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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane Community College chooses new president


Spokane Community College has a new president in waiting.

Ryan Carstens, vice president for academic affairs at New Mexico State University’s Alamogordo campus, was selected following a nationwide search to replace SCC President Scott Morgan, who is retiring this fall. Carstens, 56, is scheduled to start July 1.

His selection to the $175,000-a-year job was announced Tuesday by Community Colleges of Spokane Chancellor Christine Johnson.

“I was fortunate to choose from a strong pool of candidates,” Johnson said, describing all four finalists as outstanding.

But she said Carstens brought the right combination of experience with large, multicampus university and community college systems and a leadership style she felt will continue positioning SCC for regional success. Among other things, he personally toured both community college campuses in Spokane and spent time traveling to the district’s rural learning centers in Newport, Ione, Colville, Republic and Inchelium to get a better sense of overall operations.

The decision also was a big one for Carstens, who in addition to being a finalist for the SCC post was in the running for the top job at Alamogordo.

“The Spokane opportunity is a great opportunity,” he said, noting he withdrew from the Alamogordo selection process as soon as he got the call from Johnson. “It’s a strong college with a great reputation.”

Carstens said he prefers smaller metropolitan areas such as Spokane to large cities.

“I think there’s a better opportunity for the college to have a stronger connection to the community,” he said.

Prior to his position with the New Mexico State University system, Carstens served as provost for education and community partnerships at Salt Lake Community College. He also held academic leadership roles in Texas and led an accreditation and quality enhancement initiative for the Lone Star College System. He earned his doctorate in higher education administration from the University of Texas at Austin and his master of science in curriculum and instruction from Oklahoma State University, where he also earned a bachelor’s degree in German.

The other finalists for the SCC position were Kevin Brockbank, a dean at Salt Lake Community College in Utah; Karin M. Hilgersom, president of State University of New York Sullivan in Fallsburg, New York; and Russ Rothamer, vice president of academic affairs at Coconino Community College in Flagstaff, Arizona.

All four finalists were interviewed last month in Spokane by school and community leaders in meetings that also included open public forums on the SCC campus.