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Columbia College presidential finalist Randy Hanna discusses partnerships in community

Tuesday, January 14, 2014 | 9:50 p.m. CST; updated 10:12 p.m. CST, Tuesday, January 14, 2014
Randy Hanna, a candidate for Columbia College president, visited the campus Tuesday and met with students and faculty.

COLUMBIA — Randy Hanna, a finalist for the Columbia College presidency, wants to use his business experience to focus on fundraising, building community partnerships and improving retention rates.

Hanna presented his ideas for the future of the college to staff members, students and community leaders on Tuesday.

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A survey is available online for those who attended or viewed the live stream (available here) of Hanna's forum. It will be open until noon Wednesday.

For more information about the two finalists, go to the Presidential Search page.



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The other finalist, Scott Dalrymple, presented a plan that focuses on faculty governance and the president's role on Monday.

Staff and community members said they liked that Hanna, who currently serves as the chancellor of the 870,000-student Florida College System, had knowledge of the business side of higher education.

"I think he is especially interesting because he brings a different view than what the college has had in the past, and I think that’s a real potential strength," said Chris Babayco, an assistant professor of chemistry at Columbia College. "He comes from more the business side of things."

Laura Daugherty, a writer and coordinator for the college's alumni relations, said she was impressed by Hanna's presentation and credentials.

"I felt that he was very genuine," she said. "I felt that he had a lot of wonderful things to say and I felt he exuded a lot of warmth and care for this institution."

Here are some of the topics Hanna addressed:

Building community

Hanna encouraged engagement with other communities in the area, including the chambers of commerce in both Columbia and Jefferson City.

"Where we have a large enough presence we should be active in the community," he said. "For too long, higher education in some cities has been isolated."

Bill Costello, relationship management officer at the Boone County National Bank, said he appreciated Hanna's emphasis on engaging with the business community and his understanding of the college's role in the business environment.

On campus, students should continue to feel like they are a part of an engaged, learning community, Hanna said. To foster this atmosphere, Hanna proposed using a number of "neat" technological tools that could be used to better peer mentoring and organization. He also encouraged making more activities available to students on the extended campuses.

"Our (adult higher education) students across this country, whether virtual or in that classroom, should be able to help recruit students for Columbia College," he said.

Hanna said he's also interested in broadening the connection between Columbia College and K-12 institutions.

Making college tuition affordable

Babayco said tuition costs and the struggle to maintain academic excellence across campuses were the two major areas of concern for him as an educator.

"The cost of college is absurd," he said, echoing the concerns of many students and faculty members.

Hanna paired the issue of rising tuition with low retention rates. One idea Hanna said he liked that was aimed at targeting these issues was "cutting from the back end" of tuition, meaning tuition costs would be lowered as students progressed through their college career.

The "guaranteed four" plan, in which students would be protected from rising school costs through the implementation of a fixed four-year tuition rate, was another "innovative idea," Hanna said.

Hanna said the school also needs to make sure that students are knowledgeable about their financial options and know how to manage their financial aid.

The president should also do his part to help students by raising scholarship money himself, he said.

Retention

Continuing to retain both faculty and students was high on Hanna’s agenda during the four forums held throughout the day. Although Columbia College is retaining more students than before, more can be done, he said.

Among the several ideas mentioned by Hanna to raise the retention rate, he proposed creating new dorms to keep more students on campus.

Hanna also said improvement should come from the bottom up, with faculty leading the way.

“You are the folks on the ground, you are the folks who know the students,” he said.

Strategic vision for the future

Although he expressed a desire to teach, Hanna said he would be more focused on his duties as president. He recognized his responsibility to attract and retain “the best and brightest faculty,” while also providing them with the necessary resources.

Hanna emphasized the importance of developing and utilizing the tools and techniques available to faculty members to keep track of students and where their individual strengths and weaknesses lie.

“The tools are there to know when students are not doing well and when students are doing well,” he said.

He went on to express the need to strengthen the honors program, add new graduate programs and offer more research opportunities for undergraduate students.

But he doesn't want to do it alone. Hanna referred to the power of collective decision-making by the community and the board of trustees.

One idea Hanna had to develop partnerships with other educational institutions is to create a “three-plus-three system” in which students would have the opportunity to earn a degree from a partner law school in three years following three years of study at Columbia College.

Aiding students

Hanna said he hopes to produce life-long learners who "(understand) their role in their community and in society."

Mara Roberts, assistant dean of academic affairs, said, she appreciated the fact that Hanna was focused on the life-long learner, especially in a society that's more oriented toward job-training. "I found that reassuring.”

Hanna also said he wants to develop more ways to make Columbia College more friendly to members of the military and ensure that veterans get the support they need within higher education.

"We need to find a way to do the appropriate degree-tracking and career-tracking for them and help them reach their goals," he said.

The veterans office on campus would be a prime area of focus for achieving these goals, he said.

Columbia College's board of trustees will ultimately decide on who will become the next president. Members will hold an executive meeting Friday to discuss the candidates.

Supervising editor is Elise Schmelzer.


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