ASU Trustees vote that Tandberg can apply for president position


Tandberg has his ear to the community

ALAMOSA — The Valley Courier has confirmed that, David. Tandberg, who was appointed interim president of Adams State University last June, can now apply for the permanent position at the university. Originally, Tandberg was appointed to the job with the stipulation that he could not apply.

In an email to the Valley Courier, Bruce Rosengrant, vice president for community engagement and communication wrote, "During today's Board of Trustees open meeting, it was approved allowing Dr. Tandberg to apply for the position, if he so wishes."

Tandberg is no stranger to Adams State and earned his bachelor's in history/social studies from the school in 2002. Tandberg's wife Darin (nee' McGinnis) is a native of Manassa and graduated from Adams in 2002.

Last November, Tandberg announced a series of listening sessions throughout the San Luis Valley to seek community feedback to build a better university.

About 20 citizens attended the session Tandberg held on the evening of Jan. 19 at the Alamosa County Service Center building. Alamosa County Commissioners Lori Laske, Vern Heersink and Arlan Van Ry attended as did City of Alamosa Councilor Charlie Griego.

Reflecting on his appointment as interim president, Tandberg told those assembled, "I was accepting a big responsibility…one of the things that makes Adams State so distinct and so special within the ecosystem of higher education institutions in the state is that relationship and the importance of the university to the Valley and the importance of the Valley to the university."

Tandberg, who was born in Leadville, said of the Valley, "Gosh we're so lucky. If I were at a university on Denver, it just wouldn't have the same feel of a very distinct geographical circle region that we are able to focus on so squarely. So that's really the motivation of these listening sessions. The conversations have been incredibly rich."

It's important to be forthcoming; Adams State has its struggles, we've had declining enrollment for a number of years, Covid hit us particularly hard," he added.

When hired, Tandberg said his direction from the ASU Board of Trustees was clear, address enrollment, admissions, and recruitment. Initially, the university was projecting enrollment would decline between 15-20 percent this fall.

After working with Kent Buchanan and others at the university in what Tandberg described was a "all hands-on deck effort," that loss was reduced to a decline of about 6 percent. Tandberg said that while he did not want to celebrate any decline, he was proud to have reduced the loss and now the university is "up" on student applications to the school. An upbeat Tandberg said next fall enrollment should not suffer a loss and be flat.

"There is greater pride, greater engagement, greater optimism, but there still are challenges," he said.

Tandberg said the recent faculty staff and faculty holiday party was a resounding success. The camaraderie shared at the event was emblematic of a sense of trust employees are experiencing, according to Tandberg.

Regarding finances, the school is operating in the black and has reserves, said Tandberg. Adams State has an operating budget of $70 million for the 2022-2023 fiscal year. The school is currently ranked in the top tier of the Composite Financial Index, a widely used measure of financial health used in higher education.

"We're going through a very collaborative intensive process in making funding decisions for next year. We've got some really cool ideas from different corners on campus," Tandberg said.

According to Tandberg, enrollment will continue to be a challenge because Colorado continues to see growth in high school graduates, and colleges from across the country are intensively targeting these students.

Adams State continues to offer the attention to individual students that other schools don't offer.

"I guarantee you at CU [University of Colorado Boulder] that's not happening," he said. "The journey that many of our students take is one that's personal to me. I came in as a Pell Grant student that hadn't performed well in high school. The faculty here saw in me the potential in me that I didn't see and convinced me of my talent. In a very hands-on way, they sent me on a brand-new trajectory."

"Culture on campus, finance, and student enrollment are the top three things we're working on," said Tandberg. "We are absolutely committed to the engagement to the Valley community, the businesses, the economic development boards, the county and city governments and that addressing the internal issues confronting the university are core to facilitating the external engagement of the school."

The listening session included spirited and collegial commentary from those in attendance.

Sue Foster, a member of the Conejos Writers Group, said, "One of the things that is rich are the faculty lectures, the music, and the plays…that's engagement, and that is what really makes this community rich. I'd just say, let's keep on."

Valley resident and graduate of Adams State Tori Martinez said she would like to see the "Salazar Center [Salazar Rio Grande Del Norte Center]. I'd love to see it as a physical building on campus with a Hispanic name, would be huge for the community to be able to say that."

Tandberg offered that the center recently received a pledge of $35,000 from the Rio Grande Water Conservation Board to hire a new director. That position will require additional funding from other sources.

Alamosa Councilor Griego, complemented Tandberg on the outreach sessions, 'What you're doing right now, going to each community is so important, taking down walls and inviting people is so important. Once people feel comfortable, they will come."

Griego said he was impressed with Tandberg and lamented that Tandberg was precluded from applying for the permanent position.

Adams State University graduate Jeff Owsley shared Griego's sentiments regarding the (then) inability of Tandberg to apply.

That situation changed when the ASU Board of Trustees voted on Jan. 20, allowing Tandberg to apply if he desires to do so.

The Valley Courier has reached out to Tandberg seeking comment and had not received a reply by press time.

The next listening session is scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 25 from 6 to 8 pm at the Roads and Bridge Meeting Room located at 305 3rd St. in Saguache.


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