By Todd G. Dickson
Las Cruces Bulletin
Renay Scott, Doña Ana Community College’s new president, couldn’t help but mention it was only 45 degrees back in her former home in Ohio as she entered her sun-filled office at the East Mesa campus Friday, June 13.
That alone, she joked, confirms the wisdom of her decision to apply for the position she now holds. The former vice president and provost of academic services at Owens Community College in Toledo, Ohio, Scott began her new job at DACC Sunday, June 1, and she has been constantly busy since.
In this getting acclimated stage of her role, Scott said she generally divides her days into morning for making internal connections – visiting with faculty, reviewing programs, handling administrative duties and visiting with what students there are on campus during the summer months – and the afternoons are making those external connections with the community and businesses that could be assisted in the work force development resources of DACC.
Although she had only been on the job two weeks, Scott said she hasn’t been surprised by what she has found. Faculty and staff had been frank, she said, when she interviewed for president, as had the college’s self study for its systemwide accreditation, which has been affected by the loss of national accreditation to its nursing program.
Regaining a nursing program’s national accreditation – and her ideas about maintaining accreditation once it’s back in place – was one of the experiences in Scott’s background that helped her get hired. Speaking before a local Rotary group Wednesday, June 18, Scott said DACC is expecting an on-campus accreditation visit to review progress in the nursing program. The main accreditation concern – a lack of teaching faculty holding master’s degrees – has been resolved, she said, so DACC should be able to get that program accredited again.
Scott said faculty and deans from DACC and New Mexico State University have been meeting to improve the transferability of class credits if a student progresses from getting a two-year degree at DACC to getting a fouryear degree at NMSU.
Another process Scott went through at Owens was transitioning to a shared leadership form of guiding the college’s programs, something DACC faculty wants to see happen. Scott said helping this process are faculty members who truly care about the quality of the education and services it offers.
In her Rotary presentation, Scott detailed how the local community provided more than $1.6 million in financial aid support helping more than 1,800 students improve their lives, she said.
It helps that the community has been welcoming and supportive of the college, Scott said. As she has traveled to DACC’s eight locations throughout Doña Ana County, the different communities all appreciate the close locations of the campuses.
“This college is so nimble in how it responds to the needs – from GED programs to helping experienced individuals learn how to change profession late in life,” she said.
Scott also brings a record of gaining strong business community support for expandingthose programs. Economic development opportunities are presenting themselves on a number of fronts that Scott said the college needs to respond to – the early opening of the Union Pacific rail yard in Santa Teresa, a food manufacturing plant opening in Las Cruces and future activity at Spaceport America to the north.
Scott said she is impressed with The Bridge of Southern New Mexico – an organization that brings educators and business people to same table to learn from each other.
“It is unusual to put the business world and the education world together,” she said.“It’s a model for not just education, but for government.”
One of The Bridge’s most visible efforts has been the creation of Arrowhead Early College High School, which is now being duplicated throughout the state.
“Early college high school can be a real game-changer,” Scott said. “What’s remarkable about the early college high school we already have is that the students mirror the population. These aren’t an elite group of students. The difference for these students is the quality of the teaching and how what they are learning is connected to the real world.”
Adding the other high schools in Las Cruces Public Schools, Gadsden Independent School District and Hatch Valley School District, more than 700 students have graduated high school with an associate degree or professional certificate, giving them a head start on their education to the benefit of taxpayers, Scott said On a personal level, Scott has yet to fully make the move, in that her family – and her motorcycle – remains in Ohio. As soon as her home in Ohio gets sold, however, Scott said she will find a new, permanent home in the Mesilla Valley, where the people, food and climate are warm and welcoming, she said.
Doña Ana Community College President Renay Scott visits with Rotarian Steve Loman before giving a presentation to his club Wednesday, June 18, at La Posta de Mesilla. Scott has been visiting community groups since starting her job Sunday, June 1.
Las Cruces Bulletin photo by Todd Dickson