Mesalands candidates narrowed to final four

Russell Anglin

Last week, four Mesalands Community College presidential finalists visited the college and answered questions from the public during hour-long afternoon forums. Each meeting brought about 20 attendees.

Candidates fielded questions about their experience with state legislatures, the future of educational programs at Mesalands, the need for student housing and how the candidates felt they would fare living in a small community.

Mildred Lovato, vice president of student services since 2005 at Bakersfield College in Bakersfield, Calif., also worked as assistant vice president of academic support and student retention at Santa Fe Community College. Lovato spoke with the public on Friday.

Andi Baum, CEO of Everybody’s Federal Credit Union, asked Lovato what colleagues would say her best and worst qualities as a school administrator are.

“One thing about being an administrator is learning from your worst, and you have to take a good hard look at improving that along the way. I would agree that, a few years back, people would say probably that I had really high expectations,” Lovato said. “What I’ve learned is that everybody has something to offer and it isn’t always your plan and the bar that you set that they need to jump over, They may have another quality and another bar that they jump over, and that contributes to the whole.”

She said her best quality in terms of management style is that she genuinely listens to others.

“I listen and I remember, though I am getting a little older, so that’s starting to fade,” Lovato said with a laugh.

Jimmy Cargill, who held his forum meeting Wednesday, has been president of Dawson Community College in Glendive, Mont., for the past five years and previously spent 7 years as an administrator at Ashland Community College in Ashland, Mo.

Jim Streetman, member of the Mesalands Board of Trustees, asked Cargill why he thought he should be the next Mesalands president.

“I think that basically I’m a good fit. I talked to the dean that was dealing with classes in the corrections facilities and he said you have about 30 percent of students who are in the corrections facility,” Cargill said. “In Ashland we had a federal correctional facility, we did a business program there … we would turn out graduates from there. At Dawson we have a prison at Glendive and we do welding classes there.”

Thursday brought Veldon Law to the college. Law is currently president of Barton Community College in Great Bend, Kans. and spent 9 years as chief academic officer at John Wood Community College in Quincy, Ill.

Samantha Carter. a Mesalands student pursuing associate’s degrees in business and nursing, asked Law about her school’s nursing program.

“How do you feel about students receiving hands on learning and how important is it to you to make sure that the budget covers the costs that it takes to equip the classrooms with the proper equipment to receive that hands on learning?” Carter asked.

“The hands on, I think that’s how most all of us learn realistically. You’ve got to provide the experience … and so I think it becomes very difficult for students such as yourself if those things are not available. That’s also a programatic question of how committed can the institution be to a particular program. As we were sharing earlier today, there really is a disparity in terms of the number of male students versus female students on this campus. I didn’t realize that but it’s like two to one male. Most places it’s an exact flip. I think some of that has to do with programmatic questions… health careers is one area that has had a tendency to attract a female student and from conversations, one of the areas that I at least was generally picking up on here is that there are some things that could be done here to help strengthen or reinforce areas within the health arena. How we go about doing that for you personally at this point and time and getting the hands on and equipment is really tough, but I do think just as a personal commitment, that is the thing that helps people and the students learn.”

Larry Edwards held his forum March 7. Edwards currently serves as interim president of Oklahoma State University’s Oklahoma City campus. According to the OSU website, he has been the Oklahoma City campus’ vice president of academic affairs since 2002.

Mike Latham, a retired high school teacher, asked Edwards about the prospect of student housing at Mesalands.

“It can be important to a school like Mesalands,” Edwards said of housing. “It would cost a lot, it would bring a lot of problems in its train, but it could be effective and could put certain programs or areas on the map. When you find that unique program that might allow people to come in from outside the community, student housing could be a big draw. It’s a possibility, but it’s expensive, it’s long-term and it brings a lot of issues in its train. There are a lot of issues when you bring kids on campus and you’re responsible for them 24 hours a day, but it could help grow the campus.”

According to Kimberly Hanna, director of public relations for the college, the college board of trustees will announce their pick for president April 6.