ALAMOSA — The second of four Adams State University interim president finalists featured in a series of community forums, Dennis Bailey-Fougnier shared his background, expertise, philosophy and goals with staff and community members on campus Thursday morning.
ASU trustees are expected to make a decision by the end of the month regarding which of their four top finalists will fill the interim president post. The other three candidates are Dr. Cheryl D. Lovell, Marguerite Salazar and Armando Valdez.
Returning to his Colorado roots after working in Kansas, Virginia, Oregon and California, Bailey-Fougnier served most recently as the vice president, community college affairs at Colorado Mesa University (CMU.) A fourth-generation Coloradoan but first-generation college student, he was born and raised in Fruita.
He earned an architectural degree from the University of Oregon, a master’s in counseling from Wichita State University and a doctorate in leadership from Oregon State University. He said he recently completed a short-term commitment and was now looking for something new.
Bailey-Fougnier said he has been through similar challenges as Adams State has recently faced including layoffs due to budget cuts and accreditation sanctions.
In California, 50 of the 113 community colleges were on sanctions over student learning outcomes including two he worked with, he said.
“We made accreditation a daily thing,” he said. With that focus, outcomes became a means to raise the bar to help students and make the institution better, he added.
Bailey-Fougnier said he also understood what it was like to make cuts that affect staff. When he was at Cabrillo College in California, for example, the college had to cut $3.5 million in one year. Cabrillo held meetings with departments and staff who would be affected, he said. Communication was key in dispelling rumors and letting people know why their positions would be cut.
As with the first candidate Armando Valdez, the forum attendees on Thursday asked Bailey-Fougnier several questions, some of them similar to those asked of Valdez the day before.
For example, Bailey-Fougnier was asked about his view on the shared governance model. He said he believed in it and believed that every group needed to be represented from students to faculty, staff and community members. He said it was important to hear from all sides to make good decisions. “You can only do that by shared governance,” he said.
When asked what he could specifically bring to Adams State, Bailey-Fougnier said, “I am by nature a listener.” He said he saw that as his first duty, taking “listening tours” around campus and meeting with small groups throughout the campus to find out what they see as good about Adams State. “That’s the piece I want to build on,” he said.
He said he likes to bring people together and collaborate.
He added, “I didn’t apply for this job to be an interim who doesn’t do anything. I believe I am here to move Adams State positively forward. My dream would be you like what I do and you ask me to stay longer than a year.”
He said normally it would take a full year’s cycle to get to know the campus and staff, but he would not have that luxury. “As an interim I have to hit the ground running.”
He would still conduct listening tours and would spend time working with local business leaders and government leaders here and at the state level, he said.
When asked about ideas to strengthen retention, Bailey-Fougnier said he believed retention was everyone’s responsibility from the custodian to the president. The entire campus, and even the community, needs to be trained to respond to students and make them feel welcome, he said.
Bailey-Fougnier said it is also important to look at the data and see who is leaving and why so that holistic strategies can be developed to retain students. He said it is less expensive to retain students than try to recruit new ones.
In recruiting new students, he recommended looking at where students have come from in the past and where they are coming from now (more than a third come from the San Luis Valley) and beef up efforts in those areas. He recommended looking at the data and building on what is already there while looking at new markets that make sense for the students and Adams State.
When asked how he would move Adams State forward financially, Bailey-Fougnier gave three ways: 1) seek more money from the legislators; 2) increase enrollment; and 3) raise money to offset costs. He said he would rather increase revenue than cut costs.
He has been successful in the past in obtaining grant funds, he said.
He would also look to the foundation and alumni to raise more money, he said.
He would also look to the local community, downtown businesses and governments for greater support. He said CMU started a real estate enterprise foundation, and the city and county in Grand Junction give CMU about $1 million a year to buy houses and expand the campus, which is something he did not expect to happen here. He would encourage more local support, however, not just monetarily but in promoting the university and its activities.
He suggested there might be programs that could be added that would not cost much to bring in but would increase enrollment and prestige. For example, Colorado Mesa University began a gerontology program, which was a perfect fit for Grand Junction, a big retirement community.
When asked about what ASU as an HSI (Hispanic Serving Institution) entailed, Bailey-Fougnier said he worked for two HSI colleges in California, but the Hispanic/Latino student population there was more of a migrant population than here, where the Hispanic population is rooted in many generations. What that means, he said, is some funding associated with HSI, as well as sharing culture on a continual basis and through special events.
In addressing how he would work with the San Luis Valley as a whole, Bailey-Fougnier said he would start with the 14 school districts and build relationships with them. He said one of the colleges he worked for in California, for example, hosted all of the local fourth graders for a day at the college to make a connection early on to higher education.
The university can coordinate courses with high schools and offer more concurrent enrollment, he said.
He said he would love to raise enough money through endowment funds to pay for tuition and fees for students so college could be accessible and affordable for everyone.
When asked about boosting morale, Bailey-Fougnier said, “It takes a while to come back, especially when you lay people off … It’s going to take some time.”
It is important to let people know what is going on and to listen. He added that it is also important to have social gatherings such as a barbecue or potluck at the president’s house.
Little things can help build the morale, he said, like allowing staff an hour off to take a class.
He said regardless of the topic, the students need to come first in the conversation.
“We are here for the students. My job is to help the institution serve students better.”