Dr. Geri J. Anderson learned a thing or two she could bring back to her job when she stepped foot on the Community College of Aurora campus, a common experience for those who return to school.
Only Anderson has served as the college’s interim president since March, and as her tenure ends July 21
, making room for her full-time replacement, the knowledge she gleaned goes back to the Colorado Community College System office – which helps serve as the institutional compass for its membership, including CCA.
“I went into it saying that those of us who work in policy and in the system need to have time at the colleges to understand our decisions and how they impact the colleges,” said Anderson, who leaves to return to her vice president’s job in instruction at CCCS. “That’s the one thing that was so good for me was to really have that time.”
A couple main issues in particular touched upon her dual jobs the last 3½ months.
Complications sprung up about the Faculty Load and Compensation (FLAC) system that paid employees. Questions also were raised involving the timing and funding surrounding concurrent enrollment, which affords high school students the opportunity to take college-level courses at CCA.
Immediate moves to better streamline the FLAC workload were implemented, including designated payroll time for administrative assistants. The concurrent enrollment questions may be combated through future legislative action.
Such solutions may not have been on the front burner had Anderson not seen the impact on students, employees and staff up close at CCA.
“It was good for me to be reminded of those things,” she said.
When Anderson started her temporary position at CCA, the school’s cabinet joked that she should be “like the body at an Irish wake – just lay there and be quiet.” And while the gregarious Anderson responded that she pretty much did as told the last several months, she was, as usual, underselling her impact.
Two main changes emanated under her watch. Through the legislative process, degree programs in Sociology, Political Science and Anthropology were established and three full-time faculty were hired to handle the implementation.
Anderson also worked tirelessly on CCCS president Nancy McCallin’s initiative to get faculty salaries to national-average levels within five years.
“I was really proud of working with the CCA faculty in putting that plan in place. The faculty was amazingly mature about that. It was wonderful,” she said.
Her “biggest heartache” was having to inform classified employees paid by the state that they wouldn’t receive a raise for a fourth straight year. Anderson solicited ideas to better enhance their jobs despite that financial hardship, and out of those discussions, hydration stations are being installed in each building at the request of those employees.
Other unfinished business: A project to capture all of the college’s policies and procedures on the web. But that ultimately will be completed down the line.
“I was talking to my mom the other night and I told her that everything I needed to learn again about education I learned at CCA,” Anderson said. “It’s about students being everybody’s priority, and the thing that’s so wonderful about CCA is that it’s absolutely true.”
Anderson is exiting her interim spot to make way for Alton D. Scales, who takes over the presidency officially Monday. The former CEO of Colorado Mountain College’s Dillon and Breckenridge campuses was hired after a nationwide search May 31.
Anderson promised McCallin prior to joining CCA that she would not become a candidate for the full-time job, last held by Dr. Linda S. Bowman. The latter now holds dual jobs in Colorado education, including positions at CCCS and with the University of Denver, helping prepare the next generation of educators.
Anderson was asked if she had any advice to offer her successor, now that she has a better feel for CCA as an institution.
“To listen,” she responded. “People there have a strong sense of what CCA is and so don’t come in like a bulldozer. Come in and watch, listen and identify what the strengths are. And don’t make sweeping, overnight changes.”
That said, there are some big-picture issues facing the college that must be addressed by new leadership.
“There are so many citizens in Aurora that could be well served by CCA,” Anderson explained. “We know that over 95 percent of the students that come to CCA say it’s an amazing place to be. We are not scratching the surface of whom we could be serving in that community and that will be the challenge, to continue the outreach. …
“What they did the last three years, they put all their resources into concurrent enrollment, so they have the largest concurrent enrollment in the state. But there’s this whole other adult population that we should be serving and we’re not. So that’s the piece.”
Her pit stop at college now over, Anderson was effusive in her praise for the leadership already in place at CCA, including vice presidents Richard Maestas, Xeturah Woodley and Betsy Oudenhoven. Their handle on their jobs allowed Anderson to have “fun” and extensively deal directly with students about their concerns and dreams.
“CCA was just an incredible experience for me,” Anderson said in summing up her interim term.