ALAMOSA — Community members and university staff on Friday met with the last of four finalists for Adams State University’s interim president position.
Dr. Cheryl D. Lovell is currently a special advisor for the Colorado State University System and previously served as president of Rocky Vista University for three years. She also worked for the University of Denver for many years.
Dr. Lovell is one of four finalists being considered for the interim president held by Dr. Matt Nehring who has filled in since the separation of Dr. Beverlee McClure from the institution earlier this year. Other finalists are Armando Valdez, Marguerite Salazar and Dennis Bailey-Fougnier.
Lovell grew up in Atlanta and was a first-generation college student. Her professional work has included student affairs, policy issues, public policy, academic affairs and recruitment in addition to serving as a university president.
“We are in the business of changing lives,” she said, “giving people opportunities to make better choices, to have different choices in the future. That’s what Adams State is about. That excites me.”
She said she was also glad that Adams State is a minority serving institution, giving students a “mobility bump,” which is what happened in her own life when she achieved higher education. “That mobility bump is what my life is about,” she said.
Regarding what she would pursue as interim president, she said the board would set the priorities she would follow. Budget would be a key part of that, she said, and she viewed the budget as a tool to achieve the university’s mission. Following the 2020 strategic plan is another priority, she said, as well as recruitment and retention. She said she wanted to reverse the 4:1 ratio. It costs four times more to recruit a new student as to retain existing students, she explained.
She said there are many things that cost “nothing but an attitude” to increase retention such as helping students feel they belong and that people care about them and want them to succeed.
Lovell said she also wanted to address morale issues. When she served as president of Rocky Vista University she was known as the “thank you president” because she believed in expressing appreciation to people. She sent out 3,000 handwritten thank you notes the first year she was there.
“Expressing appreciation for what people are doing I think is important,” she said. “That’s part of who I am as a leader.”
She said she also saw her role like an orchestra conductor, directing the diverse instruments into a beautiful performance. Everyone needs to be playing the same composition, she said, even if they are playing different parts of it. What will keep the rhythm steady, she added, is the “metronome,” the university’s mission.
Lovell faced many of the same questions other candidates had addressed in the two previous days. For example, she was asked if she had had to make difficult decisions in the past, similar to the tough decisions ASU has had to make, which affected individuals’ lives. She said she has had to make similar decisions.
When asked about the most difficult situation she had faced in her previous leadership positions and how she dealt with it, she said it was the death of a student. Although the death was not the university’s fault but was the result of a traffic accident, it was still very painful. She said the student’s family felt such support, however, that they set up a scholarship at the university in his memory.
When asked how she could help increase the university’s resources, she said she would first make sure ASU was optimizing the resources it already has. She said she would look at what is generating income and what is not.
She added that recruitment would be another tool to increasing resources, increasing enrollment as well as retaining students who are already here.
She said other revenue sources are alumni and foundations and federal grants especially those available to Hispanic Serving Institutions like ASU. “There are opportunities to increase those,” she said.
Private foundations are another source for revenue, she said.
As were the other interim presidential candidates, Dr. Lovell was asked about her view of the shared governance model. “It’s high on my list,” she said. She said she appreciated having different voices at the table. She added, however, that if there were not good relationships of trust and respect among faculty and staff, the shared governance model wouldn’t matter.
She added, “I am not about playing games. I am not about playing politics.”
When asked about her view of student athletes, she said she was one initially but realized early on she was not as skilled as the other student athletes and decided to focus on academics instead. She said she sees the students as students first and the athletics as something they are involved in that helps them feel they belong. She said she also understood that athletic events are important to draw people to the campus.
When asked about recruiting faculty, particularly a diverse group of faculty, Lovell said at the University of Denver “we had to grow our own.” Students of color who were in the doctoral program, for example, were encouraged to think about teaching as an option. In addition to growing their own diverse faculty, the university also recruited diverse faculty from other sources, she added.
“We have to be intentional … and work towards it,” she said.
She was also instrumental in increasing the number of students of color at Rocky Vista University by 200 percent in three years by making diversity one of the top core values.
When asked about recruiting more students, particularly from the Front Range, Lovell said the trend in most of the country is a decline in the number of high school graduates to draw from, but there is an area from Texas to Florida that is increasing in numbers, and ASU is close enough to that area to tap into that population. She added that students of color and first generation students are the population where enrollment growth will occur.
She added that the university could also work closely with the high schools in the San Luis Valley, specifically finding out what students who have just graduated have not yet chosen a college to attend, and direct them towards Adams. ASU could also remind students who have enrolled at ASU when orientations are and let them know ASU is looking forward to them being here.
Also, ASU could offer academic advisors part time in the high schools, especially in high schools that were understaffed in that area.
Caption: Dr. Cheryl D. Lovell speaks during the final community forum for the finalists for the interim Adams State University president position./Courier photo by Ruth Heide