Hear what COCC’s incoming interim president has to say about personal passions, moving forward and COCC’s future.
A woman who started out as a professor in Hawaii will now be taking the reigns at Central Oregon Community College. Dr. Shirley Metcalf will begin as Central Oregon Community College’s interim president September 2, 2014, to replace retiring president Dr. Jim Middleton for a year as the search for a permanent president continues.
The COCC Board of Directors unanimously voted to hire Metcalf for the position April 14, following news of top candidate Dr. Patrick Lanning’s administrative leave from Chemeketa Community College.
Metcalf, who has more than three decades of community college experience, began working at Hawaii Community College in 1975. Since then, she has served as a dean of outreach for HCC, and both an executive vice president for instruction and a vice president for advancement in Kirkland, Washington. She was a finalist in South Seattle Community College’s search for a president several years ago, and is currently serving as COCC’s dean of extended learning.
The Broadside spoke with Metcalf about her impending role at the college.
The Broadside: Dr. Middleton has been a dedicated president to the college. What is the hardest part of following up his act?
Metcalf: I think Dr. Middleton has done a great job for our college. He’s been with us for 10 years, and he’s been very instrumental in working with legislators, with our state board, with CCWD, our community college workforce development division. I think the challenges for me will be primarily learning those affairs, being part of the initiatives. But I think what I bring to the position is that I’ve been here for three years, I know a lot of the faculty and the staff and the students. … I’ll be able to keep the ship moving forward and see that we don’t miss a beat as we prepare for hiring the new president.
The Broadside: With the bond that has funded so much of COCC’s recent innovations running out, from the Science Center to Redmond Technology Center, what do you think will be the sustainable way to continue that growth?
Metcalf: We had so much growth. We doubled our growth in four years. Now is a really good time to look back at how we can stabilize our enrollment, how we can look at what we’re doing for the community and for our students.
The Broadside: You’re also facing another interesting issue with how to retain students, because the economy has picked up a little bit. We saw all these students coming back to college during a little bit of the economic downturn. Now that’s decreasing, but at the same time we have an incoming residence hall with even more room for students. What’s your stance on how to retain students?
Metcalf: Once you have the students here, you should work hard at keeping them rather than trying to find new students. … The residence halls will offer us a different opportunity. We’re one of three community colleges in Oregon that has residence halls. This is a very good idea for us to have this initiative.
The Broadside: During the 2013-2014 school year, we’ve come from having a top candidate for presidency to having no candidate and then you coming in as interim president. What’s your current process training with Dr. Middleton and getting ready for presidency?
Metcalf: I’m working with Dr. Middleton now. He’s mentoring me, he’s my coach, and he’s letting me know what areas I need to be more aware of, the legislative process, the government budget. My official start date is September 2, but in July and August I’m looking forward to going to a national workshop in Napa Valley, California, which is for new presidents to look at national initiatives. And then in August I’m going to an Oregon Presidents Council Retreat, so I’ll meet the other presidents. I’m looking forward to learning more about federal initiatives as well as state initiatives and how I can better serve COCC.
The Broadside: What are your college passions having worked for so long in the community college field?
Metcalf: I think my passion is always the community college mission. I’ve spent more than 40 years in higher education, most of which have been at community college. With a community college we have the open door policy, and so we’re able to serve students that sometimes have different challenges. They may be single parents, they may be working, they may be older because they tried either to work or they’ve gone to a four-year institution and figured out that no, they want to be in a community college. And the community college basically has several themes, areas, and I’m looking forward to adjusting these, such as the non-credit community learning education area, which is what I oversee now. I’m looking forward to working with our transfer and articulation as we’re looking at whether students transfer to Oregon State University-Cascades, or the University of Oregon, or Oregon Institute of Technology. … We have been very instrumental in developing programs that meet the workforce needs for Central Oregon as well as for our nation. So I think that’s what the community college mission strives to address, and those are the areas I look forward to leading our college in.
The Broadside: Lastly, how do you feel about leading the college for a year?
Metcalf: I just finished [a book from] Colin Powell, and it’s called It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership. Colin Powell served four presidents, he was chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and he was a national security advisor. At the end, he said, ‘It’s all about people.’ I thought about it, and whether we’re talking about the faculty, the administrators, the support staff or the students that we serve, it’s all about people. Here at COCC, this is my family. When the board asked me, ‘Will you help us, will you serve?’ I said ‘yes.’ I think we have the greatest college in Oregon, and I’m really looking forward to it, and I’m excited.
Junnelle Hogen | The Broadside