(This is the final of three articles featuring the Trinidad State Junior College presidential finalists: Dr. Diana Pino, Ron Slinger and Dr. Rhonda Epper.)
ALAMOSA — Dr. Rhonda Epper met with the Alamosa community at the Trinidad State Junior College Valley Campus on Thursday. As the third finalist for the presidency of TSJC, Epper had the opportunity to introduce herself and hear questions and concerns from those present at the public forum.
Epper opened her remarks by noting that she considered it an “honor” to have been chosen as a finalist. She also pointed out that she was “really impressed,” with the TSJC Valley Campus during the tour of the facilities that she was given.
Originally from Nacogdoches, Texas, Epper grew up raising quarter horses, barrel racing, and participating in 4-H. Her father was a professor at Steven F. Austin University. Because of this, she was able to gain an understanding of “how important” a college can be to a community and vice versa. She went on to graduate from the University of Texas. She later moved to Colorado and has now been in the Denver area for over 30 years.
She is married to Colonel Mylan Pride (USAF Ret.) who was also present, and has two children, a son Reese and a daughter Emily along with two stepsons, Ryan and Patrick. With all four children in college, the couple well understands the challenges that the costs of higher education can present.
Epper has over 20 years of experience in the higher education system, including serving as Vice President for Academic Affairs & Provost for the Community College of Denver. However, this is her first time to apply for the presidency of a higher institution. She also noted that during the course of her career, she has “admired TSJC from afar.” She noted further that TSJC has “close connections with the community.” She also called TSJC a “hidden treasure” in Colorado’s higher education system. Epper also noted that she has a “deep respect,” for the work that was done by Dr. Carmen Simone.
When asked about why she chose TSJC, Epper attributed her choice to apply partly because of her love for Colorado but also because she wants to continue to be part of work that “changes lives.” She also considers working in higher education “something of a calling,” that one must commit themselves to. Epper has also recognized that there are certain advantages that community colleges can offer such as smaller classes, more support, lower tuition, and more interaction with faculty. She pointed out that she sees TSJC as a place where she could potentially “make a difference.’
When asked about her leadership style, Epper used the word “collaborative.” She went on to explain that she interprets collaboration to mean using the collective experience of individuals to find solutions for problems. Epper is also a firm believer that more solutions should be found through the guidance of those in the academic fields, not simply legislators designating what should be done.
When asked about how she might be able to handle the transition from an urban to a rural area, Epper acknowledged that it would be an adjustment. However she believes that she would be able to make the transition because of her rural background.
Epper was also asked about what intrigues and what concerns her about the potential of leading TSJC. She responded by noting that she is intrigued by the opportunity because she has seen potential for TSJC to expand. She also stated that she believes that the opportunity for the TSJC presidency has potential to be a very “fulfilling and rewarding experience.” When addressing the concerns, Epper noted that the budget and resources for community colleges are often a challenge.
Epper reiterated her gratitude for the opportunity to visit Alamosa. She was also recognized by her husband at the conclusion of the forum. Epper is hopeful that she will be awarded the opportunity to “lead TSJC into the future.”