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Three candidates picked for NWC president

Northwest College will bring three candidates to campus in January as the search for a new president nears completion.

Traveling from as close as Sheridan and as far away as Cobleskill, N.Y., the final field of candidates includes a community college president, a community college vice president and a state university administrator whose position combines the roles of chief operating officer, provost and vice president of academic affairs.

Each candidate will spend two days on campus in the interview process. The public is invited to meet the finalists during an afternoon drop-in session on the first day of their stay.

Stefani Hicswa, president of Miles Community College in Miles City, Mont., will be the first to visit campus. She’ll be in Powell Wednesday and Thursday, Jan. 16 and 17. Community members are encouraged to meet her during the 4-5 p.m. drop-in session Wednesday, Jan. 16, in the Orendorff Building Lounge.

Hicswa has captained MCC since 2006. Compared to NWC’s 2,100 credit students, Miles enrolls approximately 500 credit students annually but counts 1,500 on the rolls of its continuing education and workforce training programs. Prior to accepting the job at Miles, Hicswa operated a consulting firm in Wilsall, Mont., that specialized in strategic planning and organizational development.

She holds a doctoral degree in educational administration from the University of Texas at Austin. Her master’s in adult, community and higher education was earned at Montana State University in Bozeman, and her bachelor’s in organizational communication is from the University of Montana in Missoula.

According to an email to the college community from NWC Board President Mark Westerhold, Hicswa’s accomplishments at MCC include the college’s nomination for the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence two years in a row, and increasing retention rates.

Debra Thatcher will be in Powell the following week. Thatcher is the chief operating officer, provost and vice president of academic affairs at State University of New York College of Agriculture and Technology at Cobleskill (SUNY Cobleskill). The community is invited to meet her during a 4-5 p.m. drop-in session Wednesday, Jan. 23, in the Orendorff Building Lounge.

SUNY Cobleskill is a rural university. In August 2011, Thatcher’s job there was augmented, as part of a budget reduction, to include all the various roles in her current title. Before working at SUNY Cobleskill, she was a provost and dean of faculty for four years at Lees-McRae College, a private college in Banner Elk, North Carolina.

Thatcher’s trip to Wyoming will mark a return to where she started her higher education trek. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Wyoming with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. Her graduate degrees, both earned at the University of South Carolina at Columbia, include a master’s in early childhood education and a doctorate in elementary education with a specialization in early childhood and a cognate in curriculum, both from the University of South Carolina at Columbia.

Westerhold’s email said Thatcher’s accomplishments include the writing and implementation of an institutional effectiveness plan that integrated planning, assessment and budgeting at SUNY Cobleskill and increased numbers of partnerships for international education and improved engagement and retention at L-MC.

The third candidate, Jon Connolly, is the vice president of academic affairs at Sheridan and Gillette College (Northern Wyoming Community College District). He will be available to the public from 4-5 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 30, in the Orendorff Building Lounge.

Connolly started at Sheridan in 2009. The following year, he was selected to serve as interim president during the college’s search for a permanent president. Prior to that, he was dean of instruction for two years in the Division of Math, Science and Healthcare at Lone Star College in Kingwood Texas.

He holds a doctorate in biological sciences from the University of Maine. He earned his master’s in forest science at Yale University and his bachelor’s in biology and geology-biology at Colby College in Maine.

Westerhold’s email said Connolly’s accomplishments include implementing “no-scheduled classes” times for faculty to meet and professionally develop themselves and leadership in development of a nursing simulation laboratory and “online-hybrid” nursing program at Lone Star College.

Questions about any of the candidates’ visits can be directed to Jill Anderson, NWC human resources director, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 754-6401.

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