Three candidates bring ‘unique’ strengths, Vela says.
By Kyle R. Cotton
President Robert Vela said he will meet with the college executive team Tuesday morning to discuss the finalists for vice president of college services who visited this college July 25-27.
If Vela selects one of the three, the candidate will have to be approved by the district board of trustees.
Vela said he will make a decision by the Sept. 20 regular board meeting.
The finalists are Dr. Conrad Krueger, dean of arts and sciences at this college; Charles Barkman, executive director of facilities at Freed Hardeman University in Henderson, Tenn.; and Dr. Jerrel Wade, dean of administration at San Jacinto College-North Campus in Houston.
Each spent a day at this college for interviews with directors of college services and key district support operations, Staff Council, Faculty Senate, Student Government Association, Adjunct Faculty Council and Vela and the executive team. Candidates also appeared in open forums.
The position is open after the death of David Mrizek on March 20.
The vice president of college services is responsible for budget, facilities, construction, grants, emergency management, institutional effectiveness and research.
Vela said each of the candidates bring their own strength to the position.
“That is such a diverse position that the applicant really needs to have an understanding of the responsibility,” Vela said. “Mrizek really was the first to take on that position, and it has such diverse responsibilities that it’s not like hiring someone for focused positions like student and academic success.
“This is unique because each of them brought strengths in different areas that it’s going to be difficult to choose.”
Krueger stressed his background in academics and understanding of the college’s culture. He joined this college in 1994, serving as a math professor and math chair. Krueger has been a dean at this college since 2008.
He stressed his three leadership values — trust, respect and communication.
“I’m very open to everybody — emails, coming into my office — so I have an open-door policy,” Krueger said. “Informed decision-making is very important, and the only way to do that is to collaborate. I believe you have to have respect for departments, have faith in them and trust them to operate efficiently, and if you do have any changes you want to suggest, you need to get their input and you listen.
“One of our core values is respect; even when you are teaching in a classroom, if you show respect to your students they’ll have respect for you.”
Krueger said one of the things he wants to see changed is campus safety in regard to the emergency management team.
“We have the training with the emergency management team, which I’m also a member of, but we’ve hardly ever met, but I would like for people to feel safe. The staff, the faculty, the students and the community, when they come on campus they should feel safe,” Krueger said.
Krueger said if he were to get the job he would start by meeting periodically with the departments to get a feel for the job.
“I have a lot to learn,” Krueger said. “… Learn a little bit more about all the departments, what are their needs, what are their values, what are their WIGs (wildly important goals). I would need to learn all that, and all their values and needs would be very important to me.”
Krueger said his biggest weakness is that he cares too much.
“I’m sorry, but sometimes that can be a weakness. Telling someone no sometimes is very, very hard. It has to be done, but it’s not easy,” he said.
Krueger also asked what the forum wanted out of the vice president of college services so that even if he doesn’t get the job he could pass it along.
Usha Venkat, director of information technology, said she wants someone who makes data-driven decisions while respecting the academic and personnel side of things.
Barkman emphasized his experience in facilities and operations, which includes developing a masterplan at Bethany College in Lindsburg, Kan., creating green space at Bethany and other colleges and saving money in the budget by reducing energy costs.
He said one of the things that drew him to this college was its diversity.
“I’ve always worked at private liberal arts colleges and they’ve about priced themselves out of the market. They’ve almost become elitist,” Barkman said. “In my department I hire a lot of Hispanic folks and minority groups and the schools really can’t service their needs and improve their lives, so when I saw this job open up and I started researching the school I noticed that they are serious about their education but also making sure people don’t fall through the cracks. … It’s kind of a heartbeat of mine.”
He said if he got the job he would spend his first couple of weeks getting a sense of his responsibilities between college services and district operations.
“I’ve never aspired to be a college president; I want to be the world’s best No. 2 man. I love operations and the infrastructure of higher education and I really enjoy trying to make it efficient and proactive so it’s cutting-edge education. That would be my goal here to improve things,” Barkman said.
Wade stressed his background in higher-education administration since 2003.
He said his leadership philosophy is to trust people to do their job.
“As a leader and as a manager it’s my job to set forth what we want to accomplish, and at that point I trust you will do your part to accomplish that. In doing so it’s not just about trusting you with a project or a process for my benefit, but for your benefit because what that does is help build your experience, helps build you up and ultimately help someone have an even better opportunity down the road,” Wade said.
This goes along with his personal philosophy: “You only live once,” or “You can’t let an opportunity pass you by.”
He said he chose this opportunity because colleagues and former peers highly recommend this college.
“I’ve never heard anyone say anything bad about the Alamo Colleges or SAC and there are people I’ve known from (San Jacinto) that I trust that work here who absolutely love it,” Wade said.
Wade said the first thing he would do if were to get the position would be to get updated on any ongoing projects and walk the campus with a critical eye.
“There doesn’t seem to be a ton of area to necessarily build. We seem land-locked,” Wade said. “So what do we have to improve what we do have? And some of it might be due to age of some of these buildings and facilities and it may be a situation where we have to rebuild in an area.”
“That’s clearly a down-the-road huge financial project … but it does reach a point where unless we are going to buy up houses and tear down houses to extend land — which I’m sure isn’t going to happen — what do you do to keep the college running,” Wade said.
The finalists’ full open forum videos and resumes can be found here: http://alamo.edu/sac/New-Administrator-Open-Forums/