Three candidates are running for two seats on the Northwest College Board of Trustees Subdistrict B, which covers the Cody area.
Three candidates are running for two seats on the Northwest College Board of Trustees Subdistrict B, which covers the Cody area. One position will fill the seat previously held by Luke Anderson, who decided not to run for reelection, and the other is held by Bob Newsome, whose term ends this year.
Richard Jones is a big believer in community colleges and has a few ideas how to help Northwest College be successful in its mission.
“I think they’re wonderful institutions,” Jones said.
Jones is one of three candidates running for two seats on the NWC Board of Trustees Subdistrict B.
He serves on the Park County Planning and Zoning Commission and the Cody Planning and Zoning Board. He also serves as secretary on the Buffalo Bill Dam Visitor Center Board and he’s running unopposed for the New Cody Conservation District Rural 1 position.
“I’m very active in what you’d call community affairs,” Jones said.
With a background in business and nonprofit administration, he said he would bring to the table a more business-minded approach to the college’s administration.
“Colleges as any other institution need to be run as a business above all else, otherwise you cannot provide your service, which is education,” he said.
He believes the college needs to decrease its reliance on state support and put more into increasing enrollment to close up budget shortfalls.
“What I want is long-term sustainability. I don’t want to fight this tax business every four years,” Jones said.
As a board member, he said he’ll support efforts to rebrand the school. The “northwest” name is used in many higher education institutions across the country, and Jones believes something that incorporates “yellowstone” into the name would help distinguish the college. In turn, this would help with recruitment and improve the school’s falling enrollment figures by drawing more students in from out of state.
“We do not have enough people in the state of Wyoming to support any of these schools,” Jones said.
While this would help bring students in from out of state, Jones also thinks it’s important for the college to move away from being a transfer institution and focus on trade and certificate programs to bolster its utility as a regional institution.
“If it’s just a feeder school for the university, who cares?” he said.
He also believes it’s become too focused on Powell and needs to expand its marketing and recruiting efforts into other parts of the Big Horn Basin.
He is also opposed to the controversial proposal, which is part of the recently adopted master housing plan, that divests the college of Trapper Village West. He said this runs counter to the stated goal of raising enrollment rates.
“On one hand, they’re talking about doing all these things for the future to get the occupancy level up. On the other hand, they’re talking about cutting back because they’re not going to have occupancy,” Jones explained.
Tara Kuipers had about 15 years of experience in higher education before she started her consulting business. She worked as a student adviser, in admissions and recruitment, and in new student orientation. She also worked in the University of Wyoming extension office in Cody as a community development educator.
Kuipers is one of three candidates running for two seats on the NWC Board of Trustees Subdistrict B.
As a member of the board of trustees, she would bring to the table all that experience in higher education, as well as her passion for it.
“I’m really excited to see the role the college plays in the community, but also how we can expand the role it plays,” she said.
She said addressing the declining enrollment is a complex issue with so many different facets, and now there is the impact of COVID-19 to consider. So, she said, they not only need to recruit more students, they have to make enrollment safe.
However, Kuipers said, she doesn’t “think we can lose sight of the bigger picture enrollment declines that have been going on a while.”
She doesn’t think it’s the kind of problem that can be thought of in terms of a single solution, and it won’t be fixed “with just doing more marketing, or better outreach, or adding a program.”
Marketing, outreach, amenities and student life would play a role, she said, but also alumni engagement.
“We can’t ignore the fact we have incredibly passionate alumni,” Kuipers said.
As the college struggles to close up budgetary shortfalls in the wake of declining state support, Kuipers wants to bring more transparency to the funding formulas that determine how much state money each community college receives. She said understanding that better and dispelling the “air of mystery” surrounding it would be one of the first tasks she’d tackle, if elected.
“A lot of people want more clarity on exactly how that formula works. I’m really curious to learn more about it myself,” Kuipers said.
With respect to the proposal to divest the college of Trapper Village West, she had no definite position on how she’d vote when and if the board moved forward with it. She said a lot of the controversy stems from the personal relationships and history people have with it.
“You ask people most of what they remember about their college experience ... They all will remember their residential experience. It’s so personal,” she said.
However, she said the college does need to evolve and meet changing circumstances.
Kuipers is a South Dakota native who’s lived in Wyoming off and on since college, including 11 years in Cody.
“I think I’d make a pretty good board member. I ask questions. I think I’m fair minded. I’m really curious, and I like to dig into issues and learn,” Kuipers said.
Bob Newsome began serving on the Northwest College Board of Trustees in 2016 and is running to retain the seat for another four years.
“Even with all the trials and tribulations, I’ve enjoyed serving on the board, and I’d be appreciative of the confidence to do it again,” the incumbent said.
Newsome sees the role of trustees as one of governance, leaving day-to-day operations to the school’s administration.
He has 40 years of experience in retail, running Howard’s Western Wear, Sunlight Sports and the Cody Theatre.
“I can list another half dozen successful and not-so-successful ventures,” he said.
This business background, Newsome said, brings an important perspective to the board that an academic background may lack.
He said the diminishing state support is likely to continue, with an estimated $3 million more in cuts from that revenue stream in the “foreseeable, reasonable future.”
“You are not going to be able to take a sharp scalpel and very carefully cut out some little pieces and parts. You’re going to have to use a machete. Three million dollars is a lot of money,” he said.
He said there’s a faction at NWC that believes, based on hope, that the coal industry will rebound to what it was in the 1980s and send state revenues soaring again.
“Hope is not a financial mechanism. We would all like to hope that’s true, but I tend to be a little more nuts and bolts,” Newsome said.
With these cuts in mind, he said the college will not be able to move forward with capital improvements, such as the proposed performing arts center and new student center. Newsome said it’s quite possible to renovate the existing student center and extend its life within the smaller budget he thinks the college will have to contend with.
The budgetary constraints, Newsome believes, will necessitate program cuts, as well. That means course offerings with few students will have to be eliminated. Newsome said he believes programmatic changes should be made with the idea that students are the school’s customers, and what they seek in education is changing.
“There’s no question in my mind that online learning is growing by leaps and bounds,” Newsome said.
That will also reduce demand for housing, which is why he supported the master housing plan, which proposes a reduction in housing units, including the selling of Trapper Village West.
Aside from some brief moves elsewhere, Newsome had lived in Park County his whole life, graduating from Cody schools. He attended NWC from 1969 to 1971 but didn’t graduate. He has one son, who is an NWC graduate.