EWC presidential candidate meets with community

Dr. Jeffery Hawes spoke with the community on Wednesday as part of the candidate process for EWC’s new president. Tyler Martineau/Torrington Telegram

TORRINGTON – Eastern Wyoming College (EWC) held an open forum on Wednesday for the community to meet with a new presidential candidate.
Dr. Jeffery Hawes, who was one of the top five candidates selected by the search committee, worked in the agriculture program at Michigan State before his current position at Black Hawk College in Illinois as the Executive Dean of East Campus.
Hawes said one of the most important goals for a college is to have alumni make a difference in their field and in the community.
Hawes started his presentation with the question of why Eastern Wyoming College is in Torrington. Hawes said through his research he learned the school district wanted to have more opportunities locally for post-secondary education.
Other questions Hawes said are important to community colleges are what students and faculty need to be successful.
“If we go through and ask these questions, the reason it’s important we must continually ask the right question to make sure we’re identifying the right sets of problems so that we could put the right types of solutions together to solve those problems,” Hawes said.
One of the most significant challenges facing community colleges in the country is declining enrollment. Hawes said every state is under a different funding model, but enrollment is the area where a school can have the biggest impact.
K-12 partnerships are very important for enrollment, according to Hawes who said he believes the school already has strong partnerships. Military leaving the service and adult education are other groups where it is critical to recruit to keep up enrollment.
Hawes said he has worked on a committee for student enrollment management plans at his current school where communication was key to employing effective strategies.
“Enrollment is the one greatest potential area for growth not only in terms of students but in revenue generation for the college,” Hawes said.
Something which has changed recently for community college students has been the importance of degree completion and career pathway development. Hawes said it is essential now in the school’s process.
Hawes said communication is the most important tool to solve all the issues facing community colleges. Along with communication means the need to have the plans developed and understood at all levels of the college Hawes said.
“When we develop a strategic plan and an education master plan, we need to engage every level of the organization not just in the process on the front end but routinely as we move through that process,” he said.
Hawes said he has followed along with EWC’s search process and how the community has reacted toward it. Hawes stated the emotion from the community shows how much they care for the school. Hawes added he has seen everyone from the students and faculty to the community to the board of trustees are all invested in the college.
Hawes was asked how he would address issues with staff and said communication is the most important part. After hearing the issue, Hawes said a plan then needs to be put in place to address it.
Along with communication, Hawes was asked how he would help to promote some of the positives of the school to the community. Hawes said it starts with engagement at every level and added there needs to be an active presence at local civic organizations. Building programs at the school requires pipeline development, according to Hawes which includes working with high schools and sponsoring contests.
Hawes, who met with the board of trustees via zoom during executive session in the special meeting on Wednesday, April 20, answered a question from Trustee John Patrick about whether or not the college can keep being “all things for all people.” Hawes said there have to be choices but there could be times where difficult decisions may have to be made if there are programs which are not as successful. Hawes also said there could be cuts when it comes to looking at raising salaries.
“It is in the institution’s best interest to make sure that wages and salaries are competitive with neighboring institutions,” Hawes said.
In response to a question of why he was attracted to EWC, Hawes said it fits his background of a rural community with a focus on agriculture very well. Hawes said his education and career has been in rural communities including his time at Michigan State where he said seemed rural since he was in the ag program and worked with rural communities.
After the open forum the board held a special meeting which included an executive session to interview Hawes. According to Chairman Bob Baumgartner, since Hawes was one of the candidates from the initial search process through Gold Hill Associates, the school will have to pay the search firm’s contract if he is selected as the new president.
The board also approved the hiring of Rebecca McAllister as Financial Aid Director and Tim Larsen as the Head Women’s Basketball Coach and Fitness Center Director.

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