people to be able to find the information and then to be able to contact us.
Q: What would you dress up as for Halloween?
A: You have no idea how hard this question is to answer because I don’t do that in general. I’m the kind of person that, if I dress up, it has to be really easy. I’d probably be a witch or a clown. Something simple.