Jim Williams already has begun planning the great Spokane Community College breakthrough.
During a two-hour reception Monday to meet the public, the new SCC president described his goal of making the two-year school as well-known as Riverfront Park or NorthTown Mall.
“It’s important for this campus to define its niche within the community,” said Williams.
“And it then has to promote itself within that niche and make people realize the value of our technical, professional and liberal arts programs.”
Williams started the $96,000-per-year job a month ago, coming here after being dean of liberal arts at California State Polytechnic University in Pomona.
His first goal is to accentuate the positive on a campus that has had its share of stress and strain in recent years.
It’s had contentious faculty-administration battles, including a no-confidence vote against former President Joe Rich.
It’s been hit, like other schools here, with state-imposed budget cuts. Last year it absorbed a $300,000 reduction by not filling several staff and faculty jobs.
And in the past year, for reasons administrators can’t identify, SCC’s enrollment sagged slightly while most area schools were rolling in students.
Williams intends to create programs that would put SCC on the academic map, showcasing its best programs in new ways.
“We have the opportunity to create a model program that’s a strong interdisciplinary combination of liberal arts and our technical programs,” he said.
Williams said community colleges will have more to offer the country in the next several years than four-year schools.
Two- or three-year schools like SCC can produce well-educated students who can master new technical jobs.
Community colleges also are more prepared to revise programs quickly to suit the needs of workers who need regular retraining, he said.
His main strategy, added Williams, is helping SCC better define its strengths through planning.
He went through a planning effort in California, and had to deal with the resulting tensions it can cause among people fearing reduced budgets and resources.
“But the process also is very helpful,” said Williams.
“It makes it easier to set priorities and talk about them, because everyone involved is getting the same information, at the same time.”
When considering the job, Williams acknowledged some associates warned him that Spokane was near Hayden Lake, the headquarters of the white supremacist group Aryan Nations.
“Finally, when I made the decision, I came here ignoring that issue completely,” he said.
“What I heard, more importantly, is that the Community Colleges of Spokane are first-class and known for their excellence.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo